So I got this message on my home answering machine:
“Hello. This is Janice from the Central Eye Clinic. We have you down for an appointment at three o’clock tomorrow and I was just checking on your insurance coverage. It’s showing that you have been cancelled and, well, we are just wondering if we can update your insurance – or whether you will be able to make the appointment. Please call me …”
This is Husband’s eye doctor. It was a little humorous for obvious reasons, what with Husband being half way around the world and all. I figured it was the kind of appointment made several months ago. So I called her back to let her know the situation:“Hi, I’m calling back about my husband’s appointment tomorrow – – “ “I can’t really confirm anything unless I’m talking with the patient.” “Well, okaaaaaaay. That’s why I’m calling. He’s in the military and was mobilized to the Middle East.” “Oh, my. Well, can I contact him?”
Now, this should have been my clue. This should have been a bright red blinking, flashing, strobing siren light. But for some reason, I missed it. Maybe I’m getting used to people who don’t get it. Epic fail.
“No. No, you can’t contact him. I’m just calling to say he won’t make his appointment tomorrow. That he definitely will not make it. He’s … in the Middle East.”
Silence. I was suddenly worried she thought I meant the East Coast, or the Midwest maybe. I laughed a little nervous laugh, realizing the kind of person I might be talking to.
“The Middle East like, like, overseas. So – I’m just confirming that he won’t be able to make it.”
Silence again? Was she typing something in the computer, talking to someone else and not listening, or what? I wondered how her course in eye doctor reception had addressed telephone professionalism and the use of the word “oh” as a valid communication tool. So I punted.
“His insurance was probably reported as cancelled because he’s not on his employer’s insurance any more. But he’ll be back on it when he returns. He’s covered by the military while he’s over there.”
The tone of the monosyllabic grunt descended, and she sounded pretty disappointed – not for me – but disappointed nonetheless. So I added …
“I’m sure they are giving him regular eye exams. Would you like me to have him call when he gets back and schedule another appointment? It will be quite a while. He probably just scheduled this one before he knew he was leaving, and forgot to cancel it before he left.”
This is a pretty reasonable comment. It could have gone either way, and I would have been completely okay with whatever the response was. But then, she said the one thing I did not, in a million years, expect to hear her say:
“Well, the only thing is, we have a 24-hour cancellation policy.”
What? I know, it’s too dumb to believe. But I swear on a stack of Bibles, she said it. Out loud, even.
I wanted to yell a string of obscenities. I wanted to unleash a “Shock and Awe” verbal assault that would leave her eyeglasses all steamed up. Lady, are you living under a rock? Did you have your brain replaced with spaghetti and meatballs this morning? Ever heard of terrorism? The Persian Gulf, al-Qaeda? How about the Taliban?
But then I imagined her writing out the “failure to cancel your appointment” bill and sending it off to the Pentagon, where it arrived on the desk of some staffer. In my mind the staffer got a real kick out of it and linked it to a political website, where it went viral and made her an overnight internationally hated uber-star. I imagined Morley Safer showing up at her office for an interview. I imagined the sound byte where she stuttered, “Uh, uh, uh, well, that IS the policy.” I imagined it playing over and over on Sunday evening in every commercial leading up to the show.
I started laughing. It started as a muffled chuckle and grew into the kind of belly laugh that takes over. I don’t think she was talking as this laugh progressed into something I could no longer mask, but in all honesty I’m really not sure. I wasn’t listening anyway. At this point my filter and any modicum of formality were shot. My eyes started to leak from the internal pressure, and I got a little cramp under my rib. I held it, because I thought it would help, but it didn’t. I tried to compose myself, but it was no use. I could barely breathe, let alone speak, so I gave up. I just gave up, and I hung up.
Looking back, I regret not coming up with a witty one-liner. But let’s face it, The Preschooler doesn’t need to hear anything else worth repeating. So in all, I think it was a good thing that I responded with evil laughter.
And I can’t wait to see if I get a bill. If I do, I think maybe I’ll send it to General Petraeus …