Emergency waiting rooms are such strange places, and when you have the privilege of spending any amount of time in one, you will see what I mean. Two weeks ago when I cut my foot I spent ten hours just sitting there with not much to do but to observe the people and at times to chat with them.It was like a slice of humanity taken at a certain point in time from what they were doing when disaster struck.
There is a sort of group mentality that takes over in a waiting room, as if all of us waiting there didn’t have a life outside of this waiting room and our individual afflictions. As the hours wore on, from 7PM to 5:30 AM the next morning, the ambulance coming and going with various Friday night accidents, we all sat there, waiting for our turn to see the doctor.
Since none of us exchanged names or any other personal information, my friend and I referred to each person according to their ailment. Since I had injured my foot, I was “the foot”.
What a conglomeration of people! There was a man with a fish hook stuck in his neck, right next to the jugular vein. He said that he and his dad had gone fishing and his dad landed the biggest fish – him! Since the hook was so situated, he had to have it removed surgically. He was “the neck”.
Then there was a woman who had fallen over the stairs, pizza in hand, children waiting hungrily for dinner. The pizza ended up on the wall and she ended up at the emergency with a swollen knee. She was “the knee”.
A woman came in with a knife puncture wound to her hand. She had been slicing into an avocado when the knife slipped and almost went through her hand. She really didn’t see why she had to be there with such a small cut. But it was deep. She was “the hand”.
Across from me there was a very young woman with an ice pack on her head. Her boyfriend was with her throughout the night. I can only imagine why she had an ice pack on her head. She looked a little out of it, and I called her “the head”.
There was a nun in a burgundy and off white habit, and some sort of head covering. I am supposing that she was a nun. No one would willingly dress like that. There was nothing evidently wrong with her, although something could have been covered by her apparel. Probably she had something abdominal, internal, or a woman’s problem. She was “the nun”.
An elderly man came in with his son around the same time I did. After a few hours his son left and so he was left there to wait it out alone. When he was finally seen at 4AM, he had to call a cab from the direct line phone right there in the emergency waiting room. His parting words were, “I hope the taxi doesn’t take as long to come as the doctor did”. He was “the old man”.
A young man was lying across three chairs, his eyes extremely irritated. He kept wiping them with a tissue, and blowing his nose. He was “the eyes”.
So there we were,the foot, the knee, the neck, the nun, the old man, the hand, the eyes,and the head, eight of us, waiting, waiting. I will probably never see any of those people again, but just for a few hours we were together in a small hospital waiting room in St Eustache in the wee hours of May 23, 2009.