I was ushered from the large-scale holding pen where all patients wait for diagnostics testing into a smaller waiting room. It was just a nondescript middle age man and me. Neither of us had a phone nor reading material to bury our face in so we played The Awkward Game for several minutes: Eye contact? No eye contact? Conversation? Keep private? Focus on that hangnail? Even without speaking we could tell that the other was tired and drained from a long day of testing and both opted for silence.
That was until the scheduler came in with a stack of papers, each bearing a patients’ name. She started rattling off the names on the header of each as we both shook our heads indicating 'not me'. She quickly opted for the more effective method of just asking us our names. She turned to the man across from me first:
“What is your name?” She asked in a thick accent native to somewhere in the Middle East, I deduced.
“Stinky,” he said back in a deadpan voice.
I immediately burst out laughing; I may have even snorted. What a funny and unexpected joke to hear from this unassuming man with whom I’ve been darting glances from for the past 15 minutes. I caught his eyes and shot him a toothy smile as if to say: “Right on, man. Way to keep it funny in an otherwise crappy situation.”
He did not smile back and in fact looked both stoic and exacerbated. My heart sank but my doofy smile stayed on my face not knowing what else to do. It took a few seconds for my slow brain to process that no, he was not making a joke. My expression changed from chummy to incredibly apologetic.
He stood up as the scheduler shuffled her papers and brought his to the top.
“That’s me – George Stinky,” he again confirmed, pointing to his name in writing.
I was mortified and the blood rushed to my face in sheer horror of my bad sense of humor. He followed the scheduler out of the room completely avoiding acknowledgement of the curly headed girl that laughed in his face.
I wanted to run after him and tell him that I was sorry, that I thought it was a joke. It probably wouldn’t have made the situation any better though. Joke or no joke, his last name still stinks.