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.