Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Waiting Room

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend some time in a waiting room. I have always hated waiting rooms, mostly because I’m an impatient person. (I sent in my new manuscript and the waiting from here on out always kills me, but I digress). So there I was in the waiting room, somewhere I have always previously hated to be, and then a large group of people walked in.

Part of the group of people who walked in was a missionary, and he was with his mother and his sister. I knew that because his mother was talking very loudly on her cell phone (disregarding all the signs about not using a cell phone in there) and she was talking about his sister also being in the hospital with her baby. The point of the conversation was that she was having to travel between this waiting room and the sister's hospital room and she couldn’t be in two places at once, so she was contemplating leaving her missionary son in the care of his sister and a nurse, and was chatting to someone about the prudence of that decision. The mother then gave her son a very wet kiss, (which he wiped off when she wasn’t looking), and then kissed her daughter and left. The daughter, (who had a sort of orangey/pink hair with black tips), leaned over to her brother, the missionary, and asked if he would like to see the pictures of his sister giving birth. She did promise to cover up any parts of the picture that wouldn’t be appropriate for him to see and he agreed.

The second part of the group was a mother with three boys. Two of the boys were younger (about ten or eleven I’d guess) and they were running all over the entire room, hitting each other and playing a game of chase between the uncomfortable chairs, while trying not to bump into or fall into anyone else’s laps. The mother of these boys sat quietly reading her People magazine while the chaos ensued around her. It was so incredible to me that it seemed as if she were able to tune out the shouting and racing around her and calmly read that magazine. I’ve honestly never seen anything like that before.

The last part of the group was a very quiet woman, dressed in a long-sleeved, to-her-ankles dark-colored dress, with non-descript black shoes. Her long beautiful hair was done in an intricate braid and I wished I could do my little girl’s hair like that. She was hovering around her husband, trying to anticipate his every need as they checked into the waiting room madness. She sat near me and gave me a small smile as I rubbed my ginormous baby tummy and tried to get comfortable, and it was almost like she spoke to me in a quiet way, acknowledging me, my tummy, and just that we were two women stuck in the same waiting room.

So, if you can imagine this---the missionary looking at his sister’s birth pictures with all the inappropriate parts being covered by his other sister, two boys playing chase through the crowded room, and this quiet woman sitting near me, bringing a sort of calm to the chaos. It honestly made me more aware of how people-watching can affect me as a person and as an author. I want my characters to touch you somehow, or to make you feel, or have a reaction. When I write, I want you to feel the annoyance of having someone talking loudly on their cell phone in a quiet place, and having children running around bumping people, or laugh when the son wipes off a wet kiss from his mom, and then I want you to feel the calm of a sweet smile that brings it all into focus.

If I can do that, if I can make a reader feel like they’ve been there and experienced the events with my characters, then I think I’ve done my job.


At 8/12/2010 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess what? You just did it. You did your job so well I could just picture myself in that waiting room and each scene you described brought a strange and different emotion to my heart each time. I even found myself drifting to the sister giving birth and remembering what that felt like. And possibly whether or not she knew her brother was watching. Eek! :) Well done in showing us how you wait.

At 8/12/2010 3:27 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Here's the mystery I want an answer to : Why was the quiet woman wearing a long-sleeved, full-length dark dress in this heat? (I think you're local to me.)

I also hate waiting rooms, must have music with headphones, only way to stay sane.

At 8/12/2010 4:03 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Aw, Carrie, thank you! I also thought of the birth since I'm expecting myself. :)

Jon, I don't know. They were from out of state (Colorado) and while I have speculated on her clothing choice, I honestly don't know the real reason why since I didn't speak with her.

I'll have to remember my headphones if there's a next time, since I'm sort of fascinated by the people-watching thing. That would just set it all to music! :)


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