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The Waiting Room War Zone
by Charles W. Dowdy


Going to the doctor's office at this time of the year is like wandering into a MASH unit during a major war. Sick people are everywhere. They're coughing and hacking and wheezing and bent over in pain. Just the noises alone are enough to make you cringe.

And you know the waiting room is germ city. You would think doctors, of all people, would recognize the dangers of the breeding pits of despair they call waiting rooms and isolate everyone. Or at least clump together the people who look a couple steps away from death's door.

If you take a baby into a doctor's waiting room, then it never fails that the sickest little kid in the place will wander over and want to play with your child. Some little toddling torpedo of pestilence will get right up in your baby's face and say "Hey, little cute baby," before launching into a three minute emphysema-like episode, blasting germs around the room like a machine gun.

I know this because my wife and I went to see a pediatrician the other day. What makes this unusual is that our child was not really sick. We went, out of desperation, because our youngest child likes to get up around 2 a.m., nice and early, so he doesn't miss the sunrise. In fact, he hasn't missed a sunrise in months.

I know you've heard young parents complain about lack of sleep. I've heard these same knuckleheads explain how they do everything wrong, then wonder why the kid doesn't sleep.

"Well, we let her stay up as long as she wants. I rock her for two hours before she'll fall asleep. We feed her eight times a night, and if she so much as makes a peep I run full speed into her room because something MUST BE WRONG."

I am not one of these parents. I know something about getting children to sleep. This non-sleeper is our fourth child in five years, so while I obviously know diddlysquat about birth control, I have learned some other things to help maintain my sanity.

First and foremost is sleep. My wife and I are a little anal on the subject. I'm not kidding when I say that I can snap my fingers and three of my four children will roll over and fall asleep in a manner that would have made Pavlov proud.

Then there's #4.

We've tried everything and he defeats us at every turn.

We were so desperate that we voluntarily wandered into that winter war zone called a doctor's office. In my current state of mind I was prepared to bar myself in an exam room until somebody who knew what they were doing prescribed some medicine for the kid or me.

So there we were among the wounded and dying, clutching our child close to us lest he contract one of the horrible illnesses floating around the room.

Then the door opens and she walks in.

She was about three years old, and her gaze latched on to my child. As the mother went to check her in, this girl came right over, jumping into the seat next to us and cooing at my child from a distance of about two centimeters.

At least this kid didn't look that sick. She had bleary eyes and huge cotton balls stuck in each of her ears.

She has an earache, I thought. I've got lots of kids. We're always sick with something. We eat earaches for breakfast. Compared to the wasteland of sickness around me, an earache was nothing. I was suddenly glad this young girl was sitting next to us, cutting off another potential baby suitor with a far worse condition.

Then I heard her mother relaying this girl's symptoms to the receptionist at the check-in window.

"She's been vomiting and had terrible, rampant diarrhea. Like, I'm talking projectile vomiting. Oh, and there's some orange mucus flowing out of her ears. Looks kind of like taffy."

That explained the cotton balls.

The woman wasn't done. "Do you think the doctor will be able to prescribe something for her two brothers? They've both got it now."

I made a mental note to hose all of us down with Lysol.

The receptionist couldn't get the window closed fast enough, then she disappeared out of sight, obviously running somewhere to have herself sterilized.

Then the mother of this germ bomb found a seat without coming over to retrieve her tainted child, but she must have seen the look of sheer terror on our faces.

"Well," the mother said as she picked up a magazine, "we're all sick in here."

"No," I said, "we're just sleepy."

The nurse called our name and we sprinted from the waiting room.

I could only wonder what we carried with us, besides a one-year-old who wouldn't sleep.




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Charles Dowdy
A young, beleaguered dad/columnist, Dowdy is the proud father of four little ones, and he knows that of which he writes. He would love to share his parenting knowledge, every funny moment of it, with readers.
Editors may contact him at cwdowdy@hotmail.com.

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Congratulations to
Charles Dowdy
Named Humor Writer for April, 2003
by the
Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop
at the Univ. of Dayton [Ohio]


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Charles Dowdy's web site is not to be missed! He has to be one of the funniest, most irreverent writers in the South . . . or anywhere. Go see!

Read more of his columns at USADEEPSOUTH:
Goodbye, Debt; Hello, Ricecakes
She Was Such A Dear
Small Towns and the Three Second Intersection Rule

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