The Doctor Will Be With You Shortly

I spent the morning with my mother in a waiting room. Not just any waiting room, but my least favorite waiting room of all that I’ve sat in. Okay, I take that back. Emergency department waiting rooms are the worst. But for standard, made-the-appointment-six-months-ago waiting room, this one is the pits.

Mainly because you can pretty much count on being there for three hours, minimum.

I won’t name names but the doctor in question is a well-known and apparently well-liked local eye surgeon who does cataracts and laser surgery as well as basic eye exams.

Here’s how it goes. You pull into a parking lot with too-small spaces. I guess they figure most people coming in there can’t see anyway, so bumps and dents will be forgiven. Once inside, you wait in line to sign in. Today, there was no line and they hadn’t misplaced the file. All good news. Then they hit you with the phrase I think all the staff is ordered to memorize and repeat four hundred times a day.

The doctor will be with you shortly.

As a writer, I’ve been taught that adverbs only weaken the verb to which they are attached. Never is this truer than in this sentence.

Translation: The doctor will see sometime before the next millennium if you don’t die first.

We take a seat in the large waiting room. Along with other more or less patient patients. The first wait is generally one hour. That’s assuming you arrived on time for your appointment. If you came early with the hopes of seeing the doctor sooner, forget it. Never arrive early.

After the first hour was up, they called us back into an exam room where Mom read some letters. Then they put drops in her eyes and told us to take a seat back in the waiting room. The doctor will be with you shortly.

There, we resume our wait.

Now, if a doctor is going to regularly make you wait for long periods of time, there are certain amenities he should supply in the waiting room. Comfortable chairs for example. Heck, in this office, cots might be nice. Coffee or tea would also be appreciated. (Downstairs, where the surgeries are done, the waiting room is stocked with coffee and doughnuts, but not upstairs.) I also think adequate lighting for reading would be nice. I manage to get several chapters read while I’m there, but it’s not without eyestrain in the dim lighting.

Okay, I can almost understand the lighting. First, most everyone there has had drops put in their eyes and can’t see to read anyway. Others are there for post-cataract-operation check-ups and are wearing sunglasses inside to shield their eyes from the light. So I will cut them some slack in the lighting department.

But the tiny restroom with the fragile toilet paper that seems to be made of onion skin…there is no excuse for that.

So the second hour of the wait is up and they called us back into the exam room again. This time the doctor himself comes in, shines lights in Mom’s eyes, and dictates some notes to his assistant in a language I do not understand.

And this time he told us we could go. Come back in a year.

Other visits, when Mom needed to have a procedure done or was being fitted for eye glasses, there had been another wait. You guessed it. The doctor will be with you shortly. In an hour or so. During one miserable appointment, we were there for four hours.

We got off easy today. Only two hours in uncomfortable chairs and only one trip to the restroom.

I wonder what they would say if we signed in on time and told them we were going shopping and would be back to see the doctor…SHORTLY?


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