No Suggestion Is Too Wacky
September 22, 2010 11:25 AM   Subscribe

A very close family member is having scary surgery tomorrow. Me and my family members will be freaked out and bored at the same time in the waiting room for an extended period of time. Can you suggest some ways to amuse and distract ourselves?

If it helps, we're a pretty silly and plucky bunch. We will all appreciate the distraction of say, some silly games or conversation games to play. I will not have time or money to pick any physical items up, although i could probably spring for pens or paper or other small and cheap items you could get in a CVS. Nobody is under the age of 18, so mentally challenging things are totally welcome.

Said family member is absolutely going to be fine, we're all very confident, but we're also all a little uncomfortable and worried. It will likely be fine, but there is an outside chance that there may be family drama if we're all cooped up for too long with our anxieties, neuroses and peccadilloes.

I have some time -- I am going to be on a six hour plane right tonight. This is enough time to say, plan a hospital scavenger hunt on the plane, for example. Give me all of your ideas, please.
posted by pazazygeek to Human Relations (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
An assortment of wacky Get Well cards to welcome him to his recovery room?
posted by nickjadlowe at 11:27 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

The first thing that crossed my mind was skipping ropes. Do you have any you can take with you? Take turns going out to the parking lot to play double dutch, to burn off some of that nervous energy.

We used to do this during exams at university to burn off anxiety, and you'd be amazed at how positive an effect it has on your mood and the mood of everyone around you. We had professors in tweed jackets throw down books and papers to jump rope with us. It may be that you make someone else's day at the hospital, as well as brightening your own.
posted by LN at 11:32 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mad Libs.
posted by zizzle at 11:33 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I really love nickjadlowe's idea. Bring or buy some crafty supplies and make awesome cards!

You might also enjoy recounting fun things you did with said close family member and plan fun things to do once they have recovered.

Best wishes to you and your family!
posted by chatongriffes at 11:34 AM on September 22, 2010

Jenga, Uno, and Othello. They all take up space in your head while you play, without requiring much of you in return.
posted by headnsouth at 11:41 AM on September 22, 2010

In terms of conversational amusements, I personally like collaborative story telling. Someone starts off by describing some event, and then everyone takes turns describing what happens next. It's fun to see what other people do with your ideas, and where it eventually leads. Alternatively, have someone describe an improbable situation and then have everyone hypothesize how that situation could have come about.
posted by grizzled at 11:42 AM on September 22, 2010

Falling under the category of the title, when I was in my teens and had an operation while waiting in the waiting room, my brothers came up with a list of who got which of my possessions. They presented it to me when I got home. It was interesting to see what each thought was valuable. A little too morbid for me though.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:46 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Would You Rather is always a ridiculous (and sometimes revealing!) way to pass some time. The key of course, is to ask people to justify their choices. And everyone can just think up of questions on the fly.

If there was more time, I'd suggest hunting down something like the Mind Trap game, but alas. As it were, that page has a dozen sample questions that you might like.

You could bring a blank notebook and collaborate writing a story together. One person writes a sentence, then the next person writes the next, etc. Might be a fun thing to share with the family member when s/he's recovered from surgery.

I had a friend once who made hilarious (and lewd, but that's just him!) comics by re-purposing Archie comics, complete with custom thought/speech bubbles. All you'd need is some white paper, scissors, glue sticks, and pens/markers.

I think it's really thoughtful of you to do this for your family, by the way. Hope everything goes smoothly!
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 11:49 AM on September 22, 2010

we nearly got kicked out of the waiting room during my mom's open heart surgery a few years ago because we were playing "456". You need four dice. Each person starts with four quarters. You roll as many dice as you have quarters. If you roll a 1,2,3, you keep all your quarters. You roll a four, you pass one quarter forward. You roll a five, one quarter goes in the pot. You roll a six, you pass one quarter back. Last person with a quarter wins the pot.

The great thing about this game is you're never out, because someone could pass you a quarter at any time. (or, play with dollars, or poker chips, or three of whatever you have). Cheering typically ensues.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:50 AM on September 22, 2010 [10 favorites]

You could pick a number, say $25 and have each family member go to the hospital gift shop and see who could buy the most non-food items for the money or who could come back with the stangest item.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:52 AM on September 22, 2010

Ugh, I've been in the same situation. I think I passed the time surfing around on my computer, lounging around in UCLA's outdoor waiting room area (which is lovely and the way it really should be) and trying not to think about what was happening because I was so out of my mind terrified. Denial was critical for me until the doctor came downstairs to tell me my sister was fine and I burst into tears. I also found that I couldn't really concentrate on anything at all.

Have you started reading the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series? Maybe if you get yourself hooked on one of those supremely addictive books it'll help with the important denial piece of this? But it does require concentration which might not be part of your repertoire during the wait.

Best of luck to you and your family!
posted by ohyouknow at 11:55 AM on September 22, 2010

Also, this totally depends on where you'll be waiting, if there are other people around, or if you could maybe go outside, but, if you watch a couple of "minute to win it" episodes, you could totally set up a family olympics with every day objects. Set up a scoring system. Or just try to complete some of the tasks. If you haven't seen the show, here's an example: kneeling on a chair, drop a cd so that it lands flat on the top of a red cup (you know, the plastic beer kind). Do this in 60 seconds.

Could be kind of rowdy; you might have to go outside.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:59 AM on September 22, 2010

What about writing an "unauthorized biography" of the patient's life? You could all contribute stories (real or imagined) about the patient. IMO, the more outrageous the better. Write a few paragraphs about the time the patient ran away to join the circus, ended up joining the French foreign legion by mistake, and managed to cure polio.
posted by dogmom at 11:59 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Per miss_kitty_fantastico's suggestion: Sentence Picture?
posted by brainwane at 12:00 PM on September 22, 2010

Treat it like a car trip. how would you pass the time on the road?
posted by wenestvedt at 12:04 PM on September 22, 2010

What about card games? I would suggest something easy and interactive like Spoons. You could steal plastic spoons from the cafeteria to help you play.

If you've never played, it's super simple. You all sit in a circle, with the spoons in the middle. There should be one spoon fewer than there are players. Each person is dealt four cards, and then the dealer just starts passing the remaining cards around the circle one at a time. The object is to get four of a kind. You pick up a card as it is passed to you, and either keep it, and pass one of your four along, or pass it on if you don't want it.

The first person to get four of a kind steals a spoon. Then it's a free-for-all - you can grab a spoon no matter what you have in your hand. The last person without a spoon is the loser. This game has been known to get violent in my house.
posted by backwards compatible at 12:11 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you'll be respectful of non-family members who'll be waiting for news of their loved ones, and perhaps sensitive to too much merriment/rowdiness.

Love the idea of an unauthorized biography, something that lets the sick person know you were thinking of them, not just entertaining yourselves. Very best of luck to you and your family.
posted by cyndigo at 12:38 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Pencil and paper games! In particular, Sprouts. Games like this are super fun, and probably less conducive to rowdiness than, say, pastimes involving dice.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 12:51 PM on September 22, 2010

With big, silly groups of people, I've always had a lot of fun playing 1000 Blank White Cards. It's a card game in which you make the cards, and play for random numbers of points. If you have time to stop at a drugstore before you go to the hospital to pick up a couple packs of index cards and some pens, you're set.
posted by zoetrope at 1:00 PM on September 22, 2010

A fun game we play when waiting needs only some paper & pens/pencils.
It's called 'Heads, Bodies & Legs'.

Each player gets a piece of paper, about 2"x8" & folds it into 4 2"x2" sections. To start, each player draws the head and neck of a person or animal in the 2nd block and then folds the top block over so that only the end of the neck they have drawn is visible. Everyone playing then passes their paper to the left. The next person then draws the arms, torso/body and start of the legs, and again folds the paper over before handing onto the next person, who now draws the legs and feet.

Unfold the papers and see the oddest creatures ever imagined!

It's a fast, fun, silly game - good for any age or artistic ability.

Best of luck to you & your family.
posted by jsslz at 1:23 PM on September 22, 2010

We always called brainwane's "sentence picture" game "telephone pictionary." To clarify, in case it's not obvious from the photo:
- Everyone gets a sheet of paper on which they write a single sentence.
- Everyone passes their sheet to the left.
- Each person then draws a picture illustrating the sentence that appears at the top of the page. Then they fold the paper backward so only the picture (not the sentence) is visible.
- Everyone passes their sheet to the left.
- Each person then writes a caption for the picture they see. Fold the picture out of the way, so all that appears is the new caption.
- Pass the papers, and continue adding pictures or captions and folding, until the papers make it all the way around the circle.
- The most hilarious part: unfold the pages to see how the stories evolved, and then share them around the circle.

If you do have time to make it to a CVS, I find that they often have UNO in the kids' toys aisle. That can be a decent way to pass the time, too.

Also, I would echo the previous suggestions that -- much fun as it is to be the family who gets kicked out of the waiting room for being too boisterous -- the reason people get asked to go elsewhere is because many of the other people waiting are not in circumstances as nice as yours. I'm really glad to hear that you have great confidence in a good outcome, but please do be sensitive to the people around you who are in less hopeful situations. I volunteered in a surgical waiting room for several years, and the hardest times were asking happy, noisy families to quiet down after other sad, scared waiting visitors complained. You might even want to ask when you check in, if there is someplace you can wait where you won't disturb other people. There may be an unused "consultation room" or something where you can close the door but still be available to the hospital staff.
posted by vytae at 1:53 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a note: "Head, Bodies and Legs" is also known as -- wait for it -- "Exquisite Corpse."

Given your venue, use that wisely ;)
posted by Madamina at 3:17 PM on September 22, 2010

I think cards would be fine - or a backgammon, chess or checkers board? - but I'm going to nth what people have said about please keeping it quiet. I've been in my fair share of hospital waiting rooms and a loud, rowdy group of game players would have made me homicidal. There's a time and place for quiet and that is definitely it. Not only are people upset and worried, they often have to listen intently for their names over an intercom when the doctor calls to say that the surgery is done.
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:34 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mom and I did a crossword puzzle together the last time we were with someone in a hospital. It didn't get too rowdy, although there was a good deal of as-sedate-as-possible giggling.
posted by so_gracefully at 3:37 PM on September 22, 2010

If you have four people, the answer is spades. I can't count how many hours I whiled away playing that in the ICU waiting room when I was growing up. Nice and quiet, but still engaging.
posted by wierdo at 5:48 PM on September 22, 2010

Thank you all so much. Your suggestions were so awesome!

We wound up wandering the neighborhood when things got too rough (and when we threatened to get too loud), and we collected a lot of get well cards and signed them, and we made a collage of photos to put in said family member's room.

But really the big news is that her surgery was a resounding success! Distractions and walking around really helped. Thanks again for all of your suggestions!
posted by pazazygeek at 8:49 PM on September 28, 2010

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