I had a morning of solidarity with the little people today. You know the ones. Just under three feet tall, sticky fingers, still mastering large multisyllabic words. And apparently, sick quite often, if the local urgent care center is any indication.
I wandered into the waiting room of my local urgent care reluctantly this morning. Very reluctantly. After a nasty bout with the flu last week, I am happy just to be mildly ambulatory. And by happy, I mean just alert enough to care.
So, it was with great hesitation that I approached a place teeming with germs. The place people go when they’re so sick it’s—well—urgent. But after having to cancel every call and meeting I had last week, this week needs me at something approaching full speed. And the lovely cough that accompanied this flu—the hacking that makes me sound like a 90-year-old man named Artie from Long Island—well, that cough refuses to leave me.
So, while I think my reclaimed ambulation trick is a pretty nifty party trick, and a sure sign of health returning, my friends and sister—really, anyone who has spoken to me via phone the past week—are telling me I sound like bronchitis and pneumonia waiting to happen. And they’re not going to let up until I can tell them an MD has seen me.
Hence, into the cesspool of teeming germs I ambled this morning. If you’re going to head into a cesspool of germs, bring gloves, I always say. I didn’t want to contaminate my good gloves so I was wearing the overly large pair my new wireless provider had given me as a free gift for signing with them. They were hideous and perfect for the job. It took several tries to pick up the sign-in pen with my Bozo the Clown hands flopping around (why DO they make those gloves so big?), but soon I was signed in and sitting gingerly on the edge of a chair—trying to avoid the white stains on the back of it, while not thinking too hard about what they could be.
As the admin asked me my name, checked my insurance info, etc., I heard the man next to me say, “I can’t see out of my right eye.” Or maybe it was, “I have pinkeye in my right eye.” Or, my distant third guess, “I’m giving you the stinkeye with my right eye.” I’m not really sure. But I was doubly glad I had kept on my garishly cheap polyester gloves when I signed in.
The woman helping me told me to wait in the waiting room. There were two. I pointed and said, “this one?” but she couldn’t see which I was referring to because the large floppy fingers on the gloves so eclipsed my own it just looked like my fingers were drooping like a sad lily.
After finding the right waiting area, I was soon joined by Mr. Stinkeye/Pinkeye. And minutes later, my partners in crime showed up: Julian, Brynne and a tiny thing so sick she was asleep on her dad. We’ll call her SparklePants. Because despite her somewhat sad condition, her pants did have sparkly polka dots all over them.
Julian, channeling a tiny Napoleon in his boots and unzipped coat, was having none of it. “Mommiiieeeee. Not THIS doctoh. MYyyyyyyy doctoh. Let’s go. No toys heeyah.” Mommy, whose name was Tara, appeared to be infected with the same creeping glick Julian had, based on their matching red noses. And Mommy appeared to be on her last leg. In cheetah-print cotton tennis shoes; green, yellow and red plaid pajama pants; and a bright purple hoodie emblazoned with “OUTER BANKS, NC” on it, Tara had seen better days (and hopefully better fashion). She was half sitting, half laying on the waiting room settee with her eyes closed, mumbling, “Julian, get back here. I mean it.”
Brynne watched the whole affair with big eyes, as she chatted in congested tones with her mom about what sounded like a character named Oingo Boingo. And this is where I may have been having an ‘80s flashback due to fever. Maybe it was Oinky Boinky. Whatever it was, Brynne had a lot to say in between sniffles.
SparklePants slept through it all. I think that was a wise move, particularly since her dad had sat down with her in the seat Stinkeye/Pinkeye had vacated just moments before. Just sleep through it, honey, and don’t touch anything.
I watched as Julian bounced from chair to chair, trailing snot as he went. His mother let out a brief snore as the volume went up in the room.
I thought it would be anti-climactic from there, but as I waited for the doctor in a treatment room, I heard the little hurricane marching into the room next to mine. “No good, no good, no good!” Julian screamed. I’m not sure if he meant his behavior or was still railing against the lack of toys. But either way, I was in agreement with him thus far about the whole experience. A little underwhelming, in my opinion.
The doctor came in, saying, “I’m Dr. Perestroika. What’s your problem?” To which, I raised an eyebrow. But, then she turned around and I saw the mask she was wearing, which muffled her words. As Dr. Perestroika (yeah, might be another ‘80s flashback, but we’re just gonna’ go with it) listened to my chest, Julian must have broken free into the hallway because I heard tiny boots running with increasing speed away from the room. And then screaming. Lots of screaming. You guessed it: “Me want toys. Pleeeeeaaazzzzzz.” I think he was making a break for it. Right on, my righteous brother. I say, go for it. This place is for the birds.
Dr. Perestroika yelled over the noise, “I don’t hear anything. Your lungs sound ok.” Really? That’s like saying you can’t hear the first notes of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as you sit at a construction site. I left with a prescription for a very expensive cough suppressant, an antibiotic prescription “just in case” and the beginnings of a nasty headache.
But, for now at least, no pneumonia. Or bronchitis.
Which is pretty much how I walked in.
I have a feeling my man Julian did not fare the same. As I headed out, the young doctor who had chased him down was carrying him back to the treatment room. I wanted to fist bump him on the way out, but I realized I was gloveless.
I stopped, thought for just a second. Nah. And just kept walking.
Some things are best kept in the rearview mirror–urgent care waiting rooms not least among them.
Stay well this flu season, my friends.