The Girl Who Comes Early 

Regular readers (of which you are now certainly one) will know that opening the door to the waiting room fills me with a similar excitement/trepidation you get when someone invites you to a fetish club for the first time.
Back when Dr. D was a freshly minted psychiatrist, I’d be alone in the waiting room with just CCTV for company.
Now he’s got something of a reputation as the Bob The Builder of psychiatrists; he doesn’t just get his own patients: he gets the ones other psychiatrists can’t fix.

Today I see a familiar face; a face that desperately wants to smile but is unsure the effort will be returned.

This is The Girl Who Comes Early. She doesn’t so much sit in the waiting room as set up base camp.

I first encountered her a month previously when she sat in an armchair, looking down, her hands clasped together between her knees. She shook like a puppet. None of that bothered me. I was just annoyed that Dr. D had overbooked. I’ve warned him about this on many occasions.

I’ve told him he’ll end up with the reputation of a cheap airline and he’s risking the brand but he doesn’t listen.

“Is he late?” I ask the girl - who is actually a woman aged about forty.

“No,” she says brightly. “I’m early.”

“Oh, ok. How early?”

“My appointment isn’t for four hours. I like to come here because it’s quiet.”

“Yes it is.” I say this and then quickly realise that I have made it Unquiet. I grab a magazine and tip-toe back to the sofa opposite. She smiles again and then proceeds to break the quiet.

“I live with my parents because I can’t live alone.”

“They must be extremely noisy.” It was the first thing that came into my head.

“No, it’s just that they worry about me all the time and I can’t stand hearing it so I come here.”

Her hands are still between her knees and her speech is somewhat wobbly, but she looks genuinely happy to see someone. We’ve connected in the way you might when you find the only other person on an away day who thinks it’s bullshit.

Today she’s in the same chair as she was that first time I met her.

Apropos of nothing she suddenly says, “I managed a week on my own last week. My parents went away because I told them I could do it and I did.”

I’m genuinely pleased for her. I realise that besides Dr. D she might have nobody else to tell and that this is a big moment I’m sharing.

“I’m so happy for you. Really I am.”

“Thank you. You’re so lovely. I hope I see you again.”

I feel gracious, humbled and privileged.  Then I see a commercial opportunity for Dr. D that might rescue his diminishing brand.

“I think I could solve the problem of your overbooking and add value to your service. You saw how good I was out there just now. I could be your assistant and talk to people in the waiting room. When they see you, they’ll be more predisposed to doing what you tell them. It will also lessen the burden on you to hurry through people AND perhaps avoid a case of misdiagnosis. Win-win for everyone.”

“This is a derivation of your idea to be the person families pay to talk to coma patients when they get bored, isn’t it?”

“Nonsense. It’s totally different.”

“I’ll get back to you,” he says. “I need to consider the ethics.”

Liz Fraser