It has been my unfortunate lot recently to spend more time than I'd like to in NHS waiting rooms of various different shades. Before any Americans of a Republican bent seize upon my waiting as evidence of NHS failings I'd better point out that it has far more to do with my desire not to be late than it does with healthcare efficiency. Anyway, having seen a lot of them recently I have now become somewhat of an afficionado.
For a start, the chairs are never comfortable. Yet again if you are someone concerned about Comrade Obama's Socialist Healthcare Utopia, be very afraid for your arse. You've got four years of waiting room comfort left. Makes sense, they're going to want you to stand up every few minutes to sing the Internationale, and you won't be so keen to do that if you're too comfy.
I have learned pretty quickly not to rely on the reading material provided and to bring a paperback book. Once you've tired of posters exhorting the consumption of vegetables and signs in Urdu telling you not to pick your nose, all that is left are the tired-looking magazines in a heap on the table.
Looking at the different magazines on offer I am mystified as to the process involved in their choice. My GP's surgery has a mixture of women's general interest magazines and very out of date "current" affairs magazines. Not bad, but while in bloke mode I'm quite happy to be seen reading Cosmopolitan I've seen more than one gloomy male patient thumbing through an Economist from last November. My local eye hospital has an even more bizarre selection, New Scientist, the National Trust magazine and interior design magazines.
My most recent field trip yielded the most surprising result though. Accompanying my wife this morning to a waiting room almost exclusively visited by genetic XX women I found a few copies of Woman and Home, a Good Housekeeping and a couple of foodie magazines, but most bizarrely a big pile of classic car magazines and piloting and aircraft magazines.
I can only conclude that there is a department within the NHS whose job involves distributing magazines to waiting rooms. Whether they are guided by a fiendish ingenuity bent on denying interesting reading material to bored patients or by a desire to cut costs through minimising magazine theft though I can't decide. I bet in the private hospitals you can order your preference of magazines delivered to you personally by a fearsome receptionist who looks and sounds like Joanna Lumley.
I should be subverting the process by placing illicit copies of Ride in the eye hospital, Viz in my GP's surgery and Hello! in the ladies clinic, but I don't think the folk hero status I might earn would be worth it. Because they'd find me eventually and there I'd be, alone in an echoing waiting room, forced to spend eternity with nothing to read but Angling Times. And that's just too much of a risk.