I’ve been sitting in the gastrointestinal day surgery waiting room since 6:30 this morning. A male nurse with a carpet of fur, peering out from the neck of his green surgical scrubs, has already taken my friend through a pair of double doors marked ‘Oxygen in Use.’
Even though I brought a book and have my cellphone, it’s difficult to blockout the conversations around me.
“My wife only has a third of her stomach left.” The older man who made this comment pauses like he’s gumming a wad of something soft on the roof of his mouth. His bird-like wife is sitting next to him, seemingly unaware that her condition is being discussed with a total stranger. “Doctors have to check it every so often.”
“She’s having a colonoscopy, you say?” the man across from them asks. His voice is louder than it needs to be; he’s overweight and barrel chested; and he’s tapping a metal cane against the leg of his chair.
“Her and her daughter don’t get along too well.” The older man is still gumming his invisible wad. “Only child. Been spoiled all her life.”
I wonder if he’s referring to his wife or her daughter? The man tapping the cane says, “I’m here to have that big old thing removed.”
I eye his ample belly and shudder to think where that “big old thing” is located.
The waiting room begins to fill with patients, wearing white paper wrist bands and family members, carrying x-rays and insurance cards.
The wife has moved to a nurse’s desk in the corner and is fumbling through a purse that looks as old as she is. She holds the purse close to her face as her white-tufted head bobs up and down like she’s pecking for worms on the bottom of the bag. “I’m too old to hurry,” she says. The nurse on the other side of the desk waits patiently to enter information on the computer in front of her.
Two women, sitting against the far wall, are carrying on an animated conversation. “To remember if I’ve taken my pills, I lay them out on the table.” The woman in blue is motioning with her hands as though she’s lining up imaginary pills. “Later, if they’re gone, I know I’ve taken them.”
I wonder if she’s ever considered another option like maybe the dog ate them, or they simply rolled under the sofa?
The man next to me is reading today’s paper, and the headline on the back page catches my attention: “Sensual Qualities of Moles.” I’m thinking the article is about beauty marks, like the ones that adorn Cindy Crawford and Marilyn Monroe, when I notice another headline further down the page. “Color and Flavors of Moles Run the Taste Gamut.”
Eeew! The very thought gives a whole new slant to cannibalism until I see the man is reading the Food & Wine section. I stifle the urge to laugh when I realize the article is referring to molé, the smooth, dark, Mexican sauce made with chocolate and red chilies. Silly me!
On the other side of me a man is telling his friend, “I bought a new book yesterday. Born to Shop Paris. It’s fabulous! Antique silver thimbles, old Fortuny fabrics, chi-chi little Left Bank boutiques.” He presses his hands together with delight as though he were praying to the shopping God. “It tells you where to find them all,” he exclaims.
The nurse across the desk from the older woman is asking, “Are you on any medications?” The nurse’s backside is too large for the plastic chair, and her hips and thighs spill over the edge like great sacks of grain. I wonder if the hospital administrators think she’s a good role model for a healthy lifestyle?
The barrel chested man is still tapping his cane against the chair. “I hear the equipment they shove up there has gotten a lot smaller.”
Just when I think the conversation can’t get any worse, I hear the nurse say, “Tell me about your bowel movements.”
My cellphone says it’s only 7:20… I hope they’ve started with my friend’s procedure.