The Waiitng Room: A Sooke Experience

It’s Friday, the one Friday a month that a certain surgeon visits town to screen patients who may require some sort of surgical procedure.  This visit saves a lot of referral time to the specialist not to mention eliminating the drive to town on four lanes.

I walked into the waiting room, thinking I might just be on time, for once not late, and the room was full. Oh, oh, there is going to be a wait I think. Oh no, how will I juggle those two other things I planned to do this morning. All before lunch.  Surprisingly, I knew mostly everyone there, and there was still one chair.

In the greetings and catching up it became clear the doc was perhaps two hours behind. What was rather astounding (and pleasing) was everyone’s attitude. “Oh don’t you know about Fridays. Sometimes the line up goes out onto the sidewalk, even into the parking lot. This guy is so thorough, time doesn’t matter. You just come prepared to come and go, wait, wait some more, get a book, coffee, maybe a meal, and eventually you will be seen. You don’t need a number…..they know when it’s your turn. This is worth a wait, on a Friday. “

Now, living on an island we are used to “waits” – traffic tie ups, motor car accidents, ferry line ups. This was different though as the conversation was engaging, we weren’t in a car; we were in waiting room sharing stories of what’s been happening. Conversation at first, because there is a realtor in our midst, is all about who is moving in or out of your neighbourhood.

Then it gets a bit more risky, some of us thinking it would be good to invent some stories and see how fast it gets around Sooke. We don’t go there. We go many other places but the one thing we are not sharing is WHY we are in the doctor office.

There must be about 12 of us now….sitting down, standing, somewhat like a bakery deli or shoe store, but with no ticket, and another comes in the door.

“How are you Harry?” – Reply is not as cheerful as the question – “well, do I need to answer, I am in a doctors office?”

A woman is knitting squares for an afghan, another is reading, only one is texting, no cell phones, no lap tops. One of  us is searching for cards, going out to the vehicle glove compartment, thinking a kitchen sink kind of bridge game is in order, anther says “no bridge” lets do a simple game…blackjack. Another is selling chocolate bars, these are no ordinary chocolate bars, they are Purdy’s. One patient arrives who is known to play the cello. Wouldn’t it be nice for if her cello is in her car, and we get a cello recital in the waiting room. Not everyone may agree, she doesn’t stay. Rats.

Conversation flits back to gardens. What’s growing, what isn’t?  The weather, brrrr.  I offer to go do a coffee run, and maybe we can eat some of the chocolate now tucked into bags.  I never do get out the door to get the coffee.  Somehow the unspoken belief to drink coffee and eat chocolate in the doctor’s office might be as bad as bringing in the chips from the fast food joints nearby. No one is really sure. After all, the chocolate is the good kind over 70 per cent cocoa.  And really good coffee has less caffeine. Ask the STICK, they will know.

The conversation gets a bit silly. We think that is good to bring down blood pressure for those with white coat syndrome, or would it make it go up? One gentleman has his heart monitor on. Can we spike the monitor with his laughter?  Several of the waitees would like to go to a funeral in the afternoon, someone well known in the community.  They think they might not make it as there are still two or so hours to go for their turn. We suggest we could sell our waiting places or barter them; we should really let Jim get to his buddy’s service. Silence. The idea of bartering your spot in the surgeon’s day is not being embraced. It could be a fund raiser. Nope, still no takers.

A lonely voice pops up… I know now why this place is called the “waiting room.”  It’s more than waiting for your turn, it’s waiting for good news, bad news, worrying news – we are all in this together. And we still haven’t shared why we are there. Good, there are still some boundaries that we all respect. No facebook , blogs in this room, the need to tell all.

I came away from this morning thinking —  hey, Sooke is still a small town, in spite of all the bustle of development and certain inconveniences. The community is about the people, how we connect, or don’t connect and take an ordinary event on a dreary gray day and talk to each other and share some stories and chuckles. I still made it to a late lunch with dear friends, and by leaving the wait room for 30 minutes, knowing I was still four places away for my turn,  looked after the other task I had to do. Thanks Sooke for being such a fine place to live and be.

Phoebe Dunbar