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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Waiting Room


A lot of my time is spent in doctors’ and medical lab waiting rooms. If you’re there by yourself, you usually don’t talk to anyone, and if someone is with you, you whisper very softly so that the rest of the room doesn’t hear you. But they do. Waiting room acoustics are usually of concert hall quality.

That’s why it’s possibly the worst place in the world to use a cell phone. Not long ago a woman and her tanned, muscular husband were in the same lab waiting room I was in, and she was on her cell phone, first with her health insurance provider, and then with another doctor’s office. I pretended to be reading a Readers Digest, but I was totally absorbed in her side of the conversation. My biggest regret was that I didn’t have a pen and a piece of paper to write down all the information she was delivering. I could have stolen both their identities and been living large in St. Tropez now.

Between the two calls, she gave out her name, her husband’s name, both their Social Security numbers, their address and phone number, as well as her health insurance ID number. All I remembered was his name, Brent S., because I planned to repeat it over and over to arouse myself later that night while thinking about all that delicious, thick, black, curly hair that rose from the neck of his tight, muscle-hugging t-shirt.

I caught the eye of a woman across the room, who also seemed appalled at this public dissemination of information. She looked at the phone lady, rolled her eyes, then looked back at me and smiled.

Because of her cell phone’s diminutive size, it wasn’t possible for the caller to cup her hand over a mouthpiece. Instead, she just lowered her voice when she muttered, “He needs to get a sperm count.” Then, of course she had to repeat it, because the person on the other end didn’t hear it. “SPERM COUNT,” she hollered.

Her husband looked up from his Yachting magazine and tried not to look mortified. But his squirming in the chair gave him away. Body language: it bites you in the butt every time.

The woman hung up the phone and told her husband, “Two-thirty tomorrow,” to which Brent Spermcount obediently mumbled, “Okay.”

I always try to remember the moments when I am not only exceedingly proud, but undeniably relieved to be gay, and this was certainly one of those times. And not only glad to be gay, but overjoyed by the fact that I’ll never have to have my little swimmers counted. As far as I, or anyone else who sees my ejaculate is concerned, there could be billions in there, or there could be none. That’s one thing we don’t have to concern ourselves with.

I almost bit through my cheek trying not to explode into laughter, and I thought I might have to step outside and let it go, but fortunately, there was a nice, big Highlights magazine close by, and I picked it up and hid my face in it.

I was looking at the Hidden Pictures Puzzle, which annoyingly, had all the camouflaged items already circled in ballpoint pen. Every Highlights magazine I’ve ever read has been ruined by a previous reader. If you’re not the first one in the office to get your hands on the new Highlights, you can pretty much rest assured that the only pleasure you’ll be getting out of it is from The Timbertoes. Does anyone even subscribe to Highlights? Other than doctors, I mean. I bet that’s confusing for their marketing department. Hey, it says here that 99% of our subscribers are physicians, so why are we publishing all this toddler crap instead of clinical trial results?

I thought about how much fun it would be to go home and call up Brent S. I’d identify myself as a clinician from the spermatologist’s office who would be dropping by later that night with a specimen cup so that we could have the results ready at his appointment the following day. Yes, and federal law mandates that I sit with you to witness that the sample did indeed, come from you. Just like they do when they drug test your urine. That’s right, Brent. And would you like me to bring over any magazines or novelties? Later, after my arrival (wearing a lab coat and smelling slightly of isopropyl), I would follow him into the bathroom and watch him do his duty. Then, after carefully drawing his sample up into a pipette, I would pretend to measure it and inform him that the sample he gave was just one milliliter shy of the amount we needed, so I’d take him out to an oyster bar, and then we’d come back and squeeze out the last few drops. What time’s good for you, Brent?

So with the puzzle ruined, I flipped the pages until I came to Goofus and Gallant. You remember, the bad boy (Goofus) vs. good boy (Gallant) comic strip. "Goofus wets the bed and leaves it for his mother to clean up. Gallant sterilizes his room with hospital precision every morning before preparing a nutritionally balanced breakfast for his whole family."

We all know that it's not Goofus who's going to grow up to be the figure skater/florist/hairdresser/flight attendant. Later in life it'll be: "Goofus is big and hairy, smokes cigars, and drives a Spam truck for Hormel. Gallant gently arouses himself in the dark while softly calling Goofus’s name."

All in all, it was one of the best times I’d spent in a waiting room. My only regret is that I didn’t get to follow Brent and wife around, just for a little bit after they left, so I could have witnessed the dressing-down I knew he was going to give her. I’m sure he said something like, “Jesus, honey, you don’t see me telling a roomful of strangers about your yeast infection, so why couldn’t you go outside to yell, ‘sperm count?’”

So waiting to have my blood drawn that day brought me a jubilant gay moment, provided a memorable voyeuristic event, and gave me material for a story. I’ll never complain about a long wait again. Well, maybe.

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