Somewhere on the official Abominations List, perhaps on the page with the name of whoever designed those hard plastic wraps for small electronics (the packages which can’t be opened without garden shears and a pickaxe) and the sadist who put reclining seats in the coach section of airplanes, I’d like to nominate an additional entry: the person who designed doctor’s offices with a restroom opening into the waiting area.
The last time I went to the doctor, I walked in to see that they had expanded their practice and doubled their space since my last visit. Their greatly enlarged waiting room was good, since nobody wants to sit near a sick person. My short-lived approval vanished when I saw a most distressing flaw: Directly across from a bank of chairs was a conspicuous door marked RESTROOM.
It might as well have said, “Come on in, you KNOW you have to go!” Of course I DIDN’T have to go, but by the time I’d signed in and given them my insurance information for the bazillionth time, my bladder was pretending that it was dealing with a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke.
Luckily, there was only one other person in the waiting room then–a woman sitting under the Please Turn Off All Cell Phones sign. She was, naturally, having an animated conversation on her cellphone.
I hurried to the bathroom and squeezed out four drops to satisfy my lying bladder and returned to the waiting area and watched as people filed in. It was nothing sort of a phenomenon; every woman who walked in had to use the potty, a Pavlovian response to the very sight of that door.
Here’s the thing: these are usually large, square rooms that magnify sound and have at least an inch of space between the bottom of the door and the floor, thus ensuring that no privacy is contained by those thin walls. This particular office restroom shared a wall with the reception desk and hall to the examining rooms so that anyone at the desk or walking to or from an examination room wouldn’t miss anything.
Since no one ever chats in waiting rooms, having it crowded with patients has no impact on sound; it only increases the embarrassment quotient. A couple entered the office shortly after me and the wife immediately headed for the bathroom. The three other people who arrived while she was in there no doubt thought they were listening to a recording of Seabiscuit peeing on a hot tin roof.
Let’s not even discuss the poopers. Any “user” staying in the bathroom too long sets off a Civil Defense siren warning, “This is not a test! RED ALERT!!!”
It is common knowledge that one so desperate as to poop in such a public place has serious, desperate issues. Usually it is a man, since a woman would sooner go out to her car and crap in her handbag than open that bathroom door and face a sea of people who now know she is a defecator. (My husband still doesn’t know that about me!)
When the Red Alert sounds, people in chairs nearest the bathroom develop a sudden interest in the 1994 issue of Time on a chair across the room and rush over to claim dibs.
The fear level in the waiting room population is just below that of potential radioactive contamination. Strangers eye each other uneasily. The religious pray to be called to an examining room before the door opens and even the non-religious don’t want to be Left Behind.
The tiniest toot sounds through the office intercom system. The poor potty-er eventually has to emerge, dragging her feet in an odd gait, a vain attempt to convince the waiting patients that the sound they heard was not flatulence, but simply her shoe scraping against the tiled floor.
Nobody believes. Instead, they assume that the scraping shoe is an attempt to mask another fart.
When finally called back to an examining room, having to get naked in morgue-like temperatures doesn’t seem so bad, but speaking of the Abominations List, does anyone besides me wonder why we put the gown on with the opening in the back, since our hearts, lungs, breasts, and other parts to be checked are all in the front?
The examination over, the next step is the lab where Dracula’s granddaughter draws blood. Then the dreaded ultimatum:
“Go in that bathroom,” she says, nodding to a door next to her desk, “and urinate in this cup, then put it in the little door in the wall.”
It is, of course, a hopeless process, since my empty bladder freeze-dried in the examining room. Knowing the lab technician is sitting on the other side of the little door , twiddling her thumbs until I can aim carefully and eke out a respectable amount of urine into the small cylinder doesn’t help. All this time I’m holding in my hand down in the toilet bowl trying to position the little bottle just so. . . .
If I open the little door and ask nicely, wonder if she’ll run out to the waiting room and bring me that Time magazine?