Wednesday

February 22nd, 2017

The Village Idiot

Waiting for Dr. Godot

Jim Mullen

By Jim Mullen

Published April 22, 2015

Remains of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene at Dover Air Force Base

It's nice that Dr. Godot has a whole room just for waiting. It's so convenient. But it makes you wonder: Would people be so patient if he called it the "Wasting Your Valuable Time Room"? Calling it a waiting room makes it sound as if waiting is the most normal thing in the world to do. We're not fuming, we're not steaming, we're not twiddling our thumbs -- because it's a waiting room, not a "Twiddling Our Thumbs Room."

There must be some really thoughtless doctors out there who take patients as soon as they show up at their scheduled time and don't give them any time to wait. Apparently, as soon as they are found, they are drummed out of the profession.

Of course, it's not just doctors who make us wait. Airports are composed almost entirely of waiting rooms. They have acres and acres of waiting rooms. The waiting rooms are so humongous that they have bookstores and restaurants and souvenir stands and coffee bars in them. If the airlines really thought every flight would leave on time, do you think they'd build such gigantic waiting rooms? What if the ticket price for air travel dropped each hour you had to wait? Wait one hour, that's $10 off the ticket price; two hours, you save $20, and so on. For every hour you sit in the plane on the tarmac, it's $50 off. Under this system, most of us could make money by flying.

My appointment with Dr. Godot was for 2 o'clock; I still haven't seen him and it's 3 o'clock. But if I had shown up at 3, I would have been late for my appointment. That seems one-sided. If I have an appointment with Dr. Godot, why doesn't Dr. Godot also have an appointment with me? Oh sure, I understand that there are emergencies. I watch medical shows on TV.

On television, no one ever waits. Who would watch a show called "WR" -- a room full of people moaning and sneezing and bleeding from the forehead and NOT being treated? No, on TV, entire families walk right into the emergency room without waiting. Mom, Dad and five or six children, all wailing and screaming "Don't let her die!" They never fill out a form; they never wait a minute. Try that in real life and see how far you get.

In real life, you get out of your sick bed and make your way to the emergency room, where all you want to do is lie down until someone can see you. In your dreams. If you're lucky, the hospital waiting room will have chairs that have been handed down from a 1950s grade school assembly room. If you're unlucky, they have new, designer waiting room chairs. Your back will never be the same.

At least Dr. Godot tries to class up his waiting room. He hangs pieces of fine art on the wall, the chairs are big and soft, and magazines like High Class Ski Resorts, Golfing in Fiji and Cigar and Wine Bore are scattered about. He's rich, so he must be good. There is a very fine reproduction of a large, ancient Etruscan vase in his waiting room placed between two chairs. Its classy effect is unfortunately wrecked by the hand-written note taped above the vase that says, "This is not a garbage can!"

How does he know? Maybe that's exactly what the Etruscans used it for. Garbage pickup on the ides and nones of every month.

Finally, at 3:30, the receptionist tells me the doctor will see me now.

"I'm so sorry about the delay," says Dr. Godot, "but there was an emergency. A man collapsed out at the golf course."

"Is he all right?"

"I suppose so. EMS took care of him. But it held up our foursome for an hour."

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Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo."

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