by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 13, 2008
A PEOPLE-WATCHER'S PARADISE
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- The 6th Floor waiting room was plush. The wait was interminable but no one was complaining. We were at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and John was waiting for a routine annual exam following the normal laboratory tests.
His name was called; he'd be about an hour behind closed doors so I went to the cafeteria on the first floor. Coffee was all I wanted - and that just to justify my taking up space - so I relaxed, looked around, and started making assumptions about the people around me.
The first thing I noticed was that people were there from all over the world, judging from the languages they spoke to each other. Then I realized they were all grown ups, some had family members with them, far more than just a driver or someone for company.
Someone met my eyes so I shifted my gaze to the courtyard with sun shining on the café-styled tables, umbrellas shielding the diners from the bright morning sun. The chrysanthemums were in full, glorious, bloom with a touch of frost curling the leaves after last nights below-freezing spell. Curbside flowers were blossoming and, really, I could have been looking out over a courtyard at a Club Med resort.
I brought my attention back to the people around me and the equally smartly decorated Mayo Cafeteria. Then I looked again from inside to outside and noticed the only difference was two out of four sitting at outside tables were smoking. Don't get me started!
The people around me had canes; some wore headscarves, suggesting chemotherapy and hair loss. We've always known and appreciated the fact of Mayo Clinic, always knew that if we needed to, we'd go to their famous facility in Rochester, Minnesota for evaluation of extraordinary health needs. Now we live 90 minutes away from this Mayo Clinic and the convenience makes any waiting for an appointment - from six to nine months for a new patient -- worth the wait.
According to a report on a new imaging technique developed by IBM in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, I read this description: "Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical center, thoroughly diagnoses and treats complex medical problems in every specialty. It also conducts wide-ranging, interdisciplinary medical research with the sole goal of improving patient care. Mayo Clinic has campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota."
Not everyone I saw as I looked around appeared sick. No more so than my husband who's as healthy as the proverbial horse, but nevertheless appearing confident that whatever they hear today will be reassuring that they are doing the right thing.
For the most part, I saw people who had quit smoking. I could tell by the shoulder bag carrying the oxygen being delivered through little plastic tubes inserted into their nostrils. Actually, many of those people were fit looking, slender, and no doubt saying: "I feel fine. Why did I have to quit smoking?" Ah, but the ugliness dwells beneath.
The biggest surprise came when I walked the cafeteria line, passing all the food, making my way to the coffee: Maxwell House or Starbucks, your choice, different prices. The food looked delicious, just as I'd heard, but I passed it by. But the food on the plates of those dining between the food line and my seat near the window, did not escape my notice.
I've become used to "no caffeine, it's a stimulant" and "no alcohol, it's a central nervous system depressant," because my doctor told me so. Surely, those who filled their plates with crispy Southern fried chicken and mashed potatoes - I think it was mashed potatoes, totally covered with a rich gravy - were told by someone their obesity is directly related to what they eat, along with the butter slathered biscuits used to wipe up the last trace of gravy on their plates.
The shock was that the hospital was no more salt or calorie conscious than the Fast Food places along the route. It's really not so much what they eat buy why they eat it. Who doesn't know that sausage and gravy, especially gravy made with "drippin's" as they say in the South, are not good for you. If it doesn't get you in the waistline then it will get you in the arteries.
Long ago I convinced myself not to be the world's policeman. If it's not against the law, it's every man for himself. I returned to the waiting room six flights up and left the cast of my proposed farce: "Evidence of a Misspent Youth" ambling their collective girth between tables, balancing their desserts on their trays.
I went back upstairs to the 6th Floor waiting room again, plush, as I indicated, but no more so than any other of the waiting rooms throughout the clinic. It is truly designed for patient comfort. Names are called by smiling attendants who greet the patient with a handshake as they repeat their names. They ask their birthdays for further verification and the visit behind the closed doors begins.
Cell phones jarred the atmosphere and the one-sided conversations interrupted any reverie you might find in the room. One woman sitting behind me placed a call to someone, obviously her son, and she spoke in general terms of "how are you, I'm great." She said she had heard it was cold down in Florida but she was used to that "here" in Missouri. "Not too bad here today. Yes, yes, yes, I am just fine. Packing my Christmas things away after breakfast. Well, say hello to Janice. I'll call again soon."
I resisted the urge to turn around to see this mother who didn't want her family to know she had traveled to the Mayo Clinic for whatever she was there for. Cell phone identification reveals nothing about your calls except your cell phone number. It would not say what area zone you were calling from - simply the area code where you set up your account. Just another point to ponder.