There will be a pop quiz at the end.  Fair warning.

You have an appointment at a clinic.  The entry door opens into the middle of a rectangular waiting area with a center aisle dividing it into two squares.  Chairs ring the outer wall of each square.  Amid each square, chairs are set up in back to back rows as if a rousing game of musical chairs is about to begin.  It isn’t.  You’re at a heart clinic.

You know from the hideous, stained chair upholstery that whoever set up the design had no taste, but a wicked sense of humor.  On the far right, a flat-screen TV is turned to FOX news.  On the left, CNN. That should really be MSNBC to make it a fairer choice, but you’re sick of politics anyway, so you choose one of the chairs against the front wall of the building, near the door where you entered.

Directly under the wall-mounted CNN TV is a sofa, facing toward the front door.  You see two children, a boy who is perhaps five and a girl you’d guess to be three.  Beside them on the sofa is a clutter of fast food wrappers and two kids’ meal bags from an unknown fast food place and at the end of the couch, a woman of indeterminate age.  She has waist-length hair and is wearing a white blouse tucked into a long gathered black skirt.  She’s somewhat overweight and looks pale and puffy, as if the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s genes dominated in a liaison with Betty Crocker.  Perhaps she’s in a religious organization or even a cult?

Your entry was evidently a cue for the children to jump up for a rousing parade.  They grab their drinks and start running in a circle, laughing and shouting.   When they sail past you, you note that the girl’s bottle and the boy’s sippy cup are filled with chocolate milk.  On their second fly-by, you see that some of the boy’s teeth are black with decay.

They race back to the sofa, drop their drinks, and pick up…OMG… WHISTLES!  (You want the name of that fast food company so you can send your first hate letter.)  So, you have two whistle-blowing kids running in circles around the musical chair setup.  Two elderly patients in wheelchairs are at the end of the rows, so they get extra long blasts as the children run within inches of their heads.

You wonder if the staff is deaf.  Again, it’s a HEART CLINIC.

The woman, you aren’t even sure it’s their momma, calls out in a monotone voice, “You need to blow those whistles outside.  You might bother someone in here.”

Two problems.  They’re preschoolers.  “Outside” is a parking lot and it’s over 100 degrees.     Is she going to send them out into traffic or go out with them?

Neither.  They continue running and blowing on the whistles.

You realize that all FOX watchers probably aren’t armed because all they can shoot is dirty looks.  The woman looks unfazed.  UNTIL, that is, she picks up a man’s leather belt she has beside her and folds it into quarters.  The next time they run by, she says, in the same monotone, “I brought the belt.” 

They ignore her and continue their game.  The next time they pass her, she pops them–not at all hard–on their bottoms as they run past, but promises, “I’m going to whip you with the belt when we get to the car.”  

Okay, you decide, she’s probably their mother, but she sure as heck isn’t mother of the year.  The children are bratty, but what kind of life do they have with a mother who not only thinks it’s acceptable to hit them with a belt, but so relaxed about it that she carries it around in public as her weapon of choice.

Here’s my question: I’m just curious here. . . what will you do?  Anything you can do?   You find yourself so unnerved for a while, you can’t even remember why you’re there.

That’s the bonus question:  Why are you there?

You’re there for a Stress Test.


14 thoughts on “Waiting…Waiting…!

  1. I don’t have a gun with me right? I would tell the mom to pick up the fast food wrappers and put the whistles and belt in her purse, the children to sit and the office staff to switch one television set to some cartoons. If anyone gave me trouble…I would say loudly and firmly…I have a heart condition and I can not handle this stress. . .
    Not really but that would be my fantasy and probably help me ignore the situation until I could escape.
    Leave it to a heart clinic to stress you out…sheesh.

    1. Right. No gun, but I wasn’t sure about the woman on the right side. She managed to shoot daggers with her eyes.

      I considered a citizen’s arrest, but I don’t think there is any way I will ever be able to say that without sounding like Gomer Pyle.

  2. I’ve worked in the medical/dental field and, really, the staff should have stepped in and said something. In my last medical office, our office manager wouldn’t tolerate any shenanigans like that. And in a heart clinic?? Sheesh…

    1. I agree! When the technician came out to call me, she looked around, then smiled and said, “We wondered where the whistle noise was coming from.”

      Yeah? Out here in the cattle corral, we KNEW!

  3. they were bored. parent was bored with parenting. sad. I’m guessing if you had whipped out a story book they would sit beside you and spill some chocolate milk in the process but settle in pretty quickly to a story with you. of course, if they’ve never been read to, this might not work either. How are you!? Hope the heart clinic was kinder to you than their waiting room!

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  5. Oh dear. At a heart clinic, no less. I’m surprised the staff didn’t say something, especially with the elderly in wheelchairs being blasted. Sounds like the mother, though, from your description, might be the patient, and simply doesn’t have the skills or energy to deal, which is sad. That said, it shouldn’t have happened. Ugh.

  6. Ok, I’m stressed after reading that and I wasn’t even there. The ethical side of me would have been talking politely to the staff to find out who they were and then nonchalantly walking out the door to call the local Children’s Services agency… But, that’s me and the job that has been grilled into my brain. It does leave me wondering who was there to see the cardiologist – the parent or one of the kids. With all of that fast food and rotting teeth, one never knows. Hmmmm…

    1. I did mention it to the staff. No one seemed to know who she was, which is why I thought they might be waiting for someone. It’s hard to call Children’s Services when you don’t have a name. Back to the citizen’s arrest, huh?

  7. Am I the only reader who figured it out? Obviously, the two children ARE the stress test. And the fact that you didn’t grab “the belt” from the “mother” and thrash them shows YOU PASSED.
    Sorry–couldn’t resist. I think I would have just told the mother where to go–hint: into that 100 degree parking lot–and then called the child protection agency to take the kids into a better environment.

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