“Don?” My head snapped up and I nodded as I made my way across the waiting room. It was time for my annual blood test to check my cholesterol levels.
But there was something wrong, very wrong. This phlebotomist (blood drawer) was unlike any I had seen before. He was in fact, a guy. I strongly prefer a female phleby (my term, never call them that to their face). If this sounds sexist and old fashioned, it’s only because it is sexist and old fashioned.
But I have my reasons. I consider this a semi-intimate experience. It is not an actual exchange of bodily fluids, but the phleby is taking fluids from me, while in close physical contact.
Also, it is very important that I am distracted from the act of a sharp needle being jabbed in my arm and precious blood being sucked out of my body. (more on this in a moment). So my ideal phleby is a young, friendly, woman who engages me in pleasant conversation, so I am totally distracted from the horrible thing she is doing to me.
I don’t want her to be too attractive, because I don’t want to be tempted to flirt,less I say something offensive just before she sticks me with the needle. You don’t want to fizz her off and have her start grinding your vein, do you?
But the last thing I want is a smoking-hot phleby, tying that strap around your arm and whispering reassuring comments in your ear. Sure, I do want to be distracted, but not too much:
“Oh Mr. Ake, there is not any blood in your arm! Where did it all go?
Me: (Embarrassed look on my face, glancing downward.)
“Oh my, Mr. Ake! Now how are we going to get that all that blood out of there and back into your arm?
Me: “Uh, I do have a couple of ideas.”
Then she takes the needle, thrusts it into my leg, full force – and twists it.
By now, you are probably wondering why I am so particular about having my blood drawn. Okay, I have to admit I get a little squeamish during the procedure. Alright, let me restate that. I get SQUEAMISH, extremely SQUEAMISH.
I have been like this my entire life, only improving slightly with age. If I think about what is happening with the needle in my arm, I become ill. I do not pass out, but I break out in a profuse sweat, which starts at my head and ends up soaking my entire body. I feel woozy for the rest of the day and it takes at least 24 hours to rehydrate. That is why it is extremely important that I am fully distracted during the procedure.
Complicating the situation is that the vein in my arm is not very pronounced. This is not a problem for a skilled phleby, but a major problem for an inept one. If there is a problem during the blood draw, I starting thinking about the needle and a sweaty meltdown ensues.
And besides his gender, there were other issues which this particular phleby, who I mentally nicknamed “Pokey”, very appropriate for what was about to transpire. Pokey was a little chubby, kind of frumpy, his clothing somewhat disheveled, his hair tousled. He did not present a professional image at all. He did wear a lab coat, but it was a size too small. Fantastic, Chris Farley is about to draw my blood.
His appearance and demeanor did not exude confidence and I was filled with anxiety. My instincts told me to run away screaming, like a little girl. But that would have been embarrassing, so I told myself everything was going to be fine. Pokey had received training, right? He could do the job!
As I sat down and extended my arm, I realized that considering my condition, having my blood drawn a mere three hours before conducting an important national webinar, may not have been a great idea. Pokey started the procedure. However, there was no pleasant conversation to distract me. Pokey wasn’t very good at social interaction since he probably had spent a great deal of his life playing video games. But this was not Pokemon, it was pokey me.
I could feel his first attempt fail. Unfortunately, it was too late to bolt now. I thought his second attempt had succeeded, but then I heard him mumble. Mumbles are never good, positive things are never mumbled, only bad things.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked.
“The vein rolled and I can’t get the blood out”, he whined.
What I wanted to say is: No, the vein did not roll. You are just an incompetent slob. But I don’t, because he still has to poke me again.
“Try the vein in my hand”, I suggest. (I know to do this from experience)
I nod (while I think: yes, you moron)
He grabs my hand eagerly and squeals, “You have a nice vein in your hand!” (Count Dracula shows the same enthusiasm with necks)
I think: Whoa Pokey! Easy with the hand. Settle down boy, you are just drawing my blood, we are not going steady.
He sticks the needle in my hand and exclaims that “the blood is coming out!”
Unfortunately, this sequence of events has caused me to think about the needle and I can feel my shaved head getting hot and clammy. Here comes the sweat, the meltdown has started. I literally start screaming to myself, emphasizing that the danger has passed and there is no reason to get sick now.
And fortunately it works. I stabilize and have only a “partial meltdown”. My head is covered with sweat, but that’s all. However, I am still somewhat ill and I slump forward, holding my head in my hands.
“Are you okay?” Pokey asks.
(Do I look okay, moron?)
“I will be alright, I just need some water”, I reply.
And I do need the water. It’s difficult to emphasize how much I need water at this moment. It provides both critical physical and psychological benefits. Water prevents the meltdown from spreading and it instantly makes me feel 1000% better.
“I will try to find some water”, Pokey says.
What! You will try to find some water? Where the hell are we - some freaking third-world country?
“I am veli, veli, sorree. Der has been no rain and all da wells are dry …”
Or maybe in the Old West – “Thar’s been an awful drought, but Clem’s fixing to git out his divining rod and find you a spring!”
And then instead of getting the water, Pokey asks something else which I can’t even remember. I reply that I need water, now! He repeats that “he will try to find some” and finally goes on his search.
As I wait, I wonder since he is a millennial, if he thinks water only comes from plastic bottles and that is why he needs to search for it. Maybe I should have instructed him that they call it “tap water” because it comes from a tap.
Pokey returns from his quest sooner than I expected, with a paper cup. The cup is not full and the water is not cold, but it does the job. I leave with a heavy bandage on my arm and another on my hand, it looks like I lost a fight and in a way, I did.
I made it through the webinar and my cholesterol levels are exemplary! I can’t wait to do this again next year!
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