The sterility of a doctor’s waiting room can be intimidating—symmetrically arranged furniture, perfectly placed People magazines, and looming plaques of accomplishments act less like a cordial welcome than a direct order to sit down, shut up, and be patient.
Dr. Gordon Siegel’s approach, though, aims to put his patients at ease through incessant tick-tocking. At his Midwest Ear Nose & Throat offices on the near north side (3 E. Huron), the otolaryngologist boasts a waiting room teeming with antique clocks (mainly of the wall variety) and other peculiarities—like a weight and horoscope machine. The scene is a little more hippie fun house than waiting room, and Dr. Siegel acknowledges that while his collection may indicate a bad habit, it’s what he knows.
“My wife and I have always enjoyed not throwing stuff out,” he told me. “As far as I can remember the clocks started when I was about eight years old and my grandmother bought me a windup Woody Woodpecker clock. I still have it.”
I was fortunate enough during my visit to have experienced the office’s noon chorus of clocks, when each timekeeper chimed its own song and dance—the inundation of ding-dongs and cuckoos had a kind of fantastical Lewis Carroll ring to it. But what about the patients? Is the waiting-room quirk as charming to them?
“Some people find the tick-tocking unnerving, which is fascinating,” Dr. Siegel explained. “People have walked in, and after a few minutes walked out. Others like myself find it very soothing. I think it’s a nonissue to most.”
After talking with Dr. Siegel I ventured two flights up to speak with his wife and accomplice, Clari Wechter, who steers the ship at Old Plank Antiques on Huron. She told me that while their antique dealership, offices, and home are overrun with clocks—they also have seven grandfather clocks in storage—he does keep them all on point.
“He winds them every Sunday.”
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