Sitting in the hospital waiting area and listening to the rain hit the huge window and streak lazily down the glass I recalled my mother always saying rainy days were bad luck. At least I think that’s what she said. Or was it rainy days were bad for weddings? I supposed it didn’t matter. I didn’t believe in superstitions and certainly not those spoken by my late mother who routinely threw spilled salt over her right shoulder, would not walk under a ladder, and feared breaking a mirror as though she was allowing some evil to escape and consume her.
Glancing down at the clipboard and the form that awaited my checks in little boxes and information that must be printed neatly in black ink only please, I pushed all thoughts of my mother and superstitions to the back of my mind. I ticked off the boxes quickly, noting my illnesses, surgeries, implants, and other required information. I did not hesitate at any one of the boxes and I had no trouble completing my name, address, and vital details should I suddenly succumb to medical testing. It all seemed so unnecessary. I had filled out similar forms several times over the past six months.
I stepped up to the counter to return the form to the nurse who sat typing rapidly into her computer. With only a cursory glance at the forms she asked, “Did you fill everything out?”
I wanted to suggest she look it over rather than ask me since I was quite capable of lying. But that was pointless and might only delay the stupid scan while she made a detailed exam of my life history.
“Yes of course,” my tone was snippy. I couldn’t resist. “You might want to look it over to be certain.”
She looked up at me, drawing her eyes away from the computer monitor as though letting it escape her sight was both dangerous and frightening. Another quick glance at the form then up at my face. “What?”
“In case I missed anything. You might want to check to be sure.” I held her eyes.
Two very thin frown lines creased her forehead between her brows, brows that had been carefully penciled on that morning I was sure. A slight shake of her head as though I had proposed she staple the form in that very spot between her brows, and then she set the form aside. “Someone will be out to get you in a moment.”
I was dismissed. I might not have spoken at all. If she had a file cabinet in her brain I was in the drawer lettered “N” for Nonsense or “Not Important”.
I turned to go back to my seat only to find it was now occupied by a rather large woman wearing a brightly colored dress. Her legs were spread slightly in a most unladylike position and she held a large purse on her lap. Glancing quickly around the waiting area I saw the only seat that was unoccupied and not near anyone else was beneath the television that was suspended on the wall. As I seated myself I wondered what might happen if the television should suddenly come loose and crash on my head. Would they go on with the CAT scan? I decided it was likely they would since I would certainly require it then.
I sat primly keeping my knees close together and hoping the large woman would take the hint and do likewise. She did not. Soon I became acutely aware every eye in the room was staring in my direction. They were not staring at me, you understand. They were staring at the television above my head. Occasionally eyes would flicker down to my face. No one smiled or nodded at me. I was glad of that. I had no intention of smiling or nodding at anyone else.
One by one people were taken back into the depths beyond the swinging doors, escorted by falsely smiling and overly jovial orderlies. Soon only the large woman and I remained. I began to make mental wagers on which of us would be called first and at what time it would happen. I did not win. My money was on myself in about fifteen minutes. In a little over six minutes a smiling orderly came out and took the woman back. This irked me since I had arrived well before her and had turned my paperwork in as she began to complete hers.
My irritation grew and finally when I could stand no more I went up to the desk to find the same nurse, now looking at a magazine.
“Excuse me but I haven’t been called yet.”
There were those lines between her brows again. “What time was your appointment?”
“I was scheduled for nine forty-five.”
She looked down at her desk as though expecting someone to leap off it and announce it was now my turn. “It’s almost eleven o’clock” she stated.
“Yes I know that.” I struggled to be patient.
“Have you completed your paperwork?” Her eyes were a strange dull brown, almost lifeless in appearance. Had she had a CAT scan that went badly?
“I gave it to you some time ago.”
“To me?” The eyebrows rose up on her forehead and she looked surprised.
In my mind I screamed “Yes you idiotic cow.” My voice, strained and wanting to rise replied, “Yes I handed them to you well over one hour ago.”
“Oh. Were you late then?”
“No. I was early. As soon as I filled out the forms I brought them to you.” I wanted to reach across the counter and grab her hair, banging her head as hard as I could into the now dormant computer screen.
Her hands fluttered over the desk. I saw them pause like a hummingbird mid flight before swooping down to pull my forms from beneath another magazine. “Brides Magazine” splashed across the front above a slender gowned bride glancing over her shoulder provocatively. “Well. Is your name Doreen Hennessey?”
I wanted to snatch the forms from her and begin beating her about the head. “Yes.”
“Well, here they are.” She lifted the forms up so I could see them.
“Yes I can see that. When will I be called?”
She began moving the mouse to bring her monitor back to life. “Well you were scheduled for nine forty-five.”
“Yes I know that. I was here well before my appointment time. I turned the forms in to you over an hour ago now.”
“I’m sorry. Apparently they were overlooked.” I knew by her tone that she was not sorry at all. In fact I would dare to say she was delighted.
“I see that also. When will I be called?”
Another glance at her computer screen. “Well…” she drew the word out as though it was taffy being pulled from her teeth. “I’ll have to see if they can still fit you in.”
I took a deep breath. “Since this was obviously your fault I expect I will be seen. I cannot take another day off from work for this. I’ve lost too much time already.”
She did not like that. I was glad. I was happy when her narrow drawn on eyebrows went up very high on her forehead and her tight lips squeezed together as though she had sucked on a persimmon. She picked up the telephone on her desk and pressed three numbers. I could hear the musical tones as clearly as if I had the receiver to my ear. “Have a seat and I will check on your status.”
I leaned over the counter. “My status is I am standing right here until you arrange for me to be seen. If you are incapable of doing that perhaps we need to call a supervisor.” I looked pointedly around the room as though I would begin shouting for assistance at any moment.
Now the eyebrows met in the middle of her forehead and the frown was so deep that the narrow lines made deep furrows in her forehead. She turned away as she spoke into the phone. In only a few moments a doctor came out through the swinging doors, his face red and his manner obviously irritated.
“Miss Henessey?” He reached past me toward the nurse who shoved the papers into his hand so that they crumpled in the middle.
“Your appointment was at nine forty-five this morning.”
Was it possible there was yet another idiot in this hospital? “I was on time. This nurse misplaced my paperwork,” I hesitated only a second, “beneath her Brides Magazine.” I heard the triumph in my voice and made no effort to contain it.
The doctor flashed a look of pure hostility at the nurse before turning back to me. “Please come with me. I’m sorry you had to wait.”
I looked back at her face as I followed him into the depths and was pleased to see the expression of hatred on her frozen there. As the door swung closed behind me I wondered if the lines from Dante should be emblazoned above them. “Abandon all hope ye who enter.”
I followed the doctor as he glanced over my paperwork. “So you have no allergies?”
“None that I know of,” I responded.
“So your test for iodine allergy came back okay?”
I stopped. “I’ve not had a test for iodine allergy.”
He turned quickly to face me and if I had not stopped we would surely have collided. “They didn’t test you for iodine allergy?”
“I have had no allergy test of any kind and certainly not for iodine.”
He shook his head the way that young doctor’s do when they are about to impart some unpleasant information. “Well, are you allergic to iodine?”
“I have no idea.”
“Hmm.” He flipped through the pages of the forms again.”Are you allergic to shellfish?”
“Not that I know of.” Was he planning a dinner date with me?
“Have you eaten any shellfish?” He continued to flip pages as though some magical answer would jump out.
“Of course I have eaten shellfish. This is a fishing town. I’ve eaten all types of fish.”
Then he nodded as though satisfied with my response. “Well good then. About one in forty thousand people who have a scan are allergic to the iodine based dye. But if you are not allergic to shellfish it’s probably okay.”
While I had no desire to break out in itchy bumps, neither did I want to postpone the test.
“Let’s get on with it then.” He entered a room where two technicians of some sort were fiddling with equipment.
A male nurse offered me a smile. “Well then have we got another one?”