“We should have the result of your blood test in about three days” chirped the perky little lab technician as she pulled the needle out of my arm. “You can ring to the doctor between eight and nine.”

 I could already feel the lump forming in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t afraid of what they might find, I could handle that, but I was expected to ring to the doctor. “Can’t I make an appointment … to talk over the results?”

 “I’m sure that won’t be necessary” she smiled. “If the results show anything abnormal, the doctor will have you make an appointment to discuss them further.”

 “Ok then” I sighed. “Thank you very much” and I left feeling dreadful.

 The days passed slowly, but inevitably the dreaded day came. Two minutes to eight I positioned myself next to the phone with my coffee cup, cigarettes and ashtray (never forget the ashtray). I wouldn’t say I’m fanatic about time but in addition to my watch, I have a clear view of the wall clock. To be totally sure, in case both my watch and wall clock choose to stop simultaneously, I’ve turned on the News channel as well.

 Anyway, at exactly eight o’clock I picked up the receiver and dialed the doctor’s office. I thought for sure I would be the first but a recorded message with a sweet voice explained that the office was not open until eight o’clock and I was welcome to ring back at that time. It was eight o’clock! Ok, maybe the nurses were a bit slow to switch off the machine, I thought. Or maybe their clock was slow.

 I looked at my watch, the wall clock and the TV just to be certain, then pressed the redial button and waited. The very sweet voice of the answering machine came on again and explained that the office was still not open and I would be welcome to ring back at eight o’clock. Sweat sprang out on my forehead. “It’s forty-seven seconds over eight” I shouted. “What are they doing? I’ll bet they’re just sitting there drinking their coffee.”

 Again I jabbed the redial button and waited. Surprise of surprises it started ringing! Finally, I thought. Then a different sugar voiced machine said: “All of our lines are busy, please wait”.

  “It’s ninety seconds over eight!” I screamed into the receiver. “How could they all be busy?”

 After a bit it continued: “You are number … six in line.”

  “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” The anger shot through me like a lightning bolt. I saw red … I actually saw red. Slamming down the receiver … twice, I jumped up and blindly made my way to the kitchen where I swallowed two Panadol. It was only as I was downing the last mouth full of water I realized my mistake: I had lost my place in line!

 “Oh God, please God no” I breathed as I ran to the phone. Picking up the receiver I hit redial and waited. It rang twice before the friendly sugar-coated voice said: “All of our lines are busy, please wait. You are number …”

“Please, please, please, please” I prayed.

 “…eight in line”.

 Buggers! I clutched the receiver so hard that I swear anything less durable would have disintegrated.

 Then the music began; a cheery tune reminiscent of an aerobics program from the 70’s. Periodically the voice came back: “You are number … eight in line” then “you are number … seven in line.” Well at least it’s not going the other way, I thought.

 After about thirty minutes and a countdown that would have given NASA a nervous breakdown, I heard: “You are number … one in line.” I sat up and put out my third cigarette. This was it! Finally I was going to get through to a real live person! I began to sweat. I didn’t want anything to go wrong. What if my finger happened to press a button on the phone? Or what if lightning hit and the phones went dead? “Please don’t let anything happen” I prayed.

 After what seemed like an eternity a woman’s voice said: “Doctors office, how may I help you?”

 I was so surprised I forgot what I was going to say. Finally I stuttered: “I would like to speak with Dr. Blake please.”

 “He’s busy on another line, would you like to wait or will you call back?”

 I was speechless, was she kidding? “I’ll wait, thank you.”

 Then the music came back. I pictured the process of ringing to the doctor as the various stages of purgatory. Having come through the first and second stage, I was now in the third. “Blessed is he who waits” I mumbled.

 After a while (I’m sure the melody began twice from the beginning) the phone began ringing on the other end. At last the waiting was almost at an end and I would be able to get on with my life.

 A woman’s voice said “Doctors office, how may I help you?”

 At that precise moment the Panadol stopped working. “Yes, I’m still waiting to speak to Dr. Blake” I said pointedly.

 “The Doctor is busy on another line, would you like to wa …”

 “I’ll wait” I snapped.

 The music promptly began again.

 Suddenly the phone started ringing on the other end. It rang several times and then … “click.” Nothing, as if a black hole had opened up and swallowed the doctor’s office.

 This can’t be happening I mumbled as tears welled up in my eyes … all I have to do is ring to the doctor and ask him about my blood tests. What could be easier?

 I looked at the time … two minutes to nine. I could just make it. Press redial, phone ringing, sugar-coated sweat voiced machine: “You are number … two in line.” Why couldn’t this have happened an hour ago? I thought.

 Three minutes later a not too friendly voice said: “Doctor’s off …”

 “Look, I’ve been waiting for an hour to speak to Dr. Blake and got cut off” I snapped. “Now just put me through to him!”

 “Telephone calls are only accepted between eight and nine in the morning” she said. I’m sure I could hear delighted malice in her voice.

 “It’s a matter of life and death” I lied.

 “Just a minute please” she said after a pause.

 No music this time. The telephone began ringing.

“Hello, this is Dr. Blake.”

 I apologized and asked for the results. “Oh yes” he said. “I have the results here. Everything looks normal.”

 “Thank you very much” I said and hung up. I looked at my watch. The conversation had taken exactly 45 seconds.

author – Florence



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