Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Now Serving 71

This morning I went for a blood test. The procedure at the lab is to walk in, take a number, and sit down. Eventually they will call your number and then you bring them your health card and the doctor's blood test orders. Then you take your seat again until they call you into the back to actually have your blood taken. It is a pretty simple procedure. Most people make it in and out within half an hour. Probably the only time the system breaks down is when you forget to take a number.

I arrived at 7:30 in the morning and saw a lot of cars in the parking lot. I wasn't too surprised. I think it is standard to fast for 10-12 hours before a blood test, so it makes sense that most people prefer to fast overnight, and have their blood tested before breakfast. As I parked my car I saw a man just getting out of his. I had to shake my head. I am not sure how, but at some point I must have been given a curse that no matter where I am going, I am always a few seconds behind someone else. When you consider all the lineups at banks, drive-thrus, grocery stores, etc, I am sure that throughout my life I have spent months waiting for that one person who always manages to get places 2 seconds ahead of me. I got out of my car and I followed this guy up to the entrance.

He arrived just ahead of me, but instead of going straight in, he opened the door for me. I walked right in and now I was ahead of him. I immediately felt guilty over making him wait for me just because he is polite, so I stood to the side for a few seconds. I pretended to be looking for something in my purse because I wanted to give him a chance to get his number first, but he didn't take one. He went straight to a chair in the waiting area and sat down next to the table in the corner with all the magazines. I grabbed my number and took a seat on the other side of the table.

The waiting room was about half full of people, most were over the age of 65. Generally I like to people-watch the elderly, but this morning I couldn't do it because I kept wondering about that guy ahead of me. Why didn't he take a ticket? I glanced at him. He just sat there reading In Touch magazine. At first I thought he must be waiting for someone, but after a few minutes he pulled out his purple blood test orders and put them on his lap. I thought I should ask if he had a number, but I didn't. Surely he could hear them calling out the numbers one by one. I decided he must have been there well ahead of me, and I had only just witnessed him come in after running out to his car for something. I considered the matter settled, and I picked up a six-month-old magazine that promised to describe what Paris could expect in prison.

Pretty soon they called out '54' and I went up to hand in my stuff. I sat back down and realized that man hadn't been called up yet. There is no way he had a number prior to my arrival. If so he would have handed in his purple sheet by now, but it was still on his lap. He caught me looking at him, and at that moment I think he realized it too. His expression became one of intense irritation and suddenly he stood up. He was clearly angry as he stormed up to the counter and ripped a number from the dispenser. He looked at the display on the wall that still said "Now Serving 54". Then he looked at his ticket and shook his head slightly and sighed with disgust (at himself I hope). Then he walked back to his chair, his face was red and his jaw looked clenched.

About a minute later a woman walked in. I noticed that she didn't take a number either. She took a seat on the other side of the man with the clenched jaw. He was staring straight ahead and still scowling. She took a few seconds to get comfy and then she tucked her hand behind Scowly-man's arm. Despite the absence of a greeting and the fact that his expression didn't soften in the slightest, it seemed evident that she was his wife. Right then a nurse said "55?" and an old lady with a cane got up and walked to the counter. This prompted the man's wife to lean over and ask, "What number did you get?"

With a touch of irritation he said "71."

She looked surprised and said, "71?! They are slow this morning. They must be really busy eh?"

The man didn't respond.