The Great Leveller

Posted on September 30, 2011


‘Please have urine samples ready when seeing the midwife’…..’Check yourself!  For Ghonnorreah!…….’It’s flu season! Have you had your shot?’….’Polite Notice: if you cannot make your appointment, kindly cancel so someone who needs it more can use it.’

The woman sits bent over.  She is the colour of piss.  She wears the colour of piss.  Her hair is the colour of piss. Pale, sickly yellow. She holds a moulded paper sick bowl but there is nothing in it.  Her partner stands worriedly on the periphery.  He launches himself at passing hospital staff, speaking in staccato phrases.  They brush him off, pointing to the waiting room, and moving on down the corridor.

Yellow woman gets up from the chair.  Her back is nearly parallel to the floor.  She walks with her hand pressed to her side.  She mumbles something to her partner as she makes her way out of the room.  She leaves her moulded paper sick bowl on the chair along with her bag and jumper.  The waiting room waits.   A woman holds her stomach in the corner.  A man in a robe sits gingerly next to his wife.

Their arrival was telegraphed by the babble of conversation. ‘This place is abysmal.  What on earth is goin on?  I mean to say! No Doreen, she cannot go shoppin.  She’s got a lung infection.  She aint goin out til the docta says so.’  Hello.  This aint no waitn room, room it aint.  There aint no room.  Who’s is this then?  Ow am I sposed ta sit down when people ave left their stuff all over the place?!’  The diatribe went on as the family made themselves at home, moving yellow woman’s things and settling down comfortably over four chairs.  Off came the wrappers from sandwiches.  There ensued a conversation about domestic life.

Yellow woman came back in.  Unable to summon the strength to argue, she simply gathered her things onto her lap in the last remaining chair in the room.  ‘What’s she walkin like that then?’ Whay aint she walkin straight mum?’  ‘Coz she can’t, love!’.

They were sharing their new living room, it seemed. Conversation quieted down.  Hospital: The Great Leveller had worked its wonders. Furtive glances to yellow woman.

But then, like a family filmed for reality television, they forgot we others were there, and continued on.  Entertaining, irritating and enlightening those of us that were listening.

Eventually, nanny got seen to and the sharabang was off.  Yellow woman too was seen, new people arrived in dribs and drabs and a new round of Great Levelling began. We emerged into the evening light, thankful that the behemoth had released us, absurdly thankful that the day was still the day and the ordinariness of it all was just that: ordinary, there and plain.