My appointment was late afternoon, right after work, and since there wasn’t enough time to make the journey home and back I settled down to wait.
Sunlight streamed through the window making the crowded waiting room feel quite warm. There was also a smell of lavender, obviously sprayed when the room was devoid of people. A small overhead radio, set to provide music, was responsible for a lot of toe tapping in tempo. One elderly bearded gent grinned as he rapped his knuckles against his walking stick before breaking out in a shrill whistle. Next to him an old lady frowned. Probably his wife, I thought.
I had chosen a seat at the far end of the narrow room so that I could flick through the heap of magazines on a small table. The ones I’d brought the week before were no longer there; pinched probably by someone called in before finishing an article. It was terribly frustrating to get half way and then never know how it ended. That was as bad as having to return a library book before it was finished.
From where I sat I could hear laughter on the other side of the door. Someone, it sounded like a man, was enjoying the visit here. But then, didn’t we all.
Not all of the people were waiting to go in the same room. I knew this by the timing of the appointments ... and judging by the signs of agitation (checking watches and nervous twitches) I could work out who was running late. Thankfully it didn’t affect me. I was booked to see the lovely Doctor Charlesworth and although he was worth waiting for he rarely kept anyone hanging around.
Another burst of laughter. Someone was certainly enjoying a bit of a joke.
The gent with the stick grinned, wiped a folded handkerchief across his brow, then toppled forward. I thought he’d just slipped off his chair but apparently he was, in the words of the lady next to him, ‘having a turn.’
It was all go after that. While everyone stood round him, looking and not doing anything, I hammered on the doctor’s door and thrust it open. If things hadn’t been so fraught in the waiting room I might have stopped to laugh at the patient standing with his back to me, naked all except for a singlet. In a lighter moment I might have wished he’d turn round, I might then have had an inkling why there had been so much laughter.
Doctor Charlesworth was the first medical personage on the scene. As he came through the door bells started to ring in the distance and almost immediately a flurry of uniforms headed to where the old man had collapsed. The small crowd shifted to make way and I took it upon myself to usher them into the surgery. It was the right thing to do since the man’s prone body was blocking the way to the exit but I don’t think the semi-naked patient thought much of it. I remember smirking and giving a sort of half-wink as he dashed into the cubicle and pulled the curtain. It was just his luck that the rings stuck on the rod; all he could do was drape it across his nether regions.
Just as I was debating whether to pass the man his coat, which he’d casually draped over a chair, the doc came back in. ‘All’s well,’ he announced, and went on to thank me for my prompt action.
His patient snorted behind the curtain.
After telling me that an ambulance was on its way to collect the old guy he advised me to go outside and wait for my turn. ‘You know me, Val, I don’t give preferential treatment to the WI.’ His eyes twinkled with merriment.
Since my turn was at least two people away I decided to visit the ladies room situated on the far side of Reception. The old guy was still there but now he seemed to have recovered from his ordeal. He was talking to one of the nurses and I heard him say ‘Thanks to him, if and when I die I shall go out laughing.’
It struck me then that Doctor Charlesworth’s objective was to make us all feel cheerful. Certainly there was never a dull moment when I visited. I know the naked patient incident was a stroke of fate but let’s face it he and the doc were having a good laugh over something before the old guy crashed out. Doc has a typical bedside manner when needs be. He is everything a doctor should be, practical, sensible, soothing, and friendly. Above all he instils a sense of wellbeing in his patients.
While I waited I got to thinking about my visits. I always looked forward to going to the surgery because I knew Doc and I would banter with each other. If ever I felt a bit low he would sweep it away in a trice and I ALWAYS came out of his room feeling happy. I reasoned that it was because we’d known each for years but what I hadn’t realised was that he treated everyone the same. I’m going to suggest he has a motto printed and framed in his room … something to the effect that laughter is the best remedy.
(True story, slightly embellished!)