Pittsburghers are known for being incredibly friendly people. It’s one of my favorite things about living in this area.
The downside of that is people here are chatty. Really chatty. And nebby as hell too. (That’s a colloquial term meaning that they love to find out all about your personal business.)
This phenomenon happens everywhere — not just the ‘Burgh — but it’s particularly acute in doctor’s offices. Nobody needs blathering bubble-headed bleached blondes (h/t Don Henley) on morning television in waiting rooms here because there’s no shortage of people waiting to entertain you with the minutiae of their medical history. It’s why I always, always, always bring a book to every appointment I go to.
(That and because I cannot STAND handling magazines in public places. I’m no paranoid germaphobe, but oh my God, the idea of touching a magazine that sick people have had their paws on gives me the heebie-jeebies.)
So, yeah, I’m that person reading their book, making as little eye contact and conversation as possible. I’m an outlier among Yinzers. The Husband will disagree, but I am not a chatty or nebby person. I’ll smile and engage in pleasantries to be nice and because I know idle chit-chat is a stress-reliever for some and a way to combat the boredom of what sometimes is a long wait. And for the elderly, I understand these connections are sometimes a valued piece of social interaction.
Mind you, it’s not just the patients. Medical professionals, too, tend to be incredibly chatty. Again, I get it — customer service is what they do and you want them to be friendly and interested in you as a person and all that good stuff. Nothing wrong with this.
Except, well … I’m convinced I have some magnetic pull that attracts People Who Say Stupid Shit.
Case in point: I spent part of this morning in the cardiology lab at our local hospital for a scheduled stress test, my consolation prize for having a trifecta of high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and intermittent chest pains.
While I dreadmilled for 10 minutes, going faster and faster, one of the cardiac technicians would not shut the hell up. Maybe keeping me talking was intentional to exhaust every last bit of bit I had, but that didn’t stop her from going on about a new ice cream shop in Lawrenceville, a good 40 minutes away.
I KID YOU NOT.
I mean, I’m wearing more wires than an actor in The Sopranos, hooked up to machines, and we’re talking about flavors of fucking ICE CREAM, which is one of the main reasons I’m even in the damn cardiac lab at 8 a.m. (#JobSecurityForCardiologists, I hashtagged on Facebook.)
As my heart rate was “recovering,” she started telling me about her experience at a fairly well-known Pittsburgh attraction and its proprietor.
“He’s a bit of an oddity himself. A little Asperger-y, I think. Very scripted. You might want to keep your kids away from him.”
Say what now?
DID SHE JUST SUGGEST I KEEP MY KIDS AWAY FROM SOMEONE WHO MAY HAVE ASPERGERS?
I may have glanced at my blood pressure on the heart monitor machine thing, since I was convinced I’d be watching my vital signs explode off the literal chart if I responded to this absurdity.
Now, although I had offered that my kids were teenage twins, this conversation hadn’t yet progressed to my saying that my son has Asperger’s — which isn’t really anybody’s nebby damn business. Instead, not wanting to screw up the results of the stress test, I muttered something like “hmmm.” Later on, I realized I should have shot back with, “Oh, you mean I should keep MY SON WHO HAS ASPERGERS away from this individual? Is that what you mean?”
While thinking about this today, I realize that this is a big reason why I dislike and take pains to avoid superficial conversations among strangers. People say Stupid Shit and I am getting too old to deal with Stupid Shit. And as well-meaning and unintentional as people may be, Stupid Shit often results in too many sharp jabs.
It was jarring to hear — in 2016, for godsakes — a medical professional expressing the notion that people with disabilities should be avoided. Shunned. This kind of thinking only perpetuates ancient stereotypes, misconceptions, and myths. I am embarrassed and ashamed that I did nothing to thwart that.
I left the cardiac lab with a benediction from the cardiologist that I “performed better than average within my age group” on the stress test. My heart, it seems, is likely to keep on ticking, its dings and dents notwithstanding.
This is post #94 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging Project.