Voice Over

by NotDownOrOut

I needed to refill a prescription for a diuretic I am taking. Imagine taking a diuretic while taking a drug like Vesicare to keep my pipes from springing a leak. As in my own field of law, the medical profession seems intent upon engaging in inconsistent behaviors.

I called in the request for the refill last week. It takes three to five business days to get a refill. On Monday morning I woke at 5:00 a.m. and headed for the hospital. It was cold outdoors, but not as bad as it has been. My car’s thermostat read 28 degrees as I backed into the alley and proceeded to drive in the icy ruts left from the last good snow.

I got a good parking space and hunched down in my seat to wait until the elevators would open at 7:00 a.m. It soon became a bad space as someone parked an enormous SUV next to my Kia Soul. The other driver did not see me there. She wound down her window and bent my side view mirror in toward my car so she could open her door. Then she wriggled and shimmied her way out of that beast. She left even less room between the back ends of our vehicles. She used her coat to wipe the salt residue from my car as she squeezed her way out. Then she saw my reflection in my driver’s side mirror. I think she jumped a foot in the air, shrugged, and kept on going.

When I got out I had to appreciate the way she had parked. She had left plenty of room on the passenger side of her car and was about as close to my car as she could get and still exit. I had to hope that I would depart before her to make sure she did not clip me when she exited.

Fantus Clinic is across the street from the hospital. I waited for a few minutes in the hospital’s waiting area before making the crossing. The radiation patients had already gone downstairs so I missed Joyce. She has 18 more radiation sessions before surgery. I still say all of the time that she is 100% cancer free and has no signs of lymphedema. She, like me, has been working full-time through her treatments. Every time we talk I feel how strong she is.

There was a man in the corner with his coat over his head. Another man snored so loudly that I heard him from a great distance. Outside a man studied the discarded cigarette butts, found one, and lit it. That has to be the grossest thing I have seen in the grossest hospital that I have ever visited. Everyone there is sick with something. The sidewalk is covered with old butts and green chemicals used to melt ice. If there had been a machine in the vicinity I would have paid for a pack of cigarettes for him. It would have been the lesser of the two evils.

That sight made me want to go outside for fresh air and a short hike the rest of the way to the clinic. When I got there I pulled a number–B021. There are A numbers for people dropping off a prescription and B numbers for people picking up a prescription.

Someone had realigned the seats in the first floor waiting area. They usually are in parallel rows with space at each end for people to come around from either side. Now the seats go to the windows. A new row of seats faces the windows and blocks the waiting area off from the hall that separates the waiting area from the glass-protected clerks’ stations. There is a TV at one end of the waiting area. There are two sign boards that tell you a number called and the Window at which that number will be served.

Where are eight windows. Window 1 is where someone collects cash. Windows 2-6 are for drop-offs. Windows 7-8 are for pick-ups. The number dispensers are between Windows 6 and 7. All windows were closed.

The windows should open at 8:00 a.m. and remain open until 7:00 p.m. They opened at about 8:15 a.m. By that time there were close to fifty people waiting. The public address service that usually announces that A01 is now served at Window 5 (and then repeats the information in Spanish) was out of order.

There were four windows open. Two for drop-offs and one for pick-ups. The people in the drop-off windows would yell from behind glass, “A01 to Window 4.” Most people got the idea. And drop-offs are quick. It got confusing when someone wanted to call B numbers because the two women at Windows 7 and 8 kept forgetting to call the B. So people who missed the A calls started going to B windows and vice versa. Sometimes the numbers and windows got posted on the signboards–sometimes not.

Fox News was warning of a storm on Tuesday. There was an elderly African American woman with a walker. Everyone seemed to know her. People would arrive and go to kiss and hug her. She told them to call their mamas or visit their baby mamas. She told a few young men to get jobs and help support their families. She held court in the third row from the TV. That was close to Windows 6 and 7. It was too loud. No one could hear their numbers.

Window 1 opened for ten minutes then closed as the employee left for a coffee break. If you were picking up a prescription, then you went to Window 6 or 7, showed a valid picture I.D., signed a smart card machine with a stylus, and got a piece of paper. You took the paper to Window 1 and waited for the missing clerk’s return.

Then you paid for your prescription. The Window 1 clerk would stamp the paper and make it a receipt. You would go back to Window 7 or 8 and wait for a lull in new pick-up calls. You exchanged your receipt for your prescription and left.

That lasted for about a half hour. Then the pick-up clerks decided that the wrong people were coming to their windows. So one came out with a notepad. She called B numbers and checked your picture I.D. She wrote down your name. Then you went back to waiting. She would then call your name and you would go to Window 7. We were down to one clerk processing the pick-ups as the other clerk was collecting numbers and names.

The prescription area is by the clinic’s front door. Everyone was arriving and leaving by passing through this area. It is noisy and crowded. As the clerk from Window 8 announced, “You see it. We’re having some problems without a sound system. That’s right. We’re having some problems. Get over it.”

If it was hard to hear your number, it was harder to hear your name. The place was like a foreign airport. No one was called Smith or Jones. Half of the waiting patients were senior citizens who were “hard of hearing.” It was like being in a subway tunnel when a train is coming. Every time a name was called, others would announce it. There was movement as people tried to exit through the new choke points created by adding a row of chairs between the waiting area and the hallway. People kept getting in the wrong lines. People were waiting for Window 1 to reopen. The line at Window 1 had to bend and run along the hall wall so that people passing through could pass.

By the time I made it to Window 1, the absence of the missing clerk had caused some to give up. They had gone back to the waiting area to sit. I waited behind a man dressed for work on a construction site. He was tapping his toes. “She’s probably on a bathroom break,” he told me.

She returned with a cup of hot coffee from the coffee stand across the street at the hospital. She did not have a key so could not get back into the office. She went to stand in the line at Window 5 to ask the clerk to let her in.

Some of the waiting people had yet to figure out what was happening. Someone started mumbling about people cutting into line. They meant the clerk for Window 1.

It took two and half hours to pick up my prescription. It took another thirty minutes to get my car and exit the parking garage because someone got into the line of people waiting to pay to exit and then said she did not want to pay and leave. So the parking attendant had to come out of her booth and direct all of the rest of us to back up so the driver could back up and continue circling in search of a parking space. No one wanted to back up and there were about seven cars waiting. Most of us wanted to punish the confused driver at the head of the line.

The parking lot attendant had the sunniest of dispositions. She said, “Thank you for waiting, Miss. Today we are handing out the finest waits you’ll find in these parts. You may just want to re-enter to get a second wait while they last.” I paid for my parking and drove out into the street. The last thing on my mind was a longing for more fine waiting.