If you have spent any amount of time sitting in a waiting room then you know what a wide range of people you may come across. Of course you come across those who think the world revolves around them and expect to be treated as such.
Then there are those that are “talkers” and want to visit. And lets not forget about those that discuss
complain loudly(and to no one in particular)about their medical symptoms and ailments. If you sit there long enough, which is often the case, you can be witness to some pretty odd or interesting behavior…and if your paying attention,learn a thing or two.
With all the years of raising my children and taking them to the doctor and since my injury 7 years ago, I have spent a good amount of time in waiting rooms. Seriously, I think I could write a book about all the lesson’s I’ve learned just by observing people, while waiting for an appointment.
On one of my recent visit’s to urgent care, with a friend, which meant a long wait in the waiting room, A disheveled man of about 45 or so, sat down near me. After removing his winter coat that smelled like cigarette smoke, it revealed dirty torn sweats. His shirt barely fit over his stomach. His shoes were torn and he wore no socks.
His head full of hair and long beard were un kept. It was hard not to stare because he looked a mess. He looked like he must be homeless. And he smelled like it too. I felt very sorry for him and immediately wanted to take him home, let him use my shower or bath tub to clean up, give him some clean clothes to put on afterwards and serve him a hot meal. He was carrying a plastic grocery bag with him. I pondered what he was carrying around with him.
I didn’t have to ponder long, because soon after he pulled out a brush and began to brush his longish hair and then his long beard…and then his arms, his legs, and then his stomach. He was oblivious to the packed waiting room watching him. I silently prayed for him not just because it seemed he must be homeless but may have some mental issues as well.
He had a very bad cough and runny nose, to which he did not bother to cover. After about 5 minutes he went up to the desk to complain about the long wait. I kept praying that they would take him back to a room because whatever he had, he was spreading to all of us near him. He kept getting up out of his chair and pacing and going up to the desk to complain about the wait. Every time he got up, he lost his chair to someone coming into the waiting area.
He would return, find a new chair, pull out his brush and go through the process of brushing himself once again. All the while coughing and sneezing all over the place. He would talk very loudly to whoever was sitting near him but most did not respond to him. Yes, all attention was on this man and for a time he was amusing to watch.
After the entire room was full, he must have realized that if he got up again, he would most likely lose his chair and have no where to sit. So, he stayed put. Right next to me. And never moved again.
An elderly lady was sitting down across from us and she too must have felt sorry for him because she began to talk to him about this second hand store that gave free clothes to those in need. Well, he was clearly not interested in the second hand store. He pulled out his big wallet that was almost completely taped together with duct tape, shook it at her and told her that he had money. She ignored him and went on to tell him that they could also give him a new wallet. To which, he made really clear to all that would listen, that his wallet was just fine the way it was. It was obvious that he was not happy with all of her suggestions, concerns and help she wanted to give him.
This did not stop her from continuing on with him. And since I was sitting across from her and next to him, she addressed me, along with him. Did she think I was with him? Or did she want me to get involved too? Since I was sitting next to him, he chose to talk directly to me, even though he was actually talking to her. Both of them were trying to pull me into their conversation, that I wanted no part in. All I wanted to do was to be left out of it and to just pray for him.
He asked me if I wanted to see his money to which I politely said “No, you should put that back in your coat.”. At this point I am ready to get out of my chair and go stand outside to wait for my friend. Just for the fact that I had just been sick for 2 weeks myself and was still not feeling 100% and now I had 2 people coughing and breathing their germs on me, not to mention the packed waiting room. I did not want to get infected again. But, I didn’t want to be rude either and I truly felt bad for this man.
This elderly woman did not stop talking to us. I swear to god that I must have some sort of radar on my head that say’s “Come sit and talk to me, I will listen.” Now I love elderly people. I really do. And she was a sweet woman. But, she was annoying the crap out of this man with her nosiness. I know she meant well but he did not want her help.
I could sense his anger building the longer she talked. And the more she talked, the more bizarre behaviors came out of him. I don’t know how to describe it except to say he started making these weird sounds which only drew more attention from everyone. I wasn’t scared as I sensed he was harmless. But, I didn’t want his anger to escalate to the point of striking out at this woman either.
At this point I considered going up to the desk and asking if they could take this gentlemen to one of the rooms and have the doctor see him soon. Instead, I continued playing the peace keeper between these two individuals at odds with each other.
She was asking him if he had a place to stay that night, when he had had enough of her questioning and prying into his business. He pulled out his taped up wallet and opened it up. I gasped as I seen that it was FULL of money. He had a very large wad of money on him. As he flashed his money in the air, I seen that it was a large sum of money at that. Blew me away. I quickly told him to put his money away and that he shouldn’t be going around showing people his money like that. And thankfully he put it away. When the lady seen all this money, I thought she was going to pee in her pants.
Of course, she was openly curious about where he got all of his money and why he was carrying that much money around with him. Good lord. Instead of answering her, he started brushing himself again. At this point I just wanted her to be quiet and for him to quit brushing himself.
Thankfully 5 minutes later, they called his name. When he got up, he pulled out his wallet, opened it up, pulled out a hundred dollar bill and tried handing it to me. I refused to take it and told him that he needed to be careful with his money. Once he put it away, he reached out his hand to me. As I shook his hand, he looked into my eyes and I swear to God, for a moment I seen clarity in his eyes. I stared after him as he walked away and as he turned the corner, he looked at me and nodded.
The waiting room had grown quite quiet as they observed our interaction. I swear to god it seemed like the entire waiting room had all turned and looked at me. I didn’t know what to say or do so I just smiled. The elderly woman looked at me and declared, “Well, I’ve never seen such a thing…” and on and on she went about this strange man.
Thankfully, a couple minutes later my time of having to sit in the waiting room was over.
It felt like I had just been in the twilight zone.
So bizarre. Who would have known? I had presumed that this man was homeless. That he had no money in that duct taped wallet of his. I presumed so many things about him because of his appearance. And his odd behavior. I really don’t have a clue as to what the truth is. My thoughts are still haunted by him so I pray for him. I pray that he is somewhere warm tonight. I pray that there is food in his stomach and love in his heart. I pray he is not alone in this life.
I’ve thought about this woman too. Bless her for wanting to help. Bless her that she cared enough to try reaching out to him when so many ignored him. Maybe, she was lonely and just needed to talk? Maybe she just wasn’t afraid to show she cares? I pray that she too, is not alone in this life.
This experience left me both thankful for all the people I have in my life and that I have not suffered from an illness that could put me on the street or unable to care for myself. I think of those that suffer from the ravages of mental illness and their loved one’s. I think of their silent suffering because so many of us, don’t understand.
I seek to understand and to care…and to reach out.
I wonder if there was something more I could have or should have done? I wonder?
Love & Hugs, Lori