Cardiac Waiting Room or Carol Burnett Show

By: Peggy Willms

(4 min. read)

As I approached the waiting room in the cardiac wing of the hospital, I was greeted by a cut-through-the-air voice spewing out of a silvered-haired beauty. This 75ish-year-old whipper snapper sported a cross between a bouffant Dorothy Hammill and a pixie cut. Her side-kick was about 19. He likely just left his college dorm after a long night of Fortnite with his buddies. I later learned she was a widow who loved people and volunteered to stay connected to the world, while the other volunteer was earning a 1/2 credit in social behavior. Either way, I was in for a helluva ride.

I planted my butt in a high-back chair in the corner just a tad to the left of a pillar, allowing me a bird’s eye view of the front desk goings on, yet a shield if I had to lean back and pretend I wasn’t staring at this unlikely Laurel and Hardy. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to witness an hour-long comedy act where, at times, I wanted to crawl under the table, at other times, I wanted to stand and cheer, or I looked for a magazine to hide my cackles.

Ms. Ella takes a deep breath and proceeds with the next “set.” She speaks in five-minute spurts, and this poor boy has nowhere to go. It is like he is stuck in the passenger seat of a Dodge Demon headed west—he has no idea of the destination or how long it will take but is smart enough to hang on for the ride! Ms. Ella can put Eminem’s 8-mile rap flow to shame. Not only did Ms. Ella talk fast, she took no breaths, and “squirreled” like I have never seen before.

“I tell you what, the last time I was at the library, it was like Armageddon had hit. Well, I guess more like a ghost town. Have you ever been to a ghost town? Ya, me, either. Well, after I went to the library, I had to stop by the HOA office because, for some reason, they didn’t get my dues, and I later found out that the PO Box, well actually the community box as they call it today hadn’t been picked up or something like that… ‘Hi, Sir, can I help you? Absolutely, it is down the hall to the left, then take a right just after the restrooms. Do you want me to take you? Well, I guess it isn’t that far. You got this.’ Anyway, Matty. Can I call you Matty? Do you like apple pan dowdy? Well, some people call it apple crisp. I love it. Damn, I should have brought you some, but I didn’t know you were going to be here. Next time, Matty. Hey, do you call those things sneakers or tennis shoes? (she slaps his shoes) I wore saddle shoes back in the day. Wonder why they called them saddle shoes? Uh…well, I will have to look that up. Oh, you, youngins, have it made today when you want to find out something—the Internet. We had Chunky Chuck. He was the old man who always sat outside the Barber Shop. He was there every day, and he seemed to know everything.” (She grabs a sip of her water.)

“Matty” sat slumped in his chair, staring straight ahead. He hadn’t moved a muscle, and I could almost hear his brain cranking. I think he was stuck on two things that Ms. Ella said: Is HOA one of those new K-pop bands, and what is a dowdy?

“I have hope, Matty. Some people think that the world has just gone to shit (I spit out my water), but I see things on the rise. I think we might be on the upsy-daisy in no time. Kids today, well, I guess that is you (she smacks the poor boy on his arm), are getting nicer, helping more, well at least they are being nice to me. Whoa, did you see that pretty blue bird? I love birds. They are so free and joyous. I mean, how do you have a bad day if you are a bird? I had a lot of bad days when I was married to Joe. Poor ole Joe, I wonder where that miserable bastard is these days (I spit again). Oh well, his loss. Ya know, I think being positive is a choice. You wake up every day and can choose to ‘turn that frown upside down.’ That’s a Phyllis Diller quote. Oh, boy, son, you should listen to some of her stuff. That woman was a legend. But ya know, you can either be happy you are still alive or be a crab… Do you like crab?”

To my surprise, Matty was slumped in his office chair and now facing Ms. Ella. He seemed pleasantly entertained by his fellow purple-vested pal.

“Matty, when I was about your age, well hell, I don’t know if I was your age or not, I can’t remember that damn far back, but I remember in my 20s or something, we used to play a lot of board games. Have you heard of Concentration? I loved that game. I still play it with a deck of cards. I cannot wait to see Ellen. I think she loved board games. Ellen is my dear friend from bible study. Well, it’s 1:59, Matty. Mission accomplished. I did my time as they say (big belly roll). Shake a leg, Matty. Are you here tomorrow? I might bring ya one of my favorite books. I bet you like to read, going to college and all. Well, if you aren’t here, I will leave it on the bottom shelf. It’s been great chatting with you, young man.”

I don’t think our friend Matty ever spoke the whole time I was there. But after Ms. Ella left, he beamed the biggest smile I have seen in a long time. At a bare minimum, he had a story to tell the guys. And I sat wondering if I had just jumped a timeline, and I was actually Ms. Ella. 

Peggy Willms
                                                                     All Things Wellness, LLC

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