If you see me firing up my Kindle at the hospital's laboratory waiting room, you might think that I am one of those super-productive people who never wastes a minute.
In those circumstances, my Kindle e-reader is not a productivity enhancer.
It is a time-saver.
I visit the laboratory in DuBois or in Brookville about four times a year, to monitor cholesterol, sugar and other blood ingredients. It's routine for septuagenarians who have endured a heart attack.
About a year ago, I discovered the Kindle's supernatural powers:
Without the Kindle, I wait in the registration lobby for 10-15 minutes, then wait again in the laboratory area for perhaps 20 minutes. It's understandable. It is endurable, but within me, it produces the same internal reaction as does being caught in slow-moving traffic. I get tense - which is precisely the opposite of the best state of being for a septuagenarian with a history of heart trouble.
But when I bring the Kindle, I am in and out of the entire hospital within 15 minutes!
Either way, I sport one of those cute Daffy Duck bandages holding a folded gauze pad against the quick-clotting needle mark on my forearm.
But if I brought the Kindle, I am smiling all the way back to work.
I know not how the Kindle does its time-splitting magic. The e-reader, a Christmas gift from my wife, was expected to make book reading easier and more frequent, due to its ease of use and lower price per copy.
But somehow, it cuts through time.
I arrive and take the green tab that tells me my "number." My first recollection of using take-a-number tab machines is connected with supermarkets, and no matter how many times I use them in hospitals, I silently suppress the urge to loudly proclaim, "A pound of garlic bologna, please, and a half-pound of that smelly cheese over there."
Smirking subtly at my internal joke, I take a seat and fetch the Kindle from within my briefcase or, if I have thought ahead enough, from within my coat pocket.
Mine is a now-obsolescent flat back keyboard version, which pops up the last page of the book I am currently reading. These days, it is "What it Takes" by the just-deceased Richard Ben Cramer, a 1,000-page recapitulation of the 1988 presidential race: alternatingly fascinating and turgid.
But at the hospital, we are not there to read, are we? We are there to zip in and out.
So, "Kindle, get me moving!" I think, as I slide the power lever on the bottom to awaken the computer within.
"Michael (Dukakis) was in the midst of his first comeback campaign ..." I read.
Then comes the voice of salvation: "Nummm ... berr 21! Twenty-one!"
Last year, when I discovered the Kindle's magic power, I would double-check the meat-market number, disbelieving at first.
These days, I merely smile, shrug, flip the Kindle power switch to "Off," and supply the same government-issued photo ID (driver's license, in my case) that all the pinko-liberal Democrats vehemently claim will be the doom of inner-city voters who haven't got one. How DO they get their hospital lab work done these days?
Then I am off to the laboratory waiting area.
I take another green number slip from the red roll-dispensing machine, think this time about ordering Virginia ham and pepperjack cheese, take a seat, reignite the Kindle.
"(Kitty Dukakis) told Michael about the pills. She told him she was going away for help, to a clinic ..."
Again, the tolling tale of the number. I ask not for whom the sexton tolls; she tolls for me.
"Nummm ... berr 27! Twenty-seven!"
Off with the Kindle, up with the shirtsleeve, pop into the chair, look sharply away, at the wall. It has been years since I flat-out fainted while having blood drawn, but the first signs of shock pop out as sweat beads on my forehead, and a shiver runs down my spine. It's purely involuntary, and if I focus, I can control it. Mustn't slump to the floor, though; I could smash the Kindle, not to mention giving the nice lab technician a heart attack of her own as blood spurts from the needle hole, and my face turns waxy gray.
These days, I can manage to stay vertical and sentient. I quickly roll down my shirtsleeve, get back into my coat, and stride happily out of the hospital, in less than a half-hour.
Or just coincidence? Hokum?
I know not. Neither do I care. Why it works is beyond me. That it works is my little secret.
I just pat the Kindle affectionately.
If it appears to bystanders that I am one of those incredibly productive people who expands his brain at any opportunity, who can bake a cake while walking past a microwave oven, I'll accept the undeserved admiration.
But really, all they are seeing is an ordinary schmuck, a lifelong captive of waiting room queues, who has a secret time-shredding machine that masquerades as an e-reader.
Shh! Don't tell anybody. I'd hate to overload the entire system by inspiring an entire doctor's office filled with fast-flickering e-readers.
Denny Bonavita is the editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, including the Courier-Express in DuBois, Pa.