It’s no secret in my family, or with my friends, or with anyone with whom I’ve ever had an appointment that I have a chronic problem with being on time. Most of the time it’s just a few minutes, but there have been occasions – and I’m not particularly proud of them – where I’ve been a half-hour late or better.
Don’t get me wrong, I typically call well in advance of the 30-minute mark passing by – but that does little to quell the frustration of someone who wanted two drinks instead of one before a show, or who wanted dinner rather than appetizers before a movie. I’m not intentionally late – but yet, I’m almost always late. It’s gotten so some members of my family – my parents, my kids, my boyfriend – will sometimes hedge the time they want me to be somewhere and tell me 30 minutes earlier, just because they know I’ll be late and by showing up late I’ll still be early.
It’s a problem, I know.
My doctor’s office, however, has apparently found a way to deter late-comers.
This morning I was about 15 minutes late for my annual physical – again, not intentional, my doctor is super-cool and we have a great time talking – but when I apologized while checking in the clerk smiled politely and oh-so-nicely brushed it aside and said, “Oh, no big deal, things happen. You’re not that late.”
Great, I didn’t cause a backlog, I thought.
She pointed me to the waiting room – Waiting Room 3, down the hall and to the left, and then all the way to the end – and I walked in and joined an older couple, probably in their 60s. I generally try not to pay too much attention to other patients so I pulled out my phone and started a game of Candy Crack Saga. A nurse came in and called the other woman into a room and after some shuffling of papers and a short discussion with the-man-I’ll-assume-was-her-husband, she went with the nurse.
And that’s when it started.
The man pulled out a bag of something and began crunching away, savoring every crunch as though it were his last. The bag must have been small because the crunching didn’t last long. What I didn’t know, though, was that the crunching was just the beginning.
No sooner had he stopped crunching did he start those strange hiccup/burps, the ones that start to sound like a hiccup, have a little bit of burp in them and end with a slight expulsion of air. You know the ones – the sounds Grandpa would make after a big meal, or after half a can of beer. And with that slight expulsion of air came the distorted stomach-acid lined smell of whatever was last eaten.
I don’t know what it was, but if I ever smell that on my plate, I’m not eating it.
The man’s issues didn’t end there. Oh no, after about a half dozen of these hiccup/burps, his stomach started to gurgle. Not in an “I’m still kinda hungry” way, but more of a, “What in the hell did you just put in me?” kind of way. It started slow, and small, but gradually got a little louder and more fierce.
I could no longer concentrate on my game. I tried. I matched a few purple candies, then a few red ones, but the louder he got the more frightened I became.
Then the nurse came in and called my name. I jumped up and followed her.
“You made it in, huh?” she said.
“Yes, and I’m so very sorry. I promise, I’ll never be late again.”
I swear she turned back and winked at that guy.