Time, time, time

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Went to the doctor’s the other morning for the first time in a year and a half. Medicare allows an annual “wellness” exam, a run-through of the basic physiological systems, and I was scheduled for 8 am. As usual, though I had a very early appointment, I had to wait. It helped to have my Kindle with me, so I could read and so while away the time. (Mostly I read the Washington Post, all sorts of timely articles about the concerns of the day or, more accurately, the horrors of the day — the murders, the wars, the political nastiness.) But as the wait increased, 20 minutes, 30, 40, and so on, I got increasingly impatient. By 60 minutes, I was ready to bolt. In fact, I’d gotten up and was near the door when I heard my name called.

I was still simmering and told the assistant, who was taking vital signs, of my discontent. “We’re doing the best we can,” he kept saying. Your best, I thought, is not nearly good enough. I sat there, the steam rising, as it does from the head of Yosemite Sam in the cartoons, and slowly simmered down.

A nurse came, then, to draw blood and, at last, the doctor. We talked a bit, and he looked at my mouth, ears, and chest, then went out to get instruments to drain fluid from a swollen bursa. When he returned and started the procedure, first giving an anesthetic, then putting a syringe into the elbow and draining a good amount of yellow fluid, I asked if he didn’t wear a watch. (He was wearing none.)

Why do you ask? he said. Because I’m late?

Just curious, I responded.

I used to wear one, the doctor replied, but it simply got in the way. I do so many things with my hands all day that I stopped wearing the watch. I simply work all day till the work is done.

What a marvelous formula: he simply works till the work is done! Time dissolves for him, not because he’s “in a zone,” necessarily, seeing and hitting everything in sight, like a baseball hitter may be, but because in serving his patients he does everything he can, all day, till what he can do is done.

Dr B is a good doctor, voted top family physician in Fayetteville, in fact, in a recent poll. He’s kindly, humorous, concerned, and thorough — just terribly late at times. Times that may matter to some of us a hell of a lot more than they matter to him. For to the good doctor, time is not an important matter but an artificial construct that may steam his impatient patients … but streams over him like so many sparkles in the sun.

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