by Janet Gilmore
Oh, man! Traffic was bumper-to-bumper on the Schuylkill Expressway and no way around it. We might still arrive on time, but I doubted it. And we definitely couldn’t make a U-turn on the Betsy Ross Bridge and drive back home.
“Well, it’s important to go. Suppose you have some stalactites or stalagmites which have to be looked at?” asked my husband.
We were en route to my annual gynecology appointment in Voorhees, New Jersey, an hour and a half from our house. “Is Dr. HaHa (not her real name) a good enough doctor for this long a drive?”
“I don’t know. Maybe not really,” I said, as we pulled up to her office. “All I wanted was a prescription refill, but the office told me they couldn’t do that over the phone, that I’d have to be seen.”
At the reception desk inside sat three young women in some sort of stewardess outfits. One looked up, looked at the wall clock, then looked at me.
“You’re seven minutes late. The doctor can’t see you.”
I stared at her, unsure what to do or say, so I said the first thing that came to mind: “Huh?”
“You’re seven minutes late – the doctor can’t see you.”
“We were stuck in traffic,” I said.
“Sorry,” she said. “Have a happy day.”
Suddenly I knew exactly what to do and say. I raised my voice just enough so that everyone in the waiting room could hear me. “Are you telling me that after my long drive, I have to turn around and GO HOME?
“You’re late,” she repeated.
“So you ARE telling me that after my long drive, I have to turn around and GO HOME?” I repeated, a tiny bit louder.
“Do you make all your late patients go home?”
“…Let me get Dr. HaHa’s nurse.”
The young woman did not deserve a happy day.
Nurse Marie took me into an examining room. “What happened?” she asked.
I explained that I needed a prescription refill and was told I had to be seen in person, but I was seven minutes late and…”
“That’s not true,” she said. “We could have phoned the prescription to your pharmacy. I’ll write the scrip right now and fax it over there.”
“You mean I didn’t really have to drive all the way over here…?”
“That’s right. I’m sorry. Now get out of here before we charge you for an office visit,” she laughed, perhaps quoting from a doctor’s office humor handbook.
I was a teeny bit annoyed, having driven all the way from Chestnut Hill to Voorhees, etc.
Nurse Marie escorted me into the hall on my way out (she hoped). But there, in the hallway, about to knock on the door of the patient after me — the punctual one — was Dr. HaHa herself. “Wait a minute, Dr. HaHa,” I said, and told her the whole sad story, so she would know what went on in her office. She sort of nodded, but said nothing.
Nurse Marie then asked me if I would like to schedule my November appointment. “November appointment? I’m not sure I’m ever coming back,” I said, in my slightly raised voice.
“Let me get the office manager for you,” said Marie.
Office manager Cathy took us into another room. “What happened?” she asked.
We had nothing to lose, so we told her the entire story and added that it was not worth driving an hour and a half to be told to go home. She was a very good office manager. She listened quietly to our tale of woe, which got slightly more elaborate and sad every time we told it. We were nearly crying at the end; poor us.
When I mentioned that I might not be back, office manager Cathy said, “Wait here.”
She came back with something in her hand. “I know we can’t pay you back for your inconvenience, but please accept this from our practice. We value your patronage.”
And she handed me a gift card to Wawa. Wawa! I swear. I was flabbergasted.
We thanked her and left. Why would Dr. HaHa, or any doctor, have a supply of Wawa gift cards in the office? Or did office manager Cathy give me her own personal card just to get me the heck out of there? Did they really think I could be bought off with a blueberry raspberry icee and a cookie dough parfait? And how much was my card worth, anyway? There was no amount printed on it. Maybe it was a dummy card that wasn’t worth a dime. Maybe I should have held out for more. Two Wawa cards. A hundred Wawa cards. We always need milk.
The gift card turned out to be worth $5. The exact amount needed to cross the Betsy Ross Bridge and get out of New Jersey.