One thing that ties people together is time spent in a doctor's waiting room. The setting is familiar no matter what kind of doctor. There are the stiff, upright chairs, bright overhead lights, people behind glass panes, and often, an elevator that dings in the background.
Attendants in scrubs call out patient names while each new arrival is questioned about birthdate, insurance and changes since the last visit. They're told to take a seat and wait.
Last week's journey took me to the Eye Institute Surgical Center where folks of a certain age gathered, hopeful for improvement in their eyesight. Arrival time was nine am with instructions to be upstairs by that time after a night of fasting and no coffee or liquids of any kind. Most sat stiffly, bringing along a solid case of anxiety. To have someone cut on your eyes is scary. A couple of dozen other people and I waited to hear our names with little to do besides fidget and observe.
My driver and I chose seats in a tight corner across from a trio of women, two staring at their phones while a third sat, stony-faced, waiting her turn. Once she'd been called to the back, her companions left in search of food. They were replaced by a man who sought a chair to fit his linebacker girth. The tiny chairs were no match and as he lowered himself into it, the chair emitted a painful squeal.
It was a good time to study traffic patterns from the 4th story view of Central Expressway, busy any time, day or night. Cars sped by, coming and going to important places, their occupants unaware of our room full of tense, clean-scrubbed, lotion-less patients praying for a miracle.
Names were called to come to the room where forms were to be signed absolving the facility of responsibility for injury or death at their hand. A photo was taken to confirm our identity and add to our permanent record. Time ticked by at a snail's pace.
We maintained social distances, adorned with itchy face masks enhancing our discomfort. It was impossible not to stare as one frail woman dozed off in her wheelchair, bent forward, head down, those nearby praying she didn't nose-dive off onto the spotless tile floor. She woke with a start, and in near-blindness, demanded to know her whereabouts. Her son had "dropped me off here without a word." His booming voice, like a beacon in the cold silence echoed from the tiny registration room where her wheelchair wouldn't fit.
Finally, around 11:00 am, my name was called and I trudged back to the frigid pre-op room, changed into a gown and hair net, was hooked up to an IV and oxygen and drifted off into the land of the oblivious. Thirty minutes later I was in the post-op area drinking apple juice and waiting for my ride home; home sweet home. The cataract surgery was a success and now I await scheduling for the other eye.