The Waiting Room


When my elderly parents lived in Florida, they jokingly referred to their neighborhood as “God’s waiting room.” It wasn’t particularly funny but no matter how many times the phrase was spoken it was absolutely obligatory to laugh. “Good one.”

This morning I find myself in what actually could pass for God’s waiting room: the hospital lab. I was only there for a simple blood draw but over the next 45 minutes, I would be treated to one of the most absurd series of overheards I ever…well, heard. These fellow patients not only couldn’t tell a joke or a funny story to save their lives (something that could have come in handy with this group) but they simply did not know when to drop the mike.

Example: Joe Bypass enters and immediately strikes up a conversation with Agnes Walker. She proves to be a receptive audience and old Joe wasted no time seizing the opportunity to dazzle her with his sparkling wit. “You know, they’ll let me have a hamburger but they won’t let me have the bun!” Agnes, picking up on this fascinating true confession, counters with, “It’s like having half a loaf of bread!” Huh? I think maybe it’s Agnes who was working with half a loaf of bread.

Joe, encouraged by the captive audience reaction and attempting to capitalize on the shared misery quotient, takes it up a notch. “Maybe if I promise to be quick they’ll take me in sooner.?” Hehehe. This one sunk like a stone.

But it’s a well-known fact that silence is unacceptable in a waiting room (or in an elevator; more on that later) and soon after Joe got the hook, Mrs. Phlegmy started talking. Not to me, thankfully. I was busy trying to induce a personal state of coma.

But first, she coughed a mighty cough in my direction, expelling some sort of effluent in the process. I really wanted to be appalled but then I realized that little bit of spit might have very well been the last teaspoon of saliva the poor dear had to spare. Her question to the unfortunate soul beside her, “Can you roll over yet?” I never did catch the response over the sound of my brain exploding.

Not to be outdone, the lady across from me announced that something or another made her feel like “a chicken with its back to the wind.” I made a mental note to look that one up when I got home.

Just when thought things couldn’t get any funnier, the room went wild over the comedy stylings of Lois “Am I In The Right Place?” Shuffler. “The vampires seem to be busy today.” There wasn’t a dry Pampers in the room.

Finally, sensing Joe Bypass was somewhat despondent after his waiting room bomb, a nice lady with a Zip-Loc bag full of Ritz crackers offered him one. “I would but they won’t even let me have a hamburger bun!” Joe was back in the game.

The elevator ride down was a comic gem, as well. As the doors opened, I asked Elevator Guy if it was going down (making the universal gesture for “down” while appearing hopeful.) “Yes it is,” was his answer, then he let the door slam shut in my face. Well played, Elevator Guy, well played. Next time I’ll be more specific.

But the laughs kept coming when a nice family of three (remember that number…it will be important in the punchline) steps in and The Dad noticed we were all headed for the third floor. “We’re the smart people!” he commented. It was a comedic miscalculation which, nevertheless, was rewarded with smiles all around and a low-key “hehehe.”

Driving home I wondered if being funny was something we’re born with and does it dissipate with age…like collagen or bladder control? I’d seen some pretty good stand-ups today (or sit-downs, actually) and they all killed. They were having a good time. Maybe it was just me being silently snide, failing to appreciate strangers working hard to break the tension? Maybe I was the real problem here?

Naaah…I just need to find a funnier hospital.

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