Round 2 of MRIs tonight, this time with my older son. Keeping myself occupied by taking advantage of the free wi-fi — and keeping myself feeling seasonal by rummaging through my existing Christmasy photos.
This is so weird. We’re in a world-class cancer center and not a single hall is decked. There are a few pots of poinsettias here and there, but that’s it. No lights, no trees, no bells, no garland, nothing. Somehow it makes this already-sterile place seem even more cold, harsh, and unwelcoming than usual. But I refuse to feel joyless. Even in a place like this.
Adding to the indifference…smart phones. You know what I’ve realized while looking around this waiting area? Texting and social media keeps us connected to and aware of everyone except for the people in the room with us. And it’s eroded our manners. A snapshot of the waiting area right now? The air is polluted with noise from a woman holding a conversation with her phone on speaker, a constant barrage of text tones set on the highest volume coming from another person’s phone (a bird whistle), a guy watching videos on his phone without earbuds, and a couple of kids playing video games on tablets. The noise is like a swarm of technological bees. I understand all too well the need to keep occupied in a place like this. But I refuse to disconnect myself from the people around me and distract myself at their expense.
Wow. So here’s an interesting development.
A few minutes ago, I got up and learned how to use the keurig-type machine to make some tea. I smiled at an older woman as I passed and asked how she was doing. She slumped her shoulders and wearily said she was tired of waiting. A few minutes later, she got up and moved closer to me. Finally, her husband came out, finished with his tests. She was irritated that his scans took an hour and asked if I’d ever heard of such a thing. I smiled and gently told her it would probably take my son closer to four hours. Startled and eyes wide, she asked for my name. And then she asked for my son’s name. “I’ll pray for you and your son,” she said. I asked her husband’s name. Art. So I’ll be praying for Art. Feel free to join me.
Now another family – a husband and daughter – are telling me about their wife/mother. I’ve learned about the wife’s disease (Crohn’s) and how she’s doing (she’s had the disease since she was 19; she’s tired most of the time). They’ve been here since 11 this morning and they live three hours away. Chances are they’re not going to get out of here until the middle of the night. And there are other stories that they’ve shared with me (he was a correctional officer for 15 years, he can’t have an MRI because he has a BB in his head and the magnets would kill him). It’s the first time I’ve seen either of them smile since they got here. I think they just needed to share their stories and be heard.
But I honestly believe this is how it should sound here. No text tones, video, or phones ringing. People should be connecting with each other in the same room. I think that’s the way we’re supposed to be. We’re supposed to be present for each other. Especially in a place like this, where everyone is connected by illness.