Annoying People in Oncologist’s Waiting Room

by Maggan

in Doctor's Appointment,oncology,Physicians


In Dr. Weary’s waiting room, I begin to fill in endless health questions on a clumsy electronic gadget. It allows him to transfer everything directly to a computer without errors, I suppose. But the design of the gadget is decidedly more  Soviet era style  than a modern American invention.

The waiting room is empty except for a woman who I guess  to be in her early 80s. White, perfectly coiffed, hair, immaculately groomed, but with a nasal, raspy voice, the kind that grates on anyone’s nerves. She is accompanied by a middle-aged woman who could only be her daughter.

The daughter, too, is immaculate: shoulder length blond hair, sprayed into a helmet. Green mini-skirt with a small pattern. Is it a golf skirt, a tennis skirt, or just a mini skirt to reveal her shapely tanned legs and aging knees? Her purse and sandals match the green skirt. A junior league type.

The middle-age daughter helps the mother fill in  health questions. Not on the type of gadget I have, but on reams of white forms. The daughter reads out loud: questions about hemorrhoids, bowel movements, head aches, medications, surgeries, libido: high or low? The mother does not appear to be hard of hearing, but the daughter still insists on speaking in a loud clear voice that reverberates in the almost empty, quiet  space.

“When did you have your biopsy?“

The mother seems confused.


Was she uncertain about having had a biopsy or just about the date?

“What was the name of your surgeon?”

“My doctor?” whines the mother, “it was, let me see, “Wasn’t it Doctor C?” She looks at her daughter, clearly hoping the answer is right.

“No, your surgeon!” snaps the daughter.

“Oh my surgeon. Well, let me think.”

You can almost see the neurons in the old woman’s brain crash into each other, go in spirals at the speed of molasses, as the poor thing tries to recall the name of her surgeon. The daughter finally rescues her.

“Wasn’t it Doctor X?”

“Oh yes, of course,” the old woman relaxes. Grateful, she pats her daughter’s hand.

“Of course it was. Now I remember. But I always confuse him with Dr. Y.”

The daughter does not seem like someone who works outside the home. Could she not have taken an hour or so to fill out these forms in the privacy of the mother’s home  where they would have access to her records?

No, here they are, the ice cold, dutiful daughter, so clearly annoyed and inconvenienced; and the whiny, self-absorbed mother, who comes across not so much cold as she does superficial. The old woman seems much more interested in gossip than her own health issues.

In her squeaky voice she prattles on about a cruise, about some make-up she bought at Sak’s. About some couple with problems. The daughter bristles and snaps at the mother, her feathers inexplicably ruffled by even the most innocuous statements.

I realize the old woman is hard to take. I have no problem thinking that she may not have been the warmest and most available of mothers. She seems incredibly concerned with proprieties, decorations, and shopping. And I also recognize the anger issues that I had with my own mother, and my oldest daughter with me.

It is eerie how easily, and universally, mothers tend to irritate their children. Although, my youngest seem to have fewer issues with me than my oldest does. Perhaps because we are both extroverts, eager to please, talkative, while my oldest is more of an introvert, self-contained, quiet. Or maybe I have just been harder on my oldest daughter, more inexperienced as a mother. (How easy it must be to bruise a human being’s soul even with the best of intentions. ) Yet neither of my daughters are as irritated with me as I have always been with my own mother.

But for all the issues I had with my mother: her neediness, her complaints, her woe is me, please-cheer-me-up-demands, I would not in a million years ever have humiliated her by discussing the details of her deteriorating body in front of strangers.

Also, I feel bad  how easily these two women have managed to give me an adverse chemical reaction. Just a few days earlier, I  promised myself to be a better person. More tolerant.  Kinder. Yet, here I am, my tumor removed, my prognosis rosy, and, still, I am right back where I don’t want to be: Judgmental and impatient with others, the two habits I swore off just a few days ago.

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