When I was a lad, you went to the doctor and he asked you to stick your tongue out. Despite the rude gesture, he used the sight to determine or divine your illness.
Maybe he would check your ears or look up your nose, but that was pretty much it. At that point, you got a shot, a pep talk or a lecture (depending on what you needed). You were then patted on the head and went home feeling much better.
Today, you need tests.
It is not the tongue, but 22 vials of blood that gives the diagnosis.
There I was, letting my mind wonder, as I sat in the laboratory waiting room. I wondered why the line moved so slowly. I wondered about the cough of the woman next to me. I wondered why I felt like this was the anteroom to hell in a Jean-Paul Sartre play.
The sweet and kind clerk at the counter stage-whispered information about bodily fluids to other patients as we all listened in. There was no mystery about what was in the little bag or jars many people received or returned.
We agreed not to talk about it. In fact, we agreed not to talk about anything. Not a word was said, although one could see a sympathetic smile now and then.
You could tell the people who had been required to fast for their test. They drooped. And, as time passed, they drooped more and more. Even those of us who’d had breakfast were getting hungry as it got later and later. The wait was long.
Not sure how long the delay had been, I estimated that when I arrived, my blood was type A positive. It was now about a C minus.
Some people’s names were called, but they had left to make a phone call — or a clean getaway. The rest were pleased that the line was shorter.
In a waiting room, do you ever play games with yourself? A game like: “What do they do for a living?” or “What is their story?” You do. You know you do.
Sharing the room were several mothers with children. I wondered where the fathers with children were.
There were at least two people who had recently gotten jobs and were going through drug tests. This was verified when they bypassed the blood-drawing area and were handed a cup.
The retired man snoozing must have low blood pressure or anemia.
The kid with the croup obviously had the plague, as everyone had turned away.
Several people brought books. They looked like regulars, and it was a bad sign. They must know something that the rest of us would learn.
And one kindly gentleman sat in a corner, eyeing the rest and writing his newspaper column on the back of the lab orders he had received from his doctor.
Waiting is one of those things you have to do. It seems to happen more often in a medical office, but you cannot make things hurry by being impatient.
Constantly clearing your throat may help pass the time, but it unnerves people around you.
Fidgeting is fine, but it really doesn’t produce results either.
You are left with time, during which you can catch up on reading last year’s magazines or planning your next vacation.
It is not punishment. It is an opportunity.
• Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4231 or e-mailing him at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.