The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

By Bob Branson



As I walk into my urologist’s waiting room, the television blares some sitcom from years ago. Chairs are arranged back-to-back and I choose a seat facing the nurses’ station, next to the magazines. I stare mindlessly at the TV, dreading my scheduled PSA test.

A woman enters leading a blind man. He is wearing a handsome blazer and tie, crisply pressed slacks, and shiny shoes. They seat themselves directly in back of me.  A young woman takes the seat to my right. 

The woman behind me says, “Harold, I have to fill out this long questionnaire. I’ll read the questions and you give me the answers. I know your name, Social Security number, date of birth and all that, so I’ll fill that out later, but right now I need to ask you what I don’t know.”  Harold grunts. 

“The first question, Do you use tobacco? The next, did you previously use tobacco?  How many cigarettes a day did you smoke?” 

Harold says, “Two packages.” 

She asks, “How many cigarettes are in a package?” 

He grunts, “Twenty.” 

“My god, Harold, you smoked 40 of those smelly things every day?” 

“Yes, I did.” 

“What year did you start smoking, Harold?” 

“1952, when I was in the Army.” 

“You smoked all that time until you had to quit so we could get married?” 

“Yes, Marge, all that time.” 

Now the incredulous tone of her voice and judgmental style of interrogation cause me to stifle a giggle.

“Alcohol use, drinks per day: occasionally, zero, one, two, or three plus? Harold, they don’t even go up high enough for you. I’m going to have to mark three plus. What do you drink:  beer, wine, liquor, or other?

“All the above.”

“Please check all of the drugs you’ve used: marijuana, amphetamines; current, previously, or never?  I know you smoke marijuana. I’m going to check that. I don’t know about amphetamines.” 

“Never used amphetamines.” 



She raises her voice. “Harold, you used cocaine?” 

Annoyed, “Yes, when I was overseas.” 







“Oh, my god, Harold, don’t tell me you took that mind-altering stuff.”

“During the sixties. I used LSD.”

“Why didn’t I know about that?”

“You didn’t ask until today.”

The girl on my right laughs and gives me a conspiratorial eye roll.

“Next, habits. Caffeine drinks per day:  zero, one to two, six to nine, ten plus? Well, they went up high enough to get you this time. I bet you drink six to nine a day.” 

He sighs. “I guess that’s about right.” 

“Types of caffeine: coffee, tea, soft drinks?” 

“All of those.”

“Surgical history.  Appendectomy?” 


She tee hees, “Ovaries removed?” 

“If I had them, I’ll say so.” 

“Coronary bypass, orthopedic surgery, pacemaker, defibrillator implant, joint replacement.”

“I had my knees replaced.” 

“Prostate removed, kidney stones, kidney removed, bladder tuck, testicles?” 

“Well, Marge, I did have that vasectomy many years ago, and that’s in the scrotum, so I guess I’ll just say yes. ” 



“Yeah, had your cataracts removed and had those plastic lenses and then after you did that you went blind. We should have sued that doctor.” 

“Marge, I went blind ten years after I had the cataracts removed.” 

“Next. C-section, angioplasty, gallbladder, blood vessel, tonsillectomy?” 


“Hysterectomy, back, lung, valve, stints, hernia, breast, plastic—.  I’m just going to mark no unless you say yes.  Stroke, angina, anemia, anxiety, HIV Aids, mini-stroke, glaucoma, blood clots, depression, menopause.”


“Liver disease, heart murmur, peptic ulcers, varicose veins?” 

“Varicose veins.”

“Erectile dysfunction?” 

A little louder, “Yes, dammit.”

“Blood diseases, kidney stones, kidney disease, thyroid, diabetes mellitus, bleeding disorder, high blood pressure?”

“Yes. High blood pressure.” 

“Psychiatric problems, poor leg circulation, pulmonary embolism, loss of consciousness, convulsions or epilepsy, cancer, abnormal heart rhythm, congestive heart failure, sickle-cell disease, jaundice or hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases?” 

“Yes, STD.”

“Harold! You had VD? You’ve never told me?”

He snipped. “You never asked, Marge.” 

“Harold, I want to know about that sexually transmitted disease. When and where?” 

“It happened when I was in the Army a long time ago. I had gonorrhea.” 

“How did you get gonorrhea?” 

“The same way everybody else gets it, Marge, hanging around with the wrong sort.”

“You  better not bring one of those home.”

“You have to have intercourse to pass it on, Marge. I think we’re safe.”

“Okay, I can answer the next few. Here’s one, though. How many times on a typical night do you get out of bed to urinate: zero, one, two, three, four, or five?”

“Well, Marge, some days I guess it’d be three or four.” 

“I’m going to put three; four doesn’t sound good.” 

“Now then, here’s the last question. How would you feel if you had to live with your urinary condition the way it is now for the rest of your life: no better, no worse, delighted, mostly satisfied, mixed, mostly dissatisfied, unhappy, or terrible?” 

“Mostly dissatisfied. I came here to find out if I can get it fixed, that’s what I want. I guess I can live with it if I have to. I mean, what other choice is there?” Just then the nurse calls my name and as I am leaving, Marge says, “Harold, I want to know more about this venereal disease you contracted.” 

“It was fifty years ago, Marge.”


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