Life is definitely too short to spend two whole hours in a hospital waiting room. However important the consultant we are waiting to see may be.
I call him Mr Bow Tie
because this is his neck wear of choice, worn with a dapper confidence in his own supremacy over we mere mortals in the queue outside.
Ah, the queue. First of all we are directed to the wrong Waiting Bay by
the hospital receptionist. We waitpatiently until every other person had departed at which point we accost a passing nurse, only to be told that we have been sitting in the wrong bay. Could we have been missed? we worry - only to be reassured (if it could
be termed reassurance) that Mr Bow Tie is running at least forty minutes late. Slightly disgruntled, we find the correct waiting bay which is full of other slightly disgruntled people. The nurse scrubs the words "Running 40 minutes late" off the whiteboard
and scrawls "Running an hour late" in its place. Was it something we said?
I go to the Friends of the Hospital Tea Bar to fetch us a cup of coffee. A cup of coffee is, as Mr B is fond of reminding me, my Answer
To Everything. Feeling cold? Have a cup of coffee. Feeling fed-up? A cup of coffee will surely help. Long wait ahead? You've guessed it, let's get a cup of coffee.
The two sweet old dears in charge of the
Friends Tea Bar are just like a comedy duo. One is very tiny, peering over the top of the counter, a dead ringer for Julie Walters as Mrs Overall. The pair consult each other at every turn, even over the production of a single coffee in a takeaway cup. "Do
we have lids?" "Yes, dear, we have lids." " Is it 75p for a cup of coffee?" "Is it a large cup or a small cup?" her fellow tea bar assistant wants to know. Mrs Overall turns to me, a despairing look in her eyes: "Is it a large cup you are wanting or a small
cup?" she asks me, in a quavering voice. I just about manage to stop myself from saying whichever is easiest - it is clear that indecisiveness would be cruel in these circumstances. I confirm that it is a large cup I am requesting, the larger the better. "Are
you staff?" she asks me. I wonder why she thinks that? Perhaps I still retain a certain professional manner? Or, maybe, it's my coffee habit?
I cradle my cup of coffee in my hands and return to our waiting
bay to find Mr B. Oh dear, a new message has appeared on the whiteboard. Surgery is now running an hour and twenty minutes late. There is a range of reading material available so I read all the "heart-warming stories" in The People's Friend, which was always
my dear Mum's favourite magazine. Then I graze through Grazia and skim The Sun newspaper, carefully avoiding page 3 in case it makes me feel inferior.
Half an hour later, an hour and a half since our appointment
time, there are still three people ahead of us. One of them is Mrs Voice of Reason, who tells us all that we are lucky indeed to be able to see someone as eminent as Mr Bow Tie and, however long we have to wait, we should Be Grateful For What We Are About
to Receive. I suspect she may be a plant.
Then there is Mr Cowboy Hat who is concerned that he will be too late to transport his grand-daughter to college. He has only paid for an hour in the car park too.
We are quietly pleased that (i) we haven't planned to do anything else today and (ii) we have paid for two hours' parking. In these circumstances one has to be thankful for small mercies. Our third Companion in Waiting has a headache. After such a long wait,
he isn't the only one.
When we finally see Mr Bow Tie, after a two hour wait, he jokes that we must be hungry, not having had any lunch. He hasn't had any lunch either, he tells us. We find ourselves apologising
for taking up his valuable time and so making him miss his lunch.
After our ten minute consultation, Mr B suggests we get ourselves some lunch at the Friends Tea Bar. All we need, he says, is a ham roll for
me and a cheese and pickle roll for him. Even if they have run out, he declares confidently, he is sure they will be prepared to quickly rustle up a roll or two.
Dear reader, I have to admit that I chickened
out. "I'll go and save us a table," I told him.
And left him to deal with Mrs Overall alone...