Patience Is a Virtue That We No Longer Have Time For — or Do We?


Pardon me while I vent.

Through the miracles of modern technology, if not modern medicine, I’m writing this column, start to finish, as I sit in the waiting area of our local hospital.

This hospital, in an earlier iteration, was where both Timberley and I were born — me, almost 60 years ago; Timberley, well, fewer years than that. It’s where a brother, grandparents, uncles, aunts and countless friends died in years past.

It’s where through the years we’ve visited sick relatives and friends who have actually recovered and returned to normal living, so — contrary to what some people say, that this hospital is where people go to die — this local institution is a key part of our hometown. The people who walk these halls and occupy these rooms are a true microcosm of this community.

I hope the local hospital is better now than its reputation has become, because it’s getting our business again, though not the same business we brought here just over two years ago when our own personal cancer odyssey began (or ended, in the case of a step-parent whom we helped take to appointments).

So picture me this morning, holding a gigantic orange-and-white Dunkin Donuts insulated mug full of coffee, two handbags — women’s pocketbooks, not anything close to what a man might carry — and sitting in a padded chair across from two unisex, single-user restrooms on one side of the waiting area.

The two women I’ve chauffeured here occupied those two restrooms; however, only one remembered to lock her door, an act which flipped a little sign near the handle from GREEN vacant to RED occupied.

So I’d been sitting there for a few minutes — nothing I’m not used to — when another woman approached Ground Zero, plastic-baggied pee-cup in hand. She looked at the first restroom door, at the RED occupied sign, and then tried the door handle, anyway.

I didn’t say anything. That time.

So she took a step toward the next restroom, the one whose occupant had forgotten to lock the door.

“Someone’s in there,” I said.

Her hand already on the door handle, she glanced at me. “What?” she said, then pointed at the little GREEN vacant sign before opening the door a foot or so, anyway.

“I said someone’s in there.” My tone convinced her not to open the door all the way, and she did close it a second later. So no harm was done, and any embarrassment was largely averted.

But the intruding woman apparently didn’t really believe I’d told her the truth. Someone else in the waiting area told her to use the “other” restroom, the one bearing the GREEN vacant sign. “Someone’s in there,” she told her friend, then turned and pointed at me, “he says.”

That’s when I said something.

“Well, go on in there then.”

Her eyes narrowed. “What?”

“Go on in there if you don’t believe me.” I figured the occupant had to be at least close to being finished by then, so a quick visit might have been somewhat educational for both parties.

The woman definitely noticed the edge in my voice that time, and, as one would expect, she became defensive. I came to my senses and answered her mild comeback with simply, “Yes, ma’am,” and left it at that — until a minute later when I got to go through the same basic song-and-dance routine with an old man — older than me, anyway.

I tell you what. When the hospital lady behind the counter hands out those pee-cups, people see it as their mission from God to fulfill, come hell, high water, or the sworn word of the poor guy holding a big insulated coffee mug and two women’s pocketbooks outside the single-seaters.

I did apologize to the woman a few minutes later, and she did accept my apology. I certainly hope so, because she’s in a day-long “camp” (series of meetings with various medical folks) with the two ladies I’m waiting for right now.

I’m learning to be patient. Really, I am.