14 November 2003
I've never gotten into meditation. I've never chanted. Never hummed "ohhhmmmmmmm" with any seriousness. I've never zoned out into another dimension to find my inner self, or inner peace.
Yet, I think I come close to experiencing this zen state on two occasions: traveling by plane and going to see a doctor.
I accepted a long time before 9/11 that any day of airplane travel is going to be awful. I expect it. I plan for it. And if it's not awful, I'm pleasantly surprised.
I arrive at the airport early, loaded with lots of reading material. It doesn't matter if the flight is delayed or if the crowds are huge. I just sit in as comfortable a position as I can get, read my book, and know that once I get to my destination it will all be over. This philosophy has gotten me through some nasty airport situations (including missing a flight and having to spend the night in Atlanta) without going into cardiac arrest.
Going to Kaiser is the other instance where my ability to be patient works for me.
My father joined Kaiser when it started. I was 10 years old, which means I've been a Kaiser patient for 50 years and really know little else, other than the offices for which I've worked. I expect delays, long waits on the telephone, and all that come with this granddaddy of all HMOs.
With that in mind, today I went back to the orthopedist to check on the progress of my shoulder. The appointment had already been cancelled once when the doctor was called to surgery. And on top of that, I drove all the way in to Sacramento yesterday for the appointment, only to find out I got the day wrong.
So today I was finally going back. My appointment was scheduled for 11:30 and I was asked to come early to get x-rays taken.
I arrived at 10:30, got the paperwork to go to X-ray and was back in the ortho waiting room a mere 45 minutes later. (This after standing as the only person waiting in line to be checked in, for 10 minutes while the receptionist chatted on the telephone.)
At 11:15 I settled myself in the crowded waiting room. I had brought Patricia Cornwell's book on Jack the Ripper (riveting book, by the way!) and immersed myself in it, glancing from time to time at Dances with Wolves, which was playing on the overhead TV.
At 12, when there were only two of us left in the waiting room, they finally called me into the exam room and gave me a gown to wear that would have been tight on Twiggy. I removed my t-shirt (and apparently at some point managed to knock off my opal earring, which I didn't discover until I was driving home and which I am just sick about) and tried to squeeze into this teeny gown (I call it "gown" for lack of a better word to describe this piece of toilet paper--it was like 2 Chux pads sewn together).
A cold tailwind blew through the opening at the back of the "gown" and I considered putting on my jacket, but I sat there, turning blue, and continuing to read my book.
When the doctor came in, I glanced at my watch. When he left, I glanced at my watch. He was there 4 minutes, and half of that time was spent discussing Patricia Cornwell's theories about Jack the Ripper.
He had me raise my arm, told me my x-rays looked great, told me to keep stretching, told me I didn't need to see the physical therapist--or him--again, shook my hand, and was gone.
He didn't even leave behind a silver bullet.
It was 12:30 when I left--I'd been there 2 hours and had 4 minutes of the doctor's time.
I never had the benefit of yoga, a maharashi, or meditation tapes. But I have a lifetime of dealing with Kaiser to teach me that there is no point in getting tense...a good book and an attitude that anything is better than nothing is just as good as chanting ohhhmmmmm.