On Tuesday we headed to the city for our medical exams, just one of the requirements for our visa. I had scheduled the appointment online through the service the government contracts with and had been provided with a list of things to bring: passports, glasses/contacts, form 26, form 160, the confirmation letter, the immigration referral letter, our receipt. Government (specifically immigration) stuff makes me anxious. I’m never quite sure what these forms are asking or how I should respond. It’s like doing taxes. But I had all the forms filled out and ready. The plan was to head into the city late enough to avoid peak travel on the train and early enough to grab lunch and relax in the park or explore for an hour before the appointment. We left the house at 10:45am.
Waiting Room #1: The Train
We caught the 11:13 train from Petrie Station and enjoyed a quiet 45 minute ride into the city to Central Station, which is nothing like Grand Central Station. There’s hardly any chaos; no one is really rushing about. The train lines are super simple to navigate, as well. It was a great way to start the day.
Waiting Room #2: The Park
Lunch was simple: I had a ham and cheese croissant and a flat white while Dan had a coke and some sushi. We ate and then walked to Anzac Square to sit, read, and watch people. We managed to grab a spot in the shade.
Waiting Room #3: Take a Number, Please
Because I hate being late, we were 25 minutes early for our appointment, which turned out to be a good thing. We arrived around 1:20 and discovered a waiting room filled with a dozen or more people and two people conducting intake. We took our ticket and sat. I should probably mention that I had been avoiding going to the restroom since we had arrived in the city because I knew I would have to cheerfully hand over a urine sample at the appointment. This made waiting even better!
After 30 minutes of waiting, our number was called and it was our turn for intake. This began our appointment – and it truly was “our” appointment. We had to do everything together, which was fine, but as you’ll see somewhere around Waiting Room #8, it gets a little weird. Our intake took maybe 20 minutes because there was one piece of information I needed to provide that had not been on the list, so we had to use my phone to access Dan’s email in order to figure out that one tiny detail we needed. I should also note that half of the things that I had been told to bring with us were not needed.
Waiting Room #4: Through the Glass
After we finished the intake, had our pictures taken (of course Dan tried to make me laugh for my picture), got our wristbands, and surrendered our passports, we were sent through the sliding glass door….to another waiting room. We were told to wait here until our names would be called. So we sat. Dan read, and I checked my email. Every couple of minutes a different nurse or doctor would come in and call someone’s name – badly mispronouncing each one. And every time someone returned to our waiting room to wait some more, the blue chair he or she would sit on would make a dry “pooooof” noise. After a couple of hours of this, it was all I could do to keep from laughing.
Waiting Room #5: X-Ray
After 10-15 minutes our names were called, along with 4 other names, and we were all escorted to another waiting room to have our chest x-rays. The purpose is to check us for TB. We sat until our names were called again. I went first, so I had to go into a cubicle the size of a small changing room, strip down to the waist, remove all jewelry, put on thin blue gown, and wait until the radiologist opened the door.
A couple things about this.
First, when I entered the cubicle, I asked the girl who handed me the blue gown which way I should put it on – open at the front or open at the back – because, seriously, which way would you do it? She seemed genuinely surprised that I didn’t know which way to do it.
Second, I apparently need to exert control at all times. Ask my friend Kayla about the time I went to get my fingerprints taken and the guy told me to relax my fingers. I couldn’t do it. He fought my finger muscles the whole time and had a hard time getting me to roll my fingers in the right direction. The same thing happened during this part of the appointment. The technician told me to “face forward, put my head down, put my hands on my hips.” And apparently I didn’t do what I was supposed to do, so he grabbed my head and tried to push it down. My reaction was to stiffen my neck and fight him. Ridiculous. It made for a rather awkward 2 minutes. When that weirdness was over, I headed back to the waiting room…..to wait.
Waiting Room #6: Blood
I’ve had blood taken many times, but the woman who took our blood was quite possibly the most talented phlebotomist in the world. Smooth, not even a prick of pain, 2 seconds, and she was done. And we told her as much. And back to the waiting room.
Waiting Room #7: Pee in this Cup
Literally. The woman who came and got us next handed us a regular disposable cup – like one you would keep next to the sink to rinse your mouth out with after brushing your teeth – and said, “Pee in this cup.” So we went into our respective cubicle style bathrooms in the middle of a hallway and did it. And let me tell you, at this point it was 2 hours or more since lunch and I could have filled up two of those cups. I know, more than you really wanted to know. Then we had our height (in centimetres), weight (in kilograms), and blood pressure taken. Imagine three of us (me, Dan, and the nurse) crammed in another cubicle, having to switch places and squeeze past each other. Weird.
Waiting Room #8: The Lady Gets the Table; the Man Gets the Chair
The final scene was probably the most awkward of them all. Before we were called in by the doctor, we wondered if we would be called in together since just about everything has been done that way. And we were. It was both strange and awkward.
We sat in the doctor’s office/exam room and proceeded to have 20 minutes of oddly relaxed conversation about Ekka, holiday trips we should take, Romanian Orthodox churches, and philosophy followed by a couple minutes of health questions (do you do drugs? have you ever had TB?), and then an exam.
I should mention that both of us were sitting in our underwear for about half of this appointment.
The doctor said, “Strip down to your underwear. The lady gets the table and the man gets the chair. You can wear this robe if you are uncomfortable sitting in your underwear the whole time.”
Dan, of course, said, “Well, we don’t mind sitting around in our underwear together, but adding a third party is a little weird.”
Waiting Room #9: The Train
So after a little over 2 1/2 hours at the medical exam, we headed back to the train and rehashed the hilarity of what we had just experienced. There were so many other little things that contributed to the complete strangeness of this experience, but I have a feeling that I’m probably the only one who thinks it’s funny.
We caught the train from Central Station during peak time, which meant it was a little crowded. We ended up in a Quiet Carriage, which was fine until we picked up a mess of people leaving Ekka. They apparently don’t ride the train much, nor do they adhere to the rules of the train. They were quite loud and obnoxious, but every commuter gave them some leeway. I put my ear buds in and ended up missing the conversation (read: fight) one woman had with her significant other on her mobile about whether or not he would pick her up from the train station. Classy. We were home by 5pm.
It was a long day, kind of a blur, but strangely fun. And I sincerely hope there’s no chance of a repeat visit any time soon.