General Non-Fiction posted April 16, 2019 Chapters: 2 -2- 3 

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The grass isn't always greener

A chapter in the book A Fly on the Wall

On Changing Routines

by Rachelle Allen

June 22, 2015

It is my first day of summer vacation from teaching private voice, flute, and piano lessons to seventy-seven students a week in their homes, and I am using it to "take care of business." But still, it is Day One of The Good Life, and I welcome the change.

I walk into the empty phlebotomy lab waiting room and see what amounts to a life-size model of a 1999 Medical Office Supplies catalog: a vast blue carpet beneath a conjoined row of textured blue chairs perched on black aluminum legs. They flank a low, faux wooden corner table for magazines (Forbes and Sports Illustrated. Do women patronize a different phlebotomist or something?) In the center of the room, a cream-colored floor-to-ceiling acrylic fortress rises up like an iceberg with a wide, plexiglass portal, and behind it sits Will Ferrell’s humorless twin brother.

He looks up from his paperwork, and I say, "Good morning!" with a perky Nursery School Teacher lilt to my voice. With practiced patience that is already wearing thin -–at only 9:14 a.m., mind you–- he says, "You have to take a number." He points to a large, red-bellied ticket dispenser exactly like the one at the kosher deli counter.

"But I’m the only one here," I say with a halting, perplexed tone.

"Yes, I know. But you have to take a number and then wait in one of those chairs to get called."

I take a beat of incredulity to process this then comply with a wan smile. I rip off #382 and sit like a good girl on one of the coarse blue chairs. Less than a moment later, the receptionist to Will Ferrell’s left calls out, as if she’s hawking peanuts at a baseball home opener, "382?"

I look around for the hidden camera or even John Quinones and his crew: What would YOU do if you were the only person in a phlebotomist’s office and yet the staff acted as if it were filled to the rafters?

The receptionist offers her upturned palm for my deli ticket, examines it, then places it in the nearly empty glass bowl on the counter between her and Will Ferrell.

"Is all your insurance information the same?" she asks.

"Yes it is," I respond.

"Alright," she says. "Have a seat, and we’ll call you when we’re ready."

"Very good," I say, now fully aware of my part in this tableau.

I sit and begin to study a framed rendering by a first- or second-year computer graphics student –a sunset of blurry blues, creams, and russets– when a stooped, pot-bellied man with suspenders and a thatch of white hair shuffles in, clutching a sheaf of papers. He yanks off a deli ticket and sits down.

Within a moment, Will Ferrell shouts, "#383?" and the man approaches. He hands Will his ticket, and, after Will examines it, we all watch it waft gracefully to the bottom of the glass bowl.

I am suddenly filled with an urgent longing to return to work because if this routine, though certainly different from the one I’ve known for the past forty weeks, represents The Good Life, then I need to re-assess my idea of torture!



A phlebotomy lab is where blood is drawn.
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Artwork by Photopeb at

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