Tuesday 20th July 2010
One year ago.
I leap up the escalator, two steps at a time, checking my watch as I do.
I’ve been running down Chapel Street for the last twelve minutes, having parked my car dangerously up on the curve, a couple of kilometres back, way back past the tram, and the stream of peak hour traffic snaking behind.
The doors slide open, allowing me entry into the sterile world that is Medicare. Five women sit behind desks, each staring forward, turning their heads from side to side, waiting for someone to place ping-pong balls in their mouths. I take a ticket from the wheel, like I’m about to order ham, and I wait.
None of them even pretend to look busy.
* * * * *
I stare up at the red lights on the wall, waiting for it to tick over to mine. F903. F904. F905. There’s no one else in the whole office. F906. They all stare forward, doing nothing.
‘F907. Counter 2B.’
I look around, trying to locate 2B. There are five counters. And I’m looking for 2B.
“Ah, hello,” I say. “You must me 2B.”
“I’m here for my refund.”
She looks at me, breathing deeply, like it’s all she can do to stop herself from picking up her staple gun and flinging it directly at my head. Eventually she holds out a hand, fingers snapping for the form. I hand it over.
She stares at it, before frowning.
“It wasn’t all that funny, really.”
She looks at me before rolling her eyes. “No, I mean. It’s a 20H. It’s funny.”
“And like I said, it really wasn’t that funny.”
“What do you mean?”
I raise my eyebrows saying nothing, and she looks back at the A4 sheet. I watch as her pupils dance across the page. A second later, her eyelids widen, and then she flashes me a glance. She blushes.
“A 20F is something…”
“…No sir, it was my fault. I… I didn’t see what it was… I mean, I didn’t…”
“You hadn’t registered the test. For the sample.”
“I… I guess not.”
She tries focusing on the screen, like it’s the first time she’s ever seen the green and black display. She punches numbers erratically, her eyes glazing over as she goes a shade of white.
It’s like some new form of seizure.
Petit Wank Epilepsy.
* * * * *
Eventually, she takes the piece of paper, filing it in a draw at the bottom that hasn’t been opened all day. She then hands me the cash, and a docket, being careful not to make contact with my hands.
“Will that be all?”
“Can I have my Medicare form back?”
“You’ve got your docket now,” she says, pointing with hands kept close to her body.
“Can I have a copy?”
“What for? You’ve got your docket.”
I look back down at my hand, receipt sitting crumpled under the coins and notes.
“I guess I like to keep a record.”
“Docket,” she repeats, her whole body shrinking away.
Lepers are treated with more respect.
I throw the coins into the other hand, freeing up my right. And I reach over, shaking her hand vigorously.
“Thanks very much.”
I turn, and exactly 5.04pm, I walk out of the door of Medicare.
And I guess that about sums it up. Two weeks ago, I handed a cup to a woman wearing purple gloves.
And now, all I have as proof is a hand full of change and a docket.
* * * * *