I arrive on time for my appointment. The receptionist takes my name, verifies my insurance, and waves me on to the second waiting room. I turn back, confused. “The second waiting room? Are you sure?,” I ask. She nods. “Dr. Morris is working out of the OB side today,” she explains. I thank her and swallow hard. The second waiting room: where the pregnant women and their partners sit in pairs, hands as often resting on her baby bump as off it. The couples — all of them, even the youngest ones — vibrating with a nervous energy that is equal parts anticipation and dread. What goes on in the second waiting room is the stuff not of poems, or even short stories, but of entire novels.
I take a seat. I am the only uncoupled person in the room. I start to look for a magazine, but stop myself. These magazines are for pregnant women and women with infants and toddlers. These magazines are not for me. I am here to have my plumbing inspected. There is no literature about surviving the indignity of the annual rectal exam (for women over 40) or getting through the lecture about carrying excess weight with minimal shame or enduring a pap smear that seems quite unnecessary given the hysterectomy-induced lack of cervix. And thank God there isn’t such a literature.
I wait as couple after couple gets called in to exam rooms. My name is not called. I squirm. I spit-shine my sandals. I gnaw on my fingernails. Feeling very much like a recalcitrant child, I slump down in my seat. Thirty minutes have passed. I have to pick up my younger son from camp in forty minutes’ time. I debate with myself: is there enough time to have the exam and drive across town? I’m no longer sure. I have a history of being forgotten in waiting rooms. I have what must come across as a complacent personality, which has always amused me, as inside I rage, I shout, I shake my fists at the world.
I walk back to the receptionist, who gives me a bored look. “My name hasn’t been called, and I’ve been waiting for half an hour,” I explain. “Really?,” she replies. Yep, bored. She gets on the phone, raising one finger to direct me to wait. I watch her listen, I watch her nod. “OK,” she says, and puts down the phone. “Well,” she starts, turning her gaze to me, “there is something wrong with the doctor’s machine, and she’s running about 40 minutes late.” I think, Her machine. For what I need, machines are unnecessary. “Hmm,” I voice. “I’m not sure I can wait much longer, because my son needs me to pick him up from camp.” “It’s your choice,” she tells me, and beckons a woman waiting to check in. We are done.
I go back to the second waiting room. It has taken all I have to get to this appointment — I cancel them regularly, these appointments — and I want to be seen, if only so I don’t have to do this again for another year. Couples I watched go in for their exams are now leaving the office. Some are beaming. I imagine them clutching their ultrasound pictures, finding meaning in this curve or that line. “He has your CHIN!,” I hear one woman say, giggling coyly as she reaches up to pat her partner’s chin.
I wait until there remain only ten minutes for me to undergo my exam. I make my way back to the receptionist, who looks beleaguered. She sees me there, and irritation flashes across her face. I am a loose end. “I need to go now,” I inform her. “When is the next available appointment?” “I’ll check,” she sighs, and brings up the master schedule on her computer. “Looks like… two months. Yes, October 15,” she decides. I am shocked. It is not as if I have missed my appointment, after all. I raise my eyebrows. She shrugs. “Best we can do,” she murmurs.
“OK,” I reply, because what else can I say? If a nurse were to triage me, I’d come out last, dead last. I don’t even have a uterus, for God’s sake. Fury and relief churn in a bitter brew as I go to collect my son. If we are only as old as we feel, then right now I am an eighty-three-year-old woman.
I am doubtful that I will make it to my rescheduled appointment. Something will come up. Something has to come up. I just know it. And really, eighty-three-year-old women ought to concern themselves with matters far transcending the condition of their plumbing.