Appearance Matters or What I Learned From “Monty Python” and “The Great Gatsby”

Last week I went to the doctor for my annual physical.

Over the past few years the actual time spent seeing the doctor has decreased while the amount of time waiting in the lab area for the drawing of blood and the giving of urine has increased.

Now, I know that the urine and blood are the areas that give the doctor the most data in terms of how my internal organs are functioning so I don’t mind waiting for the technician to call my name. I just wish that the doctor could pretend to spend a little more interest during the face to face time.

The waiting room at the lab and x-ray area features comfortable chairs, a television, and a couple of tables with some lamps and other standard waiting room furnishings that are most likely featured in doctor’s offices the world over.

And upon a cursory glance all seemed normal with the furnishings in this waiting room.

Upon closer inspection some disturbing facts came to the surface though.

Each of the lamps in the room were not plugged in and appeared to be placed on the tables merely as decoration items.

My attention was first drawn to the lamp to my left that featured the power cable wrapped around the base.

The lamp to my right tried a little harder with the charade by having the cord go down to the ground to look like it was plugged in.

Of course even if someone wanted to plug in the lamps they could not since there were no power outlets visible anywhere in the waiting room.

Did the designer of the room think that the tables would look out of place without lamps on them to the point that they were deemed necessary even without any means to power them?

Call me crazy if you’d like but I always thought the purpose of a lamp was to shed light on an area first and to act as a decoration second.

I know that just like the perfect rug can really tie a room together the perfect lamp can add that certain design touch as well.

For years I have had a lamp that is shaped like a fish and have even had a few people comment about how cool it looks.

While lamps come in all shapes and sizes their first purpose should be to give light.  Photo R. Anderson

While lamps come in all shapes and sizes their first purpose should be to give light.
Photo R. Anderson

And I think that my fish lamp is nice to look at but I also enjoy that fact that the lamp is plugged in and provides me light to read by.

Granted, I never went to interior design school unless you count years of watching “Trading Spaces,” “This Old House,” and “While You Were Out” on television but I would never think of not plugging in a lamp.

So as I sat there in the waiting room looking at the lamps that did not illuminate I thought of Monty Python and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Monty Python came to mind because of a skit involving a hospital in their 1983 movie “The Meaning of Life.”

After seeing two lamps apparently just there for style at the doctor's office recently I started looking for the machine that goes "ping" as featured in Monty Python's classic film "The Meaning of Life." Photo R. Anderson

After seeing two lamps apparently just there for style at the doctor’s office recently I started looking for the machine that goes “ping” as featured in Monty Python’s classic film “The Meaning of Life.”
Photo R. Anderson

In the skit the doctors call for the “machine that goes ping” to be brought in to the delivery room. It is explained that the machine has no purpose other than to go “ping.”

So as I stared at the lamps in the waiting room I wondered what other smoke and mirrors were being employed by my health care provider as a means to make patients feel comfortable as long as they did not look too far beneath the surface.

Aside from thinking of Monty Python the lamps brought me back to the Roaring ‘20’s, or at least a book about that time period.

In the book the “Great Gatsby,” there is a pivotal scene in the library involving The Owl Eyed Man and Nick. The scene revolves around the fact of the Owl Eyed Man’s amazement that the books in Gatsby’s library are real as opposed to being merely cardboard copies of books as was the custom of the time to make one look more read than they really were.

As the time period was about keeping up appearances one with a library of books would seem more learned than someone without books.

Once upon a time before the internet my mom and I had a debate about the books in “Gatsby” and whether they were real or fake.

The Owl Eyed Man and I both know that the books in Gatsby's library were real and served a function unlike the lamps in a certain waiting room. Photo R. Anderson

The Owl Eyed Man and I both know that the books in Gatsby’s library were real and served a function unlike the lamps in a certain waiting room.
Photo R. Anderson

At the time it had been years since either of us had read the book but I held firm to my belief that the books were real while my mom was convinced that they were fake.

Today one can find hundreds of opinions on the matter by just entering a web browser search but back then in the pre internet world we had to dig a little deeper for answers and sometimes actually had to physically go beyond the walls of our own homes.

To prove this point I went to a used bookstore and purchased a copy of the book and skimmed to Chapter Three where the Owl Eyed Man tells Nick that the books are, “Absolutely real — have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they’re absolutely real. Pages and — Here! Lemme show you.”

Upon informing my mom of this fact she countered that later in the chapter it is determined that while the books are real they had not been read since they had not been cut open as was the custom of the day.

Still, to this day I claim the victory of paying attention enough in English class to recall the most trivial detail about the “realness” of the books.

So two lamps in a waiting room, and hunger from fasting, made me recall British comedy and one of the great American novels of the 20th Century.

While I am sure that the person who put the lamps there did not think that it would lead to such deep thoughts for those stuck waiting on their names to be called to have blood drawn I must admit it did make the time go by a little faster.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go call the doctor to get my results from the machine that goes ping.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

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