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So I had this appointment.

It was a doctor’s appointment at a largish clinic-y thing at which there were lots of things: lots of doctors, lots of nurses, lots of patients patiently waiting, lots of chairs in the waiting room, lots of offices, lots of little examination rooms full of machines that go ping and specially chilled examination tables covered with lots of paper (chilling paper isn’t really feasible, so they make it extra-crinkly instead).

Like I said, lots of things.

One of the first things I noticed was that there were not lots of receptionists. There were two, less than I would have thought given the size of the clinic.

Now, the normal protocol for such things is that one Announces Ones Presence by presenting oneself to a receptionist. You say you have an appointment, she asks with whom, you give her the doctor’s name, she asks for your provincial health card, you hand it over, she frowns at it then consults her appointment book/screen and tells you to have a seat. She might give you a wildly optimistic estimate of the expected waiting time (Canadians love their health care but will bitterly complain about waiting times at the drop of a hat) but will usually just say that you’ll be summoned ‘shortly.’

The first thing I wondered was how this little routine would work given there were fewer than the expected number of receptionists. But on the way to the receptionist I discovered… A computer.

Two of them, actually.

Which sort of explained the mysterious dearth of receptionists — apparently I was expected to ‘check in’, not by presenting myself to a harried-looking lady but to an XP machine running an application. While I could hope for something a little more reliable (something macguyvered from stone knives and bearskins, perhaps), checking someone in isn’t particularly taxing so maybe it would work (although it wouldn’t be the same without the bored-sounding and insanely exaggerated estimate of waiting time).

Of course I was wrong.

I went to the first machine and tried to interact with it. (There was a touchscreen.) Nothing. I kept poking. I touched it and swiped it and palpated it until I could feel the gaze of everyone in the waiting room burning holes into my back — not only could I not check in, I couldn’t even make the pointer move. I decided that the computer or application or something had crashed and moved to the other computer. It only took me two tries but I managed to check in. Feeling a small sense of accomplishment, I went and sat down in the waiting room, carefully leaving an empty seat between me and a little old lady so she wouldn’t be stressed by a funny-looking computer-illiterate maladroit sitting next to her.

A minute or two passed. (I barely had time to wonder how, without a patently ridiculous waiting time estimate, I was supposed to decide when to look impatient and irritable, roll my eyes and emit loud sighs of frustration.) In walked a woman; she looked around and chose the seat next to the seat next to me. (Clearly she reads the same texts on waiting-room etiquette that I do.) I remember very little about her except that she was wearing orange shoes. Very orange shoes. (My morning paper currently Approves of orange accessories; they say that orange ‘commands attention and pairs well with demure beige, bright yellows and vibrant blues.’)

Oh. I sometimes wear orange sandals and I had no idea. (The manufacturer probably doesn’t call it orange, but then they say that green is ‘grove’ so what the hell do they know?)

Anyway, she only sat briefly, then got up and walked over to check in. She approached the one that I had decided had crashed. I thought about telling her that it was dysfunctional, but decided (I fully embrace schadenfreude in such situations.) to watch and enjoy.

Of course, it worked perfectly for her. First time, so she finished rather more quickly than I did, then sat back down, oblivious to the fact that she had just demonstrated the depth of my ineptitude to a room full of people.

It must have been the shoes, I decided.


Hers were louder.

The Author

Rose Glace is the pseudonym of nobody important.


  1. I just learned what schadenfreude means two days ago! I love that you used it. And now I feel inspired to go out and buy some bright orange shoes . . . hmm.

    It was a very engaging post, wonderfully written. I didn’t know that reading about a waiting room could be so thrilling. Thanks for the great read!


    • of course, i left out the part where they Summoned me to the desk and told me that they had no record of my appointment……


  2. I was thinking of asking how long you had to wait, and if the computer failed you or not. Hmmm… Just another lovely day spent in a waiting room. I bet if you were wearing orange shoes your appointment would have magically appeared.


    • i was wearing orange sandals; they clearly failed me so sandals must be inferior to shoes on some unknown scale.


  3. I’ve had a similar experience with those touch-screen checking in computers. Only when I did it, I didn’t spot that it came with an error message. So I sat down, and was thoroughly embarassed when the person sitting next to me pointed out that it hadn’t worked and that I needed to check-in again. As it was such a small room, everyone heard and just stared at me.

    Maybe I should wear orange shoes too?? :) Good job on the entertaining post…


  4. I have been there. At 67 you learn what kind of mags are in the waiting room and watching the other people around you and figuring out what is there problem. Usually it is older people. And there problems tend to be rigid and serious. No one is there to be friendly to the doctors. Let us go out and have a beer together. But that is life and so be it.


  5. Funny stuff! I may just pen my next post about your mention of the lesson on waiting-room etiquette as it is transferrable to the restroom. The public restroom in the building where I work is more than adequate in size (it’s roomy) and number of stalls; roughly 10 to a side, and 2 sides. That is a lot of choices! Why then, oh why – when I am the only one occupying any of the stalls do some people pick the stall right smack dab next to me. I’ll keep reading! Thanks.


  6. I have orange shoes. Neon orange. 4-inch (ok 6) platform heels. Adorable. I have yet to wear them. But now I know what to wear with them. And where to wear them.


  7. I got here randomly through Freshly Pressed, but this post really made me smile and I absolutely love it! Looking forward to reading more from you, thanks for the smile today!


  8. “It must have been the shoes!” Lol! I can so relate to that, I almost always shamelessly resort to asking for help! I don’t know what “schadenfreude” means, but I’ll know in a minute! Your post made me smile… Thank you.


  9. I live in the States, but, being on permanent disability, I do understand a bit about queuing up, wait times, and such. I haven’t run into computerized sign in much, only once unattended, and despite being called a “computer wizard”– I don’t judge. Honest. I know my own limits.

    My shoes wouldn’t give away my computer expertise, I don’t think. Maybe my penchant for clothes with many pockets would. Or if I finally got a T-shirt from the xkcd store (“Linux cheat shirt” might be one) and wore it in public, maybe that would.


      • I haven’t used either editor, but I am aware of the intense debate on which is better, and the reference is not obscure to me. (I don’t have a good mindset for coding/scripting programming, and I’m happy just for a GUI editor with good syntax highlighting.)

        But now that I know you understand such an obscure reference– it does put your post in a very interesting and humorously new light!


      • the jargon file’s entry for emacs covers all the main points: ; the ‘main’ objections to emacs (it’s huge, it’s not installed by default on most un*x machines, etc) have largely been rendered irrelevant by the passage of time. they both have their place but i think for editing anything beyond conf files, emacs is the better tool. every single post on this blog was edited at one stage or another in emacs.


      • oh wow. The jargon file as a whole has my linguistics/etymology geekish obsessions overflowing; that’s my real niche. For now, I concede you geek cred as I haven’t thought to go lower-level to emacs to edit my blog posts, nor am I sure I’m ready and able.

        I use the MATE desktop. I tried to find a good blogging client that integrated well with GNOME, but I ran a lot into abandoned projects. GScript was the last I looked at, but the dev basically said “I’m too busy to fix it now, go learn Python, and I’ll happily turn it over to you.” While Python is a beautiful high-level programming language, I’ve never had the mindset for coding/programming/scripting after 20 years off/on of trying.

        Apologies for my long comments. TechsWrite is my tech blog (not my main one though) and I will gladly continue some tech talk there if you wish.


  10. You created a beautiful story from the small incident. Very few people have the ability to create hilarious stories in hospital but you definitely achieved this feat. Congratulations!!!! Looking forward to more such works.


  11. You are right…it was the orange shoes.. Invest in a pair before your next appointment..and I might get a pair like that, too. The waiting times in waiting rooms are absurdly long !! So, if there is some magic potion…I’m in. :/


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