top of page

The waiting game

Sometimes time is out of your control

A photo of soothing plum blossoms. Because no-one wants to see me in my underwear.

A realisation shuddered through my vulnerable self as I waited in my underwear for a guy I’d never met: dealing with medical specialists is much like the publishing industry.

Go with me here. I had a lot of time to think this through.

1. It takes time (or The slush pile is like a waiting room)

You arrive for your appointment, then wait 45 minutes in a room so packed people are hanging out in the toilet just to get a seat. One woman is reading, several are finding the Whatsit Gadget being flogged on the television mysteriously appealing. You have no idea who’s there to see which doctor, or how long any of you have to wait.

People start complaining – they have cars to move, other things to do, they’ve been there for hours. They are angry, vocal and intent on ensuring everyone in the building knows it. But you know what? That changes nothing. The doctors won’t work any faster, the staff won’t bump you up the queue. In fact, aggressive behaviour will not endear you to the staff in any way. The process will take as long as it takes. You will be seen when you are seen.

2. Come on through (or I know you know I’m here)

Your name is called and you leave the waiting room, trying not to act smug or apologetic. It’s Your Time. A nurse ushers you to an exam room, gives you instructions and tells you the doctor will be in shortly.

You strip off and sit on the exam table. And wait. You’re exposed, laid (almost) bare, and you know what’s coming. You know the doctor is on his way, that he will see you soon. You’re in the spotlight, on display. What will the doc think? Is the problem worse than you thought? Can it be fixed? Again, time is immaterial – your fate and the likelihood of grabbing a quiet coffee that seemed a sure thing at the start of the day is at the whim of a doc’s schedule. All you can do is wrap the waffle blanket that’s folded on the end of the bed around your shoulders and hope he arrives before the elastic on your undies gives way.

3. The arrival (or Contact at last)

The doc whips back the curtain and shakes your hand. Welcomes you. You’ve made it! An actual person who can help! This is where the process can diverge. It might be an initial meeting where you can sound each other out. The doc might order more tests and arrange for you to come back.

He might ask you questions and work with the answers, suggest major surgery, or give you the all-clear; the go-ahead.

Or (in this case) the doc might ignore your symptoms, get your name wrong, prescribe medication that’s not worked in the past. He might be a condescending mansplainer who makes you feel idiotic and derides the decisions of the younger doctor he’d replaced. You might see the nurse in the room shift her weight every time he asks you a question then cuts you off three words into your answer with the ‘right’ response.

As a patient, you have three choices: fight back, suck it up and take the advice, or find someone else.

Would you fight back or find someone else if it meant losing a specialist who’s considered the best in the business? Would you suck it up and make the changes if every cell in your brain and heart is telling you this isn’t the right course of action for you? Would you look around for someone else?

After months of waiting to get a foot in the door, would you reset the clock to find someone else who ‘gets’ you?

Go to any writers’ festival and you’ll hear at least one story of a tough love editor; another of a complete rewrite on the advice of a publisher who ultimately declined, with the manuscript then published in its original form elsewhere; another of the editor and author clicking like they’d known each other for years.

As a writer, who you decide to work with is an individual choice, and it’s a personal one.

On the plus side, it won’t cost you $200 every time you see your editor. And you don’t have to strip down to your underwear.

bottom of page