Copyright 2004 - Revised March 2011
Copyright 2004 - Revised March 2011
I sat in front of the phone for several minutes tapping my fingers on the desk. It wasn't a question of whether I needed to make the call; I definitely did. It was more a realization that things had come so far that I now needed professional help.
After several balks, I finally picked up the phone and dialed the number.
As I listened to the pre-recorded message, I wondered if there was any business left in the world that had a real person answer the phone. "Thank you for calling Clinician Services. Please listen to the following instructions: Press ‘1’ to enter your account information, Press ‘2’ to listen to your benefits, Press ‘3’ to ...” and after what seemed like an eternity, I heard, "Press ‘9’ to speak with the next available customer service representative."
I pressed ‘9’ and another set of menu options became available. "Press ‘1’ if this is an emergency, Press ‘2’ if you are a returning patient, Press ‘3’ if you need an authorization number, Press ‘4’ if you would like to speak with the next available representative."
I pressed ‘4’ and heard the famous lines, "We’re sorry, but all of our representatives are currently helping other clients. If you would like to continue to hold, press '1', press ‘2’ if you would like to leave a message, otherwise please call back later. Thank you."
My ‘death-grip’ on the receiver caused my hand to cramp. I switched to the other hand, flicked my wrist a couple of times and wiped the sweat off on my pants. I pressed ‘1’ and heard muzak playing in the background with interruptions every two minutes apologizing for the delay and asking me to press ‘1’ if I wanted to continue to hold.
Twelve minutes and five interruptions; a real person finally came on the line. "Good Morning," the cheery voice greeted me, "this is Angela on a recorded line. How can I help you?"
After being on hold all this time I still stumbled not really knowing what to say. "Um, I suppose you could say I’m having anger management problems.” When I didn’t hear a response, I spat out, “And, do you know, or even care that I was on hold over twelve minutes waiting to talk to you?”
"Oh, I am so sorry to hear that," was her canned response. "Please know that we are here to help. Before we proceed, however, I need to ask you a few questions to qualify your level of need. First, have you ever considered or are you considering harming yourself?"
"Well, good. Have you ever considered or are you considering harming someone else?"
"No,” I replied through gritted teeth. I might want to hurt someone if I was put on hold again.
"Very good. Now, are you currently taking, or have you taken within the last seven days, any legal or illegal drugs?"
"NO!" But if I have to answer any more of these damn questions I might need some.
"Excellent! Now I need to ask where you live so I can locate the nearest doctor."
After what seemed like an hour of waiting; "Oh, I'm sorry; we don't have any doctors in your area. However, I am certain we can find someone not too far away. What is the nearest major city to Columbus?"
“Is Jackson also located in Mississippi?"
“Yessssss!” Doesn’t anyone take geography in school these days?
After another couple of minutes, "Wonderful, we have two doctors in Jackson. If you have a pen and paper ready, I can give you their contact information as well as an authorization number."
After taking down the information, I hung up and considered my next step. I asked myself several times whether it was worth driving four hours round-trip to see a doctor for one hour. Meanwhile, my fingers tapped out the song I had listened to while on hold.
Knowing good and well that I had better make the call before I talked myself out of it, I picked up the phone. The first call I made went to an answering service. "I’m sorry; Doctor Clemonts is currently out of the office. I can refer you to another doctor if this is an emergency."
Without saying a word, I slammed the receiver down causing the entire phone to become airborne. I had better take it easy; I’ve already replaced the phone twice this month. I picked up the phone, took a few deep breaths and dialed the second number.
"Dr. White’s office."
In my most positive voice, I said, “Good Morning. The Employee Assistance Program for my company referred me to Dr. White. Could I speak to her please?"
"I'm sorry; Dr. White is not available. Can I help you?"
Doesn’t anyone work anymore? Breathe ... good, again … okay. "Yes, well… maybe you can. I need to make an appointment with Dr. White as soon as possible."
"Before I can make an appointment, you need to first talk with the doctor. She wants to pre-screen all potential patients. If you would leave your name and telephone number, I'll have her call you as soon as possible."
This was not what I wanted to hear. I almost hung up, but instead I left my number and then slammed the receiver down. There is something satisfying about the sound of the phone crashing down on the cradle.
Fortunately, ninety-three minutes later Dr. White called. I was relieved to hear her voice. Perhaps I am finally making some headway.
The first words out of her mouth after the introduction, however, were, "I need to let you know that I am no longer taking any long-term patients. Do you believe your issue is something that needs long-term care? If so, I need to refer you to another doctor."
My God, what have I got myself into? Breathe … relax … you’ve come this far. Give her a chance. "I am not sure, but I hope not."
"Well, if this is short-term care, I would be able to see you. What is the nature of your concern?"
"Anger management issues ... I – I’m very impatient these days. I become frustrated easily. I’ll tell you, Doctor White, this anger is destroying my marriage and my life."
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
Didn’t I hear the same response earlier today? “Do all of you people have the same cheat-sheet to read from?”
“Pardon me? I’m not certain what you are referring to,” was the doctor’s response.
“NO, pardon me for bothering to call in the first place! It appears you are too busy to take on anyone needing real help. How the hell do I know if this is a short-term or long-term situation? You’re the doctor! Besides, do you know how long I was hold today before I could speak to a real person? Well, do you?”
I gulped air trying to catch my breath. There was silence on the line and I wondered if the doctor had hung up on me.
“Uh huh, okay, I believe I now understand the nature of the problem. Would this coming Wednesday at 11:00 work for you?”