Ambiences and Tendencies

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TV in the Waiting Room

Joseph Sheppard

The stories you are about to read are true.
The names have been changed to protect the victims.

We have all had the experience of finding televisions blaring in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. There the mother sits with her two children while the soap opera features adultery in the bedroom. There the father sits while some lewd woman responds to the screams of an excited audience. These are situations that assault both the eyes and the ears. It is certainly possible to have decent information conveyed to waiting room eyes and ears, but this is seldom the case. The following examples exclude those rare occasions when doctors employ VCRs to educate patients on their medical conditions.

A TV in a waiting room

The TV has become a regular feature in waiting areas
Recently, Irene found herself in the following situation. As something referred to as “music” blared mock obscenity into the waiting room of the emergency medical clinic, she asked the only other patient seated there: “Would you mind if I turned this off?” The patient responded “No!, please do!” Irene pushed the power button off, right next to the label that said “Please do not change the channel.”

Moments later, after the other patient had been called to see the doctor, with only Irene in the waiting room, a flustered receptionist entered the room demanding: “Who turned off the TV!?” “I did.” answered Irene. “Well, you are not supposed to touch the TV! We have it there for our patients!” declared the receptionist. Could it be the patients the receptionist was referring to had not yet arrived?

In another incident, Sam walked up to the hospital admissions desk and asked to have a seat after “signing in.. What filled Sam’s ears upon seating himself, but screaming tales of depravity from the latest installment of “Divorce Court”. That is entertainment! The only one watching the spellbinding theatrics of Judge (fill-in-the-blank) was a hospital worker behind the admissions desk.

Once upon a time, there were no televisions available at hospitals. Then TV became an option “for a nominal fee.” Today, the TV is in every patient room and waiting room. Such progress! Has television become a necessity in our hospitals, akin to oxygen, nurses and medicine?
A television in a garbage can

A better place for the tv set?
Joel, when going through six months of chemotherapy, was surprised to find every patient “station” contained a remote control for a corresponding TV, one of a bank of such devices mounted from the ceiling. Most patients were asleep receiving medications via IV, while others read books or talked to fellow patients and loved ones. The same scenario is found in every hemodialysis center. Manufacturers of hemodialysis equipment consider the TV an integral item in their products. How many have died while viewing one of those sordid daytime soap operas, one wonders?

Of course, what can be said for hospitals and doctor’s offices also applies to auto dealerships and service locations, malls, and barbershops (etc.).

Televisions have also become modern babysitters. Some children spend hours in front of the cathode ray tube or high definition screen unattended. Ellen, an elementary school teacher was asked by a student if she had seen the latest episode of “Acquaintances” on the tube. When Ellen informed the student that they did not watch TV at her home, the child stared in disbelief and stated: “Then what do you do?” With God’s grace, use the light of reason, perhaps?

Considering the habits of children and medical administrators, it would seem that television is a cradle-to-grave necessity.

In the true examples cited above, almost no consideration was given to those who did not wish to hear or see what the TV had to offer. The assumption, although quite often wrong, was that everyone wanted to experience some childish vulgarity. It is true, although unfortunate, that much programming on television tends toward an immoral and agnostic appetite. It would seem that in our society of “choice,” there might be some respect for those who wish the choices to be limited.

How can one counter the current bad influences of the television in public places? By turning it off when possible, or engaging others in good conversation to distract them from such influences. In the case of the hospital or patient waiting room, showing a concern for another patient and asking about his illness can often lead to an elevated conversation that contrasts with an otherwise poor ambience.

Posted January 4, 2005

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