The Snowball Effect
"Mom says you got the all clear sign, Millie!" said my sister, Louisa. "Yep," I answered. "I am very lucky." "And you made it to your appointment and back without a hitch?" she says. "I am really impressed." Okay, just between you and me, I did not care for Louisa's remark. She made it sound like I, me, Millie Noe, holder of a valid driver's license since 1973, couldn't possibly drive to an appointment and back, all by myself. Sheeez. "Louisa," I said. "I know how to get to UW Hospital. I've been there before you know. Lots of times." "Yeah, but..." she says. Let me tell you a little story. A little story that Louisa does not need to know. You see, the other day I realized that I have missed my calling. I now know that I was born to be a hacker. This revelation came to me because of all the reports my supervisor keeps on creating to compare this. And then to compare that. And then this. And then that. Hoping to make it impossible for human error, to slip through her foolproof system. But, I always seem to find a way. As a matter of fact, the morning of my appointment, two of those very errors of mine had risen to the surface. And even though they were amazing and all. Their timing was not. Especially since my instructions said, no deodorant. And I was not about to break the rule. Because deodorant can cause a false positive reading on a mammogram. And even though that little day surgery last year happens to be one of my favorite days ever. At this point in time I am neither financially, nor emotionally secure enough for another big hullabaloo. Because for all of you little people out there who may not be aware that The Greatest Price Increase of the Century, is going on. It is. And this Greatest Price Increase of the Century, is racking up to be even bigger than the last Greatest Price Increase of the Century. Which was last year. And if your title happens to be, Pricing Specialist, you can be assured that you are going to be caught up in these epic, historical times. So. By the time I left work that day, I felt like I was already a hard packed little snowball. My blood was pulsating in my head as I got into my car and turned the key. Because certain people. People who create reports to catch errors do not appreciate my God given, hacker, talent. I tried pushing away the negativity that comes with these historical pricing times. I glanced at the digital dash clock. 12:45. My appointment was at 1:15. My destination was just fifteen minutes away. Good. I had ample time to arrive fifteen minutes in advance, as advised. And, I had already preregistered online. Because I am pretty savvy. I will admit that Louisa had a point. Typically driving to a hospital, is not my forte. But, luckily a decade ago my Sweet Sven lost a little battle with a ladder on ice. Or maybe it was ice on a ladder. This incident made the route to this particular hospital a daily event for me, for three straight weeks. And that was through record winning amounts of snow. And since that time I had taken the very same trek several times for a tragic situation. In other words, I know exactly which lane to be in. And when. I know precisely when to turn on my blinkers. I know which lane to take that will veer into the parking ramp. I know which side of the situation is the hospital. And which side is the clinic. I know everything about this place. And not only that, I had been there for an appointment only six months prior. So. I tried to calm my prickled-pricing nerves by listening to, A Chapter a Day. And was immediately lulled into the story. I felt like I was right there at the holiday party taking place. And like I knew the couple getting ready for their cruise. My car was behaving perfectly. We were right on course. Correct lane and all. I sensed the pulsing in my head subside as I passed Lombardino's Restaurant. I came to a stop at the light with my left turn signal on. With the green I crossed the intersection. I drove over the tracks. And on up the hill. The large expanse of buildings were all in sight. I again stopped with my left blinker blinking, waiting for the light to turn. And this was the beginning of what I call, the snowball effect. It's when I went from being a tightly packed little pissed off pricing snowball to rolling down a very steep hill picking up more and more snow as I went. And this I blame on the three cars ahead of me. Because they all turned left. And then they all slid over into the right lane. Why would one hundred percent of all three vehicles be taking valet service? What are the odds? I quickly glanced at the two left lanes, the lanes that I always take. The lanes that lead into the parking ramp. "Uh-oh," I thought. "It's blocked off." I had to make a split decision. Millie Noe stayed right. On the right there were two lanes. I did not want valet service. No. I am much too shy for such a thing. And besides. I was still feeling a little bit unappreciated on account of the unveiled pricing faux pas. So, I stayed in the left of the right lanes. Surely there was a way into the parking ramp from there since the normal way was blocked off. But, the sign in front of me said, Drop Off Lane Only. "Crap." I crept along, wondering what in the hell I should do. I seemed to be in a bit of a pickle. "Well, you fucked this one up Millie Noe. You are going to be late for your appointment." But then. There on the left. There was a turn into the ramp. Yay. Turns out it was just a trap. I mean, I might have been able to squeeze under that bar. But. I decided not to chance it. Not the way my luck was running. So, I began to back up. In case you don't know this. I am not the best at backing up. But, I had to. Right into a lane of angry fist shaking, horn blowing, dropper offers. And it was almost Christmas. Once I made it back into the drop off lane, I drove forward to, I had no clue to where. Good news. It went around the outside of the parking ramp and it took me back out to square one. This time the car in front of me at the lights took a left and it veered into the left lanes. The parking ramp lanes. I followed her and we both drove right under the blockade. The blockade that has always been there. The blockade that says, CLEARANCE 6' 8". Whatever. I pushed the button with a shaky finger, took the ticket it spit at me, and drove on in under the raised arm. "Okay," I thought. "Calm down you moron. You still have a chance to make it on time." And then, the car in front of me, the car that had so nicely led me in, came to a halt. She seemed to be waiting for an invisible car to back out of a stall. For two full minutes we waited. I thought about honking my horn and shaking my fist at her. But, it was almost Christmas. So. We waited together. Finally, she gave up and we began to go round and round and up and up. And then she stopped again. And we waited and we waited and we waited for another invisible situation to never happen. And then, she gave up. Again. And then she took a right. And then I went straight. Good thing because my Christmas cheer was at an all time low. And then I was driving down and down and down. And around and around and around. For hours. Hold on! A car is backing out! I slipped right on in and patted my back as I noticed the cement pillar in front of me that read 2C in bold black letters. I also noticed that my nondeodorized arm pits were soaked underneath my winter coat. What I wanted to do was sit there for a few minutes and cry. But, there was no time for tears. So, I hopped out, stuck the parking ramp ticket in my back pocket. And ran in the brisk air toward the hospital. But. When I got to there to the end of the ramp I peered over the side of the cement wall and saw the ever loving traffic lights and the valet parking sign. Jesus. Now, I may have been born with no sense of direction. But, at that moment I knew that the hospital was in the opposite direction that I had just hoofed it to. I turned around and I ran to the other end. I flew down the stairs case. I blew past the valet service. And I made it to those big red revolving doors. The doors that slow time down. To nothing. When I finally emerged on the other side I realized that I was in the hospital. This would have been fine, but my appointment was on the clinic side. "Shit." Once again I witnessed time stand still as I shuffled my feet inside those red revolving doors. The doors that accommodate snails. I ran into bitter wind on my face to identical red revolvers on the clinic side of the situation. "Yes," I thought once inside the glass merry go round. "I made it." "Can I help you ma'am?" says the young fella helping patients check in. "I have this," I said holding out my shaking preregistration paper. "Great. Did you take care of your co-pay online?" "What?" "Are you familiar with our kiosks?" "Yes," I said. "But, I'm late for my appointment." I could feel my eyes fill. "What time was your appointment?" "1:15," I said, lip trembling. He glanced at the clock on the wall. The big hands confirmed that it was 1:20. "You'll be fine. I'll help you." And he did, in the kindest of ways. "There. You are all set," he said. "Now, do you know how to get to the breast cancer center?" "Yes," I said, looking at my feet. "But I don't remember." So he gently pointed me in the direction of the Atrium elevators. "Go down to level one and you'll see the sign when you step off. I headed that way. But you know what? I had to pee. So, with an empty bladder I stepped into the Atrium elevator and stood with a few silent people. I pushed level one. We rode in silence. We stopped. The doors opened. I stepped out. "Hmm," I thought. "Where the hell is that breast cancer center sign?" I didn't go far. I turned around and went back to the elevator. Man it was a busy, busy, place that afternoon. Finally the doors opened on the elevator revealing that we were on the third floor. "Whatever," I thought and I stepped inside. I pushed the level one button once again and watched the hesitant doors begin to close. And then, just before they met in the middle, in came a hand from the outside. And a mother and her child shuffled in as the rest of us squeezed a bit closer together around the woman in the wheelchair. Once more the doors reluctantly began to close. And twice more they were interrupted by a hand from the outside, just as they were about to meet. So, by the I stepped out of that can of sardines and I saw that breast cancer center sign, I have to say, I was not only elated. I was at least a six foot round snowball. "Are you wearing any deodorant today?" she says, handing me a gown and pointing to a changing room. "Unfortunately, no," I answered. And she laughed. I am pretty sure she could smell me right through my coat. Two hours later, after my doctor had studied all the images they'd taken, calling me back in for a couple more snap shots of my paper thinned breasts, and then giving me an exam, the kind where you raise your arms above your head, one at a time, with of course, a young, up and coming, male doctor at her side. Both pretending not to smell the stench in the room, the nurse had taken my blood pressure. "Oh," she'd said. "142 over 90. Are you feeling any stress today?" "A little," I'd said. But then, I got the all clear sign. And I got to skip on outta there. Which would have been a lot more fun if I could have found the damn exit. And if that damn parking ramp ticket would have been in my back pocket where I'd put it. Well, at least it was there, at the bottom of my dumped out purse, in front of 2C "But, Millie," says Louisa. "I'm not even kidding. I really am impressed that you got there and back without a hitch. It's just not like you." On a serious note. To all of my sisters. The intention of this story is to make fun of my own stupidity. Breast cancer however, is not a laughing matter.