Phlebotomy is a funny word. It’s probably because of the f sound at the beginning, like the word fart. If you mention that someone passed wind, people will look away discretely; toot might make someone giggle. But it takes the word fart to get a guffaw. Think how funny it would be if it was spelled phart! Phlebotomists, themselves, however, are not a particularly jolly bunch. As a matter of fact, I’ve met a few who are downright surly.
In preparation for an upcoming doctor’s appointment, I went to get some blood drawn. I knew the lab was closed for lunch from noon to twelve-thirty, so I arrived at 1:15. Taped to the door was one of those flat, representational clocks whose hands stay where you put them. It had the little hand pointing to the 1, and the big hand pointing to the 6. I was not pleased. I had a 2 o’clock appointment and was concerned about cutting it close. I was shifting from foot to foot, trying to decide what to do, when a delivery man carrying two small coolers came up.
“Not open, huh?”
I knocked, hoping the lab person would take pity on me. She opened the door, saw the guy, and said, “I thought that might be you.” He squeezed by and disappeared inside as the door closed in my face. By now, a couple more people had joined me in the hall and I was no longer the only one feeling growly. The door opened and the delivery guy squeezed out again. I threw myself on her mercy, “I have an appointment. Can you open up?”
“I get a half hour for lunch and I’m taking a half hour,” she snarled as she shut the door. There was clearly nothing to be gained by pointing out that she was late taking her lunch, thereby inconveniencing everyone else. I cut my losses and left, planning to return later that afternoon.
I gave myself almost an hour before my final appointment of the day. I figured even if there were a couple of people ahead of me, I’d still have time. As it turned out, there was only one, and she was already in the chair. I sat down feeling optimistic. For the next few minutes, it was strangely quiet. There was no chitchat, no nothing. Then I heard the phlebotomist say, “Still waiting.” That was not a good sign, and it only got worse.
The phlebotomist and her client were discussing how they could get the lab work done when the order hadn’t been submitted properly. There were options; they could call this one, or that one, or take the sample and send it elsewhere. Each option was discussed, weighed, rejected, and re-examined in light of all the other options. I thought my head would explode. After twenty minutes I left.
I needed to have the blood work done a week in advance of my doctor’s appointment. If the lab results didn’t get to him before I did, the visit would be pointless. I got home feeling as cranky as a phlebotomist forced to have a late lunch. Then I checked the calendar on the kitchen wall and saw that my doctor’s appointment was two weeks away, not one. I could start chasing the phlebotomist again the following Monday.
I got to the lab before they opened and was the first customer. I was relieved when a different phlebotomist opened the door and welcomed me in with a smile.
Then she said, “The computer’s down…”