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Visiting the Doctor

I used to hate going to see the doctor when I was a kid. There were two doctors; they were a married Irish couple and their surgery was a big red brick house, which they lived in. The entrance led into a dingy corridor with a door at the end of it that had a small hatch just big enough for the receptionist’s whole face to be visible. Off to the right was a small waiting room with a dozen or so bright red chairs placed around the wall, in a square.

Above the waiting room door were two red lights, one for each doctor. A button on each of the doctors' desks would activate their individual light and also sound a very loud buzzer, thus summoning in the next patient. You would have to try to memorise all the people who were there before you in order to know when it was your turn. They did upgrade to a system based on numbered lollipop sticks but it was no better as you had no idea what number anyone else had. The waiting room would be completely silent except for an occasional muffled cough from someone desperately trying to suppress it. If people absolutely had to communicate they would do it in a whisper, one decibel higher than miming. I don’t know what it was about waiting rooms in those days that made people terrified of making noise.

Both doctors smoked like chimneys and there was always a smouldering fag in an overflowing ashtray on the desk when you finally got into the consulting room. No matter what ailment you went in with, its diagnosis always required a stethoscope being placed on your chest and back, followed by a brief jotting down of notes. The remedy always seemed to be a bottle of thick, pink, syrupy medicine, which, although very sweet, left a very bitter taste in the mouth.

Going to the doctors is a much more pleasant experience these days, with bright, airy waiting rooms and patients happily chatting away to one another while waiting for their names to be called out. You do have to make an appointment to see a doctor now though, rather than just turn up as and when you feel ill; contrary to what one would expect, that practice only seems to considerably increase the waiting time. I suppose that’s the price of progress; having people just turning up unexpectedly is a very old fashioned way of doing things and, after all, it’s no more than common courtesy to let them know two weeks in advance of when you intend to be sick.
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