The Comfort of Strangers

Mind your own business, I say to myself. It’s like being in a crowded subway car: avoid eye contact, and give these people their space. Try and focus on that sappy family drama that’s playing on the TV.
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A Simple Song

When my mother doubled over with belly pain, my girlfriend and I insisted on accompanying my father to the emergency room. There in the waiting room we sat, deep into the night, waiting for news about my mother.
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Seeing is Believing

For months I spoke, but no one listened. Not my dad’s primary care physician. Not the physician’s assistant. Not the nurse. I described the “attacks” my ninety-six-year-old dad was experiencing: loss of awareness of his social and physical environments; inability to stand on legs that had turned rubbery; skin that looked pasty and felt sweaty. “Give him orange juice,” I was told. “His sugar has probably dropped a bit. And don’t worry.”
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Time Bomb

A lot of waiting goes on in hospitals, and not just in the so-called “waiting rooms.”
I lie in bed waiting for the next day to arrive. It is a small room with an eraser board where, on the next day, I can mark the estimated gestational age at twenty-four weeks and two days, far short of a normal forty-week pregnancy. The bleeding that brought me here has stopped, and now I’ve started my “count up” ritual toward the day of delivery.
I start the next few days with a good attitude. I plan to use this

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Crying Booth

The waiting room is bad enough. But it’s what comes after the waiting and after the appointment that can be worse. I think there should be a second waiting room–I’d call them “crying booths.”
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Waiting for Godot

The Scene: The crowded waiting room of a busy, university hospital dermatology practice on a day when Mohs surgery and other treatments of skin cancers have been scheduled.
As a patient, you go to one of the business-like receptionists. After giving your name, date of birth, and insurance information, you are told that you can now sit down. No information is available about waiting times.
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A Satisfied Patient

“Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh God! Oh my! Oh my! Oh my God! Oooooh. OOOOOOOOH.”

I was sure that the groans of ecstasy must be piercing the exam room door and echoing off the waiting room walls.

“Oh. Oh. It feels so good! Oooooooooh.”
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Joyce

I head out of the emergency department of our local tertiary care hospital. The waiting room seems pitifully small, probably twenty chairs, with the security desk, check-in desk, triage station and the entrance doors in close proximity. There’s no space for pacing here, and sometimes not enough chairs.

I notice a familiar figure, dressed in bright red, who stands out from the others. With a start, I realize it’s Joyce, one of my heroes. Joyce is the nurse practice manager at our sister health center, and she’s transformed the place into one known for its engaged staff

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A Date with Mom

I rush into the waiting room, trying to make it on time. Mom is sitting in the chair, patiently reading her romance novel with her ninety-nine cent bifocals. Calm and relaxed, in contrast to my frantic entrance as I juggle my schedule to try and make her appointment.
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Out of the Waiting Room and into the Paper

I guess it was at least partly my own fault that I ended up talking to an office manager while half of me was covered in a paper sheet, but it was still uncomfortable–and cold. No one likes going to a gynecologist, even other doctors.
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Cartoons and Shots

I have vivid memories of the HIP (Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, a prepaid health plan) waiting room on East 23rd Street in Manhattan, which I often visited as an elementary school child. I most remember two things about that room: the magazines, and the anticipation of a possible shot.
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Vinyl Cushion

I arrive in the waiting room nearly a half hour early and confirm my existence with two insurance cards and a questionnaire that asks me yet again to list my illnesses, allergies, and medications. Most seats are occupied by old people, older than me. Or maybe the same age. It’s difficult to say who is with whom because those who are not making love to their cell phones are paging through OK!, People and Star. Nobody’s eyes are on anyone.
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