Thursday, November 5, 2009

Placing a Value on Time

I made it in to see a specialist earlier this week, and she did a good job examining me and running tests, unlike the previous doctor. She ruled out all the big, scary possibilities to my health problems and even debunked the previous doctor's suggestion that I was just suffering from an anxiety disorder. She said that since I've been sleeping well and eating well, I most likely don't have an anxiety disorder, but I already knew that. Most of the really bad symptoms I've had over the past two months subsided this past weekend. All that is left are the dizzy spells.

Despite the good news about my health, things started going downhill when this latest doctor ordered a pelvic sonogram. I walked from the doctor's office to x-ray and asked if they could by any chance fit me in right then. They said they could and had me sign some papers, and then I sat and read a book in the waiting room, feeling quite pleased that I was going to kill two birds with one stone in one day.

Then they called me back to the billing desk and said, "Why is your doctor ordering a mammogram for you when you just had one six months ago?"

I said, "She didn't order a mammogram. She ordered a pelvic sonogram."

"That's not what she has marked here. We'll have to reschedule you for another day, and you will need to take this back to your doctor to have it fixed."

So, I walked all the way back to my doctor's office and read a book in her waiting room while she finished up with a patient, and then crossed off her previous checkmark and checked the correct box. Had I known that was all she was going to do, I would have done it myself and saved twenty minutes of my time.

I had my appointment scheduled for 2:00 PM today, but received a call at 8:15 AM telling me that the technician who does the sonograms is feeling ill and wants to go home early today. She asked if I could reschedule for 11:30 AM. I said, "Sure." She then said, "Make sure you actually show up at 11:15 AM to fill out the paperwork."

I had already filled out the paperwork three days before, but still arrived at 11:15 AM like the lady requested, and the receptionist started arguing with me telling me I had arrived at the wrong time. I was scheduled for 2:00 PM. As usual, the right hand doth not know what the left hand is doing.

I straightened that out, only to be bombarded with questions to verify my name, birth date, address, phone number, insurance, etc. I hate it when medical offices ask me for all the personal information while a whole slew of strangers are sitting right behind me listening in. If someone wants to steal someone's identity, all they have to do is sit in a waiting room near a medical billing desk and they will get an earful. I once had a doctor follow me out into a waiting room and say loudly, "You have to wait a week to turn in that urine sample because you have your period!"

You could have heard a pin drop as all eyes turned toward my crotch. Talk about slinking out of some place with your tail tucked between you legs.

I interjected that I had just been in there three days before answering all these questions, and nothing had changed in the past three days. I did not move to a different address, I did not change my phone number, and I did not get new insurance. The lady ignored me and continued asking her robotic questions as I tried to hide my contempt over her inability to use common sense. I understand that they need to make sure they have matched the right person with the right file so that they don't perform the wrong procedure on the wrong person, however the chances of someone else having my exact same name, birth date and address are slim. She probably could have stopped with the questions at that point.

The whole scene kind of reminded me of what I go through at the market each weekend. While I am handing the Courtesy Clerk my canvas shopping bags, he or she always asks, "Paper or plastic?" The question has become such a habit for them that they don't use their brains anymore.

Despite signing all the paperwork three days before and her having it sitting right in front of her, she made me sign a fresh set of papers a second time simply because it was a new day. When a patient checks into a hospital, do they have to keep signing papers each day offering consent for the doctors to work on them simply because the date changes? I know they have to sign consent for each different procedure, but this paperwork was identical to the paperwork I previously signed. I was baffled by the stupidity of it all, but went along with the process in hopes of getting in and out as quickly as possible. I signed my life away, and then retreated to the waiting room with a book.

Around me, people with the flu coughed and sputtered while I held my breath as much as possible. I wasn't wild about having a sick technician rub jelly on my belly, but I planned to place a coat sleeve over my mouth and nose during the procedure. Many people came in after me and got called in before me. However, I knew there were different lab technicians and equipment, so I figured they were going in for some other procedure. Before I knew it, an hour had passed, the receptionists were taking their lunch break, and I was starving.

I approached the window and told them I had been waiting an hour and would need to reschedule, as my hour lunch break was all I had to spare, and I needed to get back to work. The receptionist looked confused like she had forgotten all about me and didn't even know who I was, despite me taking the seat closest to her window so that I'd be right in front of her face. I suspect she left the 2:00 PM label on my folder, so no one ever called me in, because they thought my folder was inadvertently left out on the counter by mistake.

She kept apologizing and then waiting for a response from me. I said nothing. I wasn't about to say, "That's okay," because it wasn't. I was told an hour before that someone would be out to get me "in a moment." Because they wasted my entire lunch break, I didn't get to muck out my stalls, so now my horses have to spend a night standing in their own poop. Wasting people's time has far-reaching effects.

I rescheduled, then stopped at Subway for some lunch on the way back to work. Though I love their sandwiches, their customer service is about as flaky as what I've been experiencing with the medical industry.

"What kind of bread would you like?"

"A wheat foot-long, please."

"You want six inches or a foot-long?"

"A wheat foot-long, please."

"Do you want wheat, white, or something else?"

"For the third time, I want wheat."

"What type of sandwich?"

"Subway Melt."

The clerk sets down my bread and starts talking to her friend, returns to my bread and says, "What type of sandwich do you want?"

"For the second time, I want a Subway Melt."

"Right. What kind of cheese?"

"Sweeeeeeiiiiiisssss," I say in a loud, funny accent in hopes that it will catch her attention and she won't instantly forget what I said.

She starts picking up and dropping each type of cheese, confused now, then looks up at me with a pleading expression.

"SWISS!" I say with much less patience.

With each question she asked, I could see her eyes glaze over while she retreated into La La Land as I answered. I wouldn't be surprised if the girl was on dope. This is actually the same routine that I go through at every sandwich shop I visit. I'd swear that delis always hire the worst listeners.

On and on it went until I got to the cash register to pay, and the guy at the register couldn't figure out how much change to give me when I handed him $7.25 for a $7.23 sandwich. Meanwhile, this pushy lady in line behind me kept stepping on my toes and bumping into me to try to push me out of her way when I hadn't even received my change yet. I finally got my two cents, but the woman wouldn't let me take the time to put the pennies in my wallet, put my wallet in my purse, zip it closed, get my freakin' sandwich and leave.

Truth be told, I should have just told him to keep the change, grabbed my sandwich and bailed out of there before I flipped out. However, this pushy woman was pissing me off so much that I couldn't resist jerking her around. It's kind of like when you are already going 10 MPH over the speed limit and some jerk gets right on your rear bumper and starts weaving back and forth because he wants you to go faster. Most people in that situation tend to react by slowing down just to annoy the impatient speeder.

The situation with this lady next to me in line was bizarre. It was like I was a ghost and she didn't see me, so she kept stepping into the space I was standing in. Like a good rebel, I took my sweet time going through all those motions of putting the two measly pennies in my wallet, zipping my wallet closed, putting my wallet in my purse, zipping my purse closed, etc. while the guy behind the register stared at me dumbfounded for taking up so much of his time and counter space. (Probably a whopping 30-seconds.) Little did he know, I probably spent the same amount of time waiting for him to figure out my change. I gave him the courtesy of keeping quiet while he did his math, and now I was being rushed to move away from the counter for the next customer to pay. They were literally piling sandwiches on top of mine, so I had to sort through all of them to figure out which was mine once I got my purse zipped up.

When I got home I fed the horses, let the dogs out, and then started work and ate at the same time. I needed to pick up the mail and was waiting for a break where I could spare one minute to walk out to the curb to pick it up. I finally got that minute and headed out for the mailboxes.

This is what always astounds me. There are 1,440 minutes in a day and 10 neighbors who need 1 minute to pick up their mail. What are the odds that two or more of those neighbors will collide with one another while picking up their mail? Pretty slim odds, huh? Well, it happens to me all the time.

I'm walking to my mailbox, and someone pulls into the turnout in their car. The driver doesn't see me, and then proceeds to sit there in her car reading her mail while I stand there waiting for her to move her big, fat sedan or whatever out of the way so I can get to my mailbox. I usually end up having to knock on the passenger window to get the driver's attention, which scares the $#*% out of her, and then she moves her car. If it is one of my more chatty neighbors, I prefer not to knock on her window, because I only have a moment to spare between work tasks and don't want to get caught in a web of conversation. In those cases, I go back to the house and try again later.

I posted a NO PARKING sign in the mailbox turnout, because too many people were parking their vehicles right up against the mailboxes, and then walking across the street to visit homes there, oblivious to the fact that they were preventing everyone in the neighborhood from getting their mail. It's beginning to look like I might need to post a sign that says something like, "30-Second Stopping Only." Obviously, people have to stop there to pick up their mail, but they don't need to stay there for several minutes while they read it. They can drive the rest of the way home and read their mail at home.

It is reasonable for them to sort through their mail before driving off, so that they can make sure that it is all addressed to them, but actually opening each envelope and reading the contents word for word while someone is waiting is not acceptable. You wouldn't do that in a post office while people are waiting in line behind you.

I also think that it is polite to let people in stores put their wallets away and zip up their purses before pushing them out of the store. There have been so many times when I wasn't given enough time to zip up my purse, and I forgot that it was open. Next thing I knew, I was in a crowd of people and someone was bumping into my purse. I looked down and saw it was open. I had to check the contents to make sure I hadn't been the victim of a pick-pocket.

In some ways, by being impatient with people who read their mail and block the mailboxes with their car,I feel like I'm behaving no differently than the pushy woman in line who wouldn't give me time to get my change, but in other ways I feel I am justified in taking action to make others realize that they are wasting my time, and my time is just as valuable as the next person's. Where do you draw the line when someone is wasting your time? And how do you handle it? Likewise, how do you deal with unreasonably pushy people like the woman in line who couldn't wait for me to get my change?

Living in a rural community for 20 years, we've been fortunate enough to share the community with people who were mostly polite. However, now that our community is growing quickly with people from all different backgrounds making this valley their home, I'm finding myself being confronted by rude behavior more and more often. On one end of the rude spectrum, you've got groups of people who stand in doorways having conversations, blocking everyone else from getting in or out of the store. On the other end of the rude spectrum, you've got people who push up against you in line and start swiping their card to pay for their groceries while your groceries are still on the conveyor belt waiting to be bagged. I feel like both parties need to be kept in check. People won't change their behavior unless you call them on it... or at the very least jerk them around so that their rude behavior does not pay off.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to what is reasonable. Not everyone can move at the same speed. I'm sensitive to people who walk with canes, I actually wait for pedestrians to reach the sidewalk before proceeding through intersections, I pull over for emergency vehicles, I go 15 MPH in school zones, and I give people their space in lines. I always wait my turn at both intersections and in delis, yet every time I go somewhere someone else always manages to cut me off or take my turn. I was happy to see a speed trap set up in the school zone of my son's school today, since I'm one of the rare few who actually respects the speed limit there. I'm so used to being on the receiving end of a middle finger for obeying the law. However, I've seen a lot of kids in comas thanks to idiots who blast through school zones. In fact, I saw one child killed right before my eyes many years ago. That's something you never forget.

Nobody knows as well as I do the pressure to be in two or three different places at once and knowing there will never be enough hours in the day to get it all done. But it's not worth killing someone over. It's not even worth being rude to someone and putting a damper on their day or thwarting their schedule by cutting in line or taking their turn. Alternatively, someone who is retired or on vacation needs to realize that others around them may still have jobs to do. If you want to loiter somewhere and tell someone your life story, step to the side so that those who don't have time to wait for you to finish can pass. If you are in a line of work where you serve customers, pay attention to them and be sensitive to their time. Most of us don't have much to spare. We need to be civilized, respect each others space, respect each others safety, and respect each others time. I suspect that those who do respect these things find that they get what they need fastest of all.

P.S. If you had the patience to read through this entire post, consider yourself one of the fortunate few who has time to spare. I am deeply envious. If you just skimmed through this post, I'll give you a couple of points for trying. If you took one look at its length and moved on to some blog with cute pictures of puppies, bunnies, donkeys, and horses, I totally understand.


fernvalley01 said...

Hey girl ,I am home sick with the flu! I got nuthin but time right now! Sorry to here you had such a sh*tty day! I have leqrned in Drs offices that patients is not alwaysa good thing , I used to wait , now after 15 min or so I pop back up and ask how much longer ,.I am polite , but I still ask .On more than one occaision I have been told "oh dear ! we forgot you sitting there so quietly!" As for people in line ups... ya gotta wonder why they thinkl stepping on you is going to make you move quicker?
Have a better day!

Katharine Swan said...

I read it! I read it! LOL. I'm not really sure I ought to spare the time, but I try to read my favorite blogs every day, no matter how busy I am.

I'm sorry you had such a crappy day. It annoys me that doctor's offices seem to think that customer service skills are not required, like they are doing US a favor and therefore we ought to take their time-wasting BS and thank them for it, too. I see my endocrinologist every 3 months, and it amazes me how my appointments seem to take 2 or more hours for a 15-minute visit with my doctor. When I look back on it I can never figure out where all the time went.

lytha said...

I read it too! But I am unemployed and envious of people with no time. I have too much time, it's awful. So I can write a really long comment, and hopefully you will find time to read it!

You touched on so many subjects that spoke to me. Where do I start?

Doctors' offices. My first German doctor experience was so bad, I was afraid they were all like that. Patients are handed a plastic coffee cup (a plastic coffee cup!) to pee in, and you have to go into a bathroom, pee, and then walk your plastic coffee cup full of pee in front of everyone else and set it back on the reception desk. I thought, No way. This cannot be normal. (For some reason the fact that they were plastic coffee cups irked me intensely, like this nation is empoverished or something.) And then they started discussing my medical issues right in front of everyone else. I wished to die right there. I started my search for a new doctor, and I am still looking. First thing I ask, is about the urine cup. Is it a coffee cup? Will I have to walk my pee past all the people waiting?

Finally I found one with a normal pee situation where you pass the plastic medical sample cup (whew!) through a small opening in the toilet stall wall. Whew! But the service I get is so unfair.

See, I get the good service from every doctor. I have less wait, and much better treatment, because we are privately insured. A small percentage of this country is privately insured, and we are treated like royalty. And I hate it. I feel so bad for all the other women who wait longer, and don't get the fancy equipment used on them. Get this, a normal part of a checkup is a uterine ultrasound. Every 6 months! I hate being in the privleged minority, I did nothing to deserve it.

Grocery Stores - the bag question!!! I love it. Do they still ask? It seems they all wanna just give plastic in Seattle now. My poor man, his first time in America, he was so confused by the question Paper or Plastic? Because here in Germany they don't bag for you, you have to hurry your groceries both on AND off the belt, into whatever bag you brought from home. (It sucks.) Anyway, after my man learned about this question, he felt prepared and went shopping again. That time, for some reason, they asked, "Debit or Credit?" and he just looked at me helplessly, "What does that mean!?" *giggle*

Subway. My man's first American subway experience was so horrible (and I was feeling selfish and did not help him, oops), it is something that he will remind me of our entire lives together. I am so ashamed, I should have helped him order a sandwich! Subway is kind of a bad word in this house. (There are Subways here but we never go.)

I hope the dizziness goes away. Feel better soon!


Kate said...

Your description of the medical experiences is one of the primary reasons why the cost of the US medical system is the highest in the world.

Cheryl Ann said...

I think the MORONS at the sandwich shop must be my former students. Yes, most of them are in "la la" land!!! In fact, that's what one of my subs wrote, in her note to me! (shaking head)! And, I sometimes irritate those behind me, too, who get into my space. I do the same things...take my time, fumble with my purse, and let them stew! Aren't we evil?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lytha - Your comment cracked me up. Less and less stores are bagging our groceries now, which is why I pay higher prices at the one I go to. I don't want it to become and extinct species, so I support it. Taking the groceries off the shelf, putting them into the cart, only to take them out of the cart, bag them, put them back into the cart, pull them out of the cart to put them into the trunk, then unload them from the trunk to put them in your kitchen would be just too much for most senior citizens. The store I go to not only takes them out of the cart, and bags them for you, but they walk you to your car and load the groceries into your trunk for you. Plus they are not allowed to accept tips since it is their job to do that. It's awesome. Your Subway being a bad word comment was hilarious.

pamela said...

I hear ya on the drs. office or labs, testing whatever you are having to go through.
I am a nurse and have worked in a drs office--I'll tell you the problem--They schedule 3-5 people with the same appointment. And this is not right. When I go to the MD and I have'nt been called in 15 mins--I am at the desk.Don't you get soooo--tired of telling people what their job is?

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I read it all, but I don't have much time to comment....and you know why *giggle*

But I hear ya and I agree! It also makes me realize once again why I avoid the plague! hah!

See ya!

Anonymous said...

I read the whole thing!

Again, I wish I could share my doc with you! Had my annual visit this week and it was a breeze. (My ins. company is another story, however! I do battle with them constantly.) I'm just thankful the clinic no longer sends my pap results on a postcard!

My hubby Loves to go to Subway and pick on the "sandwich artists" (artists? does this excuse the spacey-ness?) as they screw up.

I had my fill of rude today: gas station, bank, grocery store, home improvement store, WalMart, butcher shop, co-op, all before 10:30. If the employees aren't rude then the other customers are. I'm headed out for some manure moving therapy now!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Ah yes, the old pap smear on the postcard trick. My GYN does that. It's nice to know that my postal carrier knows all about my uterine health.

Andrea said...

Girl, maybe they should have tested you for anxiety after your day at the Dr.'s office, stupid people at subway, work, and the dumb country bumpkin neighbors who don't have an inch of respect for other people and their mailboxes!! Hahaha! I am so sorry. I think sometimes that I needs some meds that will just put me out in la la land for just a few hours a day. Maybe I should pick up some weed!! LOL!! Oh dear!! That was just a joke.

And that comment about people not realizing how taking ones time has a domino effect, is soooo true. So TRUE! You should move down here into my FIL's house and I can send him up there and then we can be neighbors. I promise not to be rude and nosey, unless you want to go ride!!

I hope you are having a better day!

Jenn said...

I read the whole thing! :P

As for the woman who kept shoving you out of the way...I totally understand. It seems that every single time I'm at the Wally world and standing at the counter waiting for the cashier to push her little buttons so I can pay, I get some rude woman behind me who is shoving me out of the way with her shopping cart. Literally, bumping into me as I am completing my financial transaction. I HATE THAT. Back off...give me some room! Sheesh. It's not even your turn yet!

The last woman that did that to me actually smacked the cart hard into my heels. I was already at the end of my rope after dealing with other morons throughout the day and I ended up grabbing her cart and shoving it HARD back at her, while saying as calmly as I could "Excuse me. I'm not finished here. I need a little space to sign this." I smacked her right in the gut with the handle and made her grunt with the shock/pain and take a couple of steps back. For about 1/2 a nanosecond I felt guilty. Then I realized my heel was bleeding from where she slammed it into me and I no longer felt bad. She backed up a reasonable distance and let me finish.

I think sometimes (even thought its rude) some of the rudest need a little of their own behavior shoved back at them by those they perpetrate their bad behavior on. I'd like to think my behavior towards her made her think twice about crowding someone in front of her the next time she was at the store.