Ralph and Sam had worked the hospital since it opened in 1925. Twelve hour shifts, with each clocking in or out, whatever the case would be, promptly at the stroke of seven. They had never really developed would we would call a friendship, since they were either coming or going and neither wanted to waste much time shooting the breeze when they met at the waiting room, but there always a few minutes of time that they did their briefings so that each would be up on the current status quo of the day.
Today was like most others. The waiting room was about a third full, with some family members still sleeping on the sofas while others having risen earlier, returned from their trips to find the morning paper and pick up the all important coffee needed to start the day. Whispers of a few morning prayers could be heard from the corners, and the usual heavy shroud of despair waited in the wings, till after the morning Doctor rounds, where prognosis would be written into charts and relayed to the waiting family’s. Hope would periodically seep into the area but most of the time, soberness was the mood of the group as a whole.
Ralph and Sam had pretty much seen it all over their 85 years working the floor. Each had his own unique routine, and each felt that his was more effective in getting all the daily minutia of the job completed within the 12 hour shift. When they would see new family’s come into the waiting room, it was always the same. Furtive eyes looking for just the right spot on which to settle, while waiting for results of tests or operations or for the really unlucky, the final “I’m sorry to have to tell you’s….” from staff. To Ralph and Sam it was all part of a days work.
Ralph did his job efficiently and neatly. Over the years he had become a computer whiz and had progressed to creating Excel spreadsheets with all the patients and their corresponding illnesses listed. When someones time came, he would put a bright red check mark by their names and would use the “strikeout” feature, which he thought was way cool, to cross out their information on the line. He never deleted the information, as he loved to keep track of everyone, and could tell you to the exact number, how many had passed on his watch.
Sam on the other hand, was pretty lackadaisical, about the whole process. He made his rounds, as he should, and followed the ole axiom ” Be where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there”, but as far as keeping records, that just not his forte. “Que Sera, Sera” was his motto, he just got his list, did what he was supposed to do and at the end of the shift, through the daily tabulations into the trash. He figured tomorrow would be another day and there was always gonna be a new list to work.
Neither Ralph nor Sam paid much attention to those folks in the hospital waiting room. To them they were just the ornaments on the tree, things that were expected to hang around. The faces changed but the usual outcome remained the same. It was what kept Ralph and Sam employed.
“Good Morning Ralph”…”Morning to you Sam, anything out of the usual going on?” Ralph always like to get the jump on the gun should Sam be leaving him any leftovers. “Nope.” replied Sam. “I picked up the women in 413 at midnight, and the guy in 422 was ready to go by 6am, so I went ahead and got him as well. You may have a chance with the old fart in 401, unless that antibiotic kicks in”. “Sounds like a plan”, said George as he raised the hoodie over his head”
“Oh and by the way, before I forget”, said Sam, ” I let George on the 3rd floor borrow my Scythe for his shift, would you please remind him to bring it back and leave it with you before I come back in tonight.”