Lately it seems I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in waiting rooms. For a people watcher like me, doctors’ offices, airports, veterinarians, check-out line at the grocery store: all offer a wealth of material with which to while away the minutes and hours waiting for my turn to be seen by whomever. That’s a good thing because I’m chronically early for anything so it’s important that I find some tiny bit of enjoyment in the ordeal of waiting. 

First I want to discuss waiting room reading material. What puzzles me about the magazines is that they are all late. Is there never a day when they are all new, or is there a holding place where magazines ripen to the point of obsolescence, and are then placed on waiting room tables.

I find the absolute friendliest waiting rooms to be those at the veterinarian’s. The people waiting have a lot in common: they are naturally all animal lovers. Each thinks his pet is the cutest and smartest but is willing to admire and listen to stories about other people’s critters. I remember once seeing a big, burly lumber-jack type cooing soothing words to a terrified ball of white fluff named Puff Ball. Pet owners are friendly and will inquire about how old, what’s his name, and the reason for the visit. Pet owners love to trade stories about their pooches.

The check-out line at the grocery tells a lot about the customer pushing the carriage.  While grabbing a furtive look at a brand new People Magazine one day, I observed a mother loudly snarling at her youngster, “Put that back, you know we eat only organic food.”  Then there are those of huge proportions loading up anything high in fat and carbs for their chubby chunky children who could use a little more organic. Maybe some celery. 

Airports are loaded with scenes in general. It’s a good thing for today’s travelers who are apt to get stuck for hours in wait mode. There are tearful goodbyes, joyous reunions. There are the bewildered grandparents and bratty kids. I’m always trying to spot someone famous. However, the people I’m looking for most likely go first class and I’m not likely to be sharing pretzels with them any time soon.

The clothes give a lot of clues. There are senior vacationers dressed for the climate they are going to so as not to waste time changing when they get there. They look ready to step from the plane on to the golf course. There are business tripping women in precariously high-heeled shoes and their male counterparts in old-fashioned suits and ties, all with computers on their laps and ears glued to their cell phones.

There’s always a college basketball team. There’s usually a spy or two…I think.

Recently I was people-watching in the waiting room of a medical office and spent my time eavesdropping on an older gentleman with a bit of a brogue. When the excessively cheerful technician call him for his turn, she chirped, “And how are you today?” He retorted, “Lousy, or I wouldn’t be here, would I.”

I just kept on waiting, and watching.