I am sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room, doing what responsible parties normally do in such places: biding time.
My husband lies somewhere in the bowels of this vast suite, enduring the first of two endovenous ablations of the bilateral greater saphenous veins on his legs. (Ablate: Word of the day.) Because it’s an outpatient procedure, I tell myself it’s no big deal. But it’s surgery nonetheless, and I’m a little nervous.
I’ve come prepared with a new book and my iPhone that is only a quarter charged. Since I’ll be here a couple of hours, I’ll have to use it sparingly.
It’s early in the morning, and the office staff trickles in, chatting. Someone says she’s going camping Friday night. I realize I have no plans for the weekend, which elates me. Then I remember a party we have to go to Saturday night, and I deflate. (You know you’re getting crotchety when you’re too hot to party, and not in the good way.)
My mind is hopped up on coffee. It’s hard to settle into the book, so I glance at the magazines on the table next to me: Motorcycle Classics, Sports Illustrated, Entrepreneur, WebMD (I didn’t know they had a magazine!) and Forbes with Justin Bieber “Venture Capitalist” on the cover. I consider giving that one a look, but I lost my love for the Beeb when he changed his hairstyle.
The truth is, as calm and patient as I appear on the outside, I am not a good waiter. (A good waitress, yes. Little known fact: They called me “Queen of the Magic Pan” in ’77.) But, in terms of waiting around for something to happen, I’m no good. No good at all.
I hate waiting for just about everything: Planes, car repairs, tables at restaurants, the inevitable. I hate waiting for people who are more than 10 minutes late (and to those who know me personally, yes, I do know what irony is) and I especially hate waiting for test results. But the worst wait of all is when a loved one goes under the knife.
Shifting in my seat, it dawns on me that I can’t seem to sit still lately. Doesn’t matter how plush the chair (and these are quite comfortable) — 10 minutes in one position is all I can do. After that, my foot goes to sleep or my back starts to stiffen and I have to pop my neck. On a recent nine-hour flight to London, I must have changed positions 54 times. Not the way to endear yourself to the passenger next to you.
I arch my back, stretch from side to side and — ouch! — pull a muscle. This, too, is a new development. Since when — and why — does the slightest movement cause my sides to catch?
I peek at the clock on the wall. It’s been 15 minutes since they took him back. An hour and 45 minutes to go.
I text my son: “How was your date?” “It wasn’t a date.” I don’t text back. Low battery.
It occurs to me that medical waiting rooms would be greatly improved if they were designed like the forward sections of international aircraft. Have you seen how plush first class has become lately? Those high-rolling jet setters fly in their own high-tech cocoons these days — electric reclining chairs and built-in ottomans, private closets. Want to catch a glimpse at the 1 percent? They’re lolling on their flat-bed seats in silk eye masks and French terry slippers.
Closing my eyes, I imagine myself and my fellow responsible parties in our own little pods, watching the latest blockbusters on individual large-screen HDTVs, enjoying premium food and wine service from uniformed stewards, phones happily charging in our own power ports.
The fantasy works. I doze off.
“Cathy Hamilton?” a voice says.
It’s the doctor, dressed in casual surgeon garb — not overly clinical to be scary, but professional enough to instill confidence.
“The procedure went fine,” he explained. “A vein went into spasm, which slowed us down a little.”
I felt a wave of relief and realized that good health news is worth whatever time you have to bide to hear it.
“Next week, we’ll do the other leg,” the doc continued, “although that one’s going to be more involved. It will take longer.”
“That’s OK, Doc,” I said, getting up to retrieve the patient. “I can wait.”