It was a normal doctor’s visit. We took the elevator to the fourth floor, signed in, and traveled to the appropriate room. Little did I know someone was about to get angry, and another person was about to cry. It’s all summed up by the end when yet another person declares, “This is bullshit. Bull… shit. Fucking… bullshit.”
I just happened to be there at the right time… with the right assignment in mind, which was:
Observe a public place and write about what takes place.
So after signing in, we sit. The person I’m with is called into the next room. I wait.
Two elderly women laugh. One is sitting afar and one is sitting nearby. The one nearby says, “I guess we came too early.”
“Yeah, I guess,” says the other. She coughs. “Stupid throat. I hope I’m next.”
An assistant enters from the next room, says, “Margaret?”
“Well,” says the first, “There you go.”
As the other woman leaves, an old man enters from the other side and sits where the other woman was sitting. A younger woman–though still old–sits across from me. She pulls out her phone/tablet/whatever and begins tapping. I look down and open the book I brought with me (Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Quest, part of a trilogy called The Farseer). I begin reading.
After a moment, the old man says, “What did you do before those things? I used to read a magazine, but there’re no magazines here.”
I try to drone him out in order to continue reading, but he’s loud, and I find myself scanning the page instead of focusing.
He drags me into his ego and says, “Well, it looks as though someone still reads.”
I look up to see him staring at me. I smile and nod. “Yeah,” I say.
The older woman next to me says, “It’s sad.”
The old man replies, “What’s so sad about it? I think it’s a good thing!”
“What I mean is that it’s good. I mean it’s sad that there’re so few people reading today.”
The man exhales and nods. Though I return to the page which I’ve made zero progress with, the man continues: “Today we see a bunch of people on those electronic readers. Useless.”
From the corner of my eye, I see the woman next to me staring. I look up and meet her eyes, and shrug. “Yeah, I don’t like the e-readers very much,” I say.
“Well,” says the younger woman across from me, “it’s useful when you’re married to someone and want to read without leaving the light on.”
I politely nod, and then there’s silence for a moment.
“Gah,” exclaims the man. “I think all this new tech is ruining everything. Facebook… why the hell would I want Facebook? So I can live a fake life?”
“Well,” begins the woman across from me, “I’ve used it to find people I haven’t spoken to for a while. It’s good for that, at least. I’ve even met one of my cousins that I’ve never met before.”
“You talk to people you haven’t spoken to for years? And that makes you think it’s a good thing?”
The older woman nearby laughs. I just look from one person to the other. I sense the hostility.
The old man chimes, “Yeah… right.”
The younger woman looks down at her phone. “I guess that makes me a liar then.”
There’s silence. The thrum of the air-conditioner fills the emptiness. I observe the slight layer of dust upon the fake green leaves on my right.
A nurse comes out from the other room and says a name. I wasn’t paying attention. The woman beside me gets up and leaves with a smile.
This leaves me with the old man on the other side of the room and the younger woman–though still elderly–across from me.
The man gets up from his seat and walks towards the woman and stands in front of her. He’s short. He’s leaning on his cane. He says, “Why the hell would I want to meet with someone I haven’t spoken to for over forty years?”
“I said why in the hell would I wanna speak with someone I haven’t spoken to for over forty years?”
“Maybe you miss them.”
“Can’t miss what you don’t have.”
“You think so?”
“I know so.”
“Well, I missed my family.”
“Can’t miss what you don’t have,” he repeated.
The woman closes her phone and stares at the man. “Wanna bet?”
“Well… yeah! I’ll bet. So what made you wanna seek them out?”
The woman fidgets. “My parents robbed me of my childhood–”
The man snorts.
“–and I wanted to meet my family. I’m glad I did.”
The man rolls his eyes. “You can’t miss what you don’t have.”
The woman grabs her purse, her bag, her phone, and her drink. “Fine. I’m sitting somewhere else.”
I look down at the pages as the old man wanders towards another person around the corner. I hear him speaking though I can’t see them. He says, “I didn’t know I was hurting her feelings. I mean, did I hurt her feelings? I don’t think it was anything to get upset about. I was just asking a question.”
The person I was waiting for comes out from the other room and we leave the fourth floor.
Now onto the lobby floor where the pharmacy is located.
We check in the prescription and we wait. While we wait, a young man wheels a woman up to one of six registers. The two of them speak with the pharmacist. An argument takes place. I see that what we’re waiting for is ready, so we stand in the pick-up line. Meanwhile, the man and the woman continue to argue. Cursing ensues.
“This is bullshit. Bull… shit. Fucking… bullshit.”
My mother happens to work at that particular pharmacy. She’s standing next to the pharmacist who’s in the argument. The man shouts another few F-bombs and bullshits, and then he storms out.
I imagine him walking out towards his car, lifting the trunk and pulling out a pistol. I look around the room and find various items in which I could use to incapacitate the guy, just in case he really stormed out in order to retrieve a projectile weapon. At that point, I have one goal… to make sure the person I’m with and my mother don’t end up slaughtered by an angry customer… and then I ponder how many times I’d have to smash the metal signage that suggests five good reasons to wash your hands against the man’s skull before he drops the potential gun.
It turns out the guy just went to get some paperwork.
I’m curious… Do your cognitions go along the same tracks in these kinds of situations or am I just internally hostile? I understand people are sick, and even when we’re not, we typically don’t enjoy standing in line. So I don’t blame that guy for being angry. It doesn’t change the fact that at some point today I thought about actually murdering him just in case I saw anything that looked like a weapon on him.
To be fair, he was still aggravated, waving his arms and slamming his fists. I kept the signage in mind. Just in case.
We reach the register. It happens to be the one my mother is working at. She tells us she can’t ring us up due to familial contact, says, “I’m not allowed to, so I’ll have her ring you up for me.”
We switch to the register where the angry man had moments ago been slamming his fists. He’s now sitting to the side, watching as my mother introduces me and the person I’m with to her co-workers. It felt awkward. It was awkward. A lot of big smiles, a lot of, “Hi! Nice to meet you,” type sentiments while they scan the medical history of the person I’m with. Not to mention I was aware that those smiles and idol chats were probably not making Mr. “Bullshit” to the side of us very happy.
We smiled, we said our hellos, we paid, we grabbed our medicine.
When it was all said-and-done, we left. And leaving that hospital was like pure alleviation.
And yeah, I thought about killing someone today. Isn’t that weird to think about? I… though I’ve so far managed not to harm anybody… thought about killing someone because of the possibility that he may have harmed people around me.