Never Judge A Book By It’s Cover

Last week I had a doctor’s appointment. I went early to my appointment because my primary care doctor also wanted me to get some bloodwork done. So I left an hour early and went to the lab before my other appointment. Only one problem, the lab didn’t take my insurance. They referred me to another lab that was 5 minutes up the road. I went there. I walked and immediately noticed a difference from the location I had just come from. The walls were stark white and there were all kinds of “unfriendly signs” hung on the walls.

“Take a seat and wait to be called”

“Do not knock on the window”

“Payment is expected at the time of visit”

“It isn’t our responsibility to know what your insurance covers”

All kinds of things that automatically make you feel like you aren’t really wanted there. There were about 10 people in the waiting room – so immediately I knew that I probably wouldn’t have time before my other appointment to get my bloodwork drawn (now only 45 minutes until my next appointment) – but I decided to wait. It was only bloodwork, which takes 30 seconds, so maybe I could get in. I had to fast for this bloodwork, so I was hungry, hadn’t had any coffee yet and really wanted to be able to eat sooner rather than later.

There was a sign-in sheet near the opaque glass window. You couldn’t see inside and the big sign telling me not to knock made me think I’d never get in if I dared to knock and ask how long it might take. A woman opened the window, crossed off the next name on the sign-in sheet and disappeared back behind the window much too quickly for me to ask my question. I sat there for 35 minutes. During that time, I only saw this woman twice. And only two of the ten of us waiting got called in. I had to leave to go to my other appointment – and by that time, four others had also “given up” and left as well.

I went to my other appointment – still hungry, still missing my morning coffee. What a contrast! This office had a fish tank, warm colored walls, a person to greet you and tell you where to sit down and where to sign in. And my nurse – Claudia – was the nicest, sweetest person I have ever met. She was so kind and funny and just made you really feel at home and comfortable! After my appointment, I was debating whether to try getting my blood drawn again or not. By this time it was 9:45 AM and I needed to be at my store by 11 AM to open. I was also starving and really, really needed my morning coffee. Do I wait longer (after all, I’ve already been fasting since 9 PM the night before) or do I just give-up, get some breakfast and try again another day?? I thought about finding a different location to get my blood drawn – there had to be another one that took my insurance. But I had already fasted and this one was only five minutes away, so I decided to give it one more try. I arrived and much to my dismay, there was still a waiting room full of people.

I wrote my name on the sign-in sheet, got a magazine and sat down. After about 40 minutes, it was finally my turn. I went inside and the mysterious lady behind the opaque white window checked me in on the computer. She was friendly enough – despite my initial impression of her from the other side of the wall. After entering my information into the computer, she told me to sit in the next room and she would be in to take my blood —

WHAT?? The receptionist was also the phlebotomist??

She came in to draw my blood. I always like to make small talk – especially when someone seems “unfriendly” – it always helps to lighten the mood and often softens that “hard exterior” that some people put up. So I asked her if she was all alone back there. She said she was – that normally there were at least two people, but today it was only her. I commiserated with her. I commented about how awful that was – and how it made sense why the line in the waiting room was so long – since she didn’t have any help. And then she mentioned how she couldn’t even close to get lunch – because there wasn’t anyone else there. Then I immediately felt sorry for her. I asked if she had brought her lunch with her (I was going to offer to go get her something). She said that she had, but she hadn’t been eating well because she had just lost her cat the day before. My heart went out to her. I asked her the age of the cat (17) and empathized with her some more. I am a pet lover and my dog died when he was just shy of his 20th birthday, so I know how difficult that can be. It’s like loosing a member of the family!

I could tell she was on the verge of tears. She left the room after drawing my blood. When she came back in, it was obvious she had been crying. I told her how sorry I was. She thanked me and said that she couldn’t go around crying all day. I impulsively asked her if she needed a hug. She said “yes” and I gave her a giant hug – my heart just went out to her and I’m sure most of the people she was dealing with were just mad about the wait and didn’t give a thought in the world about her and what she might be going through. She was crying again, so I told her to take it easy and take a small break before calling in the next client.

My small effort to make conversation with her opened up a world of understanding about the situation, her day and why I shouldn’t just be mad because the line is long. Even though my initial impression was that whoever was working must not have a good work ethic since it took 30 minutes to see 2 patients – I realized that there was so much more that I wasn’t aware of. I thought about this woman all day long. I wanted to help her – and although there wasn’t really anything else I could do, I hope that our conversation and the hug that I was able to pass along helped her in some way to get through her day. And I learned – a lesson I already know so well – but it never hurts to be reminded:

Never Judge A Book By It’s Cover

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