I do not fit here. I arrived at 1:30PM, exactly on time for my appointment. I have been waiting twenty minutes so far, and I’m restless. I am alone. Most of the dozen or so other patients have someone with them. Across the waiting room from me, there is a lady wearing a homemade jumper probably knitted by a family friend, and a stack hat with a No Fear sticker on it. Near her, above the back of a chair I can just see the shaking hand of a man who is prostrate in a reclining wheelchair.
My head is heavy, clouded. I need coffee and I am tired. This morning I woke at 4AM, thinking I had hypothermia. I was shivering uncontrollably. I got out of bed and closed the window. I had gone to bed warm from the show.
I drove to work, since I had arranged this medical appointment some weeks ago, when Monday would have been my day off. As it was now, being in training Monday to Friday meant I had to leave at lunch break, missing half a day of training. I parked up on the eleventh floor in the car park I had previously determined to offer the cheapest Early Bird prices, but of course, Early Bird parking has conditions attached – departure after 4:30PM being one of them.
So when I take the car out after just over three hours in the car park, I am slugged for $39.90. There’s nothing I can do. It’s my own stupid fault. As I sit behind a Jeep Cherokee at the boom gate exit, I hear a mighty metallic crack, like when you drive over those metal plates on entrances. Only I don’t think there’s one here. Across from me, I see two pedestrians looking at the Jeep, and it’s then I notice the driver has clipped their wing mirror on a wall, and the mirror is hanging down the passenger door of the car. So things could be worse.
Despite printing out directions to get to the hospital, I took a wrong turn, and ended up driving the streets of Ivanhoe and Heidelberg in frustration. Not my idea of fun at all – being here takes me back nearly ten years, to one of the darkest periods in my life, when Mrs H and I spent nearly six months living in one room with my sister-in-law and her family.
As I drove from level to level in the hospital car park with the slow leak in the car’s front tyre making it squeal like something from a 1970’s car chase movie, it was a reminder of another thing I don’t have the inclination to fix. Just another problem.
In my rush to get to my appointment, I realise I left the iPhone in the car, and as I sit in the waiting room I imagine hearing chimes of text messages or my ring tone even, although I know in reality, there would be neither.
Matt is not a fan of the Public Health Service
I ask for a sheet of paper to write on, as I have exhausted all free space on the ticket from the car park. The receptionist hands me a sheet from the printer, and now, writing at last, I’m at least a bit more constructive.
In the row behind me a young blonde wearing a hi vis top takes her seat. Her face is flushed; it looks like she had to rush to get here as well. “Where are you from?” a male voice asks. “Templestowe,” she answers. “Yeah, I know, but where?” he wants to know, and she lets the question hang unanswered.
On the muted TV in the far corner of the room, Beyonce thrusts her pelvis toward the camera and while one part of me dreads the image of my girls emulating this kind of hyper-sexualised posturing, at the same time I flash back to 1991/1992, when my life changed forever. I would spend Saturday mornings glued to the TV in my flat, watching Video Hits, waiting for Sheena Easton’s What Comes Naturally, Belinda Carlisle’s Summer Rain, or Guns N’ Roses You Could Be Mine to come on. (This was obviously before I discovered Pixies).
I can’t help noticing the nurses or medical staff who bustle back and forth in the corridors look uniformly fit, clean, and well-presented. Capable, in a word. The kind of women you could rely on. The kind of woman I married. She didn’t know she’d be my carer so soon.
A white haired doctory type enters the waiting room and sits opposite me. He’s wearing cargo pants with deep pockets on the side, big comfortable loafers and button down shirt and tie, with glasses worn on a cord around his neck, and he has brought a pastie and a Piazza Doro takeaway coffee with him. He winces as I watch him take his first taste of the coffee. Too hot. Too bitter. Over-extracted, I speculate. He drops flakes from the pastie on the floor, and then wipes his forehead, the corners of his mouth, and finally his hands with a paper serviette.
“I haven’t got enough credit,” an Islander girl opposite me on the phone whispers conspiratorially; hand over the headset, which she’s holding like a walkie-talkie. She’s speaking into the earpiece end of the phone.
It is 2:40PM. A dad and daughter are playing “I spy” behind me. It reminds me of this morning, when Little Miss H and I had played this game as she lay in bed, before she got up. On Sunday afternoon, Mrs H, she and I had played a word memory game while her sister slept, and my memory’s pathetic inadequacies had been exposed again. This is why I’m stressed about my ability to turn three and a half weeks of predominantly theory training in processes and procedures into practice when I start in my new role next week.
As 3PM passes, and I realise my other plans to get things done this afternoon are not going to happen, I am at least thankful for the inspiration a couple of hours observing the general public has granted me. In an ideal writer’s world, it would be a regular part of my day or week.
“Medical emergency, Ward 9C,” a voice announces over the PA system.
A cleaner sweeps up flakes of pastry from the doctory-looking man and I wait. Now it’s my turn; my name is called and I make my way to the consulting room.