At a recent doctor’s appointment, I was struck by the similarities between a doctor’s waiting room and a zoo. I’m not using the word “zoo” to describe craziness or disorder. (“Whoa. It’s a zoo in there!”) I’m using it literally: as in the zoo you visit with your kids and end up spending way too much money just to watch some strange animals sleep.
When you enter a doctor’s waiting room, the receptionist is sitting behind a glass shield. This is similar to a cage – only more civilized. You stand at the glass, hoping she notices you (she usually doesn’t). If you tap on the glass, she simply ignores you as though you are the hundredth person that day who has tapped on her cage. When at last you are acknowledged, you hand over your co-pay. This is your “admission ticket” into the zoo.
As you survey the waiting room in your attempt to find a chair that is the farthest away from anyone else, you can’t help but notice the chattering monkey. This is the person who talks non-stop on their cellphone. They are often very loud and seem to have no qualms about the world knowing their personal business. The chattering monkey certainly doesn’t seem sick, and you wonder why they are even there in the first place. Once the phone call has ended, the chattering monkey calls someone else or turns to the nearest person and initiates a conversation.
Sloths are another common inhabitant of the physician waiting room. Without fail, this person falls into such a deep sleep you wonder if he has mistaken the waiting room chair for his couch at home. The sloth awakens every now and then, only to glance around the waiting room with heavy eyelids before nodding back off to sleep.
In the middle of the waiting room is the owl. This person looks around the room with large, wide eyes. She will watch as you check in with the receptionist, as you select a magazine, and when you look at your cellphone. God forbid you cough or sneeze, her eyes grow even bigger. She also has the unique ability to turn her head almost 360 degrees to look at the people sitting behind her.
At last your name is called! It is your turn to see the doctor, who is the Siberian white tiger of this zoo-like experience. The Siberian white tiger is the reason why we are here. Comparable to a Siberian white tiger, the doctor is also endangered: There are so few of them and so many of us. And just like the Siberian white tiger exhibit at the zoo: we can only see the doctor for a limited time.
When the Siberian white tiger enters the examining room, he seems disinterested and bored. You are simply one of many who have waited to see him. Your sore throat and nagging cough that you felt was so important? Not to the Siberian white tiger. There is a true sense of disappointment, and you can’t help but feel a bit gypped. You paid $25 for this? That 30 minute wait was for nothing more than a 4 minute viewing of the Siberian white tiger. As you leave the Siberian white tiger exhibit, you find you feel a little sulky.
You are eager to return home, and as you leave you notice the waiting room has filled with more animals. You silently thank God your turn is over, not knowing that you’ll be returning in a few days because you are now harboring all of the germs that were festering on the waiting room magazine you pretended to read. But when you return, you won’t be able to see the Siberian white tiger. Heck, no! That exhibit is sold out. Instead, you’ll have to settle for the red panda – otherwise known as the nurse practitioner.