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Sloppy reception

Appointments. Especially medical checkups. I hate ’em. What’s the point? We all know how doctors notoriously stray many minutes past the scheduled time. Probably on purpose just to bug us.

Steven EskewMost of the time, the hapless patient sits among a modern contagious coterie. Between coughs and sneezes, they chatter on their phones or chortle to themselves maniacally as they read their text messages.

But even the vexatious patients pale by comparison to some irksome receptionists. Busy? Oh, come now. As a former receptionist myself way back when, I can assure you that it’s a dream job.

So, it’s understandable why it bewildered me beyond all measure when my supervisor fired me after only two hours on the job, informing me that I didn’t have the right “public temperament.”

Temperament! I totally reeked mojo. She should see some of today’s receptionists. Mostly pushy power-trippers sporting tattoos. Sometimes even nose and tongue rings.

And good luck booking an appointment for a specific time. When requesting a particular time, I’ll say sweetly to the modern hobgoblin with attitude: “The doc wants me to do a followup in about six months. I’m not picky about which day or which week. But I DO need it to be at 4 p.m.”

The worst receptionists are the males who cop the tone of a snooty waiter: ”The closest time I can allow would be a 3:30 or a 4:30.”

“Hmmmm,” I’ll sigh. “Oh, 3:30 is fine.”

Being a rascal at heart, I like to boggle their minds. Six months later I’ll show up promptly at 4 p.m. in a deliriously charming mood, feigning a sadistic smile.

No one ever chastises my notorious tardiness. Not anymore. I choose to believe it’s not because they suspect that I’m psychotic.

I recite my standard line: “Three-thirty? Oh, no, honey. It was for 4 p.m. Honest. Remember? I SAID 4 P.M. ANY DAY, ANY WEEK. Remember?”

(Strangely, the women receptionists seem to resent my using the word “honey,” but the men seem to like it. Go figure).

My funnest moment ever with a receptionist happened recently at a dermatologist’s office. It was my third visit. This narcissistic physician had never spent more than a couple of minutes with me. No wonder this dimpled dunce couldn’t clear up my rash. After he had whizzed into the examination room, smirking at something on his smart phone, Dr. Dimples glanced at my rash, then quickly shot off a prescription to my pharmacy, without so much as an hello.

Though I had already decided that I would try uglier, smarter dermatologists henceforth, I stopped by for some fun with the receptionist to pretend I had a followup. (Oh, Stevie Boy. Never grow up).

He was talking on the office phone. The man also managed to text on his own phone while reading the office computer screen. In addition, Wonderboy balanced his ever-present beverage on his lap as he texted, read and talked. Such talent!

Finally our eyes met and he raised his eyebrows. ”Doc wants to see me in three weeks,” I lied. “I need an appointment around 4 p.m.”

What happened next shocked me. He not only had my desired time available. He provided many options.

“Well,” he said, slurping at his beverage, “I have 4, 4:05, 4:10, 4:15 4:20, 4:25 or 4:30.”

“Well, let’s see,” I said. “The doc spends only about 45 seconds with me, so let’s make it 4:03 and 15 seconds. That’ll give him a breather both before and after he checks me out.”

A guy waiting gave a belly laugh.

That caught Wonderboy off guard. He started to speak but instead gasped, forgetting the beverage on his lap, managing a spectacular spill. The sticky liquid soaked both his laptop and the office keyboard. But his biggest tragedy transpired when he dreaded that his hypnotic but not-so-smart phone had drowned.

Ah, my very own perfect storm. A great sense of happiness overwhelmed my wicked soul and Eskew quickly left the building.

Phooey on becoming mature. In my wild fantasies, men in white coats carried Wonderboy out on a stretcher to a sanitarium, kicking and screaming. Eventually, they treated and released him into the wild. The smart phone arrived DOA.

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website

Reflections of Erma