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My Son, Captain Oblivious

What happens when a parent's cartoon mind is allowed to shape a child's...

Perplexed, the boy suspiciously leered at the clock. "Dad, what time is your appointment?"

He spoke loud enough that everyone in the waiting room, including the stressed, but seemingly apathetic receptionists, and everyone in the adjacent Walmart across the parking lot, heard him.


Now mortified, I instructed, “Boy, sit down and read your book.”

It was 4:10.

“I thought so,” he said as he walked away looking at the receptionist desk, knowing that they were responsible for calling the names and escorting the people to the examination rooms.

“What’s the holdup?” he said, throwing his arms into the air like a New Yorker accosting a passing cabbie that did not surrender to their hail.

I tried to redirect his attention onto something less explosive, given that we were the last ones to arrive in a full waiting room of what felt like unhappy patients.

The boy had brought with him some important teachings. Sarcasm, from which I had learned mine from Bugs Bunny and The Flintstone’s, my nine-year-old would learn that fine verbal art form from the one and only, Dilbert. He was already a decorated disciple and complete study of Professor Calvin, and his laboratory assistant, Hobbes.

Five minutes later, my son handed me the bound collection of wit, walked over to the receptionists’ counter, stood akimbo, and glared again at the clock. He then turned to me and shared with the entire waiting room, "Dad, it's way past 4:00."

"I know, boy,” I coaxed. “Please… sit down and read your book." I responded with both a hushed tone, but with some well-deserved pride. The boy was learning about promises and expectations, but unfortunately, missed the class on tact, patience, and understanding.

He again sat and again tried to read.

At about 4:20, he growled at the radio that was set to an annoying station, which was intended to entertain those of us waiting. It also acted as a privacy noise buffer for the patients speaking to the receptionists. The note said DO NOT TOUCH. The boy asked if he could break the machine. He was not a fan of that particular station or its chosen music. I concurred. Shortly after that unexpected outburst, one by one, the patients streamed out of the waiting area, and each was led to their examination rooms, leaving us completely alone.

From the corner of my eye, I could see my son looking at the clock, then me, then the clock again. He was clearly confused.

I anticipated a WTF-type look or question from him, but none came.

So, I continued to ignore him and listened to, on repeat, Volbeat’s, Still Counting. The first line counts all the assholes in the room but also implies that I am not the only one. Today, I could add my son to that list, or so must have thought the receptionists and other disgruntled, but waiting patients.

I had hoped that he was, but sadly, the boy was not finished.

When we got the long awaited call from the receptionist, the boy led the way walking right up to the exhausted looking woman. From her expression, it clearly had been a long and challenging day.

“Ya know, it’s WAY past 4:00,” the boy blurted.

Holy Shit!

I could not believe my son just violated an unwritten rule about medical waiting rooms. Do not talk about the wait time, or be critical to a staff member, about anything, especially not to someone who has zero control over appointment times.

After seeing the look of horror on my face, the scrubbed woman just smiled. I apologized profusely using our patient-to-staff telepathy, or it could have been the parent-to-parent version. Did not matter. One worked. She got the message.

To her credit, the lady grinned at the little turdmeister and then again at me, after hearing my parent-correcting exasperation, “Boy!”

She then asked my son a few questions about his summer vacation and then said the doctor would be in shortly. After the door had closed, I tried to explain the situation, sensing a very important teachable moment, but I did not have time.

I wanted to say that, for the most part, it is not the doctor’s fault that they are running late, especially by the end of the day. It is clearly stated at the front desk, on the backs of doors in every examination room, and mentioned when someone calls for an appointment, that a patient should limit their medical queries to one or two per visit. If there are more ailments, they should tell the receptionist, and the receptionist will book additional time for the visit.

When patients do not follow those simple guidelines, and then drop a surprise ailment on the doctor, it messes up the clinic’s scheduling system. An end-of-the-day appointment could be subject to a thirty minute or more delay due to these circumstances. I wanted to share this, and educate my son, but I did not have time.

A physician could easily say, “No, book another time, Bub,” but they never do. They are health care professionals and are here to help us. That is their solemn vow. The Hippocratic Oath. I get that, so I never get angry if my doctor is running late. I wanted to say all of that, but I did not have time because the doctor entered our examination room almost immediately after the receptionist left.

“Good day, gentlemen,” were the greeting words of another tired looking medical professional.

“Good day to you too,” the boy replied. “Shall we begin now, or do you plan to keep us waiting longer?”

Holy Shit!

I now realize I must reduce my children’s intake of comic and real life sarcasm. Oh my God, where to begin?

For your information, it has been five weeks, and I am still sick. I wonder if there is any connection between the moving diagnoses, various prescribed treatments and medications, and the innocent words of a young, oblivious, sarcastic boy.


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