I arrived for our weekly ultrasound today about ten minutes early (responsible patient that I am), and was immediately informed that they are running about half an hour behind. Given the minimal availability of seats in the waiting room, this sounded like an unreasonable estimate. We had plenty of the normal crowd: there was the cigarette smoke-reeking couple who were young enough to make me feel awful about the world, the massive family who were all loudly discussing their social plans, and the mother of a small child who was completely ignoring her current offspring in lieu of her cell phone. As usual, there were a few standouts. Given that this was two days before Thanksgiving, and every medical office in the area was closing down for a few days, I expected a full house.
I first sat opposite a woman who couldn't have been more pregnant than me, but who was complaining so consistently about the pain from her baby's kicking that I wanted to smack her mother who, sitting next to her and also reeking of cigarette smoke, just kept chowing down on the oversized bag of peanut M&M's in her lap. The daughter would cite some specific pain, then the mother would grunt at her and tell her to suck it up. I rapidly realized that the cigarette smell was actually coming off at least six other people in the same corner, so I felt like I had a completely legitimate excuse to move to another corner where their conversation would be less in my line of hearing.
I hate to stereotype, and I hate to judge based on appearances, but there are times when such things are entirely accurate. An entire third of the room was populated with men in baggy jeans and oversized hoodies advertising either death metal bands or tractor equipment, and women wearing men's sweatshirts and ill-fitting sweatpants. None of them looked particularly clean, most had fairly poor quality tattoos, and they were all wearing oversized, unlaced sneakers. Call me classist, segregationist, or whatever: these people were gross, and they all smelled so strongly of cigarettes and body odor that I didn't know what to do but hide behind the couple wearing North Face fleeces and expensive shoes and the thirty-something women in head-to-toe L.L. Bean.
This, sadly, was not escape enough. The cigarette smell had pervaded the entire room, to a point where even burying my face in magazines to try to make myself nauseous because of perfume rather than the stink of other people was futile. Moving also positioned me to see two additional horrors. Now, I am not perfect. Sometimes I judge people based on criteria that have nothing to do with who they actually are, and sometimes I respond to people based on assumptions that I have not confirmed, but I would argue that I am far more accepting, open-minded, and genuinely prone to equity than most people....but I just couldn't get over the family I saw on the other side of the room.
This was a mother and father with their young son, all dressed in Christmas card-perfect argyle, cashmere, and khaki. The mother was definitely more pregnant than me, but whereas I am starting to look a little frumpled and tired, she looked eerily composed. The father didn't have a hair or thread out of place, and might very well have shaved twenty minutes before walking in to the waiting room. Their child sat - and this was probably a two-year-old - almost perfectly still, like his parents, and just quietly surveyed the room. It was creepy. This family was sitting along the same wall as the loudest cluster of cigarette-reekers, and with every loud comment the latter made about either things they wanted to drink or people they wanted to "hook up with to do some shit later," the formers' eyebrows ascended another millimeter. By the time Christmas card mother's name was called, I don't think I could actually see any of of their eyebrows anymore, and even the little guy seemed to have a look of judgmental disgust on his face. I'm sorry, I leave my horror at the people I'm forced to share this confined space on the internet where I name no names: I would never sit five feet away from someone and make a face openly displaying my complete disapproval of them.
The other standout was really just a shock. A girl who I knew as a student at the high school where I first worked was sitting in the far opposite corner from me, aggressively pretending she hadn't seen me. She was with a guy wearing their high school's name splashed all over his sweatshirt and hat and parents who were clearly none too chuffed to be there. I never had her in my classes, but she was friends with many of my students, and I remember her as a very sweet girl with a great sense of humor. She was active in a lot of school activities, well-liked, and now here she sat looking ashamed and...something else...maybe disappointed, maybe angry. I felt horrible. I did my best to pretend I didn't see her either, however much I wanted to go over and tell her that it would be okay (however little grounds I had for saying so), because she was so clearly trying not to be seen. When her name was called, she lit up red and practically ran for the door.
The waiting room emptied out, leaving me with only one of the cigarette-fest couples (who had arrived mere seconds before me) and a couple who wandered in after 4:30. Waiting forty minutes here is pretty much status quo, but as we approached 5:00, I was left wondering if I'd even have an appointment. It was at this point that I made my regular check in with the front desk just to remind them that I was there, and I was informed that my appointment had not been at 4:00, but instead 4:30, and that they were still running at least half an hour late. The automated message call thingy had said 4:00. My schedule had said 4:00. When I checked in - comfortably before 4:00 - the receptionist had not even hinted that my appointment was not at 4:00. The handful of staff still remaining as the clock passed 5:00 were at least apologetic when I brought to their attention the fact that I had been waiting for an hour - again - but I was left feeling the loss of the at least forty-five minutes of my life I could never get back. Way to stay classy, Dr. Fuckhead's office. I was finally called in at about 5:20, over an hour and a half after I arrived.
That's when the real fun started. Clearly, I need to have a conversation with the next ultrasound tech I work with about what exactly they are looking for when they look at you, because I did not leave for another forty minutes. They needed to see you practice breathing - which basically means moving your diaphragm and some other internal muscles the same way you will when you actually breathe air - and you were being stubborn. By this point in the evening, every other patient was gone, so all the ultrasound techs decided to get in on the fun task of getting your muscles to spasm. We danced, we jumped, I adjusted and readjusted my position, I chugged ice water, and eventually one tech decided to zap you with some high-frequency sound wave thingy. You were moving around plenty (which was admittedly lots of fun to watch in real time), but it took close to forty minutes for you to breathe the specific way they wanted you to. The ultrasound techs kept mentioning "earning points" for different things, like growth and movement...so what gets points? What do I need to do to make sure we score as high as we need to?
When did this become some crappy sort of game?