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You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

, , | Healthy | December 19, 2017

(I am waiting for an appointment in a medical office. The office shares a waiting room with a medical laboratory. Those there for the lab take a number, while those seeing a specialist have appointments. Several other patients, including the rude patient, are waiting to be seen.)

Medical Person #1: “Number 32?”

Patient #1: “That’s me”

Rude Patient: “I was here first! I am number 34. You need to see me now!”

Medical Person #1: “Ma’am, he has a lower number than you do. I’ve told you twice already, I can’t skip you forward in the line. We see people in the order they show up, and this man was here before you. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have a lower number than you do.”

Rude Patient: “I have another appointment before [time half an hour from now]. You need to see me right now.”

Medical Person #1: “Ma’am, we see people in the order of their numbers. You will be seen when it is your turn,and not before then. If you need to leave before that, you can go, and come back when you have more time. I can’t guarantee how soon you’d be seen.”

([Medical Person #1] goes through the door with [Patient #1].)

Rude Patient: “She is very rude!”

(Rude patient pulls open the sliding window where the receptionist for the medical office sits, and launches into her complaint.)

Rude Patient: “That woman is very rude! It is my turn, and she’s seeing other people. You need to make sure that I am next!”

Receptionist: “Ma’am, I’ve already explained this to you. I have nothing to do with the lab. I am the receptionist for [Doctor #1] and [Doctor #2]. The lab is a separate thing, and I have no control over that. But people at the lab are always seen in order of their numbers.”

Rude Patient: “You! What is your number?”

Me: “I have an appointment to see [Doctor #1]. I don’t have a number.”

Rude Patient: “You! What is your number?”

Patient #2: “I am number 36.” *points to the man next to her* “He is number 37.”

(While rude patient keeps muttering about how rude [Medical Person #1] is, [Medical Person #2] comes out wearing scrubs but limping out the door in a cast. She is immediately accosted by the rude patient.)

Rude Patient: “The other girl is very rude! I had an appointment downstairs, and they sent me to get lab work done, but that woman is seeing everyone else first and not letting me go. I have another appointment!”

([Medical Person #2] spends several minutes confirming that everyone else had lower numbers than the rude patient, and explaining that people are always seen in order in the lab. While this happens, another patient comes out.)

Rude Patient: “You! What was your number?”

Patient #3: “Um, 30, I think? I threw it out as soon as they called me.”

Medical Person #2: “It sounds like you’re probably next, ma’am. You can either wait here for her to be ready for you, or you can go to any of our locations later today if you have somewhere else you need to be.”

Rude Patient: “But she is so rude!”

Me: “Ma’am, she wasn’t rude. She was frustrated. From what everyone has said, everyone who has been seen before you has had a lower number than you. That means they were here before you. And she said that she had already explained that she couldn’t jump you ahead of other people in the line, which means you were probably demanding that before I showed up. You just don’t like being told that. Frankly, you need to either sit down and wait your turn, or go to your other appointment and then either come back here or go to one of the other lab locations when you have the time and won’t yell at people for doing their job. But the fact that you didn’t get your way doesn’t make someone else rude.”

Rude Patient: “That’s very rude of you. You need to respect your elders!”

(I shake my head and go back to my book.)

Medical Person #1: “Number 33?… If there’s no number 33, number 34?”

Rude Woman: “Finally!”

(I really don’t think the rude patient understood the meaning of the word rude.)

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