T’was on a Thursday morning this week for my blood test so confusing – and so busy are they in the treatment room that I’m asked, most apologetically, to go downstairs to the main hospital unit for it.
Not, thank goodness, to Oncology Outpatients. Off I go, my name, DOB (Date of Birth) and hospital number identity label firmly stuck to my appointment card a bit like going off with one’s polling card to vote.
Fairly quickly I latch on to yet another system, blotting my copybook only with an abortive attempt to get the compulsory numbered ticket out of the antiseptic rub container.
Ticket successfully acquired, the waiting time is announced as nine minutes, but it is more like nine seconds before my number is called and I’m being told – by the fattest nurse I’ve ever seen – that her department is not busy in August because everyone is away.
On the journey home, my bus is diverted for poorly signed roadworks and the driver gets albeit temporarily – lost. “I know I should’ve, but I didn’t,” he says into his intercom, explaining his error and asking for directions.
Next morning’s driver is more alert, and in any case clearer signs are in place. The only hitch is at the spot where we are designated to change drivers. Our replacement is waiting in the wrong place.
En route, I become aware that the man sitting behind me is on his mobile to a colleague. The conversation has all the marks of office gossip.
MAN ON PHONE: “He’s been very snappy with people lately, and it seems to be getting worse. He never used to be like that. I wonder if you could do
something before it gets serious, and the police are called.”
ME (Silently): “This sounds as if it¹’l demand an exceptionally tactful exercise of management skills.”
MAN ON PHONE: “Perhaps you could put something in his food to calm him down a bit?”
ME (Silently): “My God, shades of Brave New Worlds. Oh, it must be a dog.”
(As you yourself, dear reader, will have worked out long since.)
My appointment is later than usual 10.45. I have a short wait in the Day Room, where sits the most exotic patient I have seen so far: a young albino
Afro-Caribbean girl with pale lilac tinted skin and light yellow dreadlocks piled high on top of her head.
My favourite chair is today already occupied, so I sit within easier conversational distance of more patients. One of these is a new, chatty man recently returned from a lifetime in Canada.
He closely interrogates every newcomer, including myself, over their diagnosis, treatment and experiences, particularly with pain. This gives him an excuse to retell several times his own experiences with pain after what he describes as his ‘brutal’ operation.
Apart from this obsession, he also displays alarmingly ill informed views on Britain today, gleaned from the right wing popular press.
While maintaining a polite front, I manage to avoid listening to most of the ghoulish horror stories, related in the approved gung-ho manner, and to escape joining in
the eager sharing of right wing views. I immerse myself in my Kindle. (George Eliot¹s Adam Bede, which requires concentration.)
Meanwhile, the Hospital’s splendid James, returned from holiday, makes a special phone call to secure me a brown bread tuna sandwich for lunch.
I seem to have acquired the status of trusty. On leaving, I¹m told that next time I come for treatment (in 2 weeks’ time) I may ask for a printed identity label which I can then present, on a day and time of my own choosing, to get my next blood test in the main hospital unit — such responsibility!