The Waiting Room

The waiting room is eerily quiet. Outside of the soothing sounds of the lite-jazz muzak, it is nearly silent. There are four of us in the waiting room, plus one receptionist sitting behind her desk. There is the occasional turning of a magazine page, the shuffling of ones feet, a sniff of ones nose, the clearing of ones throat. But, there is definitely no dialogue… no conversation taking place.


We are all here for a common purpose. We are all waiting on someone. Though we have a common bond, none of us have even bothered to make eye contact with one another. We have not traded any fake smiles or head nods that indicate we understand what the other is currently experiencing.


One man, wearing a Colts hat is reading the sports section of USA Today. The gentleman sitting directly next to him, wearing an Arkansas Razorbacks sweatshirt (the day after they knocked of Texas in a basketball showdown) is reading the Old House Journal that I recently finished browsing through. The woman directly across from me is reading Kay Arthur’s book Lord, Teach Me to Study the Bible. Interestingly enough, the woman reading the book about studying the Bible did not bring a Bible with her. Maybe she could use the copy of The Bible Story for Kids that is currently resting on the magazine rack next to the receptionist. Speaking of the receptionist, she seems to be keeping herself busy with inputting data into her computer.


When I find myself in situations like this, I often wonder what the story is with these people. What is their background? What kinds of things are they interested in? What would they normally be doing if they were not sitting in this waiting room? Why would you wear a Colts hat after the season has ended? Does the old man reading the Old House Journal live in an old home? Does the woman reading about Bible study actually intend to study the Bible? How many people have I encountered who are interested in studying the Bible, but prefer to read books about the Bible rather than the Bible itself?


I just got up to get a drink and tried to spark up a conversation with a simple question: “Can I get anyone a cup of water?” My question was answered with four blank stares (both gentlemen, the woman, and the receptionist). The woman reading the Bible study book frowned and rolled her eyes at me. That’s normally the kind of reaction I get to most of my jokes, not when I offer someone a drink. The guy in the Colts hat quickly went back to reading his copy of USA Today. Now he’s moved on to the Life section. The man reading the magazine about old homes gave me a negative nod. The receptionist briefly looked up and went back to typing. Did you notice any thing about the responses to my question?


No words were exchanged. Now, I know there is a lot that can be communicated non-verbally. But, my hope was that, in offering some water to everyone, at least one person might speak…which would help us launch into a conversation.


We’re now down to three in the waiting room, plus a receptionist. The guy in the Colts hat was just escorted back to the recovery rooms.


I will now try a new tactic. I am going to pull out my Bible in a manner that the lady reading the Bible study book will have to notice…especially since she just moved directly behind me.


Oh man, I can’t believe this…After moving to a new seat, the Bible study lady went to the water cooler to get a drink. I just offered her one…what’s the deal with that?


Okay, back to the test of pulling out the Bible. How sweet is this…Not only did I have a Bible in my bag…I have two. One has a bunch of sermon notes and bulletins in it. So, I’ve taken some time to clear it out a bit and turn to the passage I’m going to preach through this Sunday. Let’s see what happens…


Nothing. Not even a glance or a smile. I at least expected a look of, “Hey, we’re both on the same wave-length.” But, that simply didn’t happen. What I really wanted was to have the lady ask, “So, what are you reading?” Instead, she continued to bury her head in her book about studying the Bible. It’s on to the next step.


My next approach is to ask the Arkansas guy about last night’s ball game. Let’s see how much of a conversation I can get out of the old guy.


Okay, here’s how it went: “So, did you catch the game last night”, I asked. “Um, which game, “ he asked. “Well, not the Ball State football game. That was pathetic. I was meaning the Texas vs. Arkansas game”, I replied. “Oh, I didn’t know they played last night. I don’t really keep track of things.” And, with that, he was called into the recovery area.


Now, the Bible study lady has started to annoyingly tap her fingers on her book. Do I dare ask her a question? Of course!


Here’s how the conversation went: “So, is that a good book”, I asked. The woman looked at me with that, “Are you talking to me?” look on her face. After realizing that, yes indeed, I was talking to her, she replied, “Um, it seems to be. I guess I’ll really find out later.” My follow up question, “So, are you in any type of Bible study?” The woman responded, “Oh, I’ve been in and out of Sunday School and Bible study for years.” Of course, my mind started to think, “well, it must not have been very good if you haven’t learned how to study the Bible yet.” But, rather than make a condescending or sarcastic statement, I simply asked what got her interested in a book about studying the Bible. The response, “I don’t know. I guess it just seems like the right thing to do.” My response, “I think it’s just about the best thing you can do. Do you know what you’re going to start studying after you read the book?” The woman replied, “I have no idea.”


I really expected the lady to ask me some questions. But, I definitely got the idea that she was bothered by my questions. She obviously had other things to do.


Talking to strangers just doesn’t seem to be a big hit with anyone today.


And, with that, she was called back to the recovery room and I’ve found myself alone, with the exception of the receptionist who is still busily entering data on her computer.


Well, at least I tried. I did get two people to sort of talk to me. But, both of them seemed irritated by my questions. Neither seemed interested in sparking up a conversation to pass the time. The folks in this waiting room would simply prefer to bury their heads in magazines, books, and papers than engage with another, live human being.

One thought on “The Waiting Room

  1. Perspective
    This reminds me a little of the story I have told before about Stephen Covey sitting in the subway car and observing a father’s rowdy young children. His first judgement was the children were poorly parented only to later learn that their mother was dying of cancer. His perspective changed as he learned more information.

    I salute you in trying to spark a conversation. I suspect their reluctance in responding may have something to do with their perspective.


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