Say, what’s your number?

25 Apr

I have blood drawn regularly so my doctor can confirm that my medicine is working and not frying my liver. I usually go at 7am when the lab opens so I can knock it out before my work day, but my schedule was a bit twisted after traveling, so last week I went after work instead. I’m going to blame my day-end fatigue and recent jet-lag for what ensued.

The lab has a kiosk where you check-in electronically using your birthdate and last name. Once you’ve entered those, it flashes a number on the screen and tells you to wait until your number is called. Every time this happens, I think, “Why doesn’t it spit out a ticket like at the DMV so you don’t have to memorize your number?”

After receiving  my number – 286 – I took a seat.

A few minutes later, the receptionist called, “280? 280?” and no one came forward. Everyone in the waiting area (all women for some reason), started looking around at each other suspiciously. Had someone forgotten their number? Had 280 gotten impatient and left?

All of a sudden the receptionist shifted tactics and called MY name, sounding exasperated.

“Oh my gosh!” I said, running over as the other women looked at me like I was a moron. “I’m so sorry. I thought I was 286.” The receptionist laughed, then tried to discreetly ask me  if I was supposed to get a take-home specimen kit for fecal analysis. “Um, no. Just bloodwork, thanks.”

Mystery temporarily solved, I sat back down. A few minutes later, the receptionist called “280?” again as one of the phlebotemists stood by with paperwork to collect his next patient. This time, freshly rebuked, I was on my game. I jumped up and started walking toward the back with him.

“Last name?” he asked as we walked. I told him. “Nope. This isn’t you.” I started to protest, confident that I was 280, but he shook his head and called the last name that was on his form and another patient popped up to join him. Confused, I returned to the front desk. “Sorry,” I said. “I thought you were calling me for him. Did you need me again?”

The receptionist looked at me like I was crazy. “You called 280?” I prompted.

She laughed. “Your number isn’t 280. Remind me – what was your last name?” I told her and she looked at my paperwork. “You’re 276.”

“Wait. I originally thought I was 286. But then you called me over to check my paperwork using 280?” I was royally confused.

She just started laughing. “Honey, you’re 276. Go have a seat.”

I sat down and started laughing at myself. Why the hell wouldn’t they just use NAMES? As I sat there, I felt a bit less crazy as I listened to other patients’ interactions after checking in.

One woman got called over to the receptionist because she somehow managed to have TWO numbers. “Sorry,” she explained. “The number flashed so quickly I missed it, so I checked in twice.”

Another woman cruised straight to the reception desk after checking in. “Can you tell me what my number is? It flashed by so fast I didn’t see it.”

Finally a man arrived and – after a few minutes fumbling with the kiosk – walked over to the receptionist. I didn’t hear his half of the conversation, but I heard the receptionist say, “You don’t speak English?” before accompanying him back to the kiosk to help.

While I’ve never been the receptionist in a medical lab, I think I have a pretty clear idea of what drives that woman nuts about her job.

At last, 276 was called. We confirmed my name and Terrence did his business, sliding the needle in like a professional. “Smooth,” I told him. “You’re pretty good at this.”

“I should be – we’ve done almost 300 today alone.”

“276,” I told him.

“What?” he asked, looking confused.

“You’ve done 276. But you WILL do at least 280 before you leave.”

He looked at me like I was nuts. And perhaps I am, but two can play at that game.

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