Monday, July 13, 2009


Martha McCutcheon picked up the electronic pager. Behind the desk, a middle-aged lady wearing a practiced, but tired, smile instructed her, “Please remain here in the waiting room and keep the pager in your hand. It will ‘buzz’ and vibrate to let you know when the doctor is ready to see you.”

Martha took one of the few empty chairs. Once comfortably seated, she looked around the crowded room. Some of the waiting patients were reading newspapers. Others leafed nervously through five-year-old magazines. Most of their faces displayed varying degrees of boredom, unhappiness, or worry.

A hint of a smile crept across Martha’s face. Slowly she raised the pager to her ear and began talking softly into the cute little gadget. Soon she appeared to be engaged in a conversation. Her tone of voice – warm, soft, and friendly at first – cooled a bit, then grew louder, taking on tones of downright displeasure. Her expression changed to one of complete disgust as she slammed the pager down into her lap. Then she closed her eyes, and apparently dozed off.

By this time, she had attracted the attention of almost everyone in the room. Some smiled. Several poked each other and cautiously, silently laughed at her weird behavior. At least a few may have been sympathetic. One or two probably said a private prayer of thanksgiving for still having their full faculties.

After several minutes, Martha opened her eyes and began to study a large painting that decorated the opposite wall. With the pager in her left hand, she slowly raised and pointed it at the peaceful rural scene. She pressed it repeatedly with her thumb. When the picture refused to change, she began to poke the pager deliberately and forcefully with the index finger of her right hand. Once again, an unhappy, dissatisfied look crept across her face. With an exaggerated, exasperated shrug, she again placed the “remote” in her lap, closed her eyes and once more appeared to drift off into a peaceful sleep.

A barely noticeable smile tugged at Martha’s lips. Time is just too darned precious a treasure to waste on worry when you are eighty years old (and then some). Especially for someone who has a sense of humor and sufficient imagination to be capable of self-entertainment. And if, while making one’s own world seem a bit brighter and more pleasant, it is possible to entertain a roomful of others and take their minds off of their worries, cares, and their upcoming doctors’ prognoses, a visit to the medical clinic can be almost enjoyable.

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