I went to the unemployment office first thing after dropping Budge off this morning. Even though my Tier 1,2, and 3 benefits are exhausted, the office is advising everyone to keep registering for the next tier (4 in my case) in the fleeting hope that the Elephants and Donkeys will reach a 12th hour compromise and 2,000,000 people won’t lose their benefits as a Christmas present.
Anyway, I left and hit up Hardee’s for a nice gravy biscuit and sat working my crossword puzzles until it was time to go see Dr. Stephens, my psychiatrist. Dr. Stephens is phenomenal. He has been a big help and he’s the only mental health professional, besides Dr. Catherine, that I trust. He is a specialist — one of the only ones in SC — in child psychiatric treatment and I sometimes think that’s why he’s so good at helping me . . . he’s on my level!
Well, the visit with him went fine, but then I had to confront (cue the ominous music) The Creatures of the Front Desk!
See, Dr. Stephens doesn’t have his own office. He leases space, along with a dump truck load of other doctors, in a building owned by one of the older psychiatrists. In exchange for 40% of his patient income (I really don’t want to think about how much he must be making — he drives a Dodge Viper AFTER paying rent) he gets a front office that sets his appointments, does his insurance filing, does his billing, and drives his (and ever other doctor’s) patients INSANE, which may be redundant since this is a psychiatrist’s office in the first place.
Therein lies the problem! These harpies at the front desk seem to absolutely DELIGHT in making visits to this office as miserable as possible. They are shrewish, shrill, and about as useful / helpful as a screen-door on a submarine. Now did I mention that this is a PSYCHIATRIST’S OFFICE? These “ladies”, to use the term loosely, are fiendish experts — knowingly, willfully, or not — at cranking up the stress on people and some of these people you REALLY don’t want stressed any further than they already are. I’ve seen folks come into the waiting room red-faced and shaking, or crying uncontrollably and these women are more interested in making sure they have a current copy of an insurance card.
Not everyone I’ve dealt with at the front desk has been so difficult. As a matter of fact, two of my former students once worked there as office staff, but the Queen Bee, who could have been a lead actress in Gossip Girls if she was 20 years younger, eventually ran them off. They were sweet girls and sweetness is not rewarded in the Lair of the Gorgons. I have no idea why the doctor who owns the building keeps her around. I’ve asked Dr. Stephens and Dr. Catherine before she left and they don’t know why either. The only reason I can come up with is the same reason people like her manage to keep positions all over the world when their workplace would run so much better without them:
They know where all the bodies are buried and they have pictures.
I’ve seen — actually seen with my own two eyes — one of these women pretty much berate to tears a lady who was bringing her teenage son in to see my doctor. I know the family because I taught the oldest child about seven years ago when this kid was in third grade or so. His sister used to tell me stories. The kid was rough back then. That young man has more issues than National Geographic not the least of which is a violent streak a mile wide, but the one thing he cherishes above anything else in the world is his mama.
Those women had no idea how lucky they were. It’s all well and good to say “I’ll call the police” but the police take time to arrive and some of the people who come through that office could do a lot of damage before the cops got there. He once attacked a neighbor who accidentally backed into his mama’s new car because he thought it would make his mama cry. He’s REALLY touchy over his mama. Issues. National. Geographic.
Even more than that rare side of things though, what drives me to distraction about them is the callousness.
Most of the patients the doctors see are really depressed or have terrible anxiety issues or other painful emotional problems. Is it so difficult to be a little kinder? The front desk staff acts like the money they are collecting is going directly into their pockets. It’s not, so chill a bit people.Why add another bad day incident to a person who is already having too many bad days as it is?
All I know is, I had some borderline psychotic students in my classes through the years and I was always on the greatest of terms with them. Kindred spirits? Dunno. Other teachers couldn’t understand how I could be so tolerant, patient and calm with these terrors. I told them it was simple self preservation instinct. Whenever they wanted to know how being nice to the “wild bunch” was self preservation I had one simple answer:
“When they come in with a gun one day, I want them to remember they LIKED me enough to say, ‘Hey, Coach, you were good to me . . . I’ll shoot you last!” Any port in a storm, right?
Y’all take care and be better to each other than these Jenny Green Teeth are and, as always, keep those feet clean!