I walked into work today and the place was dark.
It was also quiet, but not in the way you might think. People were laughing and freely talking as opposed to the sound of fingers typing on a keyboard, or footsteps in the hallway, or clothing rustling as patients passed by us and were shown back to their rooms.
The time clock was dark – I couldn’t clock in to work this morning. Which was actually a blessing considering I was nearly ten minutes late.
The emergency lights were on and under the carefree conversation it was quiet – like the quiet that happens whenever electronics have been turned off. It was more than an audible quiet, it was more of a tangible quiet.
I walked toward my cubicle, but there was a small crowd surrounding it. I put my stuff down and laughed, “this reminds me of my house,” I said.
“Oh? Did you lose electricity at your house, too?” Our IT guy asked me.
“Nope. But it’s dark, like my house. We’ve been keeping all of our curtains drawn and our lights turned off in order to try and keep our house cool.”
The clinic had been without electricity for nearly 20 minutes before I arrived. And yet, we had a waiting room full of patients. The doctors were on site, but couldn’t do much without the patient’s electronic charts or the lights that house various xrays and other tests to be examined and explained.
I sat down and waited. There was nothing more I could do. I listened to various conversations around me, (there were several smaller groups of women clustered close by) and I would occasionally smile at a familiar face, or offer a polite chuckle or even offer my own two cents worth, depending on the topic.
The air was still and quite close. It began to grow hot and I grabbed a folder to fan myself.
I was hot.
I was always hot.
Though a power-less clinic with no air conditioning on a 95-degree day certainly didn’t help.
Ten minutes later, the lights came back on. Everyone started clapping, myself included.
I laughed. WHY do people clap when the lights come back on? I’m sure there are many psychological reasons.
Patients got up from their chairs, (most of them sat in chairs next to windows for light), and made their way up to the front desk to check in. It never ceases to amaze me how positive people are when they come to see us. First, they are in pain. Second, they had to know that their appointments with the doctors were going to be delayed because of the power outage and yet, 99% of them smiled and were pleasant.
I turned on my computer and began to work. The morning’s excitement died down and I found my groove – I began to pick up the pace and before long, my surroundings blurred around me, the sounds faded into the background and I was focused. I had just cleared a veteran to have his x-ray when *POP*, the power went off again.
We all sat motionless for several surprised seconds before someone broke the trance and moaned in annoyance.
The lights didn’t stay off as long the second time around and the novelty had worn off – we just wanted to get on with our day. There was some talk about canceling the clinic that day, but luckily, the lights came on shortly after the suggestion was made and we once again resumed our routine.
It’s amazing how helpless we feel whenever we lose power. It’s amazing just how much we take power for granted.