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I have been doing an  informal survey of the quality of seats in doctors’ offices over the past week or so. It seems I have spent an extraordinary amount of time going from one office to another and spending entirely too much time waiting. I’m not complaining. As I sit in those chairs and wait, I calculate how much all of these tests and consultations would have cost just a few miles south of this border.

I’m a big fan of chairs as a design statement. Whether simple or ornate, I admire their shapes and utilitarian purpose. It is hard for me to pass any chair on the street put there by owners who no longer see the value or the beauty of that chair. I have picked up a few here and there and spent money having them refurbished. When I sit on them, I feel their gratitude that I saved them from spending the next 300 years decaying in the dump.

There was not one chair in my various doctors’ offices that I would have picked up from the street. While I admired that they were holding me up while I read yet another mystery as I waited, their years of beauty had been replaced by hundreds of bums that had slid in and out of them. Too bad they can’t write, they’d have a guaranteed best-seller telling the woes and sometimes joys of the folks they held up.

What I noticed during my informal survey, was that the quality of the chairs varied greatly from one department to another. One theory I have is that when a department — this sitting was mostly done in a hospital — is remodelled and gets new chairs the old ones end up in the emergency department. There live the shabbiest of the shabby. When I walked in I followed the instructions that were hanging on the wall: Sign your name, and time-of-arrival. It was the last sentence that had me smiling, “Sit in the Pink Chairs and Wait to be Called!” I looked around the semi-crowded hallway and could not see any chair that was remotely pink. If they had said “cracked institutional green” or “prison grey,” there were plenty. Finally, the security guard said, “Mam, there are no pink chairs. Just sit down anywhere.”

When I moved from the pink-chair waiting room to the next one, the chairs were arranged in little clusters and were marginally in better shape. There were even little two-sitter sofas and side tables. But what was remarkable was what happened in these clusters. The folks sitting in there in those chairs, started to talk to one another. They watched each others’ belongings when they went to the bathroom or outside for a smoke. And they didn’t talk about their ailments and why they were sitting there, they talked about neighbourhoods where they lived and what they were cooking for supper when they got home. There was even laughter in what is a pretty dismal place to spend a few — or a lot — of hours. When my name was finally called out and I gathered my stuff and moved out of my chair, there were good byes and good lucks from the other chairs.

I’m off now for yet another appointment and more chair sitting. I’m thankful that they’re there to hold me and keep me from fretting too much.