I’ve already yelled, sobbed and repented, and it’s not even 9.00 a.m. I pulled into the parking lot of Quest, the diagnostic center where I get my twice-weekly blood tests. I got out of the car, walked into the building and pressed the button for the elevator, and as I waited, an elderly couple came in. The woman stood next to me by the elevator. The old man leapt up the stairs like a grasshopper. I’d never seen an octogenarian bound up stairs like that.
By the time I walked into Quest’s office upstairs, old grasshopper legs was at the sign-in sheet, not just signing himself in but his wife as well –putting two people in front of me on a day I was trying to get out of there quickly. My brother and his daughter were visiting me from out of town, and they were waiting for me at my house. We were going to spend the morning together before they set off on their five-and-a-half hour journey home. I told my brother I’d only be about 25 minutes. The elderly couple set me back about 15.
As I sat there in the waiting room, I kept looking over at them and could feel the mercury rising inside me. What right did that man have to leap in front of me? I clearly arrived before they had, and by all rights, I should be seen by the nurses first. But not only had he cut in front of me, he planted his wife in front of me as well. They stole 15 minutes of my life. I stared at the side of his age-spotted face wanting to say something, but I knew how it would end. There are times in life when you’re right, dead right, but to say something makes you look stupid, not the offending party.
The nurse came out and walked over to the sign-in sheet.
They both stood up. I seethed. I wanted to put my leg out and trip them as they walked by.
“Can she come in with me?” the old man asked.
“Sure,” the nurse said.
I hoped their doubling up would make the line move faster. It didn’t. I arrived at 8.12 a.m., and I sat there until 8.20, 8.25, 8.30, 8.45, nearly 9.00. I tried to quell the impatient chatter in my mind by watching television, but there was a young girl sitting behind me kicking and crying, “I hate you, mommy. I hate you,” so loudly, I couldn’t hear the news program.
By this time, the nurses had begun calling people who had appointments ahead of those who had just walked in, like me. You usually don’t have to make an appointment at Quest, at least not at this time of day, but by cutting me in line, old grasshopper legs put me in the teeth of the Quest rush. I watched four people go in front of me because they had appointments.
The nurse came out and walked over to the sign in sheet.
“Perez?” the nurse called.
“Now hold on,” I said, standing up. “I’ve been sitting here since 8.12 a.m.”
“I’m sorry. These people made appointments,” the nurse said, all but shooing me away and escorting Perez into Room number 1.
“I was here before them,” I yelled to no one in particular.
Just then, the old couple emerged along with another nurse.
“I’ve been waiting here since 8.12. And if it weren’t for those people cutting in front of me,” I said, pointing to the elderly couple. “He ran up the stairs when I was waiting for the elevator.”
A small part of me was aware of how stupid I sounded, but a bigger part of me, the insane, angry part, was in charge now.
“Well, there’s nothing I can do about that,” the nurse said, as she walked over to the sign in sheet.
“Alvarez?” she said.
“How long am I supposed to wait here?”
It was nearly 9.00 a.m. now.
“There are two people ahead of you,” she said. “They have appointments.”
“Well that’s not right,” I said.
“Maybe you should make an appointment,” she said, as she escorted Alvarez down the hall to Room number 1.
I stormed over to the sign in sheet and crossed my name out. I stomped down the stairs, not waiting for the elevator this time, and walked out of the building toward my car, looking around first to see if the old couple was still in their car. If they were, I had a mind to bang on their window and yell at them. Thankfully, they were gone. I got into my car and slumped in my seat and sobbed. After a moment, I composed myself, turned on the car and took off.
As I drove farther and farther from Quest, I thought, well now what? I’m supposed to be getting a blood test today. I need to know whether my hCG is still rising, an indication that my pregnancy is moving along nicely. So far, I’d seen little evidence that I was pregnant, aside from the odd pings and pangs in my uterus. But heck, I could feel pings and pangs anywhere if I listen hard enough. I thought I’m not going all the way in to Cornell just for a blood test. Besides, their daily monitoring sessions for bloodwork end at 8.45 a.m. I’d have to wait until tomorrow. And what about the other 20-some odd blood tests I’m likely to need over the next several months. Am I now going to have to go into Cornell for all of them?
I stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee. I brought it back to my car and sat there for a moment, thinking I know what I need to do. I need to bite the bullet and go back to Quest, no matter how long it takes today. There was only one other person in the waiting room when I stormed out. How long could it be? And from now on, I’ll make an appointment. Hopefully, the next time, my appointment will be for 8.15, and at 8.14, the old couple will saunter in and expect to be taken right away. The nurse will walk over to the sign in sheet, and say, “”Chesler?” I’ll follow her back to Room number 1, and once in there, I’ll make like a screaming kid whose mother tries to drag him out of a store, but he makes his body go limp so she can’t move him. I’ll relax, maybe take my shoes off, and try to make my blood come out really slowly, as I make idle chit chat with the nurse –if she ever speaks to me again.
I put the car in gear and drove back to Quest. When I walked in, one of the nurses was standing at the sign-in sheet.
“I, uh, crossed my name out. I need to put it back,” I said. I hoped she didn’t see how hard I’d pressed down with the pen. Nobody likes a hysteric.
“Okay, come on in,” she said.
I followed her down the hallway and mumbled “Sorry” under my breath. As I walked into Room 1, I felt all was forgiven.
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