Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Portrait #56: Someone who struck me as completely non-interesting

...who by her very mundaneness caught my attention and became interesting. But first, some background.

Today I had an extremely disconcertingly frustrating experience. It wasn't that big a deal, but the way it all panned out left me an emotional wreck. In summary: I am hoping to do Lasik eye surgery this week (I appreciate any prayers since I am quite nervous). I had my initial appointment on Tuesday and was supposed to go in today for further tests. But they never told me what time the appointment was, just 'sometime in the afternoon.' So this morning I called to ask and was told to come in at 11 a.m.! This didn't give me much time, so I rushed and rearranged my morning so I could make it in for 11:15. Then I was promptly left sitting in the waiting room for an hour and 15 minutes. I was getting very frustrated. I'd already missed an appointment and was beginning to suspect that something was wrong, considering that everyone else in the waiting room had already rotated out twice.

Finally they called my first name, but when I stood up they glanced at me and confirmed my last name. Nope, different person. So I sat down again, but a moment later went to the front desk to figure out what was going on. It took the next half an hour for them to sort out that they'd given me the wrong appointment because my name is not a common name in Arabic but on this particular day they had two 'Kathreens' scheduled. My appointment was in fact in the evening, though they still couldn't tell me exactly what time. By this point I'd been at the centre for nearly two hours and had yet to do anything except be told I might have to come back in the evening. Not that big a deal, in the grand scale of global unrest and the AIDS epidemic, but the things that sting the worst are often the minor m mishaps that so easily could have been avoided but weren't.

So, once they realised something was wrong, they took me into a private room to wait for them to sort it out. I guess they didn't want me to blow up in rage in front of the other customers. They left me sitting in a dark examination room for 10-15 minutes while I heard them whispering amongst themselves in the corridor.

But I wasn't alone in this room. I had the company of a young dark woman with long black hair and a big white labcoat and huge hoop earrings. She sat there quietly while I sniffled away and blew my nose repeatedly.

Finally, when I was feeling composed enough to put together a sentence, I decided conversing with someone about something completely unrelated might distract me from my current conundrum. So I asked her what she does at the clinic.

She told me that she is an optometrist and that today is her very first day working at this centre.

So I asked her what she thought of it so far. She said it's very nice.

I told her that my first impression had been very good, too, but today's experience had dealt a blow to my enthusiasm. Thinking about my dilemma made me weepy again, and she nodded sympathetically. What could she say? She works there, but she's brand new and doesn't have ownership of the place. She said, apologetically, that it sounded like the receptionists were a bit disorganised today. I nodded.

We were silent for another few moments, then I decided to try again. I got out of her that she is from the city, that she's been an optometrist for two years, that her mom encouraged her to pursue this career because 'it's a respectable career for a woman', and that she kind of likes it.

That was all I could get her to share. She seemed a bit lost herself - how miserable it must be to spend one's first day at a new job sitting alone in a darkened examination room! But she didn't really want to talk about it. She just sat there and kept me company.

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