Awaiting Thanksgiving

On the morning before Thanksgiving I take one of a dozen seats that line three walls of a waiting room for a routine checkup with my dermatologist.

Four middle-aged patients sit apart from each other along two walls awaiting to be called, and I sit before the third wall, all of us facing the center of the spacious room. All four hold mobile device before them, sometimes pecking away with thumbs as much as fingers. I look around.

Two of the screens cast bright reflections onto the ceiling from seats that are set in front of a wide window. One is a tight, bright circle with a slight tail that makes it look like a comet as it darts erratically back and forth toward the center of the ceiling. The other bears an uncanny resemblance to a jet as seen from the ground just after takeoff.

Though the jet faces away from the comet as if to escape, it slides backward as much as forward and side to side. The two never collide, although I flinched at more than one close call. As well as when the jet jerked from the ceiling onto the wall behind and disappeared into the window.

The comet, for its part, at times moved onto a small stretch of wall beyond the reach of the window, shooting like a sudden bolt of lightning straight down–completely unnoticed by the woman holding the screen that cast it. And no matter that it went right through a small, rectangular device set in the wall labelled “Fire Alarm.”

About then I thought I heard a call for “John,” the name by which all medical and governmental agencies know me, and got up only to hear the assistant enunciate “Dawn.” So I sat back down as the woman with the jet left the room and another woman took the very seat Dawn had vacated.

She had gray hair. She had no device in hand. She looked around, and when our eyes met, we may have smiled at each other as we nodded, though we were wearing masks and I can vouch for only my own. I was tempted to comment on what the dermatologist’s sound system was offering at the time, Nancy Sinatra singing “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” but I was afraid to imply an assumption about her age.

Before I could think of anything else, a young mom entered the office hand in hand with a daughter about eight. As the mom went to the desk, the girl veered into the waiting room, went to look out the window, and kneeled on the chair next to the woman without a phone.

Said the woman to the girl: “I like your shoes.” Said the girl: “Thank you.” Sang Nancy: “That’s just what they’ll do.”

The two then fell into conversation about the characters–cartoon, I think–on the shoes. To which I would have listened in hopes of voicing a remark about Donald Duck, always my favorite, or Goofy, long-time my personal role model. Instead, I heard “John” with an unmistakable J and left the room to have my own comets, jets, and cartoon characters looked at.

Yes, it does occur to me that if I had a device of my own, I could show you pictures of this morning’s indoor air show. Question is, if I had such a device, would I have seen the show at all? And if gray hair had one, would she have noticed the girl’s colorful shoes?

My answers to those questions make me most thankful for what I do not and will never have.

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