Waiting Game
By: Gigs

     Did you know that it takes exactly forty-three minutes for a ray of sunshine to 
cross from one side of a Styrofoam coffee cup that’s sitting on the table in front of the 
waiting room window to the other side of that same cup?  It does. How do I know?  I timed 
it against the big, red, digital clock mounted under the TV up on the wall.  You learn 
all sorts of interesting things while you spend the day sitting in the ICU waiting room 
waiting to find out if someone you love is going to still be alive this time next week.  
I guess it’s the brain’s way of occupying itself so it doesn’t have to contemplate the 
real reason you’re there.

You find yourself contemplating all sorts of strange things like just exactly how many 
different shades of khaki there are in the marbled wall that apparently is so much more 
soothing in a 21st century hospital than white. Although you could almost swear you 
glimpsed a snatch of that evil white color somewhere in the mix.  Hospital folk can be 
sneaky that way, but they can’t fool me.  You contemplate things like just exactly how 
can your butt possibly be getting so sore just sitting there.  It’s not like you’re doing 
any strenuous exercise or anything.  At least the chairs aren’t the plastic ones they 
used to have ten years ago that hooked to each other, four in a row.  Of course 
inevitably one of those would always be cracked, so nobody would want to sit in it  which 
was great because then you had a place to prop your feet.  No, these chairs are padded 
with fabric that sports the same muted colors that are marbled on the wall.  Ok, maybe a 
little darker.  Still, it’s a conspiracy I tell ya.  And the chairs aren’t as good as 
those huge, oversized ones they have in the private rooms that even the fat lady from the 
circus could squeeze into comfortably.

Still this chair will have to do because you gave up the recliner to Mom.  Yeah, they 
have recliners in the waiting room now.  Nice touch, but they don’t match the rest of the 
décor. They’re green.  Not a green you could readily give a shade name to and definitely 
not a shade that should ever go with khaki.  At least Mom’s comfortable…relatively 
speaking.  Maybe she’ll try to sleep for a little while.  Then the on-going debate on how 
young the surgeon looks would cease. 

“He looks too young to be a surgeon.  Maybe we should have gotten a second opinion.”

“Mom, he’s older than me.”

“Yes, but you’re only…”

“I’m thirty-one, Mom.”

“Oh…I guess that’s old enough.”


She doesn’t sleep though cause she might miss the phone.  Nobody misses the phone.  
There’s three different landline phones in the waiting room and absolutely everyone has a 
cell phone attached to their hip…or ear.  We can all talk on the cell phones all day long 
without a problem, but everybody in the room jumps when one of the landlines rings.  Then 
we all momentarily look at each other to see whose going to be brave enough to answer 
it.  Whose loved one are they calling about this time? Yeah, they actually call you from 
the operating room now to update you on their progress.  Isn’t that great? No more 
waiting for six to eight hours absolutely oblivious to what’s happening.  I’m still 
deciding whether that’s a good thing or not.

We left him in the surgical prep room at one o’clock.  It was freezing in there.  Mom 
reassured everyone that it was just cold because the electrical equipment works better in 
the cold.  Sis commented that it probably had something to do with the sterilization 
process, that germs and stuff fester more readily in warmer temperatures.  I was thinking 
that it was about the same temperature that they kept the morgue, but kept my mouth 
shut.  ‘Bad thought! Go away bad thought. We’re trying to be positive here!’  I’ve been 
told that I’ve been in the south so long now, that my yankee accent only asserts itself 
when I’m aggravated.  Its interesting to note that asserted accent extends to aggravated 
thoughts too.  Weird, huh?

Anyway, they called about 3:15PM and said he was being wheeled into the operating room 
and that he was completely under the anesthesia at that point.  They called again around 
4:25PM and said they were making the incisions in his legs and going in for the veins 
they would use to graft to his heart.  They said they’d have to use both legs after 
all.  ‘And they want him up and walking around within forty-eight hours? Right.’  At that 
point, we were told to move from the surgical waiting room to the ICU waiting.  Oh what 
fun! Dad’s fighting for his life and we’re out here playing musical chairs.  What really 
stinks is the paintings in the surgical waiting room were much more interesting than 
marbled khaki walls.  But then again, I wouldn’t have the pleasure of entertaining myself 
counting the shades of khaki, so I guess it’s all good.  

Now you would think I’d have taken a book with me, right?  Well, I did.  I gotta tell ya, 
a person can only read the same paragraph over and over and over again thinking any 
minute now what its saying is going to sink into my brain….any minute now.   I mean it 
was an interesting story when I started it yesterday.  No luck.  Hey look! The sunbeam 
has reached the magazine sitting by the coffee cup.  Who in the world reads “Field and 
Stream” in an ICU waiting room anyway? Are they serious?

Then your butt gains your attention again.  Why?  It’s gone from sore to tingling.  
That’s why.  Ah, hah! They’ve cushioned the chairs with pins and needles! I told you it 
was a conspiracy.  At some point the level of tingling that is now crawling down your 
legs insists that you adjust your position.  Again.  Therefore you twist in the chair, so 
your weight is only propped on one butt cheek thinking this will relieve at least half of 
the pin pressure.  Nope.  These pins migrate until there’s now twice as many pricking the 
one butt cheek as there was previously pricking two butt cheeks.  How’d they do that?  I 
know what you’re thinking.  The solution is to stand up, right?  Stretch your legs?  This 
is true, except every time I’ve stood up today, mom’s eyes have snapped open and given me 
that anxious look like I was going to leave her.

Suddenly the rank odor of the coffee, that’s been sitting there on the warmer all day, 
starts getting to me.  Hey, I was a waitress for two years and I work in a medical office 
now myself.  I can do this.  I KNOW how to make coffee.  Did I want a cup of something 
other than sludge?  No, but that’s beside the point.  Maybe no one else in the waiting 
room can make coffee.  That’s ok.  They can get the phone.  

No really. Get the phone!  Hey, would ya look at that. They got our name right.  You’d 
think in the Bible-belt more people would be able to pronounce it.  No such luck.  I know 
that look on mom’s face.  It’s the look of serious settling in for hardship endurance.  
5:30PM and they’ve finished harvesting the veins, cracked open his chest, and are 
preparing to stop his heart and put him on the bypass machine.  I remember when they 
actually first told Dad out loud that they would have to stop his heart…about an hour or 
so before he went under.   I guess we should have known.  I mean duh.  How would you 
graft on five bypasses while the thing was still beating.  There’s just something about 
saying it out loud.  Then you’re so busy watching that bit of info sink into Dad’s 
consciousness that you’re not really prepared for when it comes around to bitch-slap you 
upside the back of your head.

Thank goodness I skipped the Nova shows on this sort of thing.  I think I can still feel 
sympathy pain though just thinking what it might be like to crack the ribcage open.  You 
know what they should have in waiting rooms? A masseuse.  Every single muscle in my body 
is tight…and shaky.  I guess adrenaline will do that to you.  I’m aware of every muscle, 
except my butt which has gone past tingly and is now thoroughly numb.  That’s ok.  I’d 
kinda feel weird if somebody was massaging my butt in a waiting room anyway.  Maybe its 
not such a good idea after all.

People you know come in to see you in the waiting room, but see they’re smart.  They 
always leave someone in the car so they don’t have to stay too long.  Their butt’s safe.  
Its funny, I never thought I listened with my butt too, but maybe I do cause I’m sitting 
here watching this person stare at me.  And his lips are moving, but there’s a delayed 
reaction of about a minute and a half before I can gain any sort of comprehension of what 
he’s saying.  Then I smile and nod, all the while thinking, ‘MY DAD’S HAVING OPEN HEART 
SURGERY!!!  HOW DO YOU THINK I’M DOING, STUPID?!?’  Of course, on further reflection, 
saying that sort of thing to the pastor of your church is probably not the best plan.  
Hey, even a dumb-ass like me can have flashes of brilliance now and again.  In the words 
of  ‘Angels in the Outfield’, it can happen.  

After about twenty more minutes of being socially PC, something I’ve never really 
mastered with any sort of aplomb, our company leaves us again to the wait.  Here’s a new 
contemplation for ya.  Why do people insist that you learn to be politically correct, 
socially silver-tongued, civil and then get even madder at you when your attempts sound 
even more false, sarcastic, condescending, and dishonest than when you were just shooting 
straight from the hip?  Even when you’re not trying to veil anything.  They can’t tell 
when you’re being straight with them or not when you go for the avenue of “tact”, yet 
they still insist you do it.  It’s the oddest thing.  Maybe people don’t really WANT to 
understand each other.  My brain hurts just thinking circles around it.  Maybe I’ll ask 
somebody.  Nah, they’d probably just get PC on me.  Then I’d really be confused.  
Besides, when you’re sitting in the hospital waiting room, they have a tendency to keep 
their anger more to themselves.  Maybe I should set up camp here.

So, they’re expecting things to be finished up about 9:30PM.  We’ve been here all day.  
Trust me, my butt can attest.  Still we have three more hours of surgery if all goes well 
and then another hour or so before they’ll let us in to see him.  I think I’ve decided 
there’s about five shades of khaki on the wall and the coffeepot smells decidedly 
better.  Maybe Mom and I can step out for a while and grab some dinner.  Nah, she might 
miss the phone.  And I’d miss seeing if the sunlight reached the other side of the 
magazine sitting on the table before the sun went down.  Can’t have that, now can we?