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The last time I went to the lab there was no one in the waiting room, but as we exited a young mother with a tiny girl in a pink ballet outfit had just arrived. My son and I were laughing at something the tech had said. The little girl asked her mother in reference to us, "What are those doctors doing? Why are they laughing? Where are they going?" The last thing we looked like was doctors, him in all black and skulls, me in camouflage sweats and combat boots.

So today I was surprised at how full the waiting room was. Long ago I developed a philosophy about waiting rooms--relax and make the best of it. This morning I decided to focus on people's shoes and if no one spoke I would initiate conversation after ten minutes.

Guy directly across from me, construction worker boots, lady to his left mauve and gold flats, man-in-a-hurry to my right reading about Brad Pitt and Angie in PEOPLE magazine wearing very expensive business shoes and an odd shade of blue socks. Trim, maybe-in-her-thirties, in yoga attire and clean sneakers, to my left tells me she comes here every two weeks.

Little boy voices and light-up sneakers climbing all over Mom and the chairs. They already have her worn down and it's only 10 am. The older one is "reading" MOTOR TREND, page by page, asking his mother if they can get a new car. "This one?" No answer. "How about this one?" She tries to quiet him by whispering back. It doesn't work.

An older woman knitting, wearing Velcro-strapped shoes, asks him how old he is. He pauses and puts up four fingers. Meanwhile, younger brother has managed to climb between a table of magazines and get stuck because he won't let go of "puppy book" which is really an issue of National Geographic. He is only two fingers years old, held up by Jack, and is yelling, "hep, Mommy, hep!"

His blinking red sneakers are caught in the handle of the diaper bag as well so as his mother scoops him to safety, Cheerios fall everywhere. The older woman keeps knitting after she has announced she will be here most of the day because her (embarrassed) grand-daughter, wearing green flip-flops, has to have blood drawn every two hours. "Been there, done that," she says in the stillness to her knitting.

Suddenly I realize no one is getting up to help Jack's mother with the Cheerios, so I go over, telling her just enjoy every age. Over my shoulder, mauve and gold slippers lady says, "good luck when they're 13 and 15." I say nothing, just pick up Cheerios. Jack has decided he wants my opinion on a new car. I ask him what cars his family already has.

"Mercedes Benz and a Jeep and I don't know the name of the other one because Daddy keeps it wrapped up." He adds ominously, "like a dead mummy." Then he asks me how many cars I have. By this time, Cheerios are picked up; I'm back in my seat. I hold up four fingers. His eyes open wide.

My name is called and in parting, I tell him I'm driving the Jeep today but usually my son drives it. I add, "he was once four, just like you." Jack smiles in satisfaction, as if Jeep was the right answer.

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