It certainly looked busy behind the sliding glass window. Velvet ropes defined the queue and God forbid that you should not follow that weaving path, even if there was nobody ahead of you. Eye contact was hardly, if impossible to make and only a nasally, metallic voice, with boredom dripping on every syllable made the line move. “Next”, it would bark out, as if the person at the head of the line was a mile across the waiting room and not standing directly two feet in front of it. Nothing could create a motivation to accomplish tasks any faster as there were no incentives in place to do it better. You stood and waited, until they were ready. Procedures were to be followed, no variations, no special treatment allowed.
She had been in the line since 4am, waiting her turn to get to the window. Shuffle, stand, shuffle,stand. If she could sleep in a vertical position, she would have had a good couple of hours rest, but no, she had never perfected that little trick, so she just waited her turn stoiclly, trying to ignore the pain in her head.
When finally “Next” meant her, she eased to the closest window. The face on the other side leaned on a tilt, holding the phone in place with a cold shoulder and an uncaring ear. The face had upon it, a look of total and complete uninterest. “Uh-hum, uh-hum..sure… yes…that’s what I thought when I saw the date.” said the somewhat disembodied voice. Since the counter in front of the face held a computer screen with the waiting womans information printed in a very precise format, things could only be getting ready to go down hill from what was fast becoming a very deep rut in her road.
“Your insurance expired last month.”, the smooth voice stated, showing no empathy. It waited for some type of response. The woman began to twist in the wind and started digging through her purse. ” No, NO, you’re wrong. I paid that bill. I have a cancelled check. It’s here somewhere, give me a minute… I have to see the Doctor. This pain is killing me and I must have some more meds”. The face sighed heavily as if it were a personal affront that it was having to actually wait. “You must have insurance, no exceptions, no special treatment permitted” it droned. Somewhere in the background a clock began ticking. Time here was accounted for at all costs and while the line moved slowly, it was never allowed to stop for more than a minute.
The face was programmed for little, abet no patience, so the timer made all the decisions necessary for things to run efficiently. The woman was really in a panic now as she dumped the contents of her purse in the middle of the floor and was frantically digging thru the mess for the cancelled check which would be her only salvation. Ticket stubs, candy wrappers, pearl handled derringer, grocery receipts, hairbrush and a worn and frazzled identity card which had fallen out of her wallet, were all that she was finding. Good Grief, what in the hell was she going to do? The pounding in her head was now in sync with the ticking of the timer and the madness of the pain had her grasping at the pistol.
As the timer suddenly stopped with a clang, a low keening noise began to emanate from the woman. “Your place is now to be vacated” stated the face. “Next” came its command to the queue that had been standing like stones watching the scene play out. Time for a moment held its breath, as the pounding in the womans head took on a life of its own. Raising the tiny gun from the mess she had made on the floor, she fired between what supposedly were the eyes on the face. Lights began flashing and sirens started to blare and the metallic face shattered into bits of silver electrodes and flecks of plastic shards. “Hell with your “Next” and hell with your exceptions. Give me my Meds.”..and the line moved on.