At some level, I am not a hurry-up-and-wait kind of guy. The Honorary General was scheduled for cataract surgery yesterday morning. I was a little surprised when she told me that we didn’t need to arrive at the surgery center until 8:30 a.m. The arrival time was subsequently modified to 9:00 a.m. after she received a call from the hospital.
I was a little surprised by the time. My only frame of reference has always been an early morning venue where one had to get up before the crack of dawn and arrive by 6:00 a.m. It may surprise you, but I prefer the earlier arrival time.
If you wait until later, like sands in an hourglass, all traffic from our direction has to funnel through the “Y” at Oakhill. The traffic often closely resembles a parking lot. I was once very late for a meeting in downtown Austin because it took me thirty-five minutes to get through that one intersection. You almost have to see it to believe it, but it adds a whole new dimension to the concept of “stop and go”. I find myself thinking “Go, go, go” while others must have an equally strong subliminal message that says “Stop, stop, stop.” It becomes a quagmire.
The “Y” at Oakhill is only the first of many hurdles related to traffic. Getting into the flow of traffic on Texas Highway Loop 1 is also an obstacle. Texas State Highway Loop 1 is named the “Mopac Expressway” after the Missouri Pacific Railroad. I’ve always heard that Missouri is the “Show-Me-State”; perhaps you have to see it to believe it.
I’m not making this up. “Missouri’s unofficial nickname is the “Show-Me-State”, and that appears on its license plates. This phrase has several origins. One is popularly ascribed to a speech by Congressman Willard Vandiver in 1899, who declared that ‘I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri, and you have got to show me.’ This is in keeping with the saying “I’m from Missouri” which means, “I’m skeptical of the matter and not easily convinced”.
Loop 1 in its current state of construction is anything but an expressway. Did I mention the hospital is located in northwest Austin about 45 miles from where we live? The Honorary General’s eye surgeon’s office is located in southwest Austin, but she exclusively uses that one hospital for surgery. “Go figure”, it didn’t make any sense to me, but I was only along for the ride. Actually, that’s not true. I was the designated driver.
I opted to sleep in yesterday morning. When I got up at 6:00 a.m. instead of 5:00 a.m., the Honorary General was already in command. “I’ve thought about it and I think we should leave by 6:30. I’m concerned about getting through Oakhill.” Talk about needing to “put the pedal to the metal”, I had to hurry. I wisely opted not to tell the Honorary General, but I wasn’t going out the door until I posted my blog. I wrote it the evening before, but it always takes me a few minutes to get it posted on WordPress, Weebly and Facebook.
As we were going out the door, the Honorary General told me to get a light jacket. It reportedly is cold in the waiting room and she’d been instructed to tell whomever was accompanying her that they would need a jacket. Maybe I’m from Missouri, but I had to see it (sense it) to believe it. I wasn’t wearing jacket.
When we pulled into the hospital parking lot at 7:45 a.m. for our anticipated 9:00 arrival, the Honorary General suggested we just sit in the car. After all, it was cold in the waiting room. It was magical thinking on my part, but I countered, “Let’s go inside. You can at least get the paperwork completed. Who knows, maybe you’ll get in early.”
That’s when the Honorary General dropped the bombshell, “My surgery isn’t scheduled until 10:30. They told me to be here by 9:00. I don’t know what paperwork I’d need to complete, I did everything online.”
I didn’t say it out loud, but as I did the math in my head, I was in a state of disbelief. Three hours! We had almost three hours to wait. I’m not a hurry-up-and-wait kind of guy, but obviously today I was becoming one whether I wanted to our not.
I coaxed the Honorary General out of the car and as we walked toward the entrance to the to the hospital, I put my arm around her shoulder and assured her she’d be just fine. She leaned slightly into my arm. For the first time, I recognized that she had some anxiety related to the procedure. Offering reassurance, we walked into the hospital lobby. It wasn’t cold!
According to the written instructions, the surgery center was to our right. When we got to the “glass elevators”, we would take the elevator to the lower level. Okay, I was perplexed. What does a glass elevator look like? Since we subsequently discovered there was only one set of elevators to our right, we opted to try them even though they looked like every other elevator I’ve seen (solid silver colored door). When the door opened, the back wall of the elevator was glass. It looked down into the surgery center waiting room.
“Are you kidding me?” I didn’t say it out loud, but the waiting room was totally packed. It wasn’t yet 8:00 a.m. Like the sands of an hourglass, we were joining a sea of other people in a large, but cramped waiting area already filled with people. I’ve never eaten sardines, but I had the mental image that we were soon to have an experience that would remind us of a can of sardines.
I can’t really say the time passed quickly. I also can’t confirm that arriving early altered the surgery schedule. I can say that I learned a surgery waiting room is not the place to have what should be a private conversation. I was sitting almost knee to knee with a guy whose chair was on the other wall. At some point he made a telephone call. It wasn’t that I was eavesdropping, but without putting a finger in each ear, there was no way I wasn’t going to hear his side of the conversation.
I tried not to look in his direction. I didn’t want him to be aware that I was the third-party hearing everything he had to say. Obviously, he was talking to his ex-wife. You are probably wondering how I knew it was his ex-wife? Okay, I couldn’t help myself, as the conversation ensued I looked in his direction. I’m not good at guessing ages, but I’d say the man was in his mid-to-late thirties. Interestingly, his demeanor wasn’t one of anger. From what I’d just overheard, I assumed there would be steam coming out of his ears, but he looked more confident than he did angry. I noticed that he was wearing a wedding ring. That’s how I deducted he was talking to his ex-wife.
His voice was authoritative, but it wasn’t a threatening angry tone. It was more of a “matter of fact”, “this is non-negotiable”, “Don’t make me do this”, “I don’t want to got there, but I will if I have to” kind of conversation. Let there be no mistake, this was not a conversation I’d be comfortable having with anyone in a hospital waiting room filled with people.
The man’s voice carried a tone of confidence as he said, “What you are doing is hurting the children and it is wrong. I want you to stop this behavior immediately. If you don’t, I will take you back into court. This time I will ask for termination of your parental rights. The court will side with me and you know it. You’re only responsible choice is to stop it immediately. Please know that you’ve been warned.”
As you might suspect, it was a stretch for me to stay out of this man’s business. I share that simply to say, on rare occasions, I can be responsible and appropriate. I opted not to attempt to engage the man in conversation. Perhaps, if he had seemed more vulnerable and fragile, I would have said something. This man didn’t need help. He already knew what he wanted and getting it was non-negotiable.
The conversation reminded me of something a friend said long ago, “If there is anything worse than a wife, it is an ex-wife.” The man whose phone call I overheard probably would agree.
The magic hour eventually came and the Honorary General was summoned for surgery. It went well. I am thankful.
All My Best!