A huge part of being me — and it runs in my family, so it's a gene, I assume — is the ability to find contentment and adventure in the mundane. Which is why being in Metter, GA (population 4,130), yesterday morning while Harleigh underwent a "medical procedure" (colonoscopy) had me at a fever pitch excitement. [NOTE: My 20-year-old daughter, much like her mother, has no qualms about sharing personal tidbits of information about herself, so the mention here will receive, I'm sure, a rather tame response compared to all her college friends privy to the pre- and post-colonoscopy details she was more than happy to dish.]
It started with a 6AM drive to Candler County Hospital that snaked us through towns like Pulaski and Register, townships with darling still-operating post offices and restaurants with names like Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn and Opie's Fry Shack.
As we neared Metter, I began to see lights, a distant sign of something a smidge bigger than what we'd been through. Once in the center of Metter, punctuated by a 4-way stop and gas stations which open at 8AM, we almost missed the Candler County Hospital altogether. Devoid of stories of concrete and windows and the usual massive hospital parking lot bathed in stark white lighting, instead we drove into what appeared to be an elementary school, hours before opening, with a few teachers there early, their windows casting a warm glow from what I imagined might be hobnail lamps on worn and honey-toned maple desks, complete with an apple and wooden ruler.
What would make most moms say "No child of mine is going under anesthesia in this po-dunk excuse for a hospital" had this gal instead feeling all warm and homey and exclaiming "Oh honey, this place is too cute." I think this comforted my girl, who knows that when "cute" and "modern technology" (heck, it's a hospital, they've got regulations to fulfill in order to operate) combine, it's a win-win.
The lobby of the hospital just begged for a large butcher-paper-covered bulletin board with artwork interpretations of a still life in macaroni noodles on construction paper done by first graders. The linoleum flooring and tile walls, the doorways and scale of rooms . . . all of it took me back to elementary school, and it felt safe. After a pit-stop in the lobby bathroom — an endearing one-ie (a nod to the size of the facility, and much appreciated by anyone like myself with IBS) — we headed back to outpatient check-in.
[SIDE NOTE: I loved everything about this experience so far, which began when back in the hamlet of Norcross — how I refer to my outside-the-perimeter-of-the-big-ATL hometown — I'd been communicating to various Candler County Hospital administrators. Every time I'd call, I'd get a person. And everyone knew everyone. When, with a billing question, I was told by Harleigh's Statesboro physician to call the main hospital phone number and ask for Nikki (no last name, no department), it was heaven. In an age where you hit #1 to get to a menu, then spend the next 5 minutes hitting keys like a half wit to get to a "customer service" rep with an attitude, you better believe I reveled in calling a number, asking a human being for Nikki, and getting Nikki.]
With Harleigh in the capable hands of a beef-fed grandmotherly nurse with an ample bosom and a penchant for calling everyone "darlin'," I settled into a chair in the waiting area for an episode on the overhead TV of "I Love Lucy" and to begin reading Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
I struck up a nice conversation with the only other person in the waiting room, a woman with a cast on her arm, a hoodie covering her shoulders, and a bad romance novel in her lap. Her husband, who was scheduled for a colonoscopy before Harleigh's, was back getting prepped. She was (not because she seemed, but because she admitted) whacked out on pain killers from tendonitis surgery the day before, and her son was asleep in their pickup truck out in the parking lot waiting on daddy's procedure to end so he could cart them all off to sister's weekly doctor appt. for injections of some sort. I had the common sense to let the conversation trail off or I'd never enjoy the peace and quiet of my book or the guilty pleasure of yet another episode of "I Love Lucy."
I was told by Shannon, the outpatient check-in lady (and by this time I was on a first-name basis with most of the hospital staff) that breakfast starts at 8AM. So around 8:30 I headed to the cafeteria which again felt like going back to being seven. For $3.00 (and a generous dose of "have a bless-ed day" from the hair-netted servers), I got real scrambled eggs (Miss Inez told me they were real), link sausage, and grits. The breakfast buffet variety far exceeded just those three items; it was like a meat extravaganza, and with cafeteria tray in hand, I settled into a cozy booth in a postage-stamp size dining room and read while half-listening to orderlies and nurses at the table next to me. Their thick southern accents almost begged translation, and the sweetness of country life oozed from every pore of every person and wall surrounding me.
Sometimes when I'm in the ATL hospital monstrosities, I feel a feudal system of medical personnel surrounding me. I figure that the surgeons probably dwell in Tuxedo Park or hoof it in from Country Club of the South, and after performing surgeries to the piped in swell of classical music, then return home to Bitzie and an obligatory evening cocktail party at the estate of Grant and Mindy Rutherford across town. Here, in this Metter hospital, everyone from the janitor to the brain surgeon (well, I'm exaggerating a tad, not sure they do brain surgery in Candler County) are all of the same stock. The physician performing Harleigh's colonoscopy is probably the second cousin of the aforementioned ample-bosomed nurse, everyone in the procedure room is recounting the town middle school's last evening's production of "Annie Get Your Gun" and abuzz with the excitement of this weekend's tractor pull, and my sweet girl is going under to the familiar twang of Taylor Swift.
The Way to Truly Enjoy Hospital Waiting
It's all in the observing. But it can't be overt. It's got to be disguised behind a book or a blank stare at a TV screen. People are fascinating. A phone conversation between Paw Paw and his middle-aged daughter about picking up little oh-you've-got-to-hear-what-she-did-at-iHop Amber can be as riveting as a Steven Spielberg blockbuster. The mundane of real life, as evidenced in the success of "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," is palpable and dramatic, relatable and funny. As opposed to the big screen, where you walk away thinking "if only I could be that pretty, that smart, that whatever," living in the moment, even if it's in lil ol Metter, GA, reminds us that we're all from the same stock. Don't let those moments, as simple and fleeting as they are, slip by you without appreciating them in all their mundane glory.