I'd like to say that those two and a half hours flew by, but they didn't, so I can't say that without telling a fib, and I wouldn't tell a porky-pie to you. It began when I arrived (of course it did, it couldn't begin without me arriving) to be told that four people were in the queue ahead of me - a wait of approximately fifteen minutes. "No problem!" I said cheerily (yes I CAN be cheerful when I really, really try my hardest), and I meant it - fifteen minutes out of my day was a mere bagatelle, a nothing, an insignificance. I sniffed at the very idea of fifteen minutes, I pinched its nose and taunted it. I did manage, however, to avoid farting in its general direction. If you are unfamiliar with Monty Python I've just lost you, I know...
I'll get to my point(s)...
The Performance Parent
When fifteen minutes had become forty five, the slightly busy waiting room was joined by a small girl with a nasty looking swelling on her face, followed closely by a man I assumed to be her dad. They wandered in, paused halfway between the door and the reception desk, and then dad announced to her (and everyone else in the room) "Wait, we have to go back to the car, I've forgotten something." in a breathy Sesame Street kind of enthusiastic announcement. I felt the cold hand of doom take a grip on my heart. I had spotted the danger signs of a character type I've seen a great deal of here in Canada. My circumstances had me effectively trapped, and when the pair came in once again and found chairs within twelve feet of me, I waited for confirmation of my rampant profiling.
It took mere seconds: "Do you want something to read honey? Here, let's take a look at this obscure local magazine! What do we have here?" I glanced across to see that the man was not actually looking at his daughter, but at his fellow waiters. I knew it. We had a Performance Parent in the room - one of those people who feel it is necessary to demonstrate enthusiastically. Oh goody. We would, I felt, very shortly be treated to some exaggerated performance 'I can talk with my child' conversation - and so it was. Ridiculously loud descriptions of what they were looking at were shared with the rest of us bored internees. The little girl seemed unimpressed and only occasionally had something to ask (when she could get a word in).Needless to say, I wasn't impressed.
Performance Dad then treated us to a 'conversation' with his largely uninterested daughter during which we learned her age, what ailed her, what plans dad had for this year's summer vacation, all the stuff he did with her on last year's vacation...etc., etc. As you can tell, I find this kind of showing off rather pathetic - but it's not unusual. I see and hear this kind of thing quite often - characterized by ludicrous volume and over-explanation of what is happening so that everyone can be sure to appreciate what involved parents he/she/they are. I only need to watch the child's reactions to tell if what I'm witnessing is a genuine parent/child interaction. Sadly, in such circumstances, it never seems to be.
On this occasion, the irony was that the little girl (who seemed to be bearing her physical discomfort like a trooper) was not dressed warmly (it was damp and cold) and Performance Dad had not seen fit to bring anything along to help occupy her for what was always likely to be a significant wait. I'd have been far more impressed (for impressing people is, I believe Performance Parents' main concern) had she been wrapped up warm against the cold, and had brought with her some reading, drawing or other entertainment to take her mind off the wait and her discomfort. I have no idea if he is a better or worse parent than I - but that's not the point. The point is that he was so obviously showing off to the rest of us that he thought he was a superior parent - that makes him rather foolish in my book, and fair game for judgement.
Let's Argue In Public
With the waiting time ticking around to ninety minutes, and my bum becoming progressively flatter on the chair, the performing parent was eclipsed for a short time by a double act who entered and decided to sit alongside me. Evidently mother and daughter, they settled down and for two or three minutes in silence. Then, mum began to talk to the younger woman; "Did you ever...?", which was as far as she got before being interrupted with a stage-whispered "OH MY GOD! NO! Just LEAVE IT!". No big deal, I hear you think (oh yes, I can hear your thoughts, people - I ...CAN...HEAR...YOU...!!!!!), but this was just the opening gambit; for the next fifteen minutes these two ladies held a running argument which mildly entertained but mostly perplexed me.
I've rarely heard two people contradict one another more frequently on such a wide range of subjects in such a short space of time. I must admit to being rather astonished and to use that word again; impressed. It was quite a feat - finding no common ground upon subjects which, although thankfully I was not treated to any personal details, ranged from banal domestic chores to spiritual matters. It was apparent that the battle lines had been drawn before they had arrived, but I was nevertheless intrigued to be a witness to an exchange of this kind not only in public, but in an environment where every word could be overheard by all present (in-between Performance Dad's parenting proclamations).
These two incidents during my slightly voluntary imprisonment served to remind me of how rich is the human soup in which we swim. Whenever we (and of course, I mean "I") are close to others, life tends to be interesting. Whether I am annoyed, impressed, entertained or delighted, people are rarely tedious - in fact quite the opposite; people are almost always interesting, even when they're being maddeningly annoying...