It’s like it has never even occurred to waiting-room-chair manufacturers that it is a terrible idea to mold the chair to the curve of a butt. For one thing, I thought while selecting a seat along the waiting room wall, the idea of butt-molded plastic is just weird. Also, I noted as I sat down, not all butts are created equal, proportionally, at least. The chair-butt-shape was probably a perfect fit for someone somewhere, at least at one point, but it definitely didn’t fit mine, or probably that of most people who use this waiting room.
My eyes wandered the eggshell-colored walls, resting for a moment on the wooden rack next to the receptionist’s desk. It was one of those pamphlet racks filled with brightly colored brochures that boldly claim to, in a mere three illustrated panels, help you resolve any issue from teen pregnancy to suicide thoughts.
I checked my phone idly, knowing full well that no one had texted me. Ephemerally, I wished I had brought my math homework to plow away at. Alas, there is no point in wishing for things I can’t have. I just have to make the best of the moment I am in. In this situation, “the best” was clearly going into the bathroom and making faces in the mirror.
Unfortunately, though, this particular bathroom was the single-stall kind, and I heard a dull knock on the door after only a few puffer-fish faces and muscle flexes. On the bright side, though, having to leave saved me the inward humiliation of having lost a bit of bicep lately, and from the limited humor of chipmunk cheeks as my only distinctive facial feature.
I returned to my chair, butt still not conforming to the butt-puzzle of the plastic’s shape. Yet again I set my eyes free to wander, and yet again they wound up resting on the rack of pamphlets. I felt myself stand up, and let my feet carry me to the rack. Examining the selection, I picked up bubblegum-pink “Teen Pregnancy,” figuring I could carry it around and give people a scare.
Then I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. Pulling it out, the words “Where are you?” hovered in a smoky text-bubble midscreen. “At the doctor’s, be there soon,” I replied. I set “Teen Pregnancy” down, and my fingers gravitated towards “Helping A Friend.” Back in the (dis)comfort of my chair, I opened the pamphlet. I skimmed over Signs of Alcoholism, Signs of Depression, and all their terrifying cohorts. Where my eyes rested was How To Help.
Make Yourself Available. I handle that decently, I think. Don’t be judgmental. Offer emotional support, patience, and encouragement. Though I try my best at these, it seems almost impossible to do them perfectly, especially in light of the next tip, Be prepared for all possible reactions.
Okay, pamphlet, I thought to myself, how do I strike the balance between Listen, Don’t Lecture and Offer Help, especially if I gave absolutely no idea how to help? When I try to offer my own advice or relation to my own pathetically inexperienced life, which I probably do far too often, it comes out hollow. I feel like I need to say something, though, something not just to fill the dead air but maybe to mitigate the pain? But it’s not my job to mitigate the pain. Or is it? But it shouldn’t be the victim’s…? And how does professional help play into all this? I closed my eyes for a second and let gravity roll my head back against the wall.
The longer I sat in the chair, I noticed, the less uncomfortable it felt. I re-opened the pamphlet, my eyes wandering back to Listen, Don’t Lecture. Though I’m nowhere near perfect at it, I give it what I have, and people seek me out to talk, so clearly I’m somewhat decent. Listen more, lecture less. Pretty do-able, I thought.
The receptionist croaked my name from behind a stack of file folders. I hesitated to stand up from my chair, but I had to keep moving forward. Slipping the pamphlet into my backpack, I stood up, slung the weight over my shoulder, and stepped forward. It was heavy, but I didn’t doubt for a second that I could carry it.