Friday, February 13, 2015

To wait



"Bon-jooour..." It is the trilly sing-song I let out whenever I enter a boutique, up an octave from how I normally speak and nearly a parody of a hello. It is a learned habit, this greeting and so that is what I do. Upon entering my doctor's office for a routine check-up, I lower my voice to a near whisper but still, I trill, in recognition of my fellow patients as it would be a sign of poor manners not to. This morning, the minuscule waiting room is surprisingly packed with only one seat available. I slide into it and that too is done nearly as a pantomime, a little bent over bow that implies, "Of course I will get up if anyone needs this chair more that I do." It won't turn out to be the case.

My eyes flit quickly around the room and then, as the good former Manhattanite that I am, I take out my phone to busy myself. Shield up. I don't know anyone here so there is little risk in being caught up in a knit of Provençal gossip that doesn't interest me. But still, my thumb slides and my pinky taps until I realize that no, there really isn't any internet connection amidst the thick stone walls of my doctor's 17th century hôtel particulier. I slide my phone back into my purse and try not to mentally redecorate the clash of the yellow and blue flowery wallpaper above the gray and red floor tiles, as I am always want to do.

Across from me to the left, a businessman shifts his weight uncomfortably as he tries to balance a laptop on his knees. He coughs repeatedly into his fist and it sounds like the crumble of dry chalk. Across from me to the right, a Mother tilts her head towards her son, thirteen-ish, who is perched next to her with his fingers interlaced between his knees. At her touch, surprisingly, he doesn't jerk away in adolescent discomfort but leans into her and they begin a conversation at a near rapid fire pace. While unable to discern their words, I can tell that the Mother is British (it flits through my mind to present myself as Anglophones are rare in Arles but I don't want to interrupt) and that the two are life-saver close. The boy looks slightly embarrassed each time that the same chalky cough escapes unwillingly from his lips.

To my immediate left is another boy, slightly younger than the other, sitting across the room from someone he treats too disrespectfully to be his Mother (this is France after all). Feet swaying, he fidgets in his "adult" chair, pulling at his lower lip constantly, snapping it like a rubber-band. After the other boy has been swooped into the doctor's office, he starts to hum loudly, tentatively laying his claim as King of the Waiting Room and then burps out something like a rap, a reprise of a song to which he has never understood the words, one that is punctuated from time to time with the cough. Giving up, he grabs a pocket video game and starts punching at the screen with fixed intention, his face skewed tight. His "aunt" (let's call her that) straightens the newspaper that covers her face with a thwack.

And where am I in the midst of this staccato symphony? Of course my hand immediately reaches out to the well-worn pile of Figaro Madame and Paris-Match magazines next to me even though I know they don't interest me; fingers flipping, flipping only to pause at one spectacular photograph of a pair of ballet dancers on the roof of the Opera Garnier in Paris, the woman lifted in an arabesque and seeming to soar over Paris. But even that, the beautiful impossibility of it, guides my hand to discard the magazine in one direction as my head turns away to the other with something between a sniff and sigh.

What if...I wonder...what if I just...waited? Like we used to do. Do I even remember how? I fold my legs, one over the other in a slightly posed posture and try to settle in. Patience, patience...has never been one of my strong qualities. I want to blame my redheadedness but that isn't quite honest either. So I try to be quiet and soon I can feel my bones drop down a little, soon I can hear my breathing. Eventually, my gaze softens and I feel almost invisible. How ironic that just waiting, this rarity that we try to avoid at all costs, could become something like meditation. That certainly hadn't been my goal. And yet "Nowhere to be, nothing to do" used to be a precious reward...or at least one that our parents, no, our grandparents thought worthy.

It is forty minutes later when my kind Doctor's arm swoop stops at me. I gaze at her and rise to follow as if awaking from a short sleep. "I see you have du monde today," I offer up with a tilt of sympathy as we step into her office. "Ah yes, there is an épidémie de grippe, " she explains while closing the door behind us, while outside the muffled symphony plays on.



Have a wonderful weekend everyone...


42 comments:

simpleimages2 said...

How should I behave in a waiting room, a doctor’s waiting room?

Should I scan or close my eyes and meditate? Should I pretend to be busy and read the old magazines?

A Hamlet dialogue or an old silent movie.

Is it an ordinary day? There are no ordinary days, you subtly and beautifully wrote in your narrative.

Have a wonderful weekend Heather. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Judith Ross said...

Ah yes, to wait, to sit with one's thoughts. If you were at all like me as a child, you spent hours in your room, perhaps listening to music, disappearing into one daydream after another. And the little details and textures of your photos are a wonderful accompaniment to your thoughts today.

Bill Facker said...

Heather, though your photos are always nice, I wish to compliment you on an excellent bit of writing today .. really, really well spun and really, reallty well done.

Aloha,
Bill

www.kauai-to-paris.com

Karena Albert said...

HI Heather, I have seen time and time again that it has become more difficult for Americans to wait...for anything. It would be so good for everyone to take deep breaths and relax.

Happy Valentine's weekend!
xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena

puppyfur said...

You have beautifully spun a familiar tale, Heather. Wonderfully written in lovely detail; your descriptions are a true delight. Thank you.

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

Such a wonderfully told tale from your day. How I find that I people watch in waiting rooms. . behaviors, twitches, the wiggle, the giggle. . .all tell so much about the people around me. Have a lovely weekend and hope you weren't there for anything too serious. . .Happy Valentines Day, my friend.

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

This is an absolute treat to read. Thank you.

Bon weekend. Amicalement. Elizabeth

La Contessa said...

WHY were YOU there in that office..............or did you say routine check in the beginning?I think YOU did.........
I was very tired when I open this but your WORDS PERKED ME UP!!!!YOU had me in the PALM of your HAND!
XO

Gretel said...

Hmmm...I have just started a "Travel Sketch" course which is really great fun! Our tutor told us on our first day that we will never be bored again and if you ever find yourselves waiting, say in a doctor's waiting room, simply pull out your little sketch book, pen and tiny watercolours and...voila!...not bored again!!! Hmmm.... now just to get past the fright of everyone staring at you (not to mention juggling of watercolours)!!! :-)

Maywyn Studio said...

Prayers all y'all feel better soon
My brain is grasping at thoughts for a a face mask.
I leave the magazines alone at the doctor's office, plot out hand sanitizer locations, and write in a tiny spiral notebook I carry with me or stare at the walls. Waiting is an adventure.

Emilia Tremante said...

Excellent description Heather!
I love your stories especially because they transfer my thoughts in moments of life I have already lived. They offer Wonderful moments of reflection.
Please continue!
Have a nice weekend my dear.
Bisous

Judith Ross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Judith Ross said...

And I have to add, a good reminder for those of us feeling a bit 'snowbound' on the East Coast (and more coming today) as we wait for spring to come -- or at least of some of this snow to melt.

vsperry said...

I always enjoy reading your post but today I was particularly drawn in to your moments in the waiting room and your descriptions of the other people there. If I didn't have my phone (with requisite game and book downloaded onto it) I would be back to sitting and waiting. I'm glad you found a way to transform that waiting into something positive.

helen tilston said...

Hello Heather,
A truly marvellous description of waiting at the doctor's office. We are all familiar with this routine and yet we are all impatient. Your sitting still in a meditative state is one I shall practice next time.
Have a glorious weekend

Loree said...

I agree that waiting has become a type of art-form. We are all so impatient. And I am one of the worst offenders.

RebeccaNYC said...

What a wonderful read! My father always says he is happy to wait as he has brought his "knitting" with him...a slim volume of something or other to read. I'm my father's daughter and while waiting for appointments, for dates, for subways, I pull out my own knitting...real knitting for me. And when I do, I always hear my father say "I have my knitting with me..."

I also like to play a game while I wait...especially in airports. "who are these people and why are they here?" I gather clues and make up a story in my head. I often wonder how close to correct I actually come....

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"I want to blame my redheadedness but that isn't quite honest either. "

Loved that line. And the essay as well. Enjoyed this post very much. Simple and poignant.

Stephen Andrew said...

Ha! What in interesting spin on something so routine. I am the worst about always reaching for my phone. Hope everything went well with your appointment. I've been trying to turn my phone off when I sleep and am almost shocked at the difference it makes in my sleep.

Stephen Andrew said...

I do the same thing! I also always think it's interesting how certain places have certain 'types' at certain times. For example, the crowd is very different at the grocery store at 8,9, & 10AM. Yet the profile of the shopper is very similar in each of those hours.

D A Wolf said...

Thank you for this beautiful snapshot of such (potentially) challenging moments when we're trapped, unable to "shield" ourselves, and impatient. And what a wonderful reminder of ways we can calm ourselves. It sounds like these moments were, in fact, a lovely gift to yourself,

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you Edgar. I think they are only "ordinary" if you want them to be...not necessarily a bad thing!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh stay warm, Judith! Spring will arrive...but I feel for you. My family in Michigan have been experiencing temperatures of -30°!!!
And yes, it goes without toooo much saying, that we were similar as children. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Mahalo, Bill!

Heather Robinson said...

Good point, Karena. :) I think that would change a lot...

Heather Robinson said...

I am so glad that you enjoyed it! And hope that you are having less rain up there than we are here...

Heather Robinson said...

Nope, I'm fine...and how I appreciated "the wiggle, the giggle"! ;)

Heather Robinson said...

Merci EE, gros bisous à toi...

Heather Robinson said...

Aha! Now if only I could keep you there... ;)

Heather Robinson said...

Oh my gosh yes. You might have noticed that there are pretty much never photos of people here...too intimidated to take them! And yes, it is hard to imagine juggling watercolours without drawing even further attention...

Heather Robinson said...

I love that last line. It can be! And thank you for your prayers but it really was just a normal checkup to get my prescriptions filled (in France you have to GO, they won't just renew them for you over the phone).

Heather Robinson said...

I did have a lovely weekend, Emilia and I hope that you did as well! And I will try to keep going...

Heather Robinson said...

It did me good, Virginia. And thank you for the comment...and for posting such gorgeous photos of your girls on your blog. Two girls! *sigh* I really wanted to get a girl puppy but then Kipling came along and I have two guy dogs...eh oui...

Heather Robinson said...

I hope that I remember to do so again! And thank you, it was a lovely weekend. I hope that yours was as well!

Heather Robinson said...

Are you? That totally surprises me Loree. You take so much time in your writing...

Heather Robinson said...

Yes, it is fabulous to make stories. Just like real knitting, it is good for your brain too!

And Rebecca, I wouldn't be surprised if that photo of your knitting on ig was rising up from the bottom on my brain while writing this...

Heather Robinson said...

Merci, Julie!

Heather Robinson said...

Just knowing that it is off changes everything. There isn't some little part of you waiting for a 'ping'. I have also pretty much stopped even checking the phone one last time before bed. So helpful too...

Heather Robinson said...

They were. It was a nice surprise! How often I forget the importance of just being still...but I am working on it. ;)

ZSUZSA said...

You described the wait so well I feel I was there with you. It is so sad that people have to busy themselves with something all the time these days. My kids are always on some gadget or another while in the car - I have to make a point to stop them so we can talk.

I Dream Of said...

Oh goodness, Heather. I know this twitchy what-do-I-do-with myself feeling so well. Sometimes my mobile feels like an extension of my hand, I am constantly fussing with it - in line at the grocery, at red lights, waiting for my Barre class to start. Another glance at my email - no, no new messages. Again through Instagram... It's constant. I don't manage stillness very well - except in that last minute of Barre when we have stretched and are pausing for a moment to breath. I've learned from walking down the hallway with my parents how to go slow. But to be still... that is another thing entirely. You've described it so well! XOXO

puppyfur said...

Not too bad at the moment, thanks, but c'est l'hiver, eh?