I arrive far too early. Even though I've been driving all my adult life, I still worry when I'm going somewhere I've never been before. It seems that the more reluctant I am to actually get somewhere, the more I fret about getting lost, about not being able to find a parking space when I arrive.
But of course the journey turns out to be straightforward and there is a huge parking area with plenty of room, so I find myself sitting in the car with time to kill. I've brought a book with me, but I can't concentrate on it, so I pick up my phone, check for e-mails from work. I see a message reminding me of the phone call I should have made before I left home. I know it won't be a pleasant call, but sitting there in the car park, biding time until my appointment, it suddenly seems really important to do this first.
She answers at almost the first ring, sounding nervous and hesitant, as though she's been waiting by the phone for my call. I hate myself for leaving it longer than I'd needed to.
"I'm sorry, this is probably not the news you were hoping for, so I won't beat about the bush. We've decided to offer the position to another candidate".
There is a silence at the other end, which I rush to fill with platitudes about the strength of her interview and my confidence that she will find a suitable role soon. As soon as possible I hang up, cursing myself for sounding glib and patronising.
I leave the car and make my way to the mobile screening unit. It's hidden behind the main hospital, in an overflow car-park. Tucked away from the real illness and suffering, it seems almost as though it's ashamed of taking up even that space. I climb the shaky metal drop-down steps, thinking how strange it is to be having an appointment in an articulated lorry.
Stepping inside I'm greeted warmly by a kindly looking lady with a soft Scottish accent. I wonder if they employed her just for that accent and its ability to put people at their ease. Or perhaps it's the huge glasses, that take up half her face and make her eyes seem wide and innocent.
I take a seat on the lilac upholstered bench and watch the women come and go; it's quite a production line they've got going here. Every few minutes a lady emerges from the room at the end and goes into one of the small curtained cubicles to get dressed; rearrange herself. Almost immediately a hesitant looking woman emerges from a different cubicle, and heads to the end room, clutching a small pile of clothes to her chest, for protection. We're all women here, and we've each come on our own, but there's no eye contact between us and very little conversation. It's as though we've left our personalities out in the car park, where they can't be found by the screening equipment.
Soon enough it's my turn. I don't know what to expect, but there's another kind lady, I think maybe Malaysian this time. She introduces me to the space age machine and explains what will happen. It's hard to take in what she's saying when I'm standing there half-naked and feeling foolish, my arms wrapped across my chest in a childish attempt to maintain some modesty or dignity. When it's all done, I laugh and make a flippant comment, and she's strangely pleased that I'm smiling at her. "Too many women get cross with me" she explains before telling me that the results will be sent through in four weeks. It's a routine check-up so there's no need for concern, but if there's any problem they'll call me.
Then, after no more than half an hour, I'm back in my car. As I take my phone from my bag to turn it back on and check for messages, my mind goes back to that earlier call. Even though I know we made the right decision, I still feel bad about it. I wonder if the gods of retribution will seek to pay me back some way. I can't help but hope that it won't be me, in four weeks time who stands there nervous and hesitant, as some kindly person says "I'm sorry, this is probably not the news you were hoping for..."