(I was going to title this post ‘those two people’, but then I remembered this old thing)
Today I had an appointment at my local hospital, a routine diabetes checkup with an unusually helpful nurse, in which we discussed basal rates, insulin-carbohydrate ratios, and proper p[ump-applying technique, among other useful things; in general, it was a productive, painless afternoon.
Apart from the fact that there were two arseholes sitting across from me in the waiting room, whose anguished yelps that someone had the audacity to keep them waiting for more than a second longer than they anticipated managed to sound more pained and hopeless than a person being stabbed with a bargepole, a Jordanian pilot being burned alive by IS, and the cries of the panderers and seducers in the eight circle of Dante’s Hell all put together.
I’m not adverse to moaning about things – I’m both British, and have a misplaced sense of the importance of my own opinions because I have a blog, so really I’m an example of pointless bitching – but I’m not a fan of publicly wailing about minutia; this blog, for instance, is read by the people who are interested in it, I don’t wander up and down streets declaring to strangers that ‘printers are the scum of the earth!’ Also, the pair of them made it seem like this was a personal injustice, wrongly committed against those two obvious examples of magnanimosity and dignified virtue, instead of the results of a logistical system in which a bunch of under-paid, overworked doctors and nurses have to care for the wellbeing of sixty million whiny bastards with a budget consisting largely of what they can find stuffed down the backs of their sofas, or tucked away in the glove compartments of their cars.
I suppose what’s really getting to me is their sense of entitlement, that just because we have a ‘free’ health service, it means that service must be perfectly-operated, and every individual working in it must have the same relentless altruism that doctors in TV shows have, instead of the reality that people go into medicine because they’re good at science, and have the audacity to want a stable job upon graduating university. Don’t get me wrong, I love the NHS – as an idea, universal healthcare is awesome, and I’d personally be either dead, or having to fork out ten grand every four years for diabetes treatment otherwise – but I accept that the system is imperfect in theory, because it’s unreasonable to expect all healthcare workers all the time to be genuinely devoted to helping others, and in practice, because of the costs and logistical issues with operating a single health service on this scale. I’m hardly a paragon of virtue and patience, but I had to wait an hour for my appointment, and spent the time writing some poetry; they waited forty minutes, and spent the time bitching about the torture they’d had to endure.
The way I see it, there are two responses to a a flawed, but necessary, system like the NHS: you can either adapt your own behaviour to reduce the impact of those flaws (bring paper and a pen to pass the time in the waiting room) and maximise the benefits (I try to be prepared for my appointments, so I can have intelligent and constructive discussions about my health with a doctor, instead of blanking sitting there as they blindly grope for answers), or you can do something wider, and try to change that system for the better. Obviously, the latter is the better option, both long-term and in terms of creating a benefit for other people, but a waiting room isn’t the place to single-handedly reform the NHS, and the lament that ‘he’s been waiting for much less time than me, why is he getting seen?’ won’t make the awesome work of the doctors and nurses around you any better.