When Teeth Chatter
I had a conversation with a stranger today. Well, at least that’s what I thought at first. When you are shy like me, you can’t always tell. Sometimes when people talk to you, you open your mouth and the words are nowhere to be found – like they have run away and hidden. Today the words didn’t hide, but I still didn’t have a conversation.
It all happened at the doctor’s office. I have noticed that a lot of things happen at the doctor’s office. I think that’s because it can be scary and uncomfortable there. And when you put on that gown – well, let’s just say that modesty is on hiatus. People with all sorts of germs are packed together, elbow to elbow. I always get stuck sitting next to the guy who refuses to get a flu shot until it’s too late. Thank goodness I wear my hoodie – and face mask.
The Event Unfolds
Today when I walked into the waiting room, it was almost empty. That relaxed me quite a bit until the only other person in there, a woman in gray sweatpants, blue windbreaker and brown cowboy boots, said hello. I didn’t know what to do, so I panicked. Then I realized that the polite thing to do would be to respond, so I said hello back.
Then the conversation began – or so I thought. I was sitting across the room diagonally from the woman, and I only got a cursory look at her. I don’t usually look at people because they might look back. I only got a chance to look at her wardrobe and to remind myself not to judge people by the way they dress.
After my polite hello back, the woman began talking quite a bit. She talked about her son who had recently been injured playing football. I tried to commiserate with her, but she was a fast-talker, and it was hard for me to keep up. I got pretty nervous, so I picked up the pace. The conversation went on for almost 10 minutes, when the nurse called her into the examination room. I looked up at her and was going to say goodbye, when I noticed something in her hand. That’s when she said, “Call you back later, Sally,” and ended her phone call. It turns out she hadn’t been talking to me the whole time.
I am sure glad that the room was empty, because my face must have been crimson red after that. I must have looked like I had a bad case of rosacea because all subsequent patients huddled in the opposite corner from me. I was sure glad when it was my turn to put on that gown – for once it was LESS embarrassing than what had happened.
Once appropriately undressed and chilled in the frosty exam room, I began to think – a flaw of mine that I am trying to fix. It dawned on me that the woman never noticed that I was talking to her. She was so wrapped up in her own world, that she didn’t even notice my faux pas. I started to wonder how often this happened, and how many people (even when they know they are in a conversation) don’t really pay attention to the other person. They just look for appropriate cues to jump back in and talk about themselves.
How many times has a friend vented to you, and you sit there and zone out, thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner or something similar? How many times to we fail to listen closely, to hear touches of sadness in their words, or subtle cries for help?
How many times on the news have we heard friends and neighbors say, “He was such a nice kid, quiet and polite. I don’t know how this could happen.” Maybe if we listened a little better, maybe if we cared a little more, we could help people who need help and are afraid to ask for it. Maybe we can make the world a happier place, because face it, we all have some sadness inside us that other people can help make go away. But then again, what do I know? I talk to people who aren’t even talking to me.
Please do me two favors: 1) Please reach out to someone in need. I think that if you do, you will also be the one to feel better in the long run. 2) Don’t tell anyone what I did in the waiting room. They might laugh at me – again.