There is a woman sitting one table away from me. I know her. I did her physical and pelvic exam three days ago.
(In case you are wondering, no I am NOT thinking about what her hoo-hah looks like. I don’t even remember it, to be honest.)
She is there with three girlfriends, laughing, sipping on an iced tea.
I don’t know what to do, so I focus attention on helping my kids navigate the menu, asking them how their day went at school in great detail. A lull in our conversation might open up a void that someone will feel compelled to fill.
Technically, I should respect her privacy and not acknowledge her unless she makes the first move. Even a nod or a smile could breach her right to privacy. But many patients take offense at that. They want me to initiate, to stop and say hello, to engage in some chit-chat.
It should be straight forward, but I have lost patients over this.
When patients don’t acknowledge me when we run into each other in public it sorta feels like they don’t like ME, even though I am well aware that there are a host of other reasons why they may not want to make contact, including a desire to protect my own privacy.
Finally, we both look over at the same time. She waves a joyful wave and mouths the word, “hello”. She looks happy to see me and I am relieved that the tension is over as I smile and wave back. Now I can relax with my kids and enjoy our meal.
My kids both see the exchange and get excited. Mommy is smiling and waving! They turn and wave, smiling, yelling out greetings to the strange woman they have never met.
“Mommy, who IS that?!?!?” they ask when I get them to turn back around and focus on their plates. They haven’t really been curious before. They just always accepted that I could be stopped at any moment when out in public. Like that woman at the park the other day. Or the grocery store. Or the movie theater.
“Just a friend of mommy’s…,” I tell them because it suddenly occurs to me that I don’t know how to maintain privacy when it comes to my kids except to lie to them.