Last week, I went to visit a friend in the hospital. While I waited for her to be moved to her room, I sat in a room with a large family. They had obviously been there for a while, and the concern over their relative was beginning to show in different ways: One man leaned back in the recliner and slept and snored. Another woman kept coming in and out, obviously going to smoke a cigarette to calm her nerves. And then there was the woman in the opposite corner from me who kept up a dramatic monologue that listed all the people who were mean to her and how she was never mean to anyone, in fact, how she “killed people with kindness.”
When I am anxious, which I was, I crave quiet and solitude. So my first impulse was to run away, but that was not an option. The nurse was coming to this room to get me when my friend could be visited. My second impulse was to distract myself by reading and responding to emails and perhaps checking up on online gossip. But unfortunately, her tales of woe overcame my ability to concentrate on celebrity tales of woe. I couldn’t concentrate on the book I had with me. Finally, my thoughts became terribly uncharitable, and I hate to admit I was tempted to go over and say something like, “When you finally are allowed to visit your relative, please stop talking about this stuff, or she’ll go right back into her coma in self defense.”
Luckily, my introverted nature prevented that last from taking place, although I did fantasize about it quite often during that hour we shared space in the waiting room. But I reminded myself that there is no one way to express anxiety, and she might actually have been performing a service for her family by entertaining them with her stories (and perhaps allowing them to silently judge her) instead of dwelling what was happening in another room in another part of the hospital. In any case, my sad-sack face certainly wasn’t making anyone feel better.
Still, in my perfect world, any place that had a waiting room, whether it be a hospital or a car repair place, would have one quiet space for the introverts.