The Accidental Observer

I spent a lot of time at the local clinic yesterday, and that always means some excellent quality people-watching.  I was not, indeed, disappointed.

Soon after I sat down at the first station, a young couple–maybe 28, 30 years old each–sat next to me.  Man and woman.

I heard them before I saw them, and my first impression was that they were an adolescent boy and his mother; unfortunately, in hindsight, I see that I was, for all intents and purposes, correct, even if this was, in reality, a romantic couple (living together or married).

The, uh, “man” of the couple was engrossed in his cell phone, playing games and checking things without looking up.  He was complaining, in a very annoying high and whiny voice (hence my first thought of his age) about something not coming in on time at Wal*Mart.  He was very short with his partner.  She was very quiet and trying to be soothing.  He ended his little pity fest by saying, “Why do we always have to wait for things at this Wal*Mart?”

Waaaaaah.  I assumed, by his chat, some electronic gadget or movie release–he knew what date something was supposed to be released.

This couple’s conversation–if you could call it that, as not once did he look at his partner or stop playing with his toy–soon devolved into petty bickering.  The female half of the couple was, at least, attempting to be discreet, but the guy?  He was, it seems, one of those persons who desperately needs an audience for everything he says and does, and expects not only his wife but random strangers to notice his every move.

I suspect strongly that if there had not been a waiting room full of uncomfortable strangers desperately wishing for the ability to turn off hearing as one closes one’s eyes, his little snit wouldn’t have happened at all.

The disagreement ended with the man saying, “You never listen to me” (oh, the irony…we all had to listen to him, Dear God) and his wife replying, timidly and oh-so-quietly, “You never listen to me.”  To which he replied, “So, why are we talking?”

I had to ask myself, “So, why are you two together?”  It was obvious that this was their normal means of communicating.  Neither was upset in the least.  This was exactly how they normally relate to each other.

How horrifying.  But it gets worse.

After we’d been there awhile, a nurse came out to speak to them.  She told them, very discreetly, that they’d have to wait for results a little while longer.  The patient–the woman of the couple–thanked the nurse and the nurse left.

Immediately, the man began complaining.  He said he had better things to do than to sit there and wait.

He then listed the things he had to do, loudly, intermixing the catalog with repeated choruses of “I’ve got a busy day!”  He had to go to the bank, he had to go home and check his mail, and he had to run one more errand. All of these were things that were within ten blocks of this clinic.

It was, at this time, about 11:30 in the morning.

“I got a busy day!” pout, petulant whine, pout.  I wanted to turn around, desperately, and say, “Oh, grow up, you pathetic loser.”  But I held back.

But it got still worse.

A couple of minutes later, he asked his wife–loudly, of course, and while he was still playing his phone (and accidentally taking photos with it that he didn’t mean to do)–“Did you get your shot yet?”

She answered in the negative, and that they had to wait for results on this test before she got her shot.  Her husband began to laugh annoyingly.  Finally showing some spunk, she turned to him and said, “What’s so funn!” in a strong voice.

His response?  I kid you not…it was, “Ha ha, you still have to get poked in the arm!  Ha ha!”

Not two minutes after this, Sir I’m-So-Great needed a Kleenex, and there was a box about five feet away on a railing.  He asked her to get him one or two, which she dutifully did.  Obviously, getting the Kleenex was a task too menial for him.  Then…oh, man, I really wish I were kidding…without even words, she took his used Kleenex and found a waste receptacle for it.

The way this was done showed that this was always the way it was; no words were exchanged.

But it still gets worse.

Just before I got called to leave the waiting room, it became clear what the couple was there for–and not because I was eavesdropping but because the man refused to speak in lower tones.  Indeed, as I said before, he wanted an audience.  He was that arrogant, that needy of adoring attention.  This came about because he asked her, point blank, “What’ll you do if you’re pregnant?  Put off the rest of college until it’s, what, two?”

It was obvious she was there for her regular Depo (contraceptive) shot, and before she could get it, she had to have a negative pregnancy test.  Simple.  Not a big deal…unless you’re this guy.

They were a couple.  His earlier conversation proved to me that these two were at least living together, if not married, and shared at least bank accounts.  Therefore, any contraceptive measures were *theirs*, not *hers*, and, dear God, any child would be *theirs* and not *hers*.

But, no.  He asked, “What’ll YOU do if you’re pregnant.”  In a tone that suggested that none of this was his concern, and for the love of God, did she think he could spend a half-hour in a damn waiting room (laughing at her getting a shot) while there was mail to be retrieved?!?

This guy was not handsome.  Quite the opposite.  He was fairly…let’s be generous and say “unattractive, physically.”  The woman wasn’t magazine-cover beautiful, but she was an attractive young woman with a bright, friendly face.

Why are they together?  I sat there and tried to figure that out.  Tried to figure out what would have drawn this woman to this man–it wasn’t his looks.  It wasn’t his personality.  I doubt he was wealthy by the way he talked (and his older-model cell phone), not that I think wealth is a good reason to date/marry someone.  He had, as far as I witnessed, absolutely nothing going for him, and many marks against him.

Yet, he had a wife who was willing to be berated while waiting for a pregnancy test, to be belittled in public, to throw away used Kleenexes, and to be what appeared receptacle for his sexual pleasure (since all the repurcussions would be hers alone).

I had to leave before they did (or I’m sure I would have heard, loudly, any test results broadcast by him), but since then, I’ve just been hoping that her test was negative.  That dynamic between them?

Shouldn’t be raising children.

If that makes me elitist, so be it.  I can accept that.

And, also?  Thank God for my husband.  The contrast between these two men couldn’t be more marked.  I would expect from a true partner neither overbearing strength nor chronic weakness (and I hope to exhibit neither myself but I’ll refrain from saying I manage this), and I am so very, very happy to have a strong, decent, kind, adult husband.

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