Growing up, no matter how sick I was or what type of injury I had incurred, a trip to the doctor’s office was an event. I had to take a bath – broken, bleeding limb and all, – put on clean clothes, and brush my hair. I had to look respectable, but most importantly, I had to act respectfully.
As mom didn’t believe in pediatricians, – or specialists, for that matter – I would see a general physician (he didn’t work weekends or on Wednesdays, the day he played golf). His wife acted as his receptionist and nurse; I’m not sure if she had any sort of traditional training. Being neither a pediatrician’s office or big on frills, they didn’t have a box of toys to entertain any of their younger patients.
The only source of entertainment in the office were the stacks of dated magazines (my mother wasn’t my servant – something she reminded me of often, – and didn’t carry around a bag of toys and snacks). If lucky, I would be able to find a Highlights magazine that didn’t have all the searches completed by other kids. Heck, I wasn’t given a pen for the Highlights so I didn’t “ruin it for other children”.
Did I mention talking wasn’t allowed? Leaving my seat wasn’t allowed? Only perusing magazines and sitting silently were permitted. Children were to be seen and not heard. Especially in an environment where there were sick people. Not behaving was a no-no. It would embarrass mom, and that meant getting punished (read: spanked).
This post is not about how well behaved I was, or about parenting in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s about manners. For obvious reasons (AKA boob cancer), I’ve been spending a lot of time in doctor’s waiting rooms. It’s given me the opportunity to observe my fellow man and woman, and the experience has been illuminating.
I always hear about how the younger generation lacks manners. And, there are times when I agree. Although I try to remind myself that everyone was raised differently and value different things and different types of behavior. Did I mention my goal for this year is not to judge? Well, it is.
I can’t help but wonder if this belief stems from the fact that every generation complains about the next (whether it’s music, clothing, child rearing, or manners), or if the people of my parents’ generations have thrown manners out the window, setting a trend. It’s trickle down manners.
When I go in for treatment, I dress nicely but comfortably and am well groomed. I avoid make-up for the benefit of the general population – I tried drawing on eyebrows and ended up looking like Groucho Marx, so you’re welcome. I bring my bag of goodies: my kindle and phone, which is set to vibrate. I have no idea how preadolescent me could sit in a waiting from for an hour and not make a sound with nothing to occupy her time. Usually, my husband is there, so I have someone to talk to (in a whisper, of course, I wouldn’t want people to think I was raised in a barn and judge my mother).
During the past year, it has really hit home that most people no longer believe in sitting quietly in a doctor’s office, respecting the fact that the other people there are sick. At first, I was scandalized. When did we abandon all pretense of consideration for our fellow humans? Everyone in the room either has cancer, is with a cancer patient, or works for the center. In one waiting room for people waiting for chemotherapy, most the patients are sick; they’re tired and scared. Some patients feel nauseous while other have headaches or are in pain. So, everyone is sensitive to the plight of their fellow patients. Right? Wrong.
Take my latest visit, for example. Keeping in mind that, while I am not young, I am the youngest person in the waiting room by a good 20 years. There is a man in his early 60s watching a movie on his tablet with the sound on, loud enough to permeate the general din of the room. Apparently, he doesn’t believe in headphones and is completely oblivious to the annoyed glances being thrown his way.
Not to be out done, two other men – both old enough to be the first man’s father, and completely independent of the other – decide it’s time to make phone calls to their loved ones. One has to discuss energy issues: “electric heating is the way to go”. The other talks about his weekend plans. Each is competing to be heard over the other and the gentleman watching his movie.
This proves to be the ideal time for the elderly lady next to me to set the ring tone on her phone. She’s not sure which tone she wants, so she plays each one out loud. Twice. I debate offering my opinion, but a ring tone is a personal choice.
Then the man on the other side of me pulls out his 3DS. He mutters how it was a gift from his grandson, then proceeds to play a game with the sound on, reminding me why all of my kids have headphones.
A man and his adult daughter sit in a corner snickering over the behavior of our fellow patients. They get a food delivery. The smell is overwhelming. So, in addition to the noise, there is the odor of the food.
The aroma triggers something in the elderly ladies sitting across from me. They start a conversation regarding what to make for dinner, the best place to get an MRI (“My doctor wants me to get it here, but he’s starting to get the idea that I don’t want to make the drive”), and how “My tits are too small for breast cancer, so I got it in my ass.” Apparently, there is no such thing as an inside voice in their realm of existence. And no such thing as something I can unhear.
Not wanting to be a stickler though, and in the spirit of treating life like an adventure, I decide to get with the program. I select a song on my phone in anticipation of singing along off-key (the only way I know how) with the artist when I am called in by the nurse. Oh, well, maybe next time.