This morning, it was so cold. P picked me up at 7 and took me to the county clinic. We had to wait for a long time in a large waiting room. I watched everyone: the black woman with lots of cleavage and the huge wooden cross. The Mexican woman with long, long hair. All the men with broken right arms. The jittery white woman who didn't sit still and kept folding and re-folding her jacket. The young white guy who spilled soda on the floor, and it looked like a puddle of pee.
Then I was given paperwork and sent upstairs. We waited there for a long time, as I filled out forms: my name and address and date of birth over and over again, with different additional information every time: social security number, income, ethnicity, stuff about Erik.
So someone processed those forms, and I was sent downstairs again, where I had to wait some more. But that time, every chair was filled. I watched a thin Asian couple with their cute toddler-baby. The baby looked so bored. At first, he seemed very sick, the way he was holding his body, with his back arched and a spaced-out look. Then he shifted and seemed fine, which was a relief. I watched the mom play with him, and they spoke in a language I couldn't recognize. They gave one another bites of crackers.
Then I reached into my bag and pulled out a neon yellow plastic alligator that I had been given many years before. For some reason, this alligator had been with me for four moves--it was given to me by an ex-cousin-in-law. Last night I thought I would bring it with me to put in the toy pile or near the magazines, but this waiting room had no toys or magazines, just a TV in the corner blaring news and later The Price is Right, which I refer to in my mind as The Price is Wrong.
So I gave the alligator to the little boy, and he looked at it and touched its ridges, its toes. The mom tried to get him to say thank you. I watched him play with it for half an hour. Then he went to sleep in his mother's arms, and the mom tucked the toy between two parts of the stroller. When it was time for them to go in to the doctor again, the boy woke up. "My alligator!" he told his mom, and she handed it to him. He clutched it tightly, and I watched him roll away.
"You've done your good deed for the day," P told me. Meanwhile, P was doing her good deed of the day by bringing me to the doctor, and it was a lot more valuable than a plastic alligator.
So we were lucky the entire visit lasted only three and a half hours, but I have to go back next week to do many more forms.