Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Waiting Times

Can there be anything more blood pressure raising than long waits in crowded waiting rooms with a 2 year old (the only 2 year old in a waiting room filled with stuffy old people)?

Yes, there can be!

Long waits in crowded waiting rooms with 2 year olds AND their over-active 5 year old brother.

(Son No. 1 turned 5 on Sunday. Due to 'circumstances beyond my control' i.e. the state of my life, I have some marvelous photographs of him ripping 'Happy Xmas!' wrapping paper off a value bag of pipe cleaners..... Oh well - it's the thought that counts!).

You see, while you may be able to control/distract/keep the attention of 1 small child for a couple of hours, keeping two small boys simultaneously calm/quiet/non-bothersome is bloody impossible. Well maybe it isn't and I'm a huge failure in the Game of Motherhood - but if you have two small boys who WILL sit quietly in a hot crowded room for 2 hours then please don't tell me about. It won't help me.

You see Son No. 1 had a 9.30am appointment at the hospital Audiology department and I knew from (long and bitter) experience it would NOT be a 9.30am appointment but even I was slightly surprised to see a large sign is now affixed to the wall reading:

'It is not unusual for your appointment to be in excess of 2 hours late. This is due to the complicated and technical nature of the work we undertake and some appointments taking far longer than would normally be expected'.

Err no it isn't.

It's because (and I have this on good authority) the department is so chaotic and so busy and so many people turn up on the wrong day or not at all that they actually book 2 patients into many of the slots to cut down the official waiting list. IF everyone actually does turn up on the right day then you're buggered and in the course of the day everything runs later and later.

Anyway - all this is OK because at least they have a play house and some children's toys and books in the corner of the waiting room........

Only they don't! Not anymore.

The kids are howling 'where's the house gone!? Where are the toys?'.

Good question.

I ask the guy on reception who informs me the house and toys have been removed because they could have been a 'source of infection' (as opposed to my kids who are not a potential 'source of irritation').

'What, because of swine flu hysteria then?'.

'Well they decided they could be a source of infection. It's one of those things'.

'What, one of those ridiculous things? One of those things that make no sense? Why not do a proper job of it and just remove all the door handles and the lift buttons and the toilets and your bloody desk we are all putting our hands on? And......OH LOOK! THE BLOODY FLOOR MY KIDS ARE NOW CRAWLING UP AND DOWN ON AT HIGH SPEED BECAUSE THERE ARE NO BLOODY TOYS TO PLAY WITH AND THE AREA I COULD HAVE PUT THEM IN IS NOW HOUSING YET MORE SEATS WITH YET MORE TUTTING PEOPLE ON THEM'.


So the kids entertain themselves with crawling races which is a nightmare because the waiting area is actually also a thoroughfare to several other departments - mainly departments inhabited by very frail elderly people who can only walk with people supporting their arms and have to shuffle very very slowly in a manner which looks a bit like they are about to hit the floor at any possible moment.

The last thing these people need is a supersonic 2 year old shooting out from beneath the benches and ambushing their ankles.

Stern words ensue and the children turn their attention to pot-holing in and out of the chair legs, popping up every few yards and shouting such randomness as 'MEERKAT DOT COM!' or 'SIMPLES!'. I decide the best thing to do is stare straight ahead, focus on the poster about assaulting the staff, and act as if I don't know where the children came from, let alone who they belong to. They are after all now behind me.


Damn. Plan foiled. They've found me and blown my cover.

People start to tut (considering this is an audiology department and at least half of them must be at least partially deaf, they seem pretty intolerant of any noise, other than that of their own tutting).

I call Son No. 1 over and explain he will have to desist from his tunneling and meerkat impressions as some of the people in the room are a bit sensitive and he might scare them. He wants to know if the people might die. I am afraid to answer.

I search in vain for something to distract them. The only reading matter appears to be a leaflet about 'Sex and Your Prostate - everything you need to know'.

Errr, thanks but no thanks. I think I'll stay in the dark about that particular issue. For now at least (and WHAT has that got to do with Audiology anyway? As far as I'm aware, although some men might have sex on the brains, their prostate isn't in actually situated in their ears? Maybe the clinic is actually dual purpose? In the afternoons it morphs into a Sexual Disfunction in the Over 60's jaunt?).

I spot one children's poster on the wall (presumably deemed infection free).

I eagerly take the children over for a closer look.

It reads 'Animals of England - Literacy Information'. There is something, how can I put this, erm......rather foreign about it. I don't know where the creators of this poster got their information from, but I think their source may have actually mistaken 'England' for 'London Zoo' and make also have been indulging in some kind of hallucinogenic substance.

The Animals of England apparently include:

A duck (yes - we have ducks! Well done!)
A beaver (erm, technically yes, but wiped out quite a while back although there have been some forays into beaver reintroduction in parts of Kent)
A wasp (PMSL at that one but correct - we do have wasps)
A hairtail (What!? I have never even heard of a hairtail, what with it not being top of the average Kiddy's Animal list. In the picture it looks like an eel and the description reads 'A hairtail looks like your belt'. No it bloody doesn't. My belt is plaited leather and fushia pink with a gold buckle. The hairtail is neither plaited nor pink nor embellished with gold.)
A Penguin (????) and.....
A monkey (the picture is actually a lemur but hey ho - if you're going to be wrong, you may as well be totally wrong).

The descriptions are even more inventive. Underneath the drawing of a peacock it reads 'The peacock is many colours, of glorious beauty, when erect'. I am intrigued.

The vast majority of the animal descriptions have actually been TIPEXED OUT by someone. Can you imagine? In the over-stretched, under-staffed NHS, whatever they said was SO bad somebody has actually taken the time to cover them up. I am desperate to get out a coin and start hacking the Tipex off but I daren't. I contemplate stealing the poster for later investigation but, considering that 90% of the waiting room are already staring at me and wishing me dead, decide against it.

The mystery of the "Animals of England" will have to remain just that - a mystery (a bit like the content of the 'Sex and Your Prostate' leaflet, although I am sure that one is downloadable from somewhere if you're interested. It may or may not contain the words 'glorious colours when erect'.).

Anyway just as the kids are starting an attack on the trolley used to transport the medical records ('LEAVE IT! It is NOT a push along toy!') we get called in.

Wow! Only 15 or so minutes late! Result!

Only no. The doctor shakes my hand (I am tempted to decline, due to infection control....), asks me to take a seat, looks pained as the toddler grabs all the tissue paper off the bed and makes an assault on the shiny instruments he has laid out so painstakingly and then realises that we've been sent to see him before the hearing test has actually been done so he doesn't actually have any results to talk about..... Oh. 'Don't worry' he says, 'just go and sit back in the waiting room, it shouldn't be more than 10 minutes'.......

50 minutes later we get called in the for the hearing test. I am informed I have to keep the toddler silent throughout and that he must NOT distract his brother but no, I can't leave the room. I am tempted to ask for a roll of Gaffer tape and a sack.

And then it's back out to the waiting room to wait another half an hour to go back in and see the same doctor again.

During this installment of 'Waiting Room Hell' the toddler disappears around a corner only to come back holding aloft a large yellow 'WARNING! WET FLOOR!' sign with 'DO NOT REMOVE FROM PATHOLOGY' written in marker pen across the back of it. Jeezus.

Anything he does which makes his brother laugh (which is basically anything undesirable) he then tries to do 10 times more and 10 times harder so returning the Wet Floor sign to its rightful home doesn't go down well and involves a lot of ear bleeding screaming. As I instruct 'NO! YOU DO NOT TOUCH THAT AGAIN!' and try to remove his vice like grip from the bottom of the sign without dislocating his arm (again) the Waiting Room looks on, no doubt penning silent letters to the Daily Mail in their heads about the state of today's mothers.

At one point the toddler sneezed and one of the other people in the room actually tutted and said 'charming!' in a snide voice. Sorry but what!? He is TWO. What do you expect him to do? Fetch a tissue and say 'bless you'?. Argh.

In the end I manage to find a small window and engage the children in (trying) to become excited about looking at the balconies of the flats opposite and a small patch of grass.

'Oh LOOK children! Can you see that SHADOW!'. 'And over there I can see a........wait for it........RECYCLING BIN!'. I'm saved by the arrival of a car which has some kind of engine trouble. The driver gets out and starts fiddling under the bonnet whilst smoking a cigarette. This leads to a long and diverting conversation about what would happen if a spark from the cigarette fell into the engine and a long debate about the extent of the explosion and destruction that would follow. 'No darling I don't think the whole hospital would fall down - maybe just that wall at the end'.

Finally the doctor calls us back in.

He takes one look at me, another look at my children and says, smiling through gritted teeth:

'Do you know what? I think we'll discharge you'.



  1. Following this post curiosity got the better of my and I was compelled to research the mysterious 'Hairtale' from the poster in the hospital.

    It transpires the Hairtale is actually a HairTAIL and is a kind of long eel-like fish found in tropical seas..... So not an Animal of English Literacy at all. Simples.

  2. Thanks for the laugh - I'm intrigued by the "glorious colours when erect" - my mind is boggling as I type.
    Sue xx

  3. You would have thought for ALL concerned that they would have gotten you right in and out with two small children in tow.

  4. God. You have my life. Right down to Audiology Department Hell.

    You totally needed to take a picture of the poster though. What would it take to make you go back?

  5. Sometimes I realise I should be thankful for working with oldies and having a daughter and grandchildren who all live far, far away!

  6. OMG Vicky. You have just given me the biggest belly laugh of my life. From experience I can just imagine what you were going through. I think you should write a column! A x