(Image Source. Not my shot, not my hospital.)
There is a camera pointed at the front doors of this hospital, and a channel on the TV where you can watch the live feed. I assume this is so that patients can watch for their visitors. It’s a surreal thing to watch, the coming and going of thousands of people a day. Since discovering this channel, we’ve left the TV tuned in 24/7. I find myself sleeping with my eyes open, drooling as I watch.
Any time I walk past that camera, I wave or salute or dance a little jig, just to give anyone watching a break from the monotony.
There are very few people who are happy to be coming and going through that door. I imagine the folks in the maternity ward are among them. I can’t think of many others who walk through that door, either direction, with anything less than unease.
Early this morning I spotted a very thin, slow walking man making his way outside. He was dressed in the blue hospital gown, tied in the back, and pushing his IV stand in front of him. I know exactly where he’s going, too. The bubble of no-smoking extends 30 feet past the front doors. Precisely that far away, sits a bench with an ashtray beside it. He was going to smoke.
I watched a woman drop a vase of flowers yesterday, right in the middle of the automatic doors. She stood there for the longest time, looking down as if she couldn’t fathom how to pick them up. The doors stayed open and she stood there until someone walked up behind her and stooped to help. I know that thousand yard stare she was wearing; I see it the mirror.
I make up stories about the tall man in the fedora, the slow-moving child dragging behind his mother, and the skeletal boy with the obvious tics who comes and goes several times a day. I wonder who they’re visiting and where they go when they leave this place.
Most hospitals did away with set visiting hours, in favor of allowing folks to come and go as they are able. But there are times of day when traffic is heavy at the front doors. Just after the 9-5 workday, I watch a steady stream of people make their way inside. I imagine they’ve had a long day at work, but instead of going home they’re here, the last place most of us want to be. Those wearing distinctive coats or crazy hats leave an image in my head, and I notice when they walk back out a couple of hours later.
There is a man who brings flowers every night. There’s a woman and a boy who spend exactly 3 hours here, from 3 to 6, and they are always carrying a bag back out that they didn’t carry in. There’s a security guard who stands outside most of the time, but saunters in to get warm.
The camera never moves, so it’s a ten foot square area that we can see and we’ve no idea where anyone goes when they move outside the frame. It’s mesmerizing.
Last night an older woman carried a huge poinsettia inside, and not 30 minutes later carried it right back out. I don’t care for them either.
When I went downstairs for coffee this morning, I went to the front doors. It was the ass crack of dawn, so there was no one around. The lobby was quiet, and it was still dark outside. I stood in the door and turned to look up at the camera. I stared at it, and thought of a dozen different things I could do. I wondered who was watching, what they were thinking as I stood in the open doors.
Finally I just waved a small wave, and walked back inside. I didn’t really have the energy to do much else and I was certain that anyone watching understood that completely.