Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Doctor’s Appointment - from The Grumblings of a Chronically Single Woman, by Randi Sherman, the author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

The Doctor’s Appointment 

If you’re like me, the day that you are feeling sick and tired is the day when you want to see a doctor, not four weeks from then.  Why does it seem as if the doctor’s office staff is doing us a personal favor by fitting us into the appointment schedule?

It doesn’t matter what your symptoms are.  Leave the diagnosis to the professionals.  During the initial telephone call, it is Lorraine, the receptionist at your doctor’s office, who will determine the appropriate course of treatment, level of severity, and urgency of the complaint based on the answer to the most important question in medical science. “What type of insurance to do have?”

The last time I had flu symptoms, I thumbed through the book of doctors’ names and telephone numbers that had been provided to me by my insurance plan.  I selected one and called for an appointment.  After twenty minutes of pleading, I was granted an appointment time, and given a homework assignment.  “Bring your insurance card and insurance form, and your co-payment.  Arrive fifteen minutes before your appointment time.” 

I was hallucinating from a fever, but the first thing I was instructed to do entailed a scavenger hunt through my files to find an up-to-date insurance card and form. The faded, rumpled card in my wallet was the “temporary card” and I knew that it just wouldn’t do. I was pretty sure that I had the new, laminated card in an unopened envelope somewhere and the sample insurance form that came with the new employee packet in my filing cabinet.

When I arrived in the doctor’s waiting room, I tapped on the glass that separated the sick people from the office staff.  No response.  What is this about?  I heard voices and could make out figures on the other side.  I spotted the little bell that was just sitting on the ledge, begging to be rung.  Although the hand written index card that was taped to the glass had explicit instructions not to ring the bell, I rang it anyway. Lorraine slid open the miniature shower door and looked up from her subterranean receptionist area.  The expression on her face yelled “WHAT!?”

Apologetically, I reported my name and appointment time. She pretended to look for my chart and pushed a few keys on the computer keyboard.  With a heavy exhale, Lorraine growled, “Just a minute” and slid to glass shut again. 

Should I just stand here?  Go sit down?  I knew that I wasn’t guilty of anything, yet I was nervous.  I’ve had the same feeling while waiting to go through international customs at the airport.

The glass patrician opened again.  “Did you bring your insurance card?”  Lorraine held her hand out.

Nervously, I shuffled through my papers and then handed it to her. 

“I’ll make a copy for your chart.”  Without taking a breath she continued, “Your co-payment is fifteen dollars.  I’ll collect it when you leave.”  She pointed to the waiting area.   “Have a seat.”

When the glass window slid open again, everyone in the waiting room anxiously looked up, hoping that he or she would be the next one called.  When I heard my name called, I proudly perked up.  But, it was a false alarm.  Damn.  I wasn’t allowed to see the doctor yet.  Lorraine gave me another assignment, a pop quiz.

“Here.” She handed me a clipboard with questionnaire on it. “Have a seat and complete both sides of the form, sign it and bring it back to me when you’re done.”   A pen was attached to the clipboard with a string that was so short that it made it impossible to hold the pen upright, not to mention, reach the bottom of the questionnaire.

When I had finished, I handed the clipboard and questionnaire to Lorraine. She reviewed it for mistakes as if she was checking the answers on the written driver’s license test.  She motioned to the chairs behind me and told me to have a seat again. 

Forty minutes later, when Lorraine opened the door to the Promised Land of examination rooms and called my name, my heart leapt.  I nervously replaced the June 1971 edition of Hi-lights Magazine on the table, picked up my purse, and obediently followed her into the back office.  She opened a door, ushered me into a sterile looking room and told me the doctor would be with me shortly.

In order to speed the process along, I got undressed and hung my clothes on the hook on the back of the door.  When the doctor walked into the room and looked at me, his mouth dropped open.  He looked at me in disbelief.  I began to worry.  I must look very sick.

When I asked him why he looked so shocked, he asked me, “Do you know why you’re here?”

Oh my God!  Imagine my embarrassment when I realized that in my feverish hallucinatory state, I had mistakenly made an emergency appointment with a dentist.


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