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And the Clock Ticked on

by bjlangley 

Posted: 13 May 2005
Word Count: 487
Summary: For this weeks challenge. (Guess who forgot the number?) Didn't really have time for a polish (my wife is going to drag me away from the PC in the next 30 minutes...) but it's her fault that this story exists, she has the flu, and I had to take her to the doctors.

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I donít know why the put clocks in waiting rooms, they only serve to show how long youíve been waiting for your appointment. No one arrives more than five minutes before their appointment, so watching the clock is pointless, unless you really need to know that itís ten minutes late, then twenty, then half an hour. The ticking clock sets a rhythm though, and the wheezes in the room grow to match the tempo. You get the odd-cough too, as some kind of crazy off-beat.

And as the clocks ticks on, the room grows fuller. From time to time a muffled name comes through the speakers and someone waddles off down the corridor, one hand on the wall for support. You canít help but people-watch in a place like this. Wonder what theyíre in for. How sick they are.

After forty minutes (checked on both the wall clock and my watch) I go back to reception.
ďIíve been waiting for forty-five minutesĒ, I say the words clinging to my throat, aching in my head.
ďIím sorry, but weíre very busy. I could make you an appointment for tomorrow if that would suit you,Ē says the receptionist, a line thatís been delivered a dozen times or more already this morning.
ďNo, Iíll wait,Ē I say, unable to bear another night so bunged up I feel like my headís going to explode.

I sit back down and pick up a random magazine. Open-mouthed I gaze at pictures of shiny celebrities, wondering why people really care, how they can even keep up with such things. Then I turn the page and seeing a picture of Brad and Jen together realise itís out of date. I donít know why I even know that.

Placing in back on the table I start people-watching again. Many of the faces I saw when I first arrived are still here. I watch one man leave and Iím sure he came in significantly later than me though. The tannoy crackles. I see ears prick up all around me, but itís another name thatís not mine. Itís not even my doctor. I donít think sheís called anyone since Iíve been in here.

I need to pee. But if I go to the loo, and I get called, I might not hear it. Looking at my watch doesnít help. Nor do any of the magazines. Iíve got no choice. Heading for the loos I see my Doctor heading for the staff room. Her head hangs low. I want to call out to her, but the sound of squeaky wheels distracts me. I turn my head to see a trolley being wheeled out of the back entrance, a sheet placed loosely over the body beneath.

Itís then that my head feels less heavy and I head for the reception, to tell them that I donít need the appointment. I can try something else from the chemists. Lifeís too short.

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Comments by other Members

crowspark at 22:27 on 13 May 2005  Report this post
Hi Ben, you manage to convey the misery of the doctor's surgery very well. The only thing missing was the screaming child banging a large plastic car repeatedly into your leg and looking at you for a reaction.
Needing to pee is a classic. I find I start editing my symptoms in case I don't make it.
I liked, "Open-mouthed I gaze at pictures of shiny celebrities," presumably because of a very bad head cold?

Loved the dead body. Have you thought of changing your doctor;)


Jumbo at 23:52 on 13 May 2005  Report this post
Nice writing, Ben.

You've really caught the feel of the waiting room in this - and the frustration of being kept waiting. Like Bill I was expecting the screaming child.

And the body on the trolley really surprised me! There's always someone worse off!

All the best


Mazzy at 14:57 on 14 May 2005  Report this post

You've definitely caught the dilemma that one has to be well enough to manage a doctor's waiting room. And if you're well enough to go then maybe you don't need to be there!

The thought of a patient being wheeled out of a GPs surgery like that seemed quite extreme. I took the implication that the body was dead....not sure how often this happens (other than at Harold Shipman's practice) but I guess it must happen sometimes.

There are a few typos left in this one but I'll hold your wife responsible for those rather than picking them out....you can heal them when you have more time.

Well done for writing this at the end of your busy week on taxi duty!


Anj at 22:09 on 14 May 2005  Report this post

Some cracking details in here, like checking the time on the clock and your watch - so it's not just me then? Loved the Brad & Jen detail.

You captured this moment so well I was absolutely there


Dee at 09:20 on 15 May 2005  Report this post
Nice one, Ben.

I wonít mention the typos because you know it needs an edit. Loved the head counting Ė how many faces were there first - and needing to go to the loo is classic, isnít it? And donít they always call you in just when youíve found something interesting to read?

The body at the end, and the doctorís silent distress, was a great surprise. By law of averages, it must happen at times. It happened to a family friend a few years ago. Heíd had a heart attack, recovered, went to his doctor for a check up, told the doctor heíd never felt fitter in his life, and fell off his chair, dead. My sister works in a health centre. I went to meet her there once, and an ambulance arrived at the same time to take a patient away Ė not dead, but close!

Great story.


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