I am long overdue for a full physical, and my employer forced the issue when I failed the medical for Locomotive Engineer training that I had been browbeaten into for later this month. I won't go into the details about where I failed it, but among the things the company demanded before they would allow me into this training I didn't want was a full physical and an EKG.
I had an initial consultation with a doctor, and he filled out the forms for various tests which included an EKG. Since I have a few days off work (our acting director ordered me to take the rest of the week off when she noticed that I was buckling under the stress - a story for another time), I decided I would start the process of lining up some of the tests I'd been told to take.
I drove over to the lab that the doctor had recommended for the EKG, but when I got there, I discovered that they are now only a blood clinic. The receptionist there told me that the nearest place that would perform one of those for me was the hospital further up the road. I took my forms back to the car, managed to luck into a coveted, free parking spot on the street just a few minutes from the hospital and trundled off to start setting up appointments.
I wandered in through the non-emergency entrance (though it may have been a service entrance in retrospect) and bumbled around until I found a counter with labels such as "X-Rays, Radiology, EKG, Etc." in front of a waiting room with about 15 people lounging about in the institutional-turquoise chairs. I took my forms up to the desk and waved them at one of the helpful ladies working there.
"I would like to set up an appointment for an EKG and stuff," I said hopefully. She looked at the forms, then at me, then at the forms again.
"Ya, uh, you'll have to check in down the hall," she said. Just go out here and follow the hall to the right until you see the thing you need on your left."
While it is possible that she could have issued slightly more vague directions if she tried, I gathered up my forms and toddled off into the hall, taking the right turn as instructed and looking for something helpful on the left. It was a very long hall, though unerringly straight. It led me past many unpromising side-halls, past doors bearing labels like "Authorised Personal Only" and "Other People, Not You". At one point I also passed through a bustling cafeteria, and I began to despair that I would not find the thing that I needed on the left. Finally the hall opened up on the left to a general lobby before continuing further into the bowels of the hospital.
In the lobby was a helpful desk bearing the title, "Information."
"Hi," I said, approaching the desk and holding out my forms. "I need to book an appointment for an EKG."
The girl at the desk eyed my papers and then politely said, "OK you need to take these top the department for X-Rays, Radiology, EKG, Etc."
"I did," said I, "and they sent me here."
"Oh. Well, I guess the person who usually handles these forms must be on break."
Then she sent me in a direction almost exactly the opposite of where the people at the "X-Rays, Radiology, EKG, Etc." department had sent me. Her instructions led me to a generic, easily-missed check-in counter staffed by two ladies who bore the air of people who had been born into bureaucratic roles. They were friendly and efficient, and they asked me to verify every character and mark on the forms I had given them, along with questions about my wife's name and birth date.
Fortunately I remembered my answers, because I had to repeat them all again when I got back to the "X-Rays, Radiology, EKG, Etc." department. The lady apparently had issues with some of my answers, because she called the doctor's office and had a lengthy discussion with the receptionist there before she was satisfied that everything was in order. She stuffed my forms into a folder and said, "Please take a seat."
"Um," I said. "That is, I don't mean to sound ignorant, but I'm unfamiliar with the strange and sometimes Byzantine workings of this place. I thought I was just here to make an appointment."
"We don't do appointments," she said tersely. "Please take a seat."
I glanced at the dozen-and-a-half people in the waiting area, then at my watch, then at the waiting area again. "If you don't mind my asking, but how long will this take? I didn't anticipate being taken right away, and I only parked in a 1-hour spot on the street, and this process has taken thirty-five minutes so far."
Fortunately, most of the people in the waiting room were not waiting on the same thing that I was, and they promised to have me finished and out within twenty minutes."
It was actually closer to 18, but I don't begrudge them on overestimating a bit. I was actually surprised at how quickly and efficiently it was all handled once I got past the initial paperwork and running around.