Grace at the walk-in

As you may recall, I went to the walk-in clinic a couple of days ago, where I was gently chastised for my over-clean ears. You will be pleased to know that I have been Q-tip-free for three and half entire days now. It totally sucks. But I’m going to push through. But this post isn’t about my ears. My waxy, crinkly, itchy, unsatisfied ears. This post is about the walk-in clinic — surely one of the least happy places on earth. Especially in Thunder Bay, during what has turned out to be a record-setting cold spell, two days before New Year’s. If you are at a walk-in in Thunder Bay in December, you already feel like crap, enough so that you will brave the cold and the waiting and the other sick people just to get some relief.

I have been amping up my meditation/mindfulness practice of late (a whole other blog post, or series of posts in itself; on the other hand, maybe no blog posts at all — you know, the first rule of meditation practice is that one doesn’t blog at length about meditation practice), and I decided to do my daily practice at the walk-in. Put away the phone, my borrowed copy of Blue Is the Warmest Color, and just sit up straight with my eyes open and be in the room, observe the people and the goings-on without judgment, with compassion. The attractive man sitting next to me, accompanying his elderly father; the young couple in their 20s, she with stomach pains each morning; the teenaged boy and his mom; the coughers and the hackers and the snifflers and the grey-haired man directly across from me burying his head in his hands and sighing. I did my best just to observe them all.

And then an elderly woman approached the young couple.

“Excuse me,” she asked them, “but do you by any chance drive a Honda Civic?”

They nodded.

“I just backed into your bumper,” she said, miserably.

The couple looked at each other, and then at her.

“Don’t worry about it,” said the young man.

The woman shook her head, uncomprehending.

“We just bought a new car,” said the young man. “It’s okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well,” he said, “… is it bad?”

“There’s a hole in it.”

He shrugged. “Enh. Don’t worry. We’re good.”

The woman looked like she was about to cry. “I’m shaking,” she said.

“Happy new year,” they told her.

And then she went back to her seat and the doctor called in the young woman, and I thought about how lucky I was to have seen that happen, how lucky I was to have been right there, right then.