Waiting rooms: They are like fishing ponds where most amateurs lack the patience to get the goods.
But I know! I know, now, how to wait for long enough to pull out a story or two. Didn’t used to know. Before, I would join the others in their absentminded flipping through tattered magazines, often donated by some overzealous patient; other times — and in more expensive offices — subscribed to, by the M.D. himself. And in any office offering free consultations, I would be stuck with a three-fold brochure. I mean: Somebody, wake me when they call my name. I’ll be waiting.
In my immigrant life, I’ve had to do a lot of it: Waiting. Waiting for someone’s approval, which would theoretically make me feel better, in the end; except that I would be so exhausted — from the legwork, from not knowing any shortcuts, and from all that fucking waiting! — that I would feel calm, instead. And grateful: to be outside, among the rest of the living — no longer among the waiting; freed from the bolted down chairs and the white lights, and all that waiting to hear my name.
From some offices, I would leave with a referral to someone else’s; and with a sense of nagging anxiety, I would want to procrastinate at following through; because there would certainly be more fucking waiting: Waiting for a number, waiting for a signature, waiting for a stamp; for an opinion, a verdict, an approval. Waiting for to be considered legal for work, legit for travel. Waiting for a “Go-Ahead, You’re-Good-Enough — For-Now.” Waiting.
(I think another immigrant has written a novel called Waiting. I hated that thing: Couldn’t wait to finish it.)
These days, I’ve gotten much better at it. Perhaps, it’s because after years of waiting for the waiting to cease, I’ve realized, it’s a part of life. Maybe, it’s not a part of everybody’s life — but it is definitely a part of mine.
So, I think, maybe, I’ve surrendered to it. Finally. And maybe, despite my chronic impatience toward the crawl of clock hands, I have accepted that when the only activity is to wait — time is, suddenly, in my hands. And maybe, after finding a dream for which I am best suited, I’ve been made privy to an insight that every event and every person could be a part of it — a particle of a story, waiting to be told. So, I am not really waiting these days: but waiting it out. Like a female sniper. A fisherwoman. A crocodile hunter. You get the point.
In one such waiting room, I found myself the other day, watching a couple of medical assistants entertain each other out of boredom. Assistant No. 1 appeared to be joyless, and when I had checked-in with her at the counter, she seemed immune to any of my forced niceness or my feigned interest in her occupation:
“Busy day for you today, eh?”
(I am usually a charmer with people in her position: Sure, she is someone not expected to grant me the sought service; but she could fuck my shit up so seriously, it would cost me more waiting. No joke!)
“Fill this out,” she said, slipping half a page under her window, “and take a seat!” (‘Scuse me, Nurse Ratched! ‘Scuse me — for existing.)
Assistant No. 2 — was more to my liking: A flamboyant, disarmingly chubby young man, he was quite good at making sarcastic remarks at the expense of whatever patient’s file was being pulled up on his outdated computer screen. Occasionally, he would demand the attention from Assistant No. 1:
“Now! Would you look — at this?!”
Assistant No. 1 would smile, but her commentary would be so eviscerating, I would make a mental note to stay out of her way, for the rest of the day. Or, for the rest of my life, really. But Assistant No. 2 would appear tickled to no end. Perhaps, like the rest of us, he was sick of waiting out his life next to people like his joyless colleague; so, he chose to do it with some humor and a thicker skin.
I carried on pretending that my self-purchased issue of Vogue was so captivating, it had to be possess the secret to my own life on its pages. But truth be told, I can’t read, while waiting: I’m too distracted by humanity. I would rather be writing down some obscure thoughts into a journal, but that always attracts attention. And I would get carried away too, writing fast enough to set my pen on fire; and wouldn’t notice some nosy creature, looming at least a foot above me while deciphering my scribbles over my shoulder. So: Vogue it is, in waiting rooms. While waiting.
After twenty minutes, the waiting finally got interesting: Assistant No. 1 decided to come out with the tale of her failed love story. It seemed she had been waiting to vent — waiting to be asked about her horrid mood, about her suffering. And once the floodgates opened, every soul in the waiting room was made aware of her grief.
Off she went:
“He was, like, ‘I’m just not ready’. So, I was, like: ‘Forget YOU!’”
“NO!” Assistant No. 2 chimed in, perhaps, a bit too empathetically, while staring ahead at his screen. “Men! So typical!”
That sliver of empathy was enough for Assistant No. 1 to carry on: “I mean: Good luck to him! I’m so over it,” she said and swung her chair back to face the counter.
“Good for you!” Seemingly, Assistant No. 2 was all about it. But he did linger for a minute, then said:
“But, um… Did you really love him?”
Ooh. Interesting. Certainly more interesting than my very captivating issue of Vogue. I looked up: Assistant No. 1 looked contorted:
“Ugh!” she exhaled and swung that chair around, again. “Whatever do you mean?!”
“I mean: Don’t you hate it how, in the end, you find yourself in love with some better version of the person than he actually is?” said Assistant No. 2, stumping Assistant No. 1 — and the rest of us, listening in. “In the end, you just want to say, ‘But don’t you know how much better I’ve imagined you? Can’t you just change to match my fantasy? I’m willing to wait.’”
“Well, then!” I thought, “That — was worth the wait.”
And having waited out for long enough to get the story, I started setting my pen on fire against the pages of Vogue, while waiting to hear my name.