Monday, March 10, 2008

I No Longer Fear Hell

I had a doctor's appointment today at 11am (don't worry, I'm not sick).

I get there at 10:45am. The waiting room is full. That means there are 7 people in front of me. The waiting room is behind a glass (translucent from knee height to over my head, but transparent at the top and at the bottom) door and wall, some sort of weird fishbowl. It's a nice room; they have bottles of water (bubbly, of course) and coffee set out (with real glasses and cups -- they don't do styrofoam or paper cups in Germany). I sit by the wall and wait to see footsteps through the door, signaling the receptionist arriving to fetch someone else. My last couple of appointments have been at the beginning of the day, so I've usually been alone in the waiting room and haven't had to wait for long. I've forgotten that even though everyone in the waiting room studiously ignores each other, when someone comes back to the waiting room to fetch their coat to leave (people in Germany actually hang up and leave their coats in the waiting room), the person leaving always says 'auf wiedersehen' to the room and everyone says, 'auf wiedersehen' back. At first I'm surprised, then unprepared. After 45 minutes, I've become one of the group, robotically saying 'auf wiedersehen' in sync with the rest of the room.

I start to fear that I've been forgotten. But I haven't; it's much worse than that. I wonder what would happen if I started some sort of performance art piece. What would happen if I lay down on the floor or started to bang my head against the wall? At 1 hour and 25 minutes (70 minutes after my appointment time), someone comes to fetch me: she takes my blood pressure. At 1 hour and 50 minutes they usher me into an exam room. The receptionist doesn't speak English and she knows I don't know much German (at least, I think she knows), yet after I confirm that I don't understand what she's saying, she continues to talk very fast, gesturing to the changing area as she leaves. I sit. 10 more minutes. I've now been here for 2 hours. I grow paranoid. Was I supposed to undress? Will a doctor show up if I undress? Maybe I need to perform the doctor-summoning equivalent of a rain dance. Is this all some sort of terrible behavioral/rat-in-maze-like experiment?

The doctor arrives! And the appointment is done in 10 minutes, and I don't have to do this again for another 9 months. When I go back to the waiting room to fetch my coat, it's finally empty.


Eugene said...

That's weird. I always thought Germany is a very efficient country but a 2 hour waiting period for an appointment doesn't seem very "German"...

The performance art piece that you mentioned would get some attention though.

DY said...

I don't check for a couple days and you post three times!

It's neat that you noticed so many details about the cultural differences. I am always afraid to leave a coat anywhere, even though I know that in the middle of winter, who would be mean enough to steal your coat, right?

Have you been following the Roger Clemens / steroid controversy? Crazy stuff.

Jackie said...

Eugene - I think that the confusion you're having is in the question of for whom is the system efficient? As an American, I'd think that an efficient system is one that is convenient for the consumer, but that's rarely how things work in Germany. ;)

DY - Well, one of the posts is basically content-free. And, if I weren't in Germany, I'd never leave my coat in the waiting room either (that's why it seems so odd!). Are you all heartbroken about Clemens and Pettite? I've been following and mostly relieved that it's not some player I'd be more emotionally invested in.