The following occured between 10.30 and 11.00 am.
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It was just before lunch when, tangled in the various cables required by the drip stand and bed, the porter and I finally reached our destination and checked our patient in with the specialist staff.

“Can you find your way back from here?” he asked jokingly, taking off in the opposite direction. I nodded, thanked him for his help and waved goodbye, continuing on my own merry way.

My feet had been pounding these corridors since April last year and whilst this particular specialty wasn’t something I was familiar with, the x-ray department next door was one of my regular haunts. Or at least it had been until the staff began to notice my quietly skulking presence and informed me that sitting there during my lunch hour would not imbue me with super-powers.

The fact of the matter was, however, that I couldn’t find my way back. The logical path to the corridor just seemed to lead through a maze of waiting areas, full of silent people whose blank eyes watched me as I went.

“Excuse me,” the voice which finally broke the quiet was high and sharp, and cut across the wide expanse of the room without difficulty.

“Yes?” I replied, somewhat hesitant. I didn’t know where I was at that moment in time – I couldn’t be trusted to give directions.

“What’s happening to my husband?” Relief. I had no idea, and a valid excuse.

“I really don’t know, I’m afraid. I don’t actually work in this department – I came down to drop off another patient. I can go and fetch one of the specialist-”

“Don’t give me any of that crap. You work in this hospital. What’s going on?”

“I work making beds on one of the wards… I haven’t been in this department before today and due to data-protection, information isn’t shared between different areas, unless it could help with medical care.”

“My knowing what’s going on with him will help medical care.”

“Perhaps it would,” I allowed, keen to get her off my back and return – via the x-ray room of course – to my home turf, “But I still don’t know anything. I’d be happy to find a member of staff for you who does.”

“What bloody cheek!” the woman cawed, thwacking a sheepish looking man beside her with the back of her hand in what I presumed was supposed to be a gesture of shock, rather than violence. I wasn’t sure if the wincing beetroot-coloured gentleman was, in fact, the afore mentioned unfortunate husband, or an innocent bystander. In any case, the only thing which prevented me from offering to take him along to x-ray with me was the fear of similar broken limbs.

And then I was suddenly struck by the absurdity of the situation. Here I was – lost and hoping to magically collect superpowers before home-time – being confronted by an equally lost woman whose coping method seemed to involve making everyone in the room stare in her angry direction. And in such surreal situations, there’s really one thing you can do…

The laugh escaped through my left nostril first, but thankfully I managed to halt it before it had chuckled the full length of the right. The woman’s eyes grew to thrice their original size and crossed slightly.

“Are you laughing at me?”

“No, not at all. I just managed to stifle a sneeze.”

“Because your incompetence isn’t funny.”

But, oh Lord, it was. Everything was funny and the laugh escaped from the right nostril.

“Excuse me, I need to go and fetch a tissue.”

I fled, down whatever corridor led me furthest from those bug eyes and her misplaced rage. All the while I was grinning like an idiot, holding the insane laughter at bay as best I could. After about ten minutes of wandering aimlessly, I somehow found my own ward again and dipped into the safety of the staff room.

“What are you smiling about?” asked the nurse who had originally sent me on the errand. We had both been stoney faced and scowling before I left, though now we looked something akin to those comedy and tragedy faces which theatre builders seem to like so much.

“A woman just shouted at me for having no knowledge of her husband.”

There was a pause as we soaked up the innuendo. And then I let go of my burdensome laugh.

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