This past week I had to have a minor surgery at a local hospital.
My appointment was for 11.15 am and written instruction given me by the surgeon included to arrive 30 minutes prior to the appointment. Me and about thirty others were herded into a waiting room on the fourth floor of this ancient building with no instructions other than writing on a chalkboard on the wall outside this waiting room stating our surgeon was present that day. As people often do when confused and some in pain, a collective camaraderie broke out and we started to compare appointment times. It became readily apparent this surgeon was running very, very late. Eventually a very pleasant lady with an efficient looking clipboard arrived and called three names - none of which was mine. And so the waiting began. All gathered looked up eagerly each time we heard footfall in the hallway, hoping for the return of the pleasant lady with our name on the top of her list. Eventually my turn came around and I was ushered into what appeared to be the hallway of an area that must have been an operating theatre at some point. Huge, leather chairs had been set up, one behind the other, against one wall. I sat in the second of these chairs, feeling like a child playing trains and was instructed to sign a consent form, ticking off boxes that promised I had been instructed about the 'dangers and severity' of the procedure I was about to enter into. Next step was to move up to the recently-vacated front chair from which I could see those who had gone before me lying on what looked like old-fashioned dentist chairs; one in each of the two, huge, empty rooms. The doors to these rooms closed, but I could see the doctor, my surgeon, racing between the two operating rooms via a third connecting room. My turn now, and the pleasant lady took me into one of the now vacant operating rooms and I sat on the freshly-papered, ancient dentist chair. A third actor entered the play now in the form of yet another very pleasant lady who prepared the stage for our leading man. She asked me if I had been waiting long...I could only smile. The leading man then entered, masked, gloved, gowned and said not a word to me as he went about his business. He did, however, have a very pleasant conversation with the second pleasant lady about a colleague who was retiring that day and for whom a party was being prepared in the lunch room. I learned the menu for their lunch and the retiring-lady's length of tenure and generally well-regarded reputation. The procedure was over in under ten minutes, and, stitches in, I was abruptly alone in this overly-lit, cold, vast room as our star dashed through the connecting door to the second operating room and his next patient. Left alone, I scrambled off the dentist -chair, fumbled with my coat and made my way back down the hall. I was lucky enough to have a warm, smiling, familiar face greet me back in the cold, grey waiting room. And yes, it was still full, and everyones' head still turned with eager eyes as they heard my footfall in the hallway, hopeful it was our first pleasant lady coming to fetch them for their interface with the exulted one.
Back home, safe, comfortable and sipping on a big mug of tea, I reflected on my experience. It was more surreal than unpleasant. Of course, I had the good fortune of not being worried, or sick, or in pain and was able to convince myself that all I truly needed that day were the surgeon's hands not his personality. But I did wonder for the elderly lady who was ahead of me in line. I could see the tremble of her hand, the laboured way she walked. She too had a friendly face with her back in the waiting room...so I hoped she was okay.
I'm betwixt and between today, confused if I should be outraged by this inefficient system, or eternally thankful I have one at all. I think I am both.