The Waiting Games

Next to the question of why do dryers eat socks and whether or not Christian would notice if I threw a few pairs of similar, but not exactly the same, paired socks in his drawer,  one of the biggest mysteries in life is trying to guess what the wait time at the doctor’s office will be.

Contrary to the office of my primary care doctor, where I can make an appointment for any time of day and know that I’ll be in and out in forty five minutes or less and often under thirty, my ENT’s office is a different matter entirely and requires careful consideration and planning.  I always try to get the earliest, but not the first slot available for this particular physician.

The first available time is at eight however that’s almost a guaranteed wait. He seems to be one of those people who are plagued with external factors that cause him to run late.  Between 8:30 and 10:00 am seems to be the sweet spot: his morning patients are still trying to wake up and he hasn’t gathered a full load of conversational steam.  If you are unfortunate enough to get an afternoon appointment it’s best if you pack a survival kit as though you were taking a small child on a long car trip.

Last week I had a 9:00 am appointment; I took a calculated risk and took only a novel and my smart phone.  I didn’t even have time to crack my book open before I was whisked into the exam room.  I recited my symptoms to the nurse, making mental notes of what I said so I wouldn’t somehow tell the doctor something different.

I made myself as comfortable as possible and settled in to read.  I hoped to get in at least a chapter in spite of the promise, “The doctor will be right with you.”

Seven chapters, three games of solitaire, and a potty break later over an hour had passed. I considered asking the nurse if I could be relocated to the waiting room where at least there would be people to watch instead of the four walls.  I attempted to check emails and Facebook on my phone but abandoned the idea after a matter of seconds. I prefer to believe that I don’t find my smartphone as useful for those functions as I did a couple of years ago because I’ve been spoiled by my iPad and not because my eyes have turned fifty.

My stomach grumbled and almost drowned out the snippets of non-medically related conversations which were the root cause of an even longer than average wait.  I wondered how I was going to escape the inevitable discussion about how to keep water out of my ear, the dismay over why it took me so long to come in, and the inquiries and advice about my upcoming travel plans. In the three years that I’ve been going to Dr. Earnoseandthroatguy I’ve taken more than a few trips and my destinations have more often than not been a city he’s visited only once but has a remarkable memory and a well-established opinion of.

Two hours and twenty minutes after my arrival the exam was complete, the prescriptions written, and the lecture delivered. Now it was time to talk.

“So do you have any upcoming travel plans?” he asked.

I considered lying, but air travel is medically relevant if you have chronic ear issues and you’re talking with your ENT, so I divulged my plans to fly to St. Louis.

“St. Louis? You sure know how to pick ‘em.  I remember the time I was in St. Louis…”

It was all I could do not to jump in and finish the story of his son’s college visit that took place over twenty years ago, the incredible humidity and the difficulty they had finding their way around.  Instead I perched on the edge of the chair, zipped my coat, smiled, “mmmm hmmm’d,” and “oh really’d” as though it was the first time I’d heard it.  I made my follow up appointment fifteen minutes later.

Today’s appointment was scheduled for 10:00 am.  I dreaded the thought of explaining that another trip had come up and the time that it would add. Determined to make the best of it I brought along my novel, the iPad, a snack, and the brilliant idea to write a funny story about the visit while I waited and waited.

I received my diagnosis, my script, as well the location and summary of the anticipated wait time for dinner at the “must go to restaurant” in Raleigh within thirty-seven minutes and fourteen seconds.

I wonder if I may have been less discreet than I thought when I opened the iPad stopwatch app and clicked start.

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