Story Time – The Long and Long of It

waiting-room

Now, where we when I last wasn’t able to end a story quickly? Right. I remember…

Anyway, when we last left our hero, he was on his way to the hospital. It speaks a lot to my life experience that the first thing I thought when I heard about going to the hospital is that it would be a big waste of my free time. I’m sure most people going to the hospital are afraid of getting bad news. Or being around sick people. I got my bad news a decade ago. I am sick people.

Having a chronic illness before you go to a hospital is a completely unique experience. It allows you to be more pragmatic. I, for example, tend to view it as more like visiting a very racist relative for the holidays. You already know about how it’s going to go without even setting foot inside. You’re just sort of wondering how much of your Saturday it’s going to devour before you get to go home.

Now, I should be clear. Just because I’m not afraid of them doesn’t mean hospitals are fun for me. They probably never will be, unless somewhere around visit 50 they start paying me to go there.

Hospitals are dreary and depressing. And they’re full of sick people. Very often, those people are far sicker than I am – occasionally in very contagious ways but always in very depressing ones.

“Aren’t you one of those sick people?” you ask.

Well, sure. But it’s like seeing someone who went to your high school in a different year that you’ve never spoken to. It’s not a good enough justification for me to want to be around them.

I still remember one of my worst stays in the hospital. I’d been placed in a room with an old man who spent about twenty hours a day moaning. When he died, the nurse asked if I was all right. I said I was fine. I hadn’t even spoken to the man, after all. Honestly, counting reading about Sirius Black, it was probably the second-most-troubling time someone had died right next to me on the other side of a curtain.

She seemed surprised at this, saying that she thought we’d have bonded. “We put the two of you together because you both had Crohn’s Disease and…oh.” Her face reddened. “I’m sorry. I guess I shouldn’t have told you that. It’s…kind of a privacy violation.”

“Privacy is just one of many reasons to maybe not mention a man dying of the same thing I have after two days of agony,” I noted, shuddering at glimpse of my potential future.

In short(ish), while I have considerable empathy for those with chronic illnesses, that doesn’t mean I want to hang out with them.

Worst of all, perhaps, is that hospitals are just mind-numbingly boring. I’ve been in them enough to know there isn’t some secret area where they’re hiding all the fun. It’s pretty much just beeping machines, sick people, waiting rooms and places to buy under-seasoned, overpriced food that (in my opinion) are too close to both the sick people and the beeping to be enjoying a meal.

And that’s roughly when I heard my thirty-minute test was actually a five hour one.

Then they told me to strip naked. That’s not really an important part of the story. But so far as long waits go, naked isn’t my favorite way to spend them.

(A blow softened only slightly when the receptionist clarified that after disrobing, I could put on a garment that only loosely fit the description of the word “gown,” at least based on the Disney princesses I’ve seen.)

“At least there’s a television,” I muttered as I walked into the radiology waiting room and arranged the hand towel I was wearing so that I wouldn’t have to put my bare skin of my backside on the seats there.

I quickly realized that I may have had overly high expectations of the old tube television. It looked to have been built at least two decades ago – specifically, from the parts of other broken televisions. I wasn’t too surprised to find the same episode of static on every channel. And when I found there was no cable hooked up to it, I was even less surprised. Aside from having taken the time to plug it into an electric outlet, the hospital had done everything it could to ensure no entertainment came out of that television.

“The television doesn’t work,” I explained to the receptionist. “There’s no cable even hooked into the back.”

“Oh. It’s got an internal antenna.”

“Really? It wasn’t playing those channels either.”

“No, it wouldn’t. The radiology equipment confuses the signal,” she explained.

“Ah.” I blinked. “Then…why have it there at all?”

She shrugged. “Well, we padlocked it to the table so no one would steal it. But we lost the key. So we just keep it there.”

It wasn’t a very fulfilling answer, not least of all because I couldn’t imagine someone sneaking past half a dozen security guards to steal a television that predated the Nixon administration. And since I had nothing better to do, I pressed on. “Surely you have a maintenance department with a bolt cutter?”

“Yeah,” she said. “But we keep forgetting.”

After waiting a moment to see if she might spring into action and ending up disappointed, she turned back to her computer screen. I want to believe she had something very important to look at there. Peace of mind, however, advised me not to check.

I returned to the waiting room, the hospital’s standards making me a little less sure I wasn’t going to die during a noninvasive routine test than when I’d arrived.

And that, once again, is a good place to leave the story for now. I realize that it’s the second part and I’ve yet to reach the actual test the story is about, but hopefully it’s been a decent ride to get there. I’m going to be blunt here. Reading my writing to see me reach my point quickly is a recipe for disappointment. For me, it’s all about the journey and very rarely the destination. Unless we’re talking “Journey” the music group. Totally different rules in that scenario.

Though, that being said, I do love trilogies. So there’s an above-average chance of the next part being the last one.

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