It was 2016, the year that a polygraph test proved that Jeremy Kyle had been seeing other audiences. It was also the year that Donald Trump’s hair was reintroduced to the wild.
It was three thirty on a Thursday, and I was waiting for a doctor’s appointment. In this regard, I had a lot in common with the other occupants of the room. (All twelve of them.) When I’d walked up to the desk to check into the clinic, the receptionist had smiled apologetically, with that mixture of pity and boredom that comes with working in a service industry. She explained that they were still seeing the patient booked in for one thirty... on Wednesday... from the week before, and that she was sorry for any inconvenience. She invited me to take a seat, and I took the last available chair, next to a man with five chins and one eyebrow. I know they say that beauty can’t be reduced to a series of numbers and items on a list, but this man was evidence to the contrary.
Opposite me sat a woman nursing a coffee, magazine, and black eye. There was a small dog tied to the leg of her chair. I say dog, I mean a sort of dog-rat hybrid, the type fashionable with celebrities. I always look at them with disdain and think “You really let yourself go. You used to be a wolf.”
As the hours passed, I came to appreciate my seat. The next person to arrive was forced to stand awkwardly in the corner, trying desperately to look as if they were there for a purpose, rather than decoration. The man to arrive after him couldn’t even find a section of wall to lean against, so stood in the middle of the room, as if we were playing a game of duck-duck goose. I considered offering him my seat, but I realised that it wasn’t mine to give. The receptionist had told me to sit there, and if I know one thing about queuing, you don’t want to disobey the warden.
As time went by and patients continued to arrive, the room attained the mood and consistency of a Ryanair flight. The march of the clock’s hands, until then my source of entertainment, became obscured by a wall of flesh and nylon-polyurethane blend.
After a few days, the inevitable happened: the vending machine ran out of salt and vinegar crisps, and the water cooler was emptied. We sent out a search party of five. When they didn’t return, we assumed that the world outside was hostile. Upon reflection, this was a rather hasty conclusion to which to have jumped. You see, we had no way of knowing whether they had actually returned. By this time, and with a patient backlog of six days, the room had taken on the density of a Virgin Trains service. People had been standing for so long, they had forgotten what they were there for.