Patiently Waiting

I’m sure you’ve seen those commercials for mattress stores, claiming that since we spend at least one quarter of our lives sleeping, we should make sure we are doing it on a proper mattress. There are lots of different mattresses to choose from, everything from foam memory, pillow top, and even a mattress that raises and lowers at the touch of a remote, just to make sure we get a good night’s sleep.  I’m not arguing the need for a decent mattress, but I am wondering why the same reasoning doesn’t apply to other areas of our lives.  And maybe it’s because I’ve just returned from a doctor’s appointment, but what I’d really like to know is, why can’t someone put a little bit of time and effort into designing a decent waiting room?

I have no idea exactly what percentage of our lives are spent in waiting rooms, but at the age of 58, I’m quite sure I’ve spent several hundred hours in them.  And I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy a single minute.

Waiting rooms are depressingly similar.  They’re usually painted some bland color, packed with uncomfortable chairs and finished off with a dark carpet in a pattern that was obviously selected to hide stains.  There may be a television attached to the wall, but if there is, it’s inevitably tuned to a 24-hour news channel and the sound is either muted or so loud you can’t hear when your name is finally called.   Stacks of magazines are often available, but they are usually either trade magazines or at least six months old, or both.  And if you’re in a doctor’s office, you definitely don’t want to know how many sick people have already touched that year-old issue of People you’re skimming through with their germ-ridden hands.  If you aren’t sick already, you soon will be.

Luckily, we live in an age where most people can pass the time in the waiting room by reading from their personal electronic device, or a cell phone.  But that has it’s downside too, because having a cell phone so handy means that the people who share your waiting room can, and will, talk on them.  Loudly and about nothing even remotely interesting.  I’ve always believed that if you’re going to force other people to listen to your personal phone conversations, at least make it worth their while.  Say, perhaps, by reciting your credit card number, including the expiration date and security code.

Whether you’re waiting for routine medical exam, to have your teeth filled at the dentist or even just the oil changed in your car, no one really wants to be in that waiting room.  Sitting elbow to elbow with complete strangers, some of whom have better personal hygiene habits that others, is no picnic, no matter how you look at it.  But I believe it doesn’t really have to be that way.

Just think what a difference it would make if waiting rooms were designed to be places that people actually enjoyed.  Why not have cheerful decor and big, comfy chairs, with plenty of space between them.   Maybe they’d even recline, for those who needed a nap. And each chair would have it’s own screen, and everyone would get their own set of earplugs, so they could watch what they wanted without disturbing others. Cell phones would be collected upon arrival, and returned when the appointment was over. In the corner, there would be a concession stand with drinks and light snacks.

I don’t know about you, but I’d happily trot off to my next appointment if I knew I’d have such a nice room to wait in.  I might even show up an hour early, and I certainly wouldn’t complain if the doctor was running a bit behind.  I know this sounds a bit far-fetched, but hey, look how far we have come with mattresses.  If a mattress can evolve from a husk-filled pallet to the individually adjustable, super-comfortable beds we have now, surely we can design a waiting room worth spending time in.  I’m just saying….

69 thoughts on “Patiently Waiting

  1. I haven’t yet made it to the “proper” mattress scenario you mentioned. LOL. Another waiting room pet peeve….the person who moves from across the room to sit next to you and then talk about her ungrateful kids, her anemic dog, her demented husband, her gall bladder, her defrocked pastor, blah, blah, blah. When your name is finally called, your BP is sky high, you’re perspiring, and you’re hyperventilating.

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  2. They should put those comfy mattresses in the waiting rooms. But, seriously, I purposefully do not take my cellphone to the doctor or dentist office. I find I’m too disconnected when I have my electronic devices with me. Frankly it’s one of the few times I have to unwind 🤐

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  3. I’m with you on the design and comfort of a waiting room. But I have a bigger issue with the fact that one has to wait so long more often than not. I understand that doctors get behind but that’s usually (in my admittedly cynical opinion) because they cram way too many appointments into their day in an effort to generate more revenue. Several years ago I had a primary care physician that I really liked a lot. The problem was that he was consistently an hour or more behind. I even had a first appointment of the day and he was still an hour late. On another occasion after waiting over an hour I got up and told the receptionist that I was leaving because I had been there so long. She asked me to sit down for just a minute and then she called me into a room where the doctor came in within a minute or two. He seemed peeved and I told him 1) I was making him a better doctor by bringing awareness that patients get frustrated with the long wait times, and 2) he needed to be more respectful of my time.

    Having said all that (thanks for the therapy session) the design and comfort of the waiting room should go up commensurate with the length of the wait. I really believe that if I make an appointment for 10:00 am that I should be in a room by 10:05 at the latest and with the doctor by 10:10. How is my time less valuable than a doctor’s. If someone takes time off of work to go to the doctor they are either losing pay or using their vacation time. A discount should be offered for every 5 minutes you have to wait – that would fix the problem.

    Sorry for the rant. I was going to just delete this and not post it to your blog but hopefully you “know” me well enough by now to know I’m not a crazy. Just someone who agrees that waiting rooms should be more comfortable but mostly unnecessary. 🙂

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    • Oh, please don’t apologize! I completely agree! The worst part of the waiting room is just that: the waiting. Especially when there is really no need for it. Doctor’s offices (and some ERs) are the worst. And while the ERs have an excuse, in that they have no idea how much volume they are going to be doing at any given time, doctors schedule their appointments and there is rarely an excuse for making patients wait so long. I switched doctors once for exactly that reason. Believe me, I understand where you are coming from. And even if I didn’t, you are always welcome to leave your honest opinion in my comment section. That’s what it’s there for!!!

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  4. Ann, I was recently thinking the same thing myself while waiting at the eye doctor for my son’s exam. It’s like they teach interior designers in design school to be bland. Some hotels are like that, too. I’ve often thought I could do a much better job at decorating these spaces. I wonder why they do that, if there’s some philosophy behind the blandness, other than to hide the dirt. Like maybe if a waiting room has too much color and personality, people don’t like it or trust the doctor. Who knows?

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    • It is strange, isn’t it? And I swear they pick the most uncomfortable chairs, and really, how expensive is it to subscribe to a few decent magazines? I had three appointments today, back to back, and make it a point to bring a new book along just so I wouldn’t go crazy! You’d think they would know people are already unhappy to have to wait so long, at least they would want somewhere halfway cheerful and comfortable for people to wait in. Thanks for the comment, Kim!

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  5. Lol…I like the way you think, Ann but that’s not surprising. I believe you have some great ideas here and should begin to implement them or at the very least, start and consumer revolution….:)
    The sparseness of some of these places is agonizing. I especially hate the fact that there’s no ventilation I in medical waiting rooms. Germs are everywhere and, as medical professionals, you take no action to prevent them from spreading?
    But it’s really about money, isn’t it. They all know we have to come to a waiting room, whether it’s a doctor or a mechanic so why invest their money when it doesn’t benefit them in any way. Certainly not for our comfort or enjoyment.
    Maybe we should all bring in our own blowup recliners and small screen tv’s to pass the time.
    Until then..:)

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  6. Your timing is perfect. I was just telling my husband, that last week alone, I think I visited every form of waiting room in our little Valley. What with my middle daughter starting her braces phase, my youngest having allergies, taking my husband to the ER after he got into a sledding accident and my elderly Aunt who has several appointments a month for various things? I have seen my fair share of waiting rooms. You are right. Bland. I often find myself looking at the decor in the various rooms, and exam rooms and wonder if the people who work there see the molding that has come lose, or dirt splotch on the wall above the filthy toys that keep kids entertained. I wonder, if people are just sitting and waiting, how on Earth could a room look so filthy? But, out off all of the Specialists, Dentists, Orthodontists, Dermotologists and other i”ists” I have forotten, I must say, the nicest rooms of all, or those who “bill your insurance”, but expect payment up front.

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    • I’ve always been astounded by the toys for kids that are obviously never cleaned too. Especially when they are in a pediatrician’s waiting room! But I guess money is king, and if we have to pay up front, then they do at least upgrade the waiting room a little bit. So sorry to hear about your husband, and I hope is recovering well!

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  7. Here in the UK it’s much the same – horrible waiting rooms, germy magazines, etc. The one I go to is worse in that they have a touchscreen you’re supposed to use to announce you’ve arrived. A touchscreen in a doctor’s waiting room for heaven’s sake! I use the back of a finger and hope I can wash my hands soon! What is different here is that phones and other electronic devices aren’t allowed on the premises in case they interfere with medical equipment. So people usually just stare, morosely, into space.

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    • I think a touchscreen in a doctor’s office is a terrible idea! They’re bad enough in the grocery store’s self-check out lane. Here in the US, we can have electronic devices in waiting rooms, but we’re not supposed to use them in hospitals, for the reasons you stated. At least there’s no loud cell phone conversations to listen to, but the phones do give people something to look at while they wait. Personally, I always try to bring a book to read. I’m never too happy if I can find something to read!

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      • I can never concentrate on reading when I’m waiting. I do tend to take a book but my attention just wanders. If it’s quiet and anyone near me looks receptive, I might say a few words, to be friendly – but we Brits tend to be a bit shy of each other!

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  8. A great post Ann.

    I waited in a waiting room once
    waited and waited.
    And let me tell you,
    those places are overrated.
    Looking at the wallpaper
    I waited a little bit more,
    fell fast asleep
    and woke up on the floor.

    Never went back.
    They wouldn’t let me.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. They would have to have a better system of calling you in when it was your turn – I’m always too scared to concentrate too hard on anything in case I miss my name! My doctor has a habit of shouting just outside the door and her voice gets lost in the general hubbub. If I’ve been reading, I also have to deal with book, bookmark, change my glasses, gather up coat, umbrella and whatever else – oh the stress!

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    • Oh, I know what you mean! When they do call my name, I’m fumbling to put my reading glasses back in their case, gather my pursue, book and coat, and it takes a little while. Meanwhile, the doctor’s assistant is looking faintly annoyed at the delay. Because it means waiting for about thirty seconds. As opposed to the hour and thirty minutes I’ve been waiting. Do I sound bitter or what? LOL!

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  10. Actually Ann, both waiting rooms of my GP’s surgery and dental surgery are quite pleasant; the one and only objection I have is to the ubiquitous amateur artworks hanging there with their garish, hyper-real acrylic tones – truly ghastly! Still, this is England, and healthcare is free, so one can hardly expect Braque or Titian.

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  11. You are definitely onto something here. Besides being surrounded by sick people like me), my pet peeve is that the 24 hour news channel is often one I can’t stand. So then I can add frustrated and annoyed to my list of complaints.

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  12. You made me laugh! Actually, I look forward to reading trashy magazines while I wait, since that is the only chance I get. My children’s Orthodontist had the waiting room you envision and the kids looked forward to going there. It had video games, comfy chairs and TV. It was pricey to make up for it, though.

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    • Trashy magazines would be good! Unfortunately, the waiting rooms I’ve been in have health-care magazine, or just pamphlets for selling cars. Very boring! I’m glad your children’s orthodontist had good waiting rooms, but you’re right: I think we do pay for it. Thanks for the comment!

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  13. I thoroughly enjoyed this write-up. 😀
    How you related mattress to waiting room. Amazing. 😀
    Every change that you put forward was fun; each chair having its own screen..umm..it probably would take a lot time to get implemented. But nonetheless we can always hope that maybe some day. 😉

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  14. I recall a poem I read years ago about waiting. It may have been about women and waiting…how we wait for so much. It was a very telling poem. I feel like my whole life is spent waiting…for so many things that never seem to come…and then it is simply over. Sort of pathetically sad.

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  15. I actually wait in an area that is shared with a local coffee shop…doctor’s office is in a shopping mall. Anyway, other places, have at least little play area and games for children.

    I will be 58 this yr. but I have this gut feeling you and I have taken some different paths in life.

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