I arrived at 11:30am to discover that the hospital car park was full and street parking limited to permit holders only until noon. I had 30 mins to wait out the ticket warden who was behind me a minute ago and is now possibly crouching low behind the red Nissan Micra ahead on the left side of the road. Poor guy. He’ll have a long wait cos this chick ain’t leaving one minute before noon.
At the X-Ray department all seats are occupied. One becomes vacant as Mr Goddard is called in, I replace his behind on the soft red chair. Now I am seated next to a woman who is Romanian. Or Albanian. Or Latvian, you can tell a lot by accents these days right? She informs me that she needs to dash to the toilet, and can I please let the radiographer know she’s only a minute away if he calls her name, “Sofia?” I oblige.
The woman on my right is being shouted at by a man, presumably her husband.
I am inclined to say something since fate, in cohorts with our sitting arrangement has shoved me to the front of the line of aghast onlookers.
“Is that your husband?”
Her shame is now overflowing and has drenched a part of my heart.
Men come in all sorts of species…”, I begin with a sigh.
Now at the start of my sentence there was a clever and encouraging ending. That ending has now abandoned me mid-sentence and I don’t have a replacement. My attempt at being supportive is crumbling as the incomplete sentence may have suggested that ‘all men are dogs’, which I don’t subscribe to, or, ‘your man is a dog’, suggesting that mine isn’t. Either way, she doesn’t win and neither do I.
I wonder how I turned into Sofia’s pre-school teacher.
“Ok,” I nod.
Another 56 seconds passes and she’s back. I am baffled at her speed. She is wearing a tight pair of buttoned, zippered and belted jeans. She has to walk to the loo, wherever it is, yet she comes back so quickly all zippered, buttoned and belted up.
I love being a woman. We share an unspoken bond that erases the lines of separateness. As strangers, we can hold full dialogues with each other about men- well most can- and we can talk about body parts. But I’m just not feeling this bladder talk. Because each time she says she needs to keep it slightly empty, my mind tries to figure out exactly how many teaspoonsful of yellow pee we’re talking about here.
A woman in a red coat waddles out of the X-ray room.
“It’s broken”, she says to her husband who gets up to meet her.
“Oh no!” He exclaims quietly but urgently.
Another patient chips in.
“It’s broken?” He is in dismay, just as I am, we’re clearly both wondering how long she has walked on her broken foot for.
“Yes, they told me it’s broken.” She responds directly to him, glancing at her foot no doubt waiting for some common human sympathy.
“Oh your foot is broken!” He breaks into a broad smile, chuckling as he explains he thought she meant the X-ray machine was broken. He doesn’t hide his relief as he returns to reading his paper.
“Please take off your bra and leave just your blouse on, once you’re done meet me in this room.”
Did he just cross the line? Into our territory? There is something not quite right about that. I have always perceived Asian men as being conservative and I’m mildly surprised he even knows what a bra is, let alone allow that heathenish word to proceed from his lips. “Disengage any undergarments” seems more like his thing.
“Disrobe, please madam, leaving just your outer garment.”
“Undo any paraphernalia that may or may not be fully connected to your upper body”. That covers the strapped and the strapless variety.
1) That he issued me with a parking ticket
Thankfully I am spared all of that, because I stayed in my car for three whole minutes after the clock struck 12:00, to make sure I did not violate the parking rules. I drive off happily, leaving behind Sofia the bladder woman, the poor lady with the irate elk for a husband and of course, the Asian (possibly muslim) radiographer who dared to cross the lines of haram by mentioning an unmentionable.
Thank you for reading!