Photo by Alvin Engler
The hospital that I grew with for 20 years, stood tall amidst the numerous changes in the neighborhood. It never invited me, not even for a cup of tea, until recently. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t sure where the entrance was! After few minutes of hassle and the not-so-easy basement parking, I saw the inside of the building.
Disguised as a private hospital it looked like an ‘efficiently’ run government institution. It had that trademark smell that makes you go ‘eeeew’, yes the extra e’s for the emphasis.
We paid the exorbitant consultation fees for a 5 minute one-o-one with the doctor. We then waited for our turn, and the sequence was decided by the gatekeeper who was dressed in her dark blue uniform.
People waiting for their chances did not know what to do, because they were not used to the idle time. They couldn’t curb their anxiousness of knowing what had happened to their dear ones. They needed clarity and the person standing between them and clarity was the gatekeeper!
The popular belief says that the sequence is decided based on the universal law of “first-come first-served”. There are many factors that come into play and it is here the gatekeeper steps-up and does the unthinkable, delivers on the promise of the fair world.
Though she earns only 1/12th ( a guesstimate) of what the doctor earns in one month, she has more power than the doctor himself in deciding who gets checked and more importantly before whom. Note, I realized the gatekeepers are usually women and the doctors are men hence the stereotyping. I would love to be proved wrong.
I tried not to jump the line but have seen my folks do it using innovative reasons ranging from medical emergency to catching the last bus to village! Usually, the gatekeepers are tough to convince and with experience they can differentiate genuine from frivolous.
If you are not creative enough, you can use the age old technique of persistence, just stand there with the reports in your hand and make a puppy face. It works always. Tried and tested!
There were many who tried to convince her to let them in but she wouldn’t budge. She stood her ground and with authority said no. Yet, when people persisted continuously, she had to give in, only a little though. She in a raised voice said, I would allow you but only when I tell you to, and you don’t utter a word before that. This calmed the storm.
She listened attentively to the group of women whispering about the family troubles, a man worried for his wife, and a young boy continuously playing on his smart phone. She in a day witnesses all kinds of people trying to convince her and yet she smiles when you go to her with your astuteness.
When you meet a gatekeeper next time and try to beat her with your smartness, know that she might have heard the reason before and still lets you in.