In films and television, the hospital waiting room is where our protagonists get The Bad News. (Unless it’s a comedy and someone’s about to give birth with help from a Third World-trained and -accented duty doctor.) It’s invariably Bad News along the lines of parents’ long-limbed catwalk model daughter being disfigured and will look merely average, or an athletic and square-jawed boyfriend who will Never Walk Again, or a friend who Always Loved Life and Lived It To The Full contracting a Terminal Disease. You know: plot turning-point kind of stuff.
I’m in a hospital waiting room as I type this. There’s no emergency or anything – I’m here with a friend who doesn’t like hospitals. They’re understandably nervous and anxious to get this over with. For my part, I’m cool to wait. It’s not an I’m-glad-it’s-not-me kind of cool. It’s a calmness borne of experience: a lot of my early childhood was spent in doctors’ and hospital waiting rooms. So despite decades of passive exposure to ER, Bodies and Shortland Street, I don’t find hospitals or doctors’ surgeries particularly discomfiting. They’re just a place to wait, sometimes for hours on end, so the mind must be occupied with something (and a Matchbox car or three no longer cuts it nowadays).
You’re wondering what the hell this has to do with screenwriting.
I’ve… no idea. I’m in a -, oh I’ve said that already.
… Okay. Two things.
One: a really cool thing about being a writer is that you can write anywhere.
Two: I’ve realised that – with the exception of a failed Shortland Street application – I haven’t written a hospital waiting room scene in any of my scripts. But one thing I’m going to put in it when I do? A sense of waiting that won’t require someone to stand up and huff: I’ve been waiting here for hours!