The Hilarious Ways People Just Revealed They Kill Time at the Doctor’s Office

Call it "private practice": Turns out, the ways we entertain ourselves in that boring-but-jittery setting might be pretty universal

waiting on doctor table
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When was the last time you went to see the doctor and everything was right on schedule? Ever? You get our point. Patient wait times are a frustrating reality in medicine: Americans spent an average of 18 minutes and 30 seconds waiting for the doctor in the exam room or office, and a remarkable 30% even admitted to walking out of a doctor’s appointment because they were kept waiting too long, according to a survey done by Vitals more than a year before the pandemic brought some healthcare services to an even longer standstill.

But often, you need that appointment—and if you’re not about to just up and ghost your doc, you also need some strategies to deal with all those minutes ticking by. Watching YouTube videos, texting friends, and scrolling social media are all given; but we wanted to know how else Americans are passing the time—especially when your phone dies.

We asked readers around the country to share what they do in private when they’re waiting for their provider to walk in. Folks shared their quirky, clever, gross tricks to stay amused before that fleeting visit with the doc…keep reading for a healthy dose of honesty.

Man reading a book
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Reading erotica

“I have a chronic illness, so I spend a lot of time waiting for doctors in exam rooms,” says Amy P., 47, of Fort Wayne, IN. Her waiting game? “I read dirty romance novels on my Kindle so no one can see what I’m actually reading”—adding, “I started reading them as a way to distract myself and now it’s become my guilty pleasure. I save the book so I can only read them there. It makes it feel almost fun. If the nurse or doctor asks what I’m reading, I always say the Bible. They must think I’m very spiritual!”

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Drawer of medical supplies
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Snooping through drawers

“I look through all the drawers and cabinets to see what cool stuff is in there,” says Nanci F., 40, of Lincoln, NE. “I’ll even try the locked drawers just in case they left them open. I know it’s bad, but I’m so curious about what supplies they have handy. One time I found snacks!”

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The man cleaned the doorknob with alcohol pad to prevent the Covid-19 virus
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Sanitizing the room

“I take the hand sanitizer and wipe down the exam table, chair, doorknob, faucet, and other touchable surfaces before I sit down,” says Anna H., 68, of Las Vegas, NV. “COVID made me paranoid about germs in doctor’s offices, and I’d rather be safe than sorry. I’ll also change the paper on top of the exam table!”

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man sleeping while waiting for doctor
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Catching up on sleep

“Nap time, baby!” says Jaxson T., 20, of Austin, TX. “I have the talent of being able to fall asleep anytime anywhere, and so I will take any opportunity to slip in a little nap on the table. Doctor’s offices are the best because they’re usually so quiet. Sometimes I’ll be so out that the doctor will have to wake me up when they come in.”

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person with yellow sweater holding an iphone while waiting for the doctor
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Doing a background check on the doc

“Researching the doctor,” says Meredith R., 50, of Washington DC. “I’ll be sitting there just reading their bio on the website, going through their LinkedIn profile, and googling all their reviews until they walk in.”

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dome video camera on the ceiling. video surveillance and security system
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Searching for hidden cameras

“I look behind the mirrors to see if they are two-way mirrors, and then I check for hidden cameras in the outlets and around the perimeter of the ceiling,” says Thomas A., 58, of Issaquah, WA. “I work in cybersecurity and it’s made me paranoid. Once you know how many ways there are to surveil people, you’ll never look at anything the same way again.”

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Posting silly dances

“Tik Tok dances are a fun way to pass the time waiting in an exam room,” says Charlie S., 18, of Edina, MN. “They’re made for phone screens so they are usually small movements, meaning I can do them anywhere. Sometimes I’ll record myself doing one in the exam room and post it. I did one of me twerking on the table and it went viral, people loved it.”

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Rear view of asian man with laptop and headphone
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Listening to music

“I like to scroll Facebook,” says Lia F., 28, of Evergreen, CO, “but I get frustrated because I don’t have good service at the doctor’s office and they don’t have free wifi. So then I’ll pop in my earbuds and zone out to chill music or an audiobook that I’ve downloaded.”

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Standard doctor's office equipment mounted to a wall with copy space.
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Doing your own medical exam

“If there’s an otoscope in there I will totally use it to try to look up my nose and down my throat in the mirror,” says Shaun S., 29, of Naperville, IL. “I just want to see what the doc is seeing, but it really doesn’t work. And yet I keep trying it. I’ll also try to check my own blood pressure using the cuff and the stethoscope.”

female feet with pink lace on a wooden background, pink pearl panties around woman ankles on bedroom floor, remove underwear, sexy in relationship, seduction, couple romance
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Hiding the unmentionables

“If I have to change into a gown, like at the dermatologist or OBGYN, I’ll spend a lot of time hiding my bra and underwear, folding them inside my other clothes so the doctor won’t see them,” says Emma G., 32, of Payson, UT. “It’s ridiculous because they’re going to see me naked, so why does it bother me that they would see my underwear? But it does.”

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Meal planning

“I look up recipes on Pinterest or Instagram, there’s something about cooking that I find really soothing,” says Campbell J., 52, of Chapel Hill, NC. “Plus then I already know what I’m making for dinner, so I don’t feel like I’m wasting time.”

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abstract art on wall in doctors office
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Playing art critic

“I scrutinize the art work, looking at all the smallest details and trying to figure out why the doctor or whoever chose that particular picture to be in the exam room and what it says about them. I try to really get in their head,” says Amanda S., 42, of Manhattan, NY. “There has to be a reason! Those pictures don’t end up there randomly.”

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Cropped shot of a woman meditating at home
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Going Zen

“Doctors stress me out big time, so I have a deep-breathing meditation I always do when I’m waiting,” says Shawn J., 40, of Baltimore, MD. “It’s helped a lot, so the nurses no longer yell at me about how high my blood pressure is. The thing is, my blood pressure isn’t that high normally—I’m just freaked out in the doctor’s office!”

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social media apps on phone
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Zoning out to chill videos

“Cake-decorating videos on Instagram,” says Ashley M., 26, of Boise, ID. “I’m not a baker and don’t want to be, but it’s so aesthetically pleasing watching someone ice a cake or pipe roses onto cupcakes. It helps me not feel so nervous while I’m waiting.”

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Calling Mom for a second opinion

“I FaceTime my mom while I’m waiting,” says Gena S., 30, of Coral Springs, FL. “She’s a nurse, so I tell her all my symptoms and she talks to me about what to expect and what questions I should ask. Sometimes I’ll leave her onscreen when the doctor comes in because I know she’ll want to hear everything and it’s easier than trying to remember it all to tell her later.”

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An Unrecognizable Happy Beautiful Businesswoman Using Her Mobile Phone
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Hacking into the office network

“I like to try to hack into the office wifi by guessing the password, either based on clues—like the name of the practice—or by guessing common default passwords and settings. It’s like a puzzle!” says Jason A., 32, of San Francisco, CA. “You’d be amazed at how often I get in. Medical offices really need better security.”

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Gagging on tongue depressors

“I like to use the tongue depressors to look down my own throat,” says Kris O., 60, of Columbus, OH. “The worst was the last time I did it, the doctor came in suddenly and scared me, so I accidentally shoved it too far down my throat and ended up gagging myself in front of him.”

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poster in doctors office
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Reading every single thing

“I love learning new things, so I read every piece of medical literature in the room,” says Priya S., 45, of New Albany, OH. “It doesn’t even matter that I don’t have a prostate—if there’s a pamphlet on the signs of prostate cancer, I’m going to read it!”

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Wordle Smartphone Game
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Playing brain games

“I’m addicted to Wordle and those types of games so I’ll play those while I wait,” says Sarah B., 35, of Memphis, Tennessee. “It’s good for my brain and I enjoy them, so I don’t mind if the doc is delayed coming in.”

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Sources
BusinessWire: "Vitals Wait Time Report"

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, MS, is an award-winning journalist, author, and ghostwriter who for nearly two decades has covered health, fitness, parenting, relationships, and other wellness and lifestyle topics for major outlets, including Reader’s Digest, O, The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, and many more. Charlotte has made appearances with television news outlets such as CBS, NBC, and FOX. She is a certified group fitness instructor in Denver, where she lives with her husband and their five children.