I don’t usually pay attention to the people around me at the doctor’s office. It makes me uncomfortable, and has even been known to spawn panic attacks.
I do not look at these people and I try equally hard not to listen to them. I do not want to hear how bad their liver is, how bad their finger is infected, or what organs might pop out of them at any moment. All I want to do is to hide in my cocoon until they call my name. This is how I cope.
Another thing that helps me is taking something with me to do. I either take a book to read or a pad and pen with which I can write. And that is what I was doing when he showed up: the creepy guy in the waiting room.
I was deep in thought, half-way through writing a short story, when he burst through the door. Normally, I would only notice this out of the corner of my eye, except that he stomped his feet, shook the rain of his clothes, and said in a loud tone, “Whoa, it’s raining cats and dogs out there!”
My head rose from my work, turned his way, and then returned to the important business of ignoring people. Then he sat down directly across from me, barely 5 feet away. He settled into his chair with a “whoo, huh-umph,” and slid his legs toward me, his knee high khaki boots dangling in my field of vision.
He was distracting me.
His attention next turned to the television screen, a 40-inch flat panel which dangled precariously over a fake fireplace, designed to make patients feel warmer without actually spending any money on heat. Rachel Ray was busy cooking a mac and cheese dish, and apparently my waiting room buddy hadn’t eaten in weeks.
“Woo-wee! Man, that looks good!” he said loudly. “Mmmmm—mmmmmm. I gotta get me some.”
Again I looked up, glanced at the screen, and hid myself in my work after that. I was beginning to lose focus, and I could feel the butterflies starting to take wing in my stomach, as the guy launched into his routine.
I wasn’t sure if the man suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome or not, because he could not keep quiet, and I think that’s one of the symptoms of the disease. And this lively fellow, instead of saying words, uttered incoherent multisyllabic phrases approximately every 30 seconds.
“Arbledovoo,” he said.
I tried ignoring that.
“Foowowsingalla!” came next one, only louder.
Each elongated vowel sound made it increasingly harder to ignore him – plus, now I was trying to decipher his language as if I was Tom Hanks and his words offered the clues to avoiding Armageddon.
That was it. My focus was completely shattered. I stared him up and down, taking a good look at his appearance. My calmness was no more. I noticed him, a skinny man of around 75 years of age with a long Santa Claus beard, hunting cap, and camouflage clothes.
Okay, break over, I told myself. But it was no use. I would have to find another way to cope with the distractions, which continued as Rachel switched to making dessert.
Apparently, “Combat Santa” was ADHD, too. He could not sit still for five seconds. He loudly stomped his feet as if at a hoedown and fidgeted in his chair.
I became frightened. What if he started singing – or worse? What if he wanted to talk to me? Panic rose from my stomach and began infecting my brain. Thoughts of switching my doctor’s appointment entered my brain. After all, a fever of 104 wasn’t so bad, was it? I could wait.
Just as I was about to make a bolt for the door, a lucky break came: Combat Santa was called upon by one of the nurses. I was saved. I didn’t have to go home after all. I would live to see another day.
I relaxed back in my chair and loosened the vice grip my fingers had on its arms. I told myself to calm down, and to try and make the best of the bad situation. Sure, the guy broke my concentration and affected my relaxation technique. But on the bright side, I could turn a lemon into lemonade – I could write an awesome blog entry out of this!
Twenty minutes later, I was my old relaxed self again, happy and confident that the day would be productive and that I had survived the ordeal. Then, the nurse swung the door open, called my name and said, “Combat Santa will see you now.”
Some days you just gotta smile – or else.