A second chance at a first impression

I spend more than any one man’s fair share of time in Doctor’s offices, Labs, and Pharmacies. It’s a part of my life that I’ve had to embrace. In my endless travels of maze-like offices, antiseptic hallways, hack-and cough centers that double as waiting rooms and backed up pharmacy counters I deal with a lot of people.

I have spent years working in restaurants, retail and customer service and have answered a lot of phones with some angry people just waiting to tear into me. I learned early and often that there is only one way to conduct yourself in order to get any results, and that is to be nice. That’s it. It serves 2 purposes. It is the right thing to do (if you give half a shit about society in general), and when someone is expecting a fight it throws them off when you go the other way. I know for a fact that a receptionist, lab technician, Pharmacy Tech, or cashier are fully expecting customer’s to escalate all of the time. People seem to think that it is acceptable to raise their voice, argue and even belittle those whose job it is to serve them, bad attitude and all.  As a person, as well as an employee, they just don’t need it.

Since I’ve moved up here I have escalated my campaign of self-improvement. My high blood-pressure, coupled with a lifestyle I couldn’t keep up with was making me sick,  anxious, quick to temper, and impatient. It was a struggle to be patient and understanding as I struggled with insurance coverages. prescriptions, PCP’s, referrals and all of the small details associated with losing your family and moving in with your mother with only the shit that would fit in a 2013 Honda Civic. As my health, and consequently, my attitude improved over time it became easier to be the man I wanted to be. In short, it is nicer up here from the air to the people. Customer service, on the other hand, is a problem. There are plenty of workers but the skills aren’t there. Still, I resolved to be nice. And if I couldn’t be nice…apologize.

Nice was easy for me. Understanding was manageable. I wasn’t exempt from being aggravated.

Last week I was in the middle of a three-way, not the good kind, between myself, my Dr’s office and my Insurance company. I was in need of a dosage increase on one of my meds. Getting ahead of it, I called my pharmacy to make sure it was approved because I would burn through the current 30-day supply quickly and then be without. It wasn’t approved, I was told to come in on Monday (it was Friday at the time) and it will be all set. Stupidly, I didn’t call first and drove the 25 miles to the pharmacy. I had planned it perfectly, I could pick up 4 (of my oh so many) prescriptions at once. I wouldn’t be that lucky.

After driving through snowy, frost-heaved roads, a packed and crazy parking lot, and a long line at the pharmacy I was called. I obediently toed the line, recited my full name, DOB, marital status, confirmed that I was indeed circumcised (maybe I just volunteered that information) and properly insured. 3 were ready, the one that I was almost out of was still not approved.

I was incensed. I asked the young girl at the counter if she could check for me to see if it may be a mistake. She assured me that it wasn’t. Now, in hindsight, this is where the situation went in the wrong direction. The place was busy, there was a line behind me and she was the only one on the counter. She was stressed and couldn’t handle it. But I pressed her and she blurted out “that’s what my screen says, what else can I tell you?”

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I tried to explain to her that I was in need of that particular one and didn’t want to make another trip. She said again that it’s not ready. Would I like to take the other 3 prescriptions now? And then she made the critical mistake of rolling her eyes and looking behind me to the next person in line. I became annoyed and said,

“Excuse me, but you’re not listening to me. What are you going to do to help me get this resolved?”. She then informed me that the note in the system said: “See pharmacist for instructions”. I told her, as non-snarkily as I could, that such information would have been helpful in the beginning. I shuffled down the counter to meet the Pharmacist, the man behind the curtain. With a 5 minute call, the pharmacist had made the insurance company understand and approve. I was on my way.

I felt bad on the way to the car. While I could give a bunch of reasons why she was wrong and perhaps rude, I was supposed to be bigger and better than that. I could hear my 18-year-old son in my head saying “Well, so much for the kinder, gentler you, Dad”. He had remarked months ago that he liked the “new me”. He wouldn’t have been pleased with his Dad there. But, But, But..I was frustrated blah blah…too much driving blah blah…I need I need blah blah. It doesn’t matter, it’s all bullshit I could have done better.

The whole ordeal had slipped my mind until I went back today to pick up 2 more prescriptions (heaven forbid they could all be filled at one time). As I walked to the counter and toed the line again I saw the same young lady standing before me. If she recognized me she didn’t show it. We smoothly completed the transaction and I was about to leave when a little voice in my head said Superman do the right thing here. I turned back to the counter, apologized gently to the woman approaching the counter.

“Excuse me, but last time I was here I was less than nice to you. I feel bad, I was fighting with the insurance company and I took it out on you” I said.

“Oh, I don’t take that stuff seriously” she replied.

“Well,” I replied, “it doesn’t make it ok. I want to apologize to you.”

Her face visibly brightened, “Thank you so much for that, it really means a lot.”

I smiled at her and excused myself. As I walked to my car it occurred to me that I hadn’t been that rude to her. She had some part in it also. But then along came that little voice again.

It doesn’t matter jackass, It was the right thing to do.

People Watching

Hey there, I see you. Don’t think strangely of me if we make eye contact. Yes, I know it’s Saturday night and I am indeed in a booth alone. I’m not staring at you, I promise. I’m just people watching. It’s what I do. For a brief moment in time, you won’t even notice, I will simply absorb, perhaps steal a tiny portion of this moment from you. If you let me do my thing, I will move on to someone else in their room and I will steal moments from them.

It’s just one dinner, one cocktail or appetizer on one day of your life. It’s just one moment. But to me it’s more, I’m incredibly invested in it. You may not think of it as I do, but once this moment is gone all you will have is a memory. You may underestimate how precious that memory will be. But I don’t. See, I am not old enough to say that I will never be happy again. But I know that I am old enough that certain moments are forever past, others beyond my reach.  Vicariously is the only way I will experience them again.

I see you, sir. The young guy with the pretty wife and 2 young children. You are having dinner. Your daughter is trying to get your attention for approval on the puzzle she just completed on her placemat. I miss moments like that when I was a giant to them and my approval was everything. What you don’t know is a lot of the time I was too wrapped up in what I was doing to pay attention to them. I want them back, all of them. Please, put the phone down. The text can wait. That disappointed look on her face…you can change that. If you don’t appreciate this moment, may I?
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My eye catches a glimpse of the young couple in the corner booth, barely able to keep their hands off of each other. Don’t mind me for staring, I’m not a creep I swear. It’s just that I can’t get over the way you are looking at each other. As if one would simply melt if the other left the table. It must be wonderful to be in love…would you tell me about it? You see, I don’t think that I have ever looked into someone’s eyes as you two are now. I want to but I doubt it now. I think we skipped that part and went right to bitterness and resentment. If it pleases you, could you do better than we did? Regardless, can I just enjoy yours for a while?
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I catch the eye of Mr. Successful businessman at the bar. We nod and we then both look away. I see your $1000.00 suit, your Presidential Rolex and the drink that was poured from the top shelf. You clearly are doing great for yourself. Perhaps you are celebrating a promotion, a big close or merger. To your credit, you look like a guy with it all together. I’m happy for you. I struggled with money and success for my whole career. When I finally got close to wearing a smile like yours, I had to stop working. I hope you have something else in your life that makes you happy besides money. She’s a cruel mistress. But still, cheers. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.
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I take a sip of my drink and I zoom in on the happy couple at the other end of the bar. Older, smiling, looking at each other fondly as they speak. You are a couple that has been together for a long time. Your love has stood the test of time. Maybe you had it easy, but maybe you struggled with the marriage-crushing burdens of children, finances and work. If you did or didn’t you look like you made it through. I always wanted a love like yours. I hoped to someday say, in a crowded banquet hall, the words “I have been married to this beautiful woman, my best friend for 50 years” and soak in the applause.  It just didn’t work out that way. I am about to be, on Monday, the first member of my family ever to get divorced. It’s too late for me, but I’m really happy for you. If you look my way I’m not staring, I’m simply thinking about my three favorite things…

Could’ve
Should’ve
Would’ve

Who am I you ask? What am I doing here? I’m harmless I swear. You see, I am the petty thief of your moments. My satchel is full for now and I must go home.