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Earl of the Waiting Room

My favorite part of undergoing any medical procedure is the waiting room. That's because waiting rooms are prime people-watching real estate. I love fabricating back-stories of the more colorful characters to pass the time.

This morning's waiting room was at a cash-only clinic because our snooty hospital charges $3,000 for this procedure. This place? Just $300. (When you're on the hook for 50% of all fees, it's a no-brainer.)

The waiting room here is lively: If it were a smorgasbord, I would describe it as chock- full of cocktail weenies, Velveeta and day-old potato salad. Polyester and orthopedic shoes shone like telltale jewels throughout the room - I felt transported to Vegas. Might've even killed for Sinatra's "Luck Be a Lady" to warble through the tinny waiting room speakers.

Lucky for me and The Varmint, however, the confined space optimizes the viewing range of the strange-and-estranged inhabitants - while still affording us commiseration space. After catching an unpleasant smoky whiff of the two-pack-a-day, curly-chested, nicotene gum-smacking porn star sitting next to me, I chose to change seats and sit directly across from the hippest dude in the room.

His name was Earl (we overheard the nurse). Earl was 60-something, a 1970s-throwback sporting a three-piece, light blue polyester pantsuit, red silk holiday tie and tassel-loafer slip-ons. He was one handsome devil. His skin was like charcoal, polished smooth. He outdressed every poor sucker in that room. Earl simply recognized your fashion inferiority - and pitied your sorry ass.

While I knew there'd be no way for me to snap him with my Nikon, I wished I could: My plan was to pretend to read my book and at least give him a thorough once-over, but he kept staring at my book - The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying - so I had to play it cool. He'd stare at the book. Then stare at me. Back and forth. He was anxious. His tassels made soft little whipping sounds as his foot shook madly.

At some point, I realized he was deciding whether or not whatever I had was contagious. Judging from my read (perhaps not the wisest choice when at a hospital) he probably thought I was one step from the grave. He was visibly relieved when the nurse called my name.

Earl did a good job distracting me from my procedure. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. It was a snap, taking maybe 20 minutes. Perhaps two of those were a wee bit uncomfortable - cramping as the cold fluid entered my cervix. All in all, it was a five-Gummie Bear event. (They were out of Sour Apple Jolly Ranchers.) My Xanax-fueled mellow demeanor deeply pleased The Doc and his girl Friday: We chatted about writing and sailing, and by mutual agreement ignored what was happening beneath the sheeted puptent of my knees.WaitingRoom.jpg

The good news, ladies and germs? Tam's Girlie Bits are clean as a whistle. No blockages, abnormalities, twists, deformities, clumps, lumps or bumps. Which means Igor and Quasimodo, The Ovary Twins, are the only reproductive organs currently riding the short bus. Huzzah!

I return to the waiting room and The Varmint exclaims, "Already? You ok?" I nod and look for Earl but he's nowhere to be seen. The Varmint knows exactly what I'm doing. He says,"He left. Wish I could've drawn a picture of that dude." I sigh and nod.

I just want to go home and snuggle into bed; instead we motor to another facility back in La Jolla. There, we wait an hour and a half in an empty, unbelievably dull waiting room for a two-minute sonogram. It was here that the juxtaposition struck me: There is no life here. It's been sterilized. There are no people, no characters, no conversation - no color in the room at all. No one was costumed in anything remotely zazzy. Everyone was devoid of color, greywashed in wealth, robotic grooming and polite whispers.

I pull out my book and my camera and start fiddling. "Man," I think to myself. "Where's Earl when you need him?"

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I am a writer and lazy artist who loves travel, architecture and design. Right now, I'm into photography. My fabulous husband (a.k.a. The Varmint) and I are also the principals of a San Diego-based creative agency - and new parents to the divine Baby Mak. Read More >