Thorough

bright red hair_mirror

“It’s because he’s thorough.”

That’s what she says. The down-to-earth red haired nurse with the great sense of humor. We got to the appointment 20 minutes early, and they took us in for the x-ray right away. They always seem to do that. That’s why they are my favorites, even though their co-pay is three times as expensive as any other department.

It is 8:41 in the morning. That’s a good two hours before I usually open my eyes, let alone achieve higher brain function. We got here early, because we always do. Because I’m pathologically punctual. And I always assume that mamacat, with her old, injured body, will ambulate more slowly than she actually does. She’s like a turtle, that way.

They shunted us into the x-ray room two minutes after we checked in, 20 minutes before our appointment. They always do. I like to think it’s because every time we check in I make the receptionist laugh. A real laugh, not just the polite, laughter equivalent of talking about the weather. Even at 8:21, my brain several hours and 95 milligrams of caffeine away from advanced cognition, I made her laugh. That’s why she let us in early. I prefer to think that.

It is 8:41 in the morning. The x-ray was already done. It was much faster this time, now that mamacat isn’t in so much pain. Even though this break was new. The second break in a summer defined by fractured bone. Last time was worse. But last time is over. This one is still here. The x-ray is done and the nurse takes us into a room and sat us down. The red-haired nurse. She makes me laugh, even at 8:41 in the morning.

“You’re going to be waiting for awhile,” she says after taking mamacat’s blood pressure and going through the normal checklist. “Dr. Whatley usually runs behind, and he’s still with another patient.”

“That’s fine,” I say. “We’re happy to sit here.” I spoke for mamacat. I often do, because she tires easily and sometime she doesn’t make any sense. I’m never sure whether that should make me feel bad.

“It’s because he’s thorough,” the nurse adds, with the tiniest hint of urgency. “He takes a long time with each patient, because he’s thorough. But you’re going to be waiting for awhile.”

“She told us we’d be waiting,” I say after she leaves, half to a sleepy mamacat and half to myself. “They never do that.”

I find it refreshing. Just like the fact that she didn’t bother with the unnecessary task of ensuring that mamacat’s medicines hadn’t changed, because we had been to her GP just a few days previously. They always do that. I’m never sure if it’s a waste of time or a sign that they are thorough.

But I find it refreshing. And I don’t think it’s just because I like her attitude. And the sound her voice. And the fact that she probably has no idea that she’s beautiful.

Dr. Whatley shows up nearly forty minutes later. Almost a half an hour past the time of our initial appointment. He asks a lot of questions. He carefully prods along mamacat’s newly broken left arm. He dithers back and forth about whether the break need surgery, in a way that could be discouraging but is instead reassuring. Both options are valid. He admits he doesn’t know. Doctors who do that make me happy. He presents us with an array of options. He is there for a long time.

We’ve met so many orthopedists in the last few months. But I think he’s my favorite. Mamacat thinks he’s her favorite. We both agree that he’s thorough.

I believe that, because I saw it. I was there. I saw him methodically inspect the arm and squint with deliberation at the x-ray. I believe he’s thorough because I saw it for myself.

But is that why? Maybe it’s because she told me. The red-haired nurse who I imagine probably keeps her scrubs on when she gets home, because she has a newborn, and she’s going to get dirty anyway. For the same reason she doesn’t wear makeup. Or maybe she changes into new scrubs. Baby scrubs.

Is that why I think that? I read the pauses between words — crawling along in a slow southern drawl — as careful contemplation and analysis. Maybe I would have thought he was dim. Maybe I would have thought his indecision about the surgery was wishy washy. That he lack conviction. Maybe I would have thought he was a time waster, and resented him for making us wait so he could take such long pauses between words.

As I wheeled mamacat out we make a followup appointment. He wants us back in seven to fourteen days. They have an appointment next week, but we don’t take it. We wait the whole two weeks, because that’s the next time Whatley is available. I’m willing to wait. Mamacat is willing to wait. Some things are worth waiting for.

After all, he’s very thorough.

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