While patiently awaiting my new physician in the reception area of my new doctor's office, I filled out my medical history (a very, very short history), wrote "ADOPTED" slantways across the family history section and popped the chained pen back into its little clipboard cozy. People are always so protective of their pens. Myself included.
I forgot my book at my office -- the book I'd brought from home with the intent of reading in the waiting room -- so I was left subject to the high-mounted television in the corner that was switched to CNN. Some sort of disco or electronica thumped from the flip-phone of older woman, young-grandmother age maybe. She played the same song three or four times, and it wasn't just a ringtone. She was probably watching a music video with eight times the budget of an independent film... her eyes were fixed on the screen and they danced back and forth. She had a simple smile of delight but I looked at her fingers and feet, neither of which were tapping. Who was this woman?
A guy slid into one of the seats nearby, along the right wall. He had the air of a affluent wildman, like Grizzly Adams with a lot of money. "Wildman" might be wrong, but he was really just in touch with nature. I could tell because of his long hair, heavy dependence on denim clothing (top two shirt buttons undone, exposing a mottled tan chest and whiting chest hair... his ponytail was doing the blonde-to-white thing, too), and pewter belt buckle with a turquoise eagle inlay. I never heard him speak, but I imagined him to have the gentle, lilting drawl of a gentleman from Northern Alabama who would not hesitate to drag someone behind his truck if they made an uncouth comment about God, his country, or his mother. Oh, and that affluent part? I don't know... he just had his cellphone clipped to his belt. He must have been important. Or a swinger. I could see him mystifying the ladies.
Across the room, just beneath the TV was a man who had assumed the Sleeping Wino stance across a couple of chairs. He looked uncomfortable as hell but apparently he was tired enough to sleep through the prodding pain of the hard plastic chair arms and CNN's incessant reports about efforts by the U.S. to destroy a glitchy spy satellite that had gone rogue and threatened to kill us all with poisonous fuel.
But the patient who really had my attention was just across from the man of repose. The man, of his early 40s, I'd guess, was watching a movie on portable dvd player that looked like it was meant for an sixth-grader. His eyes were two black pearloid buttons sewn too close together on his face and his brows met in a wrinkly collision between his low-set eyebrows. The way his gappy teeth pinned down his bottom lip seemed to indicate that whatever he was watching sure seemed to have him thinking.
A father and his teenage son sat near the focused man. As the father pointed out which parts of the intake sheet were important and reminded his son not to forget about his extended bout of irritable bowel syndrome last month, much to his embarrassment due to his father's uninhibited volume of speech, the focused man took an interest in them both. This man had opinions to share.
I missed exactly how he grabbed their attention. It was probably just an aside, a comment to himself that he said just loud enough so that someone in his vicinity would feel obligated to respond. Even if their response was heartless smile of acknowledgment, he knew that was his In. I heard the unmistakable sound of a vacuum, the sucking of people into a social situation from which they couldn't comfortably remove themselves without feeling like jerks, especially if they were nice guys.
I remember hearing him decry NASA and the satellite operations and the West's softness on terror. He was in disbelief that country would even consider electing a Black, Muslim president (although he didn't mind the Blackness too much). He was full of "facts," he was. Well-read, I'll give him that, but his comprehension skills could stand some refinement. The father and son were bobbleheads, nodding or pensively humming in agreement, whether they did or not. They were taking the path of least resistance. In the interest of passing time, I would have debated, but apparently they were in no hurry so I took it upon myself to bear their misery with a big, fat grin.
A nurse called me over and I handed her my clipboard. Fifteen minutes after my time with her and my new physician, who desperately wanted something to be wrong me so that he had something to do (I just needed an extension of a prescription, you see), I laid down my co-pay to the cashier and began down the hallway for the parking structure. Much to my surprise, the focused and fairly nutty man still had his captive audience.
"America's not a bully," he said defensively. "We just have a big back yard."
I smiled as I looked over my shoulder and caught eyes with the son. He was squirming anxiously, but that might have just been the IBS.