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05/09/2004

You must be at least this tall to enter the waiting room

It's timely that Karen should write about this, because all weekend I've been thinking about the kids I saw in the waiting room on Saturday.

Wait, that's inaccurate. Actually I've been thinking about the women who were in the waiting room with me then.

On Saturday I sat near a couple who were not from around here. By that I mean that they were not speaking English and not wearing sneakers — obviously not American. They were accompanied by a boy of about three, I'd say, immaculately dressed, lively but impeccably behaved, and some luggage, also well dressed and reasonably docile.

The woman looked strained and harried. She was kept busy coming and going in pursuit of bloodwork and paperwork, so her companion, a patient and pleasant-looking man, took charge of the boy. Although the toddler spent most of his time quietly paging through board books (in French and Italian), occasionally he got fractious; the moment he opened his mouth to squawk, his father picked him up and whisked him out into the hallway.

What I am trying to convey is the fact that the boy was beautifully behaved; when he needed attention, his father acted swiftly to keep him from inconveniencing anyone.

And yet I didn't see one single woman in the waiting room willing to make eye contact with the child or his parents. It's not so much that they were sending infrared hate rays at the heads of the parents, hoping their sheer malice would cause a cranial explosion, although a few of them were. It was the determination to seem indifferent that struck me.

Now, please don't think I'm criticizing anyone who would prefer not to see children in the waiting room of an infertility clinic. I mean, my God, what could possibly be unreasonable about that? What appalled me, given the setting, was my own reaction, my almost irresistible impulse to engage the toddler, to make funny faces, to play peek-a-boo, to make him laugh. I remembered in time where I was, but I almost made a gigantic ass of myself — more gigantic even than usual.

Not, of course, as gigantic an ass as the man who later came in, who wore a fuzzy-headed, pink-cheeked baby strapped to his chest, gamboling boisterously around the room as if the kid were a sandwich board reading, "ASK ME ABOUT MY FERTILITY, WHICH BORDERS ON VULGARITY, AND MY TACT, WHICH VERGES ON NONEXISTENT."

But, no, that's not accurate, either, because there's no way you could fit so many big words on such a tiny, adorable baby.

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