The bell rang and my classroom was empty. I picked up the phone to make the first call.
Me: (After pressing several buttons for the receptionist.) Could you tell me the date of the next PTO meeting or the name of a staff member I can email about it?
Receptionist: You could look on the calendar.
Me: (Searching the school website and not seeing a date for the PTO meeting at my son’s school.) Where would I find this calendar?
Receptionist: Could you hold, please?
(After I held.)
Receptionist: Hello, this is a school. How may I help you?
Me: We were just talking about the date for the next PTO meeting. Could you tell me the date, or tell me the name of a staff member who can?
Receptionist: Well …. I would have to ask … because they are just going to have to look at the calendar as well.
Me: You know, this is a really busy time of day. Maybe if I call back tomorrow, someone could ask for me.
Receptionist: Oh, yes, please call back tomorrow. And what is your name?
We exchanged names. I will call back.
You might be asking yourself why I would want to attend a PTO meeting, aside from the fact that I am a parent and a teacher. Do I not have enough to do? Well, it’s about fundraisers. Who loves fundraisers? This girl!
So on Sunday night, my son Oliver informed me that if he did not sell four items, including two magazine subscriptions, he would not get two small plastic chickens and he would not be allowed to attend a magic show. Last year, he said, he did not participate in the fundraiser, but this year he wanted to and he needed to turn in some money ASAP.
I went downstairs and tried to understand the forms, arguing with Oliver about how much we would need to spend in order to get plastic chickens that looked similar to Happy Meal toys and for him to attend this magic show. I looked at the $14 jars of spiced nuts, the $30 pumpkin cheesecake, the $10 earrings. I considered it all.
“Dan,” I called to my husband, who was in the other room watching television, “get in here and be tortured with me!”
I couldn’t even figure out who I needed to make the check out to because it said two different things on two different forms. I also noticed that it said on the forms, “Please do not sell door-to-door.” Probably good advice just in case anyone had any intention of doing that. I did not.
Dan threw down $15 in cash and asked for a subscription to “Field & Stream.”
“OK,” I said to Oliver, “what if I order a magazine subscription for you, me, Annabelle, and your dad? Will that be enough for the plastic chickens and magic show?”
He thought it would, so I wrote a check, and the next day, he was ecstatic when he showed me the chickens.
Also the next day, I spent the cash Dan gave me on a fundraiser at the school where I work. I am going to get a long-sleeved T-shirt, which is not as exciting as plastic chickens, but it is for a good cause.
That was the story behind the first phone call I made after work today. About the PTO meeting. About which I will call back tomorrow.
Then I called the blood lab. I needed a test, but I wanted to know how much it would cost. I needed a code. The person who answered the phone gave me another number to call. This person gave me the codes. Then she transferred me to the Billing Department.
This is the part where you have to stick with me, but of course I understand if you can’t.
So I went to the lab to have my blood drawn. I had my 8-year-old daughter with me and she wanted to know if she would get a lollipop.
“No,” I said, “because you’re not having your blood drawn.”
“And they probably won’t give you a lollipop because they don’t give grownups lollipops. But once I heard them offer someone a free blood test,” she said.
I can assure you that my tests will not be free. I know this because I called in advance to find out exactly how much they will cost because I have learned the hard way what happens if you don’t.
There was no one in the waiting room when we walked in at 4 p.m. I handed the phlebotomists the sheet my doctor had given me, which listed the tests she wanted them to do on my blood. Unfortunately, it did not list the codes for administering the tests, which apparently are different from the billing codes.
By the time one of the phlebotomists figured this out, the other had left the office. The former was now on hold with Corporate (or whoever) trying to get the code she needed to figure out which vial to put my blood in before she could draw it. When another customer walked in, this totally stressed her out. I don’t know what she said to the other customer, but the woman remarked to her friend as they took a seat that she “didn’t like this place” because the phlebotomists weren’t very nice.
Meanwhile, my 8-year-old sampled the water from the cooler and then flipped through a book in the waiting room about a boy’s first blood test. In this book, the boy gets both a dinosaur Band-aid AND a teddy bear.
“I get the teddy bear if they give you one,” Annabelle said. “I call it.”
The phlebotomist told me to go into the back room and have a seat in the green chair.
“Did you ever get the code?” I asked her when she joined me.
Not exactly, was her answer. And it wasn’t fair for them to leave her alone when she was new, she told me. I agreed.
“I think I would just take the blood and get the code later,” I offered.
She couldn’t do that, she said.
“I’m sorry about your wait, if that’s the problem,” she said.
“No, I mean, there wasn’t much of a wait. I was just … trying to be helpful. Hey, as long as you use a clean needle, I’m good. And it looks clean …”
The phlebotomist was in no mood for my humor.
“I can pull another one out in front of you if you want!” she said. I wasn’t sure at that point if she might burst into tears.
“It’s OK,” I said. “I was just, um, kidding.”
I did not get a dinosaur Band-aid.
“That was kind of awkward,” the 8-year-old remarked when we got into the car.
I thought about explaining to her how people get stressed out at 4 p.m. when they have two customers and they don’t know the codes and the codes are there so no one knows what the tests actually cost because it really depends on how much your insurance will pay, if you have insurance, and if you don’t, then you experience even longer waits for state-of-the-art health care, delivered by people who haven’t had a smoke break in way too long.
But I didn’t bother. Instead, I thought about writing a story for grownups about a blood test, not completely unlike the one for children that Annabelle read at the lab, but with a few more details.
When I go to the PTO meeting, I am going to offer some suggestions. I know that my suggestions are not always helpful and my jokes are not always funny, but I hope you have enjoyed this story even though the main character did not get a dinosaur Band-aid. And if you need some nuts, wrapping paper, chocolates, earrings, or a magazine subscription, I know where you can get some.