The other day I had the honor of sitting in a Quest Diagnostics location for three-plus hours. I needed to do a glucose tolerance test to see if I'm one of those lucky women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. I dreaded the process and the time commitment. You can't eat for at least 12 hours prior to the test and after drinking a nasty orange concoction, you have to have your blood drawn every three hours. That doesn't include the original needle stick prior to downing the dastardly liquid. I'd put it off for several days, when finally I decided to get it over with and be a grownup. I showed up well-prepared, stocked with a book, several sections of the Washington Post
and a portable DVD-player. We had three Netflix
at home, but one was a drug movie and another was a bank heist movie I'd already seen, so that left me with Jarhead
. I was certain this was not the most appropriate film to screen in a venue such as Quest Diagnostics, but I figured I'd tilt the screen toward myself, turn on the captions and turn off the sound. It would be fine.
The office was quite packed, especially since it was rather small. There were numerous chairs lining the walls like corduroy. Most every seat was filled with some bored-looking person who obviously was as loathe to be there as I. I set up shop. First, I perused the paper. There was only one technician at the office, so I knew it was going to be a long wait. How thrilling to be pregnant, waiting to drink treakly orange sludge, while watching the minutes tick longer and longer away from lunch time! Finally, I reasoned with myself that I'd have to break out the movie or I'd be breaking out of the office like a crazed looney. I wanted to hold out and wait make the movie last... but I just wasn't strong enough to wait any longer.
Jake Gyllenhaal began to narrate the movie and I began to feel myself calm down and ooze into the plotline. But not for long... because that's when my new best friend arrived. Mr. Mumbai. --No that's not his name. But it's the nicest name I can come up with at this point. Mr. Mumbai was a 50ish East Asian man. He was dressed in his best navy blue Dickies slacks and shirt, complete with a matching trucker's cap. It was clear from the uniform, if not from the distinct scent of Au de Toilette de Exxon
that he was a gas station attendant in his working life. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Of course not. I just wished I didn't have to catch a whiff of it across the three foot space between us while I was nauseated and hungry. Oh the joys of pregnancy!
Who knows what mysterious lab work Mr. Mumbai was supposed to have? We'll never know, because he just sat there without signing his name on the registry. He sat in his maroon seat with a perplexed look on his face, scanning the room in search of a guide? a friend? a victim? And because I seem to have a neon sign above my head flashing, "Come sojourn by my side, freak. Your kind is welcome here," he got up from his seat and slid into the one other empty chair in the room. At this point I immediately developed severe osteoporosis. That is to say, I curved by body protectively over the screen of the DVD player and made it seem as though I was unable to see, hear or be aware of anything else in the room. But Mr. Mumbai was steadfast in his quest, and he inched in close and ignored my body language.
"What kind of stone is that?" he asked.
"Huh?" I said.
"What kind of stone -- in your ring -- what kind of stone is that?" he asked again.
"Uh, a diamond." I said. After all, it was clearly a wedding ring. It should have been obvious to him. But I guess this was his cool way into getting my attention.
"Does it touch the skin?" He continued.
"What?" I said.
"Does the stone touch your skin?"
"No. The setting is up on top of the band." I said with a bland, disinterested tone. This clearly didn't matter to him. He was hungry to converse.
"Look. Look at my rings," he said, sliding silver and gold bands off of fingers not traditionally used for rings. "See how the stone touches my skin?" Well, I don't know about that, Mr. Mumbai, I thought to myself. All I know is that it looks like you've cut the circulation off in your fingers for years and now the skin looks all atrophed and sickly white. I just nodded my head.
"In India -- I am from India -- I learn about gems. I know all about different stones. It's very important that the stone touch your skin so you can get the power of the stone." He urged. I just said, "Interesting" and tried to keep my eyes focused on Jake as he drunkenly danced with nothing more than a Santa Claus hat on little Mr. Gyllenhaal.
"I also read palms. I am very good. Very accurate. Give me your left hand." He said. So to get rid of him, and really, I thought he'd get his blood drawn or provide a urine sample and be on his way sometime soon, I figured what's the harm? I held up my left hand.
"No, your left hand." He said. So I fluttered the fingers on my left hand in "jazz hands" formation.
"No. Your Left Hand." He urged again.
"Uh, this is my left hand." I said, my eyes widely bugged out as if I was someone with thyroid issues. He grasped my hand and began lightly squeezing the area of my palm near my pinky finger.
"My eye sight, it's not so good." He smiled, "You are going to have a son." He said please with himself.
"Nope." I said, "It's a girl."
"Then you have a son at home." He countered.
"Nope. Another girl."
"Then you are going to have another baby. It will be a boy. I am sure of it. I am very good. Very accurate. I learn this back in India. Not like the lies on the internet." He said.
"Nope. This is my last baby. We're not having other children." I said, and clicked the rewind button. I was missing dancing Jake and although I was somewhat embarrassed that Mr. Mumbai was watching this over my shoulder, I wasn't embarrassed enough to miss the scene entirely. It required patience, diligence and attention. And I was willing to sit through it again out of um... respect.
People around the room were looking at us. They flashed the "better you than me" sympathetic glances. Bastards. Someone rescue me! I turned to the young pre-teen and her mother at my right and mouthed, "help me!" but they just giggled and smiled. Sigh. Bastards.
There wasn't much I could do except pack up my belongings and hide out in the bathroom for a few minutes. My hope was that another seat would free up and I would take that one... one far from Mr. Mumbai. But by now, you know my luck. My fate. My curse. The only seat that was still available when I returned was next to Mr. Mumbai. The very same maroon-cushioned chair that marooned me next to Mr. Mumbai. I slowly shuffled back and sat down, a defeated Persephone to his Hades. I would have to do my time next to him until I was allowed my freedom.
The phlebotomist arrived at the reception window and motioned for the man to come over. She took his paperwork and said that she was unable to perform the lab work he needed, but that he could go to one of two other locations and they would be happy to do the test for him there. She took out a brochure and circled the two locations and handed it to Mr. Mumbai. He just looked at her quizzically. She explained again. And, again the befuddled expression was returned to her glaze.
"I must call my daughter!" He said, and asked to use the office phone. But she refused.
She was a tough nut to crack, this lady. But you could understand why. After all, she was alone in the office with no one to watch her back while she drew blood all day. She only allowed one patient back at a time and locked and unlocked the door with a key before and after walking to the examination area in the back.
Mr. Mumbai came back to me, with the brochure clutched in his hand and a defeated look. He took out the lab order and showed it to me. It looked much like the one I had, except with different circles were blackened in and a different name and address at the top of the sheet. He pointed to the address and said, "How do I get to Bell Street? It is around here, yes? I have seen it."
"The woman said to go to one of the locations here," I said, pointing to the brochure.
"But Bell Street, " he insisted. "It is around here, yes?"
"It might be. But the one you're pointing to says 'Houston, Texas.' That's not around here." Mr. Mumbai did not understand.
"Yes, I know HOUSE-ton" he said pronouncing the city the way you're supposed to pronounce the famously-mispronounced street in New York. "How long does it take to get there?" he asked.
"Well, here's where we are on the East Coast, "I pantomimed, "and alllll the way over here is Texas. It's quite far." I said, trying not to sound condescending. I didn't want to annoy this unstable man, number one, and number two, I wanted to convey that he could go to one of the other labs and most-importantly out of my life!
"Will it take a long to get there?" I pleaded.
"Well, it's several
time zones away. The other sites are just down the road. I'd go there instead." I smiled.
"I need to call my daughter, but she won't let me use the phone!" he said, clearly incensed with the phlebotomist. "You
have a phone," he said. Earlier, I'd taken out my Blackberry to try and quickly send a message to my husband to come and hang out with me. He was telecommuting, so it would be possible. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the message out to him due to poor cell coverage inside the building. Curses!
"There's a phone in the lobby, just as you walk in." I said.
"But you have a phone. I can use that one."
"This is a work phone," I lied. "And you keep pointing to a long distance number. I'm not allowed to make long distance calls with this phone." I said with conviction. Where the hell did that come from? By the power of GreySkull - I was SheeRah/HeMan all of the sudden.
He looked pissed. Mr. Mumbai was certainly not a happy man. But I had little sympathy. I missed most of my movie. My stomach ached with hunger. I had horrible reflux from the glucose drink and the crook of my arm was angrily turning a bloated shade of purple from being prodded so much. I'd had enough. And so had Mr. Mumbai. Who would win?
He scanned the room again, looking for a new ally. Finally a nice man rose to his feet and drew a map on the back of the brochure showing Mr. Mumbai how to drive to one of the other lab locations. Mr. Mumbai looked at me like a father who'd just resigned himself to disowning his only son. He turn his back to me. Stood for a moment or two, and then walked out of the door. It opened and shut with a quiet sigh.
When I was sure he was gone, I turned to the pre-teen and her mom who were still seated to my right and said, "Gee, thanks for your help!" jokingly. But really, it was no joke. They'd cowered in their foxhole together while I was out taking bullets for the rest of the squad. Obviously they weren't familiar with Band of Brothers. And really, doesn't everyone
get the History Channel by now?
Later in the day, during my next blood draw, the phlebotomist told me that Mr. Mumbai "freaked her out. He's a crazy man. I called my supervisor and told him that I wasn't going to draw this man's blood. He's crazy."
"Great, so you left him out there with me!" I said.
"Who thought he'd stay that long?" She said sadly. "That older woman that came in before you said, 'there's some crazy man bothering a pregnant lady. Why doesn't she run out of here!'" the Phlebotomist laughed and put her hand on my shoulder. Oh yeah, because that was a real-world option.
"Yeah. No one came to my rescue. You all just left me there!" I said. She smiled and laughed again. Because one person's horror is always funny to someone else. It's just like after you have a frightening dream, and then you retell it the next day to someone else and it sounds ridiculous. --Like something Sid and Marty Croft would stage with big bright foam costumes and character names like Whitchy-Poo. At least it makes for a good story.
Now if only I could find a way to bash in the neon sign above my head. Or at least make it read, "Go Away! Beware of Blog