What If Disney World Had A Waiting Room Theme Park

The other week when I was sitting in the Outpatient Center waiting area waiting for my name to be called for my follow up appointment with my dermatologist I started to watch the second hand of the wall clock. It was as if time was in a state of being with no end, and I found myself wondering if an appointment’s waiting time is proportional to it’s scheduled time. Waiting time for medical appointments seem to follow a status waiting time matrix; up to an hour for a general internist, two hours to see a brain surgeon, and four hours to visit an oncology specialist is normal. But there has to be a generic mathematical theorem that allows for the predicting of the waiting time for any appointment; be it with a doctor or dentist, a job interview, or with a government employee.

image source:jmcadam

It’s hard to imagine that an advanced degree in Interior Design is needed to design a Waiting Room. Most waiting rooms look the same and I’m surprised that people aren’t bored by the sameness of the spaces. Waiting rooms have crowded rows of anti-bacterial vinyl chairs with padded seats and arms, end tables cluttered with old magazines, beige walls with some type of poster, and a wall-mounted muted TV tuned to the national news with closed captioning turned off. The silence of the TV is part of the muffled silence of the waiting room; it’s a silence of whispering and the dull whoosh of a door opening and closing. The silence is sometimes interrupted by the soft cough of a patient. Most medical waiting rooms have a poster of the human digestive system, diseases of the urinary tract, or a food pyramid chart on their walls. The labelling, and numbering, on the posters, is always 12 point font size. I think the smallness of the labelling is why I’ve never been able to find the renal pelvis on a urinary tract anatomical chart without standing twelve inches from the illustration. Visiting the doctor does save me an appointment with my ophthalmologist.

image source:pixabay

The longer I sat waiting for my name to be called the more I became entranced by the motion of the wall clock’s second hand; it seemed to be accelerating around the clock face and slowly transforming into a hypnotic spiral vortex. My brain was soon in the middle ground between light and shadow; between science and superstition and at the dimension of imagination. The waiting room became the holding pens at Dandenong Market. Sometimes during the school holidays mum would let us stay for a few days with our Aunt Bet and Uncle Ken in Dandenong. Tuesday was market day. Early market day morning we’d rush down the street with our cousins Andrew and Peter, and plunge into the maze of market cattle pens. We’d walk and balance on the wooden planks that made up the pens and chutes and look down upon the pigs, sheep, and cows. They stood doing nothing; waiting for their appointment at the loading bays with the waiting utes.

At one time you’d find an eclectic assortment of magazines in a medical waiting room. Doctors and staff would bring their magazines into work for their workmates to read and sooner or later they’d end up finding their way into the waiting room. The end tables would have more magazines on them than a newsagent would sell in a month. It was the days before privacy and identity theft so the mailing name and address label were still on the magazine cover. I’d pass the time reading the mailing labels on the magazines; it was comforting to learn that doctors read Fresh Water Fishing Australia, The Australian Woodworker, The Australasian Beekeeper, and the Women’s Weekly. They were just like ordinary people.

image source:flickr

Mum loved the Women’ s Weekly. She’d buy her copy of the Weekly from the newsagent in Melbourne Road when she went shopping at the butchers; the same newsagent where dad would take us on a Saturday afternoon to buy comics with our pocket money. I’m sure mum got the recipe for her mouth-watering Cheese and Frankfurter’s salad from the Women’s Weekly. The Weekly’s recipes were nestled between advertisements that included Isn’t Daddy fun since he started on Pluravit, and How to have beautiful feet! Start by getting rid of corns the fast Scholl way.

Mum’s mouth-watering Cheese and Frankfurter salad

  • 2 small zucchinis cut diagonally into slices
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, broken into cauliflowerettes
  • 1 dill cucumber sliced
  • 2 tomatoes cut into wedges
  • 1/2 bunch spring onions chopped
  • 1/3 cup French or Italian dressing
  • 8 oz frankfurters sliced lengthwise
  • 8 oz Australian Cheddar cheese cubed
  • 1 lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

image source:collectorsweekly.com

As a youngster, I never liked going to the doctor. I think I was disturbed by the ever-present, faint sweet smell of ether and chloroform. I tried to distract myself with copies of Popular Science, Australian Model Car & Slot Racing Review, or Airfix Model World. Today you’re lucky to find a copy of Time magazine in a waiting room. The scarce waiting room magazines are hoarded, out of harm’s way, in a wall-mounted or free-standing magazine rack. I’m no longer confident of being able to read magazines and their mailing label to make the waiting room time tolerable, so I’ve made myself a list of waiting room things to do.

  • Tell the receptionist I’ll be sleeping and ask them to wake me when my name is called
  • Play with the toys in the little one’s section
  • Ask the receptionist if they have any questionnaires; anxiety and depression ones are especially good
  • Try not to think about meat pies and sausage rolls
  • Ask the receptionist if the waiting room TV can show live webcam broadcasts of hospital surgeries
  • Sing Slim Dusty songs to myself
  • Pretend to be a robot

The more I watched the second hand of the wall clock the more I mused about appointments and their waiting time. I started to ponder about who’s responsibility was it to make waiting times tolerable. Should the person just sitting there doing nothing have to find something to do, or does the doctor, dentist, the job interviewer, or the government employee have an obligation to provide a waiting room activity or resource? I’d suggest those responsible for the waiting times provide time-distracting activities and resources; why not start with digital scavenger hunts and waiting room play readings.

image source:jmcadam

Instead of people sitting silently listening to music, watching movies, aimlessly surfing the web, and playing mind-numbing games on their smartphones, why not introduce them to the thrill of a medical digital scavenger hunt. They could search for operating instruments, medical clothing, diagnostic equipment, surgical and examination lights, and stretchers and stretcher accessories, and then complete assigned tasks and take role-playing selfies when they discover the hidden items. You’d earn points based on the activities you complete and the realness of your selfies. And it would be even more fun if those waiting for appointments were divided into teams; winning team members would be awarded priority scheduling appointment status or receive a FastPass to their next appointment. Digital scavenger hunts would have everyone asking “Where did the wait time go; you’ve called my name already?

Play reading is an activity that would alleviate waiting room stress, anxiety, and boredom. I think Keith Passmore’s Antibiotic has to be a great choice for a reading in a crowded waiting room; Wally who’s an elderly man, and a member of the great unwashed, creates havoc in the male ward whilst an unfortunate male patient, who is having a problem with his genitals, is placed in the female ward due to overcrowding.

image source:haaretz.com

Ozzie: I was desperate and turned into a side road where there was a screen of trees. I made for the nearest tree and just made it in time and then, well.…
Sandy: Well?
Ozzie: This bloody dog appeared from the bushes and bit me.
Muriel: Oh dear.
Sandy: Whereabouts?
Ozzie: From the bushes.
Sandy: No, no! Where did it bite you?
Ozzie: Er, you know, between my legs

Or for the less crowded waiting room Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot; two characters, known as Estragon and Vladimir wait for the arrival of someone named Godot who never arrives.

Vladimir: We wait. We are bored. (He throws up his hand.) No, don’t protest, we are bored to death, there’s no denying it. Good. A diversion comes along and what do we do? We let it go to waste … In an instant, all will vanish and we’ll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness!

I heard the dull silent whoosh of a door opening, and then my name being called. After my blood pressure and weight were recorded I was shown to a small examination room and left with; “if you’d take off your clothes and put on the gown the doctor will be with you shortly.” I searched the small room for a magazine; there were no magazines. I wracked my brain searching for an ice breaker for my dermatologist patient conversation. You’d think the first thing to come to mine would be suppurating carbuncles, papillomavirus infections, festering boils, or sebaceous cysts, but all I could think of was that pressure-packed, pimple popping game, Pimple Pete.

image source:jmcadam

The game’s simple to play. Pete’s cheeks and chin are covered in pimples that need popping. You spin the spinner and choose a loaded squishy pimple to pop from where it lands. You pop the pimple by twisting, wiggling, and pulling the squishy pimple thing out of the pimple. The Mega Zit on Pete’s nose is filled with water to simulate pimple juice. If you twist or wiggle a pimple to hard you’ll be sprayed with the pimple juice. Some pimples are easier to pop than others so the points for popping a pimple vary. Whoever gets the most points without being sprayed with Mega Zit pimple juice wins.

I plan on having a few rounds of Speed Pimple Pete at the backyard medical theme soiree I’ll be hosting this summer so maybe I can start the appointment conversation by picking my dermatologist’s brain with “do you think it’d be better to fill Pimple Pete’s Mega Zit with Green Chartreuse or golden yellow Galiano?” I wonder what his thoughts would be about serving drinks in specimen jars with floating plastic body parts.


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Australian Women’s Weekly Founded: Australian Food History

Pimple Pete Game

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Market

Spring 2015 has arrived in Omaha Nebraska: the Omaha Farmers Market is celebrating its twenty two years in the old market neighborhood. Five years ago the market expanded on Sundays to the streets of a redeveloped AKSARBEN Village. We have lived in the AKSARBEN neighborhood for more than 25 years. Our house is a Bernie Quinlan drop kick away from the Village. Before the Village, the area was the Ak-Sar-Ben Race Track and Coliseum. The immediate area is still dotted with the Trackside Lounge, Turf Lounge, and the Fan Tan: providing a cold Metz, Storz, or Falstaff after a hot losing day at the races.

image source:jmcadam

Each Sunday morning sometimes over a hundred vendors and growers create a walkway down the center of parts of 67th Street and Mercy Road. Consumers can choose from seasonal fresh produce, free range organic meats, baked goods, and artisan breads and cheeses. The meats; lamb and beef are grass fed free range, and the steaks and chops are packaged in protective plastic film and are sold frozen.

The immortal race horse Omaha is buried at AKSARBEN beneath the Market; not all that far from the Parthenon Greek Pastry and Erick’s Enchiladas stalls. It took many years for me to appreciate the hallowed tradition of the name Ak-Sar-Ben: it is NEBRASKA spelt backwards. I think that man’s best friends are also eager for the Market. Leashed and outnumbering humans, they seem to enjoy themselves as much as the shoppers and are quick and impatient to make friends with each other.

My Aunt Peg lived in Edith Street Dandenong. My mum also had a house that she rented in Edith Street; the paddock as we called it separated my mother’s and Aunt Peg’s house. All I remember of our family visits to Dandenong was the 20 mile drive down the empty Princess Highway in the Austin A40 or Vanguard. It was sort of suburbs to Oakleigh and then country. Past Oakleigh the Springvale crematorium was a faint silhouette from the highway.

John & Brother Peter Dandenong PaddockI didn’t want to look at the distant building where they burnt bodies; I closed my eyes and pressed for the Austin to accelerate and bring us closer to two of my Dandenong cousins Andrew and Peter, and the hours we would spend playing in the overgrown paddock. As we got older we spent less time in the paddock and more time at the Dandenong Market: founded in 1866 it is Melbourne’s second oldest and second largest market. Aunt Bet, my mother’s younger sister, moved into my mother’s Dandenong house just after her marriage and my brother and I would be allowed to stay with Bet and Uncle Ken for a few days during the school holidays. I think my mum and dad would drive us at first, but as we got older and what was the last few market years we would take the train; over an hour ride on the red rattler from Newport to Dandenong.

Andrew, Peter, sometimes young Bruce, my brother and I would spend all Market Day Tuesday at the market. It was another Bernie Quinlan drop kick from Edith Street. Early morning we would rush down Market Street and into the cattle pens; we would walk atop and balance on the wooden planks that formed the chutes, pens, and gates. We would run along the wooden tunnels leading to the loading bays: closing and opening gates and sometimes being met with sauntering pigs, sheep, or cows. After going home for lunch we would share time between the stalls in the show grounds and what seemed the capacious roofed area crammed with tables groaning under the weight of fresh fruit, vegetables, clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags, and all types of haberdashery. Around 3:30 we would amble slowly past every stall asking if they wanted any help today packing up. Sometimes we were lucky and they wanted help and we knew we were guaranteed at least a threepence or maybe a sixpence. Late afternoon we would walk, exhausted, down Market Street to Edith Street. I was unknowingly preparing for future market days at the Grand Bazaar Istanbul, the Isfahan Bazaar Iran, the Covent Garden Flower Market London, and other street markets of the world.

By the late 1960s, Dandenong was officially a suburban area of Melbourne and the Lonsdale Street area was being transformed by modern buildings; Steve De George’s Café and the market were another era, and market day had become a memory. And Aunt Peg and Uncle Ian built their new house on the paddock.

The Queen Victoria Market began in 1878 and was built atop land that was part of the Old Melbourne Cemetery. It is said that the Queen Victoria Market is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. The Queen Vic is a vibrant shopping mecca for Melbournians and a major tourist destination. The market is made up of the Delicatessen and the Meat Halls, and 600 retailers in shed laneways and streets; you are tempted with fresh produce, clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags, haberdashery, meat, poultry and seafood, gourmet and delicatessen foods, and more.

I don’t remember the first time I overloaded my string bag at the market but I do remember the Meat Hall. A variety of sausages, mince, chops, legs, and shanks were displayed in trays at the front of each stall. Within the stall and above the serving counter carcasses hung from hooks on metal rails and could be swung and tugged to a butchers’ table for cutting and chopping. The floors were awash with sawdust; to absorb any liquid that dripped from anywhere in the store. Shoppers navigated walkways framed with swinging meat. Each shop had a butcher out the front dressed in the traditional apron slimed with blood from the morning’s killing screeching the day’s specials.

Meat Hall
Fresh Produce John at the Queen Vic
Meat Hall VictoriaMarket JohnAtVictoriaMarket

These visits to the Queen Vic must have been the early seventies; the elapse of time can dilute a memory. I am confident that all Australian food and safety standards and practices were being followed. Maybe my memory is not diluted and I am just mashing the Meat Hall stalls with the street butcher shops and meat stalls of Afghanistan and Thailand. I didn’t appreciate the Delicatessen Hall when I shopped at the Vic. I would just rush through it picking up some cheese or bread not aware that I was walking the streets of a 1927 art deco village. The shops still have the same marble and limestone counters and the old wooden window frames and signage from when they were built. From an eclectic mix of thirty plus stores you can experience; bakeries and patisseries, artisan cheeses and breads, continental cakes, specialist tea and coffee, European sausages, and cured meats and more. At the top end of I shed is The American Doughnut Kitchen doughnut van. It has been parked at the edge of the market for over 50 years selling small, round, hot, jam filled donuts. It is a tradition to scald your tongue on the hot jam inside the donuts and to lick the sugar from your fingers and lips.

Dandenong Market was the first urban village where I walked among and atop grass fed and free range animals, watched the different vegetables appear in their growing season, talked to the farmers and producers, and touched just picked fruit and asked for free samples. I still enjoy meandering the markets and relish touching the non-irradiated, the non waxed or gassed in transit, and pesticide free produce; I wonder if that is my Australian Royalty descendent, a poacher sentenced by the English court to transportation to the Australian penal colony, ghosting his presence.

But I think Framers Markets should have shopping trolleys.

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