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In the Waiting Room

by G David Schwartz

I am here to see the doctor because I need to get my ears checked. I am new in the city, but this doctor has come highly recommended. I should get my eyes checked as well, but my ears are what really hurt and I cannot afford the expense of the doctor looking at two parts of my body.

I am dizzy as well. My stomach feels like it is going up and down. Perhaps I am getting the flu. I better mention this to the doctor. There are no windows in this room, with the exception of the small glass partition, which has the painting of a receptionist who resolutely refuses to call my name. I rub my eyes, even though it is my ears which presently cause me concern.

So here I am. Waiting. Inasmuch as the bald lady with the parakeets for shoes, and the borderline artist, and the train conductor are here for the same reason — to see the doctor — we have something in common. I squint at each of these people in turn, inventing symptoms and diseases for each of them so that I might spend my time fruitfully.

The door opens and an icon or statue, I really cannot make out which, is wheeled through the door. The painting talks to the statue who, already having a seat, is stationed near the rear of the waiting room. Just as they depart from the window, a woman with a shrill voice enters, carrying a yo-yo, which has become unfettered. Their conversation is both muffled and painful, so I look around for a magazine.

The one I take is the spring edition. I cannot make out the date, but there is a brightly colored, possibly fluorescent hologram on the cover. The magazine has special holograms built into it which make a slurping, bubbling sound. The magazine seems round and cold and damp. These new-fangled city things never cease to amaze me.

“Do you mind!” a shrill voice says, grabbing the magazine from me. How rude.

While I was preoccupied with reading, more people have entered the room. I try to evaluate each of the new arrivals. I assign each of them a hypothetical vocation and a corresponding disease. I am most pleased by the obese tightrope walker with hemorrhoids. She has come to have them evacuated. Or to sing in the opera.

There are other interesting people as well: a sluggish race car driver, a night watchman who works in an adhesive factory and whose eyes were literally glued to the floor, a photographer who lost a lens in a cigarette flipping contest. Bored of the game, I go to the fountain for a drink of water. I cannot find the fountain, and the room is so cramped I am immediately sorry I left my seat.

Meanwhile, more people arrive, one of whom flagrantly takes the seat in which I had been sitting. I think that I should go directly to her and throw her from my chair. But I see she has brought a giant lap-top computer and is dallying with the instrument. So, somewhat frightened she may hit me over the head with the object, I allow her to keep the seat.

I see a nice spot against the wall where I might lean. As I am heading toward the empty space, a woman who appear to have daggers stuck in her knee caps shuffles against the wall. Inasmuch as I have a lingering love for circus people, and a natural proclivity to support the downtrodden, I allow her the space against the wall, and look around for any seats, which may have been vacated. I see none.

Now I am pushed into the corner by what I can only assume is a trainload of folks afflicted by somatic dishevelment. I wonder if this doctor, or any doctor, for that matter, has studied the condition of these waiting rooms. There is certainly not sufficient room for these numbers of people. Suppose there was a fire. Being in this room would be very hazardous. Suppose the sprinkler systems kicked in and would not shut off properly. Then it would be a wading room. I chuckle to myself.

After asking a series of related questions, I conclude I do not have enough information at my disposal to properly answer myself. I shuffle from one leg to the other. I might as well ask the doctor to take a look at my flat feet as well. My calves are starting to hurt. My ankles are in pain. Meanwhile, people keep pressing into the small area established as a reception room.

I wish the doctor would call someone into the examining room. I wish the doctor would call me! My neck is beginning to hurt, and one of my shoulders is crushed against the wall. I seem to be taking on the symptoms of everyone in the room. Don’t let your imagination carry you away, I tell myself.

Now people are beginning to get frustrated and leave. No sooner do one or two leave, however, than two or three new people enter. The space is becoming more and more confined and I angrily tell myself that all I am currently doing is waiting room. There’s no room, and it is starting to annoy me.

In fact, I am enraged. Unless I am mistaken, I had an appointment for 11 A.M. What did this doctor do? Apparently the doctor scheduled too many people for an A.M. Did the doctor not anticipate how long each patient would take? Was the doctor cavalierly disregarding us as so many species of vermin?

Others are as frustrated as I. More people leave. Yet more arrive! “This is ridiculous,” I say aloud.

The person in front of me mumbles something I cannot hear. I squint, but this does not help me hear any better. I suppose I am simply condemned to stand here.

I glance at the person who has taken my seat. She shows no inclination of leaving. She is sitting quite properly in what I now see is a performance outfit. I wonder if she is related to the woman with knives stuck in her knees.

I begin feeling sorry for the poor woman again. Had to rush right over after a performance. No! It is about eleven-thirty — I cannot quite make out my watch — so she must have had the accident in rehearsal. The doctor should see her immediately. She may have a potentially career-destroying affliction. If the doctor cannot repair her knees, she may never be able to stand in front of an audience again. Poor, poor woman. I wonder if I should mention to the person who has taken my seat that this poor woman needs to sit down.

As I am thinking this, the woman in my seat reaches up. I think perhaps she is motioning me to her. Perhaps she is going to tell me she is sorry she took my seat, realizes her mistake, and is willing to give the chair back to me. I push past the blue bull billeted between me and her, past the hyena whose toe the blue bull stepped over, and past the homely heron that had a flat black wing wagging way too low. I approach the person on the stool and say, “I’m sorry. Were you speaking to me?”

She says, “Erd-flaw, sure.”

“What?” I ask.

She raises a helmet of hands to her mouth and repeats her enigmatic statement: “Erd-flaw, sure.”

“I’m sorry,” I tell her. “I cannot make out what you are saying.”

She reaches into an envelope which is her chest, removes a petrified worm and rubs its nose on her library card. She is so proud of her act that she holds the now slimy library card for me to see.

“How nice,” I tell her.

“Erd-flaw, sure.” A flusher? I shrug.

Now a growling penguin, very tall, has the audacity to remove my glasses and place his own on my face. At first, I am really ticked, but then I see the penguin is a well-dressed business man and the library card is a note upon which a uniformed girl had written, “Third floor, sir.”

“Thank you,” I said to the businessman, nod to the girl, and step from the elevator.

Copyright © 2006 by G. David Schwartz

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