Making A Point About Appointments

, , , | Right | May 12, 2018

(I am one of my podiatrist’s youngest patients, in my early 30s. I had to cancel my October appointment due to an appendectomy, and am back to the doctor in mid-November. The lobby of the podiatrists is usually full of senior citizens, between the ages of 65 and 90, but when I walk in with my husband for the appointment, the lobby is completely vacant. The only person in the office besides a nurse is our favorite receptionist, who is on the phone with someone who hangs up on her as we approach her desk.)

Me: “Um, [Receptionist]? Where’s the oldster convention?”

Receptionist: *laughs* “Oh, my God! [My Name]! I couldn’t get a hold of you; your number doesn’t seem to be valid! I’m sorry. [Doctor]’s in Phoenix; his mother was just hospitalized.”

Me: “Wow! I hope she gets better! Oh, and it’s an Arizona area code, so no big deal.”

Receptionist: *shocked* “You… You’re the first person who hasn’t let me know about their inconvenience at top volume. Anyway, the prognosis isn’t great, and he’s going to be there for… he said, like, a month to put her affairs in order! It’s been… Wow. It’s been so crazy over here!”

Me: “Yikes. It’s not easy dealing with long-distance family matters. Anyway, can you reschedule us?”

(After the appointment is rescheduled for early February, we spend the next hour swapping customer service stories. Our conversation is winding down, and we’re saying our goodbyes, as an irate woman slams the door open.)

Old Woman: “I demand to speak to the stupid little girl who—”

Me: “There are none here.”

Receptionist: “I’ll be with you in a moment, [Old Woman]!” *answers the ringing phone*

(The receptionist tries to mollify an angry patient over the phone, as the woman glares at my husband and me.)

Husband: “Perhaps you might try once more, with manners, once she’s off the phone.”

Old Woman: “Hmph!”

Receptionist: *hangs up phone angrily, and resets her smile* “Good afternoon, [Old Woman]! How are you?”

Old Woman: “I am furious! Furious! I got a call saying that the doctor isn’t in, and no one can see me until December 15th! How can that happen? Who decided this? You people will see me today!

Receptionist: “No, ma’am. As I said in the call, earlier, [Doctor] and his brother, [Other Doctor], are visiting his mothe—”

Old Woman: “Well, it’s pretty d***ed rude to schedule a vacation right at the beginning of winter! What if someone breaks their foot? I need to be seen today!”

Receptionist: *flustered, then irate, as the phone rings yet again* “Vacation?! Really? Sorry, hold on, I’ve got to get this!”

(As the receptionist answers the phone, and starts dealing with yet another irate patient, I take the opportunity to talk to the old woman, and give her a little perspective.)

Me: “Do you have children, ma’am?”

Old Woman: “Yes! Why?”

Me: “Well, wouldn’t you want them by your side if you ever became gravely ill?”

Old Woman: “Of course! Don’t be stupid!”

Me: “Of course not, ma’am. Our doctor’s mother wants her sons by her side right now, because she is gravely ill. Our appointments are delayed because they’re in Arizona. Your appointment is in mid-December, because you’re available at that time.”

Husband: *points at me* “Her appointment’s delayed until February.”

Old Woman: *gapes like a fish* “February? But it’s November tenth!”

Me: *shrugs nonchalantly* “I know. But December and January are too hectic for me.”

Old Woman: “But still! I don’t know why it’s over a month…” *tilts her head, listening to the phone conversation, where we can hear the volume and anger from the man the receptionist is trying to calm down* “Has she been getting that volume all day?”

Me: “Yes. Every single call since we came here an hour ago. And she’s gotten it from every single person who has slammed their way in here, too.”

Old Woman: “Wow!”

Husband: “We were just distracting her with conversation. Hoping to be a bright point today.”

Receptionist: *hanging up the phone* “Okay, [Old Woman], I gave you the first appointment available the day he comes back. He left today, and will be back on the 14th, but not taking patients until the 15th.”

Old Woman: *oddly calm* “Of course, thank you. I am so sorry about how acted earlier, and appreciate your help in scheduling me soonest. You’ve been so wonderful, and I hope your day gets better. You know… I would want my sons to drop everything when I’m gravely ill, and I hope their mother’s condition improves.”

Receptionist: “Yeah… Thank you! You have a great day!”

(The receptionist told me at my February appointment that the old woman used to be a nightmare, but now took time to consider her actions before reacting, and was much calmer and kinder. I asked the doctor, and he said that because she was his first patient when he was originally due back, he flew the red-eye back immediately after his mother’s funeral, to make her appointment. He also said that the old woman sent flowers and a wonderful card after the appointment was over. I saw the old woman in March, when I was a customer at the store I worked at, berating one of our newest cashiers. The young cashier was close to tears because the old woman was yelling at her over “an expired f****** coupon.” A coupon! I called attention to myself and reminded her where we met. The old woman angrily paid for her purchase and harrumphed her way out of the store, but not without making a complaint to the greeter. She apparently reconsidered her behavior after that, because she did send the cashier flowers and a brief apology note. It’s been well over a year, and we haven’t seen her since.)

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