IS MY TIME WORTHLESS?
Ben Franklin said “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of.” I admit that I have not always followed his advice and that I have been a time squanderer of the first order at times in my life. Nevertheless, I strongly resent it when others take it upon themselves to squander a chunk of my time…my life!
IS MY CALL REALLY IMPORTANT TO YOU?
It seems to me that I am now surrounded by more time squanderers than any other time in life despite the conventional wisdom that we are now living in a time of unparalleled efficiency. We have all been subjected to the “your call is very important to us” mantra which is usually a prelude to an interminable time listening to some awful sounds masquerading as music. In most cases it would be much less frustrating to suffer in silence. Since such behavior surrounds us we have become inured to it, and in some cases have learned to find work-arounds. For example, whenever I call an organization that I expect will keep me waiting on the phone, I have learned to have reading material available so that I can put the phone on speaker and ignore the music and the automated voice which lies to me with reassurances that someone will be with me soon. Unfortunately, some such indignities cannot be so easily circumvented which brings up the issue of my complaint of the week.
My Mother once told me that good manners are simply a matter of showing respect for others. Then I married this woman who was a dyed-in-the-wool aficionado of Emily Post’s book of etiquette and who has devoted a lifetime to training me in such matters. Therefore, I feel such background qualifies me to judge this latest complaint to be near the top of the list of ill-mannered behaviors, and a significant squanderer of my time. As a matter of fact, it ranks right up there near CNN or blog writing as a significant waster of time. I must confess I do feel some ambivalence about ratting out my colleagues because this time I am complaining about the medical profession.
In the past I have lodged complaints about the inaccessibility of physicians and the barriers that have been erected to keep doctors isolated from their patients i.e. receptionist, to nurse, to nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant, and if one’s concern is deemed serious enough, he/she may receive a return call from the nurse or even the great one himself/herself. However; this latest complaint was brought to the fore by a series of events over the last few weeks. It began with a routine visit to my doctor which began with hope that he was running nearly on time since there were only a couple of people in the waiting room.
They put the WAITING in the term Waiting Room
I settled in to read a dog-eared magazine of unknown vintage with all the latest (at that time) news about the royal family (not a major interest of mine). It did seem a better choice than the stack of Good Housekeeping magazines. Time passed and I realized that I had been waiting for well over an hour and a half which seemed like an even longer time than I had waited during previous visits. I risked the wrath of the receptionist who was busy chatting with a colleague to inquire if I had the wrong day. She calmly and unapologetically announced that the doctor had been called to the hospital to do an emergency procedure and she didn’t expect him back for another hour or so. When I suggested that if I had known this I could have found other ways to use the time, she shrugged, turned her back to me, and continued the conversation with her friend.
This was precisely the type of situation for which I had been trained all those years consequently; with great difficulty I withheld the stream of profanity which longed to stream out for all to hear. Instead, I decided to channel my anger into something useful much as I had been taught. My anger was not directed at the Doctor as I am well aware that emergencies do occur. I am also aware that physicians are not always in touch with what goes on in their outer office. I have been as guilty as the next guy in occasionally running behind, but to my credit I encouraged my receptionist to keep patients informed of probable delays. I also tried to remember to apologize for my tardiness.
THE TIME OF RECKONING
With all that in mind I decided to inform the good Doctor about what was going on in his waiting room in a very calm deliberative, hopefully constructive, manner. His response was underwhelming as he responded with: “those things happen sometimes.”
WHAT? THOSE THINGS HAPPEN SOMETIMES?
Naive little old me had expected at a minimum maybe an acknowledgement of my distress, an apology for having been held hostage for over two hours, or even a thank you for letting him know that the gum-smacker at the front desk was a screw-up. I did not respond with my usual sarcastic comment out of fear that he might decide I needed a rectal examination.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
That experience pales however; compared to Barb’s recent run-in with the medical establishment of which I was an unwitting and unwilling participant. It all began with her visit to our internist for what seemed like a simple problem. When the problem was not resolved, he referred her to a super specialist, i.e., (a person who specializes in a specialty, as when a cancer doctor only treats one kind of cancer or an orthopedist limits his practice to the treatment of big toes). Barb had been forewarned that she should not plan any other activities on the day of her appointment, but little did she know how apt was her friend’s warning.
We arrived at the appointed time with a several page questionnaire filled out as per instructions. A real time saver, right?
We still waited and waited (plus, Barb said he didn’t even look at the questionnaire. Since I was forewarned by Barb’s buddy, I came armed with a boring book. Little did I know that I would finish it before we escaped. Our adventure began with a conventional 1½ hour waiting room experience, and although suffering minor frustration, I felt encouraged after the nurse called for Barb thinking that we would likely make it home in time for lunch after all.
After another 40 minutes or so, a crotchety nurse came out to tell me that Barb had asked for me to come back to the treatment area where I found her shivering under a paper sheet. When I asked her what the Doctor said she replied that she had not seen him yet, but that she was feeling claustrophobic having been imprisoned and refrigerated in an examining room somewhat smaller than a San Quentin prison cell.
When I asked the crotchety nurse if the good Doctor was often late, she replied in the affirmative at the same time complaining that although she was supposed to work until 5 she rarely left before 7 or 8 PM. I assumed this had a great deal to do with her crotchety-ness. The rest of this visit is a bit hazy to me. Suffice it to say when the doctor arrived on the scene, he was very affable and impressed me with his knowledge of the problem at hand. He was unhurried as we chatted about a variety of topics. Our quest for health and happiness had begun at 10:30 AM and we were out the door by 1:45 PM.
Lest you think this concluded our dealings with Dr. P…… let me assure you this was not to be our last encounter for he decided that Barb needed a minor diagnostic procedure under anesthesia, and Ms. Crotchety scheduled it for the following week at 1:00 pm. I was not surprised by the time since such minor procedures are usually scheduled after the major surgeries are completed consequently; the schedules for the minor stuff are at best only estimates. With that in mind, I was heartened when we received a call on the day of her minor procedure a few minutes after 12 informing us that Dr. P…… was ahead of schedule and asking us if we could come in earlier. We were there in 15 minutes.
Certainly, to be ahead of schedule would virtually guarantee that the procedure could be finished before we caught some drug resistant hospital bug.
Although we were promptly ushered into a refrigerated pre-op prep room (one would think the medical establishment would be aware that we old folks are susceptible to major problems from hypothermia), my hopes were dashed as another hour and a half of the stuff my life is made of was squandered. I could have used that time for an afternoon nap. There was a bright spot in the afternoon however when a cute young nurse witnessed Barb shivering in her backless gown and wrapped her in a heated blanket. This may have been the lifesaving act of the day. I have no idea what the mortality rate is in that room, but we survived and I live on to continue in my quest to become the most ardent complainer of our time.
It has turned out that I am not alone in my zeal to achieve the status of Olympic class complainer however; I would caution those so inclined to be robust in registering their complaints (manners be damned) lest their development be arrested at the level of whiner, which is likely to result in chronic emotional constipation. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the foregone conclusion is based on anecdotal information and I know of no large-scale studies to validate my opinion. I also feel bound to issue the caveat that in this era of concealed carry permits one should whenever possible cleanse their complaints of personal insults.