Thursday, November 29, 2012

the waiting room

The cancer centre is all locked up, the reception area beyond the glass dimly, economically lit. There’s no buzzer; when we knock nothing happens, no-one comes. The rain is just starting in now after threatening all evening. We shelter as best we can in the overhang. I call Control to check whether we’re in the right place. They eventually get back to say that someone is coming to let us in.

‘Sorry about that,’ says a nurse as the door opens. ‘We don’t normally run this late. Mr Rogers has just got another ten minutes to go. Is that okay?’
She shows us to the threshold of a deep and empty waiting room, and hits a switch. The overhead lights blink on, nearest first, then off in two lines into the distance.
‘Make yourselves at home,’ she says.

The chairs around the perimeter of the room are high-backed, generously padded, pastel mauve, pink and yellow. On the low, white tables in the centre of the room are tidy stacks of magazines: House & Home; Elle; Cosmopolitan; Red; Gardener’s World.
Amazing before & afters.
Your Spring must-haves.
How normal is your sex life?
Boost your energy in a week.
Public enemy no.1.

And today’s paper, folded to the crossword, half-done. A small bookshelf on wheels with a stack of thrillers, a slotted pot for contributions. Nicely organised notice boards, bright adverts for contact groups, names and numbers, a fundraising spread with people running through ribbons with their arms in the air, smiling in a huddle round a giant cheque.
Rae gets herself a cup of water from the cooler and stands there, sipping it, looking around.
Outside, the rain rattles coldly against the black glass.

‘Here we are!’ says the nurse, pushing Mr Rogers in a wheelchair.
He waves an emaciated hand in the air and smiles broadly as they come to a stop.
‘Thank you so much for waiting,’ he says. ‘Sorry to keep you.’


jacksofbuxton said...

It doesn't matter how old those magazines are Spence.They churn out the same nonsense every month,so I suppose them being 3 years old saves the NHS a few bob.

Spence Kennedy said...

Well I have to admit I didn't take a note of the actual headings on the magazines - I nicked them off an image search on Google. So they were probably more up to date than I'm making out! But you're right, it's pretty much the same thing every time. I was just struck by the contrast between the banal subjects and the tough times the people in the waiting room were going through.

Jane said...

I go to the GP thankfully very rarely, but I had occasion to go earlier in the year. It was like a history lesson - one of the (gross, well thumbed, possible infection risk) magazines had an article about Princess Di. From when she was alive. so thats at least 15 years old. sheesh.

I was glad I had my kindle for entertainment.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Jane
Some of them are so ancient you'd think they might actually be worth something. In our surgery thought they seem to have given up on the usual fashion magazines (which is a shame, because it's the only chance I have to have a good read of the problem pages). Now it's mostly free property magazines. Shame!