Waiting Room Leadership

waitroomIf your life has the feel of a waiting room, then I’m afraid you’re likely missing some opportunities.

Thanks to kidney cancer, blood clots, and the like, I’ve come to be a bit of an unofficial mostinterestingwaiting room aficionado. In other words, I am the most (un)interesting man in the world.

Waiting rooms are to me what fine wines and cigars are to other (normal) people. Waiting rooms have their own particular ambiance. There’s a particular way they smell, sound, and feel. You’d be tempted to say they all smell, sound, and feel the same; but you’d be wrong. Trust me. Having been in as many as I have been, I’ve picked up on the nuances of the various holding pens waiting rooms.

Upon entering one, I close my eyes, allowing the essence of the room to interact with my auditory and olfactory senses. Ah yes, I say quietly to myself, a vintage 1987 oncology waiting room. The light blue hues on the wall sluggishly trudge down the hallways, dragging the dated, 50-shades-of-gray (settle down, ladies) carpet along with it into every room.

Take a deep breath and you’re treated to a scent that can only be produced when that which is old and stale is forced to mingle with that which is just recently sprayed out of a Febreeze bottle. The mutant offspring of this scentsless affair (see what I did there?) isn’t what those Febreeze commercials would have you believe it is. Nay, my friends. It is more akin to the pungent fragrance that permeates a school bus full of adolescent boys who have layered some god-awful body spray on top of their sweaty lather following a basketball game.

It’s within that context that we sit. It’s always sobering for me. As my eyes transition from taking in the decor to glancing at the other folks sharing the space with me, that vintage ’87 atmosphere gets heavier.

For many of these people, life is on hold. The hustle and bustle occurring just outside the walls of the building is of little or no concern to those within it.Lymphoma_waiting_room

Specifically within the oncology waiting room, there’s not a lot of talking. The only sounds you hear are faint whispers, awful music playing quietly over the speakers, and the turning of magazine pages as patients stare blankly at their contents.

We’re all just waiting. Waiting to go in to see the doc. Waiting for an update. Waiting for news. Waiting for what we hope is good news. Waiting for what we suspect is bad news. Waiting to see how bad the bad news is. Waiting after receiving our news because we have no idea how we’re going to tell others our news. Waiting.

Maybe it’s silly or stupid, but I find myself thinking about that room a lot, with its stupid walls and stupid carpet and stupid magazines and stupid music. Why? Because things started changing there and they’ll never go back.

Too often people (myself very much included) wait on this or that. They wait for approval from everyone they know before they act. They wait for the timing to be perfect before trying something. They want to be sure what they do won’t rock their boat. Or anyone else’s boat for that matter.

If there’s something you want to try, try it. If there’s something you want to create, create it. If there’s a problem you want to solve, try to solve it. Quit succumbing to the pressure to fit in, fly under the radar, and be representative of the status quo.

Stand up. Turn toward the door. Leave the freaking waiting room.

3 thoughts on “Waiting Room Leadership

  • Matt, sometimes waiting rooms are gathering places. Several years ago, I went to the emergency ward of a local hospital. It was full and I hunkered down for a long wait. I was surprised, when about 1/2 hour later, I was taken into an exam room. I only waited a few minutes and the doctor came in and I was in and out in about an hour. As I walked back through the waiting room, I realized many of those seated there were ‘marginalized’ in some fashion i.e. homeless or working poor. This was a gathering place with hot coffee and doughnuts. You are so right. We are all waiting for something and it differs depending on our situation.

  • Best ever, Mr. Monge! Brilliant writing (yeah, saw what you did there) meets go on, get going. Exactly…why do we so often wait for outside approval when we have an idea or solution that meets our own approval criteria?! When passing on a chance or a decision whether to proceed feels a bit perfunctory, I’m going to remember this post and question my underlying reasons more often. Thank you for this, a reminder that time and chances are precious. That we often have the answer already, without weighing in or seeking reassurance/acceptance from others.

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