Somewhere Between a Tree and the Grim Reaper

Well talk about awkward.

I hate awkward moments.

Not so much my moments of awkwardness, where I’ve obviously made a complete and utter ass out of myself, but the awkwardness of someone else always makes me wear my squinty eyes.

Squinty eyes = “well this is awkward” comment….usually silently to self.

Today found me at our regional hospital – bright and early this morning. Fear not – it’s nothing serious, just a routine picture of my brain. I tend to get distracted by glittery things, small fuzzy animals and annoyances — so my brain tends to ache more than others apparently. Really, it’s my third eye that generally throbs the most.

Strangely enough, I was on time this morning. I registered and checked into the radiology department. Since I was ahead of the game I was directed to sit in a small waiting room. I walk in and it’s about the size of an office break room.

Immediately I try and locate a chair that isn’t near someone else – as I like to spread out. Happily I wander to the back of the room and sit down between two end tables. There’s six other people waiting with me and of course I get the once over – which is fine. I, myself, prefer to use my stealthy peripheral vision – rather than gape….but whatever.

There’s a large Christmas tree decorated in one corner and the window looking out to the hallway has been painted over with holiday characters. It is then that I notice the couple directly across from me on the little couch.

She’s sobbing.



Great. Now where do I look? I try and look busy with my Blackberry. Well crap. Wonder what happened? Is she sick? Did she just find out she has cancer? Is it one of their parents? Maybe she doesn’t like hospitals. Could be claustrophobia. Too much anxiety will make a person cry. Well crap. I can’t look up. I should have stayed in the bathroom longer….

Suddenly, the music, being pipped in from the holiday elves, has broken through my awkwardness cloud of contemplation. I’ve gone from a level of “this sucks” awkwardness to a “this is bad and would anyone notice if I moved my seat?”

It’s holiday music and not the quiet melody type. It might have been okay if it was something along the lines of “Silent Night” or “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” but no, this was a very zippy rendition of “Deck the Halls.” At least it wasn’t “Feliz Navidad” which causes me to unwittingly belt out a “wah-ha” during the chorus, which would have been uncalled for in this situation.

So there I am listening to Deck the Halls, watching the lights on the Christmas tree and pondering to myself: Oh boy, how could this get any more awkward? That’s when someone’s cell phone starts belching out some terrible, robotic tune. Turns out, it’s the sobbing lady’s partner/husband/boyfriend and he can’t get his phone out fast enough.

Now everyone in this tiny waiting area has turned around to stare at the idiot who didn’t turn off his phone in the hospital and the woman who won’t stop sobbing. Lucky for him, he didn’t answer the phone and just plopped it back in his jacket.

All I could think of is really, the hospital is in a Catch 22. Hospitals are a place people don’t normally like to visit, voluntarily – unless you count my coworker who LOVES the hospital cafeteria. Yet, the hospital is a necessity. People who work in hospitals are usually normal people, just like those who work in an office building, so it’s nice to provide some holiday cheer. The decorations provide a distraction. If enough of the surfaces are covered with bows, lights, wreaths, cards, painted characters etc…people will think they stepped into their neighbor’s house and not the radiology department! Genius idea.

So there I sat in my armchair. Pondering how nice it was the hospital supported Christmas cheer and wasn’t being so PC that they become offensive in ignoring the season. Yet, when you’re sitting across from someone who is obviously in depths of despair, the holiday carols are a bit contradicting.


It’s a great reminder of the yin/yang of life. While one life tumbles into hardships another one is lifted into the beauty of a new beginning. There were seven of us in that room….each with a different pathway through this world and yet, for a brief moment, we were all together, experiencing the same thing….wondering what will come next. We’re all somewhere between the Christmas tree and the Grim Reaper…however we’re not certain what mile marker we just passed.

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