It’s About Time

My son and I are sitting in the waiting area of the local medical lab. We are sitting as close to each other as possible and not touching the armrests. We should be wearing cough masks over our faces.

Not because we might cough.

Because the other patients in this crowded room might.

Most of these folks are here to get blood drawn. There is always a line for that.

We are here for the radiology department, a place where appointments are made in order to have patients seen in a timely fashion.


We were told “15 minutes”.

These are medical minutes, which vary significantly from all other minutes.

Let me explain.

Vacation minutes have approximately 30 seconds in them.

Work minutes have 90.

Texan minutes run around 2 to 1 with football minutes at least 3 to 1. If a football game has 10 minutes left in the game, you can estimate sitting there with a leg cramp for about another 45.

This is to accommodate all the TV commercials and to encourage live fans to buy another beer.

Apparently, New York minutes are the fastest known, possibly holding a mere 10 seconds. You don’t want to blink in New York.

Dental minutes vary depending on your services. An hour cleaning will last about an hour, but a root canal has the potential to carry you into next week.

Medical minutes vary even more, but always in an expanding direction.

Sitting in a waiting room is about 2 to 1. “The doctor will be in in just a moment” means “He’s taking a call from his wife, he’ll get here when she stops talking”.

“The nurse will be right in with your shots” translates, “When she finds the right hypodermic, the bandages, the smiley face stickers, and waits an additional 10 minutes for you to work up a powerful fear sweat or a sufficiently crying child”.

Having you actual blood drawn can last for days. Never watch. Breathe deep.

Think vacation minute thoughts.

Our particular medical minutes this day lasted only “15 minutes” at a time but went on for an hour.

When directly confronted with this wrinkle in time, the receptionist stated that “once a patient has been checked in, he may not leave the building” but instead of just saying so up front, they wanted each and every patient to feel that their medical care was just around the corner.

It was.

We just couldn’t get there from here.


I am so weary of medical professionals calmly explaining to me that I am getting old.

This I know.

My friends and loved ones would never talk to me this way.

My mirror tells me every day.

I have had the same general physician for years now. He’s completely incompetent and I like that about him. I walk in, tell him what’s wrong with me and listen for his suggestions.

Then I tell him what to do about it.

And he does it.

I’m no hypochondriac. I come from solid pioneer stock and our routine for healing a body part that tries to fall off is to “slap a little dirt on it”. There’s not much that some sunshine and fresh air can’t fix, so I’m rarely in his office anyway.

The year I came to him and quietly pleaded for something to help me feel better was a classic though.

“Doctor,” I began, “I feel so tired all the time. My hair is thinning. I have headaches. My throat is constantly sore.”

He ran some blood work to look professional.

Taking blood out of people proves you’re a doctor, as does a messy signature.

“My dear, your thyroid is fine, your blood work came back normal, you’re not pregnant and there’s no strep in your throat. I suggest an exercise routine.”

“But doctor! I’ve been losing weight for no reason already! I have no energy! I have no time!”

“Five kids, huh? I suggest you stop yelling at them, and your throat will feel better.”

“Do you hear me? I’m exhausted and I take my vitamins faithfully. This is ridiculous.”

“You want to gain weight? Eat a bowl of ice cream every night before you go to bed.”

“Ice cream?”

This is where I began to understand who I was speaking with.

A moron.

“Yes, and try going to bed at a decent hour.”

Obviously the man was out of his mind.

You don’t go to bed at any hour if you’re raising five kids. You don’t eat regular meals unless you count the ones over the sink. Hollering and pulling out your hair is par for the course. What this man needed to prescribe was a babysitter or a nanny. Hook her up to my IV please and refill the prescription for, I don’t know, maybe 20 years or so.

This is the doctor who, after a full physical to celebrate my 40th birthday, cheerfully explained that “from here on out, everything goes downhill”. I wasn’t to be surprised when “things just no longer work the way they used to” and I was encouraged to “take care of myself as well as I could, but it would be pretty futile”.

At this exact moment it occurred to me why they only let you have a paper gown in the room.

Even so, I was sorely tempted to use it as a weapon.

I keep him on my payroll because he lets me go to specialists whenever I ask. If there is actually something wrong, he is willing to let the big boys handle it. It takes a strong doctor to admit that.

This particular week, I referred myself to an ophthalmologist. One of my sons seemed to be having eye troubles and so in an act of support, I signed myself up with him to have our eyes checked together.

The good doctor did a thorough job, and gave the kid a clean bill of health.

He decided I needed glasses.

Perfect eyesight for my whole life and now this! Okay, okay, so maybe I hold the menus further away to read them lately, but I haven’t tipped over my water glass yet. It’s not like I can’t take an educated guess at what the entrée is.

He calmly explained…that I’m getting old.

I calmly explained that Jesus could slap a little dirt on ’em and I’d walk away with 20/20.

For free.

Just another quack thinking he knows more than I do.