Adventures in being old people. Part 2 – The Waiting Room

New adventures in surgery as an old person was just beginning. I was not new to going under the knife but she was. She was scared, ready to call the whole thing off. I gently encouraged her and reminded her while elective this was necessary for quality of life. Hers, and mine. There is only so much suffering you can watch before action must be taken.

The morning came quickly, it was still dark outside but my alarm said it was time to get up. I was up quickly, got dressed, grabbed the bag I packed for myself for my wait and we headed to the hospital outpatient ward. We were both nervous as we sat in the waiting room waiting for her to be called back for prep. All around us others were in a state of wait too, some with the belongings of their loved ones in a clear plastic bag with a thin rope handle. Comfortable threads, shoes, and undergarments all exposed for everyone to look at instead of landing their eyes on a concerned and anxious waiting room face. I was embarrassed for them but comforted by the fact that I would not be the only inpatient loved one fidgeting in my seat awaiting news.

One gentleman sitting directly across the room from us had such a bag sitting at his feet. In his hands, he held a book, open to the middle where he was deep into the read. He had not looked up that I had noticed, perhaps this wasn’t his first time in the waiting room. Perhaps he simply had more sense about him than I did and he knew everything was going to be alright. I studied him, longing for the secret to his calm demeanor as I bounced my right leg rapidly and felt her shoulder touching mine in the seat next to me. How was I going to be calm when they called her back and her mere touch was no longer a comfort? I had no idea. I brought a book as well but there was no way I would be able to stop my thoughts long enough to read a single line.

The stillness of sniffles, shuffling of belongings and the turning of pages was broken by an unwelcome and intrusive sound. An older gentleman had lost his patience with the waiting game and pulled out his phone. From the cheap speaker came a booming sportscasters voice, blaring at a volume unmistakable. This inmate of the outpatient waiting room was clearly getting a recap of some sport, completely unaware of the judgment and stares he was receiving from everyone around him. In any other setting, such a thing would have gone entirely unnoticed. However, this was no ordinary scene. The sun hadn’t yet illuminated the sky and not a soul in the room was fine to be jaunted into reality with this kind of noise pollution. Especially not the man across the room with his book.

He never moved a muscle in his body or face. Nothing moved at all except for his eyes. Instead of downcast at the pages of his book he glared over his glasses at the man sitting completely unaware in the middle of us. Suddendly the space felt very small and I desperately wanted to warn of the impending danger of said volume. I looked around, there was nothing to throw. I was sure he was about to meet his maker. The fire in those blue eyes under white bushy eyebrows was unwavering, daring this poor unassuming sports fan to look up and be turned into a pile of ash and electronic components.

I turned and whispered softly to my darling about what was happening. It seemed I was the only one paying attention to this inevitable disaster. She turned her head to me and before I could stop her she uttered a single word that broke the spell. “WHAT?”

I turned red immediately and shot her the look that she knows well. The unspoken understanding that says “have you no decency to be quiet when I am trying to gossip to you about someone in the same room with us?” To answer my own question, no, she does not. I turned away from her, from the scene that was unfolding moments before, and went back to studying the clear bags of strangers’ personal belongings. While short-lived my bouncing nervous leg stopped and total embarrassment took over.

When she was called back I had a bit of relief, time was finally marching on and with any luck, it would sprint to the moment she was out safely and in recovery waiting for me to bring that clear, rope-handled bag.

I had no idea the worst was yet to come.

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