Friday, October 26, 2007

Just as I walked through the revolving door of the mall on Wednesday the fire alarm started going off, flashing and blaring and, in case anyone had missed the first two parts, also announcing stridently that there was a fire alarm going off. (My doctor is on the top floor of a mall, which is simultaneously one of the things that is so wrong and so right with this country.) I paused in the entrance, waiting to see if I needed to turn around and evacuate, but everyone continued with their business as though there was no alarm whatsoever screaming overhead. So I stepped on to the escalator and rode up the three floors, with the clamor going on the whole time, thinking about how thankful I was that the alarm started before I got to the doctor rather than while I was there. Little makes one feel more vulnerable than a fire alarm shouting while they're sitting in a cold room and wearing a paper dress. I arrived at the doctor and walked up to the window to check in, raising my voice to be heard over the noise, and the woman on the other side of the wall did the same, negotiating with me about which physician I was actually going to see.

It eventually stopped, although to all outward appearances it might never have started at all. Not a single person that I could see showed anything but blissful unconcern. I guess not one of us believed that the way we are going to die will be in a mall fire.

Later, the phlebotomist took one of my arms in her hands, squinted at the crook of my elbow, and sighed heavily, switching to a smaller needle. She wrapped the tourniquet around what passes for my bicep and waited for a vein to appear, and when one didn't she slid the needle in under my skin anyway. With one hand holding my arm steady and the other placed on top of what was presumably the tip of the needle she moved it halfway back out of the small hole in my skin and then thrust it back in, wiggling it from side to side and around and then back again. I broke out in a cold sweat and tried to look as far away from my arm as I could.

This continued for a few minutes, the retracting and re-rooting of the needle, before she finally went "tsk!" and said, "I'll have to try the other arm; this one is starting to bruise." (I thought a lot of things very loudly that weren't particularly polite. Being stabbed hurts.) She slipped the needle all the way back out and went to cover it with gauze when she suddenly stopped and squinted at my skin. "It's not even bleeding." Her voice was filled with disbelief. "I don't think I hit anything at all."

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