I feel like I have been trapped in a Magnus Mills' novel this week, viewing the world just as an alien might do so the first time they land on Planet Earth: with a little bit of a fear, some disbelief and a hell of a lot of confusion!
Who invented all the weird systems and processes you have to deal with when it comes to the British private hospital system? And why does it seem to make sense to everyone but me?
How was I to know that as soon as you set foot on hospital property you're supposed to report to the Main Reception (and not to the first-floor reception the specialist said would take care of your blood tests and X-rays)?
And how was I to know that after reporting to Main Reception you must then report to Reception Registration where a data entry clerk takes all your details -- medical insurance, name, address, contact numbers, colour of your underwear, the name of your first boyfriend etc -- before handing you a slip of paper that is your key to moving around the hospital?
I ended up walking around with so many slips of paper -- outpatients admission form, blood test form, X-ray form, medical insurance form -- I wasn't sure which piece of paper I was to give to which person, so I'd simply thrust them all into their hands and ask them to take what they needed.
Getting the blood test sorted was straightforward, because I knew where I was going -- it was next to the specialist's consulting room I'd visited the previous evening -- but finding the unmarked X-ray department was a bit of a palaver.
"Is this the X-ray department?" I ask, as I spin wildly on my heels, looking for any kind of visual clue, like, for instance a sign -- I'd settle for "X-ray department" or even "Radiology" if need be.
"Indeed it is," I am told. "Can I have your paperwork, please?"
And then I had to go through the whole paperwork debacle again, because apparently the form marked X-ray wasn't enough and they needed to see my admission slip too.
Anyway, after all that, I sat in the waiting area and watched at least a half-dozen other patients walk into the department, whirl around looking for a sign, and then ask the very same question: "Is this the X-ray department?" You'd think the staff would get so sick of saying "yes it is" that they'd write their own sign on a bit of A4 and stick on the wall with Blu-tack.
Still, that wasn't the end of the "I-need-to-see-your-paperwork" process, because the first thing the radiographer said to me as he directed me to the x-ray room was "Can I see your paperwork, please?" Fortunately, by this stage, I only had one bit of paper left, so I knew which form to give him -- God help me if it wasn't the right one!