I was wearing jeans for the first time to the hospital, and had left my stethoscope upstairs. I had just come in from outside. The day was hot and breezy; it was no surprise, therefore, that my greasy hair was windblown, and my lips were chapped.
I didn’t care; there was no mirror nearby, and I was hot, sweaty, and irritable. But I didn’t realise how bare my appearance had left me to the assumptions of others.
“Excuse me, dear,” said a fragile, elderly woman, wearing a pink coat larger than she was. “Where are the hats?”
“H-Hats?!” I’ve been asked for many things in my short career, but never for ‘hats’. I glanced around, wondering if she’d been speaking to someone else.
Nope. Just me.
“Yes. Hats. You work here, don’t you, sweetie?”
I looked down at my jeans, yellow t-shirt, and badge. I could see why she would have thought that. Although I’d never worked in sales in my life.
“N-no,” I said, still not having recovered from this foreign role thrust upon me. How did you respond to these sorts of questions? “…b-but I can help you look! I think I saw some over there.”
“No, not those.” The woman waved her hand dismissively. “Those are too big.”
“Well, what about…”
“Don’t worry.” The woman turned her back to me. “It’s okay. I’ll find someone who actually knows.”
Later on, when I had fixed my hair and recovered my stethoscope, I saw the woman in the cafeteria.
“Did you find your hat?” was the first thing out of my mouth.
“Oh, yes, dearie!” she said eagerly, reaching in her bag to show me. “Thank you so much for your help! Just look at it! Isn’t it darling?”
Help? I hadn’t remembered giving any help. In fact, I remember her distinctively dismissing my help.
Funny how a little prop around your neck can make a world of difference.