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by: Protoclown

Yesterday I believe I may have discovered the most uncomfortable place on earth outside of being stuck in a muddy trench with bullets whizzing overhead. I had decided to go to the doctor's office to get a flu shot, as a lot of my coworkers have been getting the flu and I I wanted to decrease my risk of catching it this year. Unfortunately for me, I had forgotten the hellish experience of sitting in the doctor's waiting room before my appointment... otherwise I'd probably have just gladly gotten the flu.

A doctor's office waiting room just has this inexplicable aura of anticipation and dread permeating the room. It doesn't matter what you're seeing the doctor for, it just has this uncanny ability to make you nervous. And I assure you, I have no fear of needles, so the purpose of my visit had no influence on my feelings at all. In fact, as soon as I left the office waiting room and was escorted back for MORE waiting in the room where I was to get my shot, I felt a great sense of relief to be parted from the diseased hordes waiting outside.

The overwhelming sense of discomfort starts from the minute you walk in the door. The instant you step into the room, everyone looks up and stares at you, like they expected Jesus to walk in and heal them from all their afflictions. Then when they realize that you're not Jesus, Buddha, or an alien come to distribute healing anal probes and candy, they all go back to whatever they were reading. Except for one or two, there are ALWAYS one or two who just keep staring at you, no matter what you do. When you walk over to the window to sign in for your appointment, you can feel their eyes tracking you across the room. It's like one of those creepy paintings with the eyes that follow you, except they're not paintings, and usually they're so ugly you have to wonder who would ever want to paint them anyway.

After you're done signing in, you turn around and realize you have to find a seat in a room full of diseased people. That man over there is coughing and spewing, that woman is shaking uncontrollably, and dear god what is that pus-like stuff oozing from that boy's eyes?? The art of choosing a seat is a delicate one. Like a game of "Minesweeper", one wrong move and you're done for. You don't want to sit next to someone who has the bubonic plague and doesn't understand the common courtesy of covering your mouth when you cough. After I had already chosen the perfect seat with an empty chair on either side, some doddering old woman who looked like an unwrapped mummy decided to sit down next to me. She then reached into her pocket with her calcified claw of a hand and pulled out a snotty wad of tissue that she's probably been using since 1943. At this point she proceeded to hack, cough, spit, drool and sneeze into the thing, all while sitting right next to me. Damnations!

Sit down, make yourself at home... for about a year!

No sooner than you solve the intricate puzzle of finding a seat, you're called BACK up to the damn window to verify that all your insurance information is correct. Again feeling those tracking eyes following you the whole way. And the receptionists are always gruff and curt and act as bored as humanly possible. And they always look deceptively nice too. It's as if they're paid to act like an asshole and then as soon as they punch out at the end of the day they become all cheerful and smiley again.

Then you go back to your seat and the waiting game begins. Of the 30 minutes I was in the doctor's office yesterday, 27 of them were spent in the waiting room. It's not the waiting that's so bad (I'm not going to complain about 30 minutes, I've had it much worse), it's the uncertainty. When you're waiting in a LINE, yeah sure, the waiting sucks, but at least you're reasonably certain when you're going to be finished, since everybody's lined up in a set order. But at the doctor's office, you have absolutely NO idea when the nurse is going to come out and call your name. I swear at least four people who came in well after I did got called in by the nurse before I did. And at least one of them came back out and left the office before I ever had my name called. And I didn't even need to see the doctor for my appointment, only the nurse!

Since they know you're going to be waiting a while, they've strategically planted various magazines around the room to keep us impatient patients placated, so that we won't incite a riot or something. Unfortunately the magazines they choose are always the lamest, weirdest, most obscure titles that you have never heard of, nor have you ever seen outside a doctor's office. Who in the world BUT a doctor's office would order a subscription to crap like "Better Homes and Gardens", or "Popular But Really Boring Science", or "Financial Stuff That is Boring as Hell But Has Really Colorful Graphs". I even saw "Tennis" and "Golf" magazines sitting on one of the tables. HOW can they have monthly magazines for tennis and golf?? Wouldn't you run out of material after the first two issues? A friend of mine tells me that his dentist's office has "Teen Cheerleader", which is often seen in the hands of a dirty old man waiting to get his dentures soaked or some such. Creepy.

But I'm not foolish enough to pick up any of those magazines. Oh no. As entertaining as "Highlights For Kids" may be, I'm not going to touch one of those snot covered, drool soaked, germ infested things, just so I can be bored and look like an idiot sitting there pretending to read "Redbook" while trying to find pictures of hot chicks in the perfume ads. Anyway, after your eyes widen and you sit up hopefully for about the sixth or seventh time the nurse comes out and calls a name OTHER than yours, you finally get the green light to go on back and escape the horrors of the plague room.

Your first stop at this point is the scale of Anubis, which, if you're on a diet or trying to lose weight, is probably the worst part of the whole experience. Because invariably, it's going to show your weight as drastically greater than whatever you thought it was. Even if you just weighed yourself on a reliable scale the day before. But the scale of Anubis doesn't lie. So you choke back the tears as you think about that last twinkie you ate. Fatty.

Then you're escorted back into the examination room, where after you get fastened to the blood pressure tourniquet that drains all the life away from your arm, you will be condemned to wait for at least fifteen more minutes. And you'll hear voices right outside the door, you'll even probably hear the clipboard in the little door tray being picked up, as if someone is just about to come inside. And yet, no one does. It's like everyone who walks by just picks up the clipboard and slams it back down to fuck with you, to make you think that your waiting is nearly over. So you have nothing to do but continue to sit and wait and wonder how easily you could break into that little biohazard bin.

When the doctor finally DOES come in, it's a real event. It's like the sighting of a rare species thought to be extinct, or meeting royalty. They poke and prod and pretend to listen to what you have to say, write out a prescription and leave before you're even done rattling off your symptoms. But this isn't a rant on doctors so much as it is their offices, so for now I'm going to spare you the litany of all my problems with them.

The Handgun enema - it's the latest craze!

Anyway, after your appointment you always end up having to find your way back to the lobby and the check-out window on your own. There may have been a hustle and bustle of hallway activity when you were brought back to the examination room, but when you try to find your way back out again, there is nothing but the whistling wind and occasional tumbleweed to accompany you. Doctor's office hallways have to be the most disorienting place on earth, because the way out is NEVER in the same direction you remembered coming in from. It's like when you're waiting by yourself in the examination room with the door closed, someone flips a giant switch and all the rooms rearrange themselves like a giant Rubik's cube. I'd love to have that job. "Switch Guy" or "Doctor's Office Labyrinth Engineer" would look really cool on my resume.

Stumbling through the maze always ends up leading you through a door that should have been marked "Screaming Monkey Facility" or "Explosive Colon Disease Lab" but was for some reason left blank. After the embarrassment of walking into the wrong room (perhaps even several times) you probably manage to find the checkout window and lobby just from blind luck or trial and error. Congratulations! Your ordeal is almost over! After dealing with the frowny and surly checkout person, all you have to do is run the gauntlet through the plague room and you're home free! Unless of course, you have a prescription to get filled. Then it's off to the drug store with you, and you get to experience an entirely different but just as annoying circle of Hell. OH JOY!

note: Protoclown still wonders why they had to stick a gloved hand up his ass to administer a flu shot. Or that time he had an ingrown toenail... or that time he had bronchitis... or that time he asked to be a writer for this web site.

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