Top Tips For Avoiding Waiting Room Boredom

Over the years, I've become accustomed to waiting around for appointments in various waiting rooms. Luckily for me, many of the appointments have been for others, usually my wife or daughter but it still involves what is usually a considerable amount of time hanging around doing nothing. I've come up with a few ways of killing time rather than staring at four walls, so in no particular order, here you go.

READING MATERIAL: Easily my preferential choice of time-killing. Take a good book or a newspaper and don't rely on the range of magazines usually available in the room as they generally range from being a couple of weeks old to being years out of date. Our record was a couple of years ago when we found a Sunday Times colour supplement from the mid-1980s in the X-Ray department at Harefield Hospital. I prefer a decent novel but was caught out once when I vastly underestimated the waiting time for one particular check up and managed to finish the book well ahead of time, leaving me stuck. Val McDermid's Wire In The Blood will forever be ingrained as the book that I finished too quickly. Thankfully a recent birthday present of a Kindle ensures that I'll never be stumped again for reading material.

TALK TO A STRANGER: Despite everything installed to us as children, a chat with a total stranger can be a major time waster and, as an added bonus, could earn you a new friend or discover something exceptionally interesting about someone. Oddly, a simple "Good Morning" as you sit down can break the ice, but often it's only after an extraordinarily long wait in the same room do people actually strike up a conversation. This option can be fraught with potential danger though, especially if the person you're chatting to results in being mind-numbingly dull or boring and you end up hearing far too much about his collection of model trains in his attic or how the bus to the hospital was three minutes later than usual toady. Equally they could be a know-all who knows plenty about everything but an expert on nothing. The worst is the serial moaner who will complain about everything from how long they've been waiting to how crap the weather is. Sadly, the ones who want to spark up conversation are usually in the latter categories rather than the interesting ones. Choosing the `Reading Material` option usually stops anyone from striking up conversation with you but some people are simply so dull or boring that they are oblivious of what you are doing and will talk regardless.

GUESSING GAME: Not a choice I've chosen often but can be fun if you are there with a friend or family member. The opportunities are limitless as you try and guess things about the other unknowns in the waiting room and then have a good chat about it on the way home. Potential topics could be age, name, occupation, hobbies or holiday destinations. Probably best to keep the guessing silent and discuss on the way home though as openly announcing in the waiting room to your friend that the large guy in the corner could be a secret transvestite could be seen as being a tad rude. The down side is that unless you combine this with "TALK TO A STRANGER" then you'll never know how accurate you were. But maybe that's part of the enjoyment.

TECHNOLOGY RULES: In this day and age, a home entertainment system is easily portable so taking your iPad, mobile phone or even laptop into the waiting room gives you a whole range of ways to pass the time. A word of warning though, if you are doing anything potentially noisy then it's courteous to mute the device. It could be hugely embarrassing to open iTunes and suddenly the latest Barry Manilow download blasts into action and fills the waiting room, lowering your kudos rating in one fell swoop. Equally, if you are using a laptop or similar device that involves typing, then it may not be a good idea as the constant tapping of the keys can be irritating to the point that your fellow waiters in the room will not be responsible for their actions. I've been in McDonalds near a `tapper` and came close to forcing the gherkins from my Big Mac into his disk drive. If your phone happens to ring, people will probably tolerate you answering and talking but if you make a call whilst waiting, then fellow waiters will be looking to smash your Blackberry against the nearest brick wall.

Failing all that, there's always the option to read the various inevitable leaflets scattered around the room or the age old magazines gearing up for the forthcoming Posh and Becks wedding or how the Millennium Bug is about to destroy all electronic equipment on New Years Day.


Gary Dowden - 9th December 2010

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