Friday, August 30, 2013

Waiting for the Physician (or Someone Like Him)

The title character in Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddartha lists among his credentials, “I can wait.” (His other talents are thinking and fasting, which always makes me think of the irony of calling certain restaurant chains “fast food.” Wouldn’t fast food be nothing?)

Despite his rather thin resumé, Siddartha makes a good point. Waiting is indeed a lost art in this age of right turns (or anything else) on red lights, texting or emailing anyplace in the world in seconds, and nearly instant answers to any question that can be accompanied by clickable ads. Waiting is simply not something we do much of, and we don’t know how to do it properly.

Fortunately, there’s a treatment program at a certain prominent hospital in Boston that shall remain nameless. (Oh, all right … it’s Massachusetts General.) The program is called Having an Appointment. The way it works is simple. Just show up on time for your appointment. Within hours, you will be on your way to mastering the art of waiting.

Not to be outdone, nearby Lahey Hospital recently added a parking garage that allows only a single lane of traffic going in or out. If one person actually pulls into or out of a spot, the whole garage comes to a standstill.

Not to boast, but I have worked my way up to a very advanced stage. Today I was at the hospital for 6 hours, at least 4 of which were spent in waiting rooms and empty offices. You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that’s more than 50% and less than 100%. But any one of you could attain this advanced level.

Just wait.

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