Fountain of Youth

Want to live forever? Don’t drink from a water fountain in the waiting room of your doctor’s office.  What were they thinking putting a contagion-collection contraption in the midst of so many microbes, free for sharing?

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So I was not-patiently doing what patients do in those special holding cells that are the first and largest of the series of containments one goes through for the purpose of a simple annual doctor’s visit.  I waited. For two hours, pushed to the last minute so I could still make  a meeting in town. Not happy.

But there was entertainment, at least: a corner-of-the-ceiling television whose volume and juvenile content could not be controlled and could not be ignored. Techno-torture.

And there was the people-watching that takes on a different character in a doctor’s office. You play the guessing game for signs and symptoms.

For many, the prevailing disorder underlying the reason for their visit appears so often to involve poor or no education, poverty, personal neglect, terrible nutrition and the manifestations thereof.

Doctor’s office waiting rooms and emergency waiting rooms seem to attract a hugely disproportionate sampling from just this population.

But where was I? Oh yeah, the people watching. Not to leave out the acoustic experience. For an hour, back and forth, coursed two very small, very loud, very out of control children. They discovered the water fountain right in front of me.  It entertained them for a full ten minutes, responsible adults–irresponsible and powerless.

And the next time my wife cautions me NOT to drink out of a public water fountain EVER, I will remember why.

What I missed in this short segment of maybe five minutes of snotty fingers dabbling in the public fountain was what happened just seconds after the end of the video:

The boy-child dropped to his knees and began sucking water out of the large, dark puddle on the carpet that his sister had created.

Shudder. Some things you see and you wish you could replay and erase.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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