Six-month checkups following cataract surgery take almost two hours as patients move along from one exam room to another undergoing a succession of tests from clicking a hand-held device each time a pinpoint of light flashes in a dome, to the final minutes with the doctor.
At an early stage stinging yellow drops numb our eyeballs so a pressure-reading instrument can slide painlessly over the eye’s surface to record inner pressure. Then other drops dilate the pupils so eventually the doctor can examine the back of the eye.
During this stage, vision becomes too blurry to read magazines though we may valiantly scan the photos. Conversation with the person sitting nearby becomes my entertainment. Over the years I’ve participated in some memorable exchanges. One time an elderly overweight lady who could scarce catch her breath sagged into the first chair she came to, next to me. Despite her difficulty breathing she volunteered a blow by blow description of her several abusive marriages over 30 years.
Beyond murmuring sympathy from time to time, or posing a clarifying question, I didn’t need to contribute a word to keep her going. She was primed to unburden herself of her inner anguish regardless of whoever might overhear. To top it off, another abusive man, her current ‘spouse’, waited in the lobby to take her home after her appointment.
Depending upon how long one sits before being called to the next room for the next test, these conversations resemble speed dating.
My most recent checkup was a perfect example of this.
The woman seated beside me had professionally manicured fingernails half an inch long, each nail a different colour, some of them frosted. I find long fingernails uncomfortable and cumbersome. Before I approach a keyboard I make sure my nails are filed short. How a typist can work touching each key with only the pad of the finger beats me. So I asked the lady.
She had no chance to answer my question; I was called away.
Following a few minutes with a technician, I was turned loose to find a seat in the small adjoining waiting area.
The TV was streaming CBC news but the only available chair had me sitting behind a pillar. I couldn’t see the screen. I thought of asking someone to trade seats with me since they were ignoring the TV anyway. Instead I struck up a conversation with the lady beside me.
My opening question about the pending civic elections fell flat. Turned out she was from Houston. She had four children, the youngest 22-year-old twins, one a long haired hippy type living on a farm, the other a buttoned up financial sort living in town. She was an outdoor enthusiast, in August had hiked to the top of Hudson Bay mountain on a day when forest fire smoke didn’t obscure an amazing view. Their rivers were so dry where normally it would be too boggy to hike, this summer the ground was parched, grass dry and crackling.
Our chat was interrupted briefly as I was called to have photos taken of my inner eyes. We picked up our discussion where we had left off until I was called into the doctor’s inner sanctum. I was happy the end of the appointment was in sight but my waiting time had been fun. In six months I may see the Houston lady again.