Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The sling on my arm is navy blue and I worry briefly about the fact that my dress is black because, you know, you never wear navy and black together. I get up at six to make it to my appointment with Dr. Cooper at 9:45, knowing it will take me an hour to get that dress past my arm and the sling back on. I leave on my sixty-mile drive at 8:00.
I cannot take anything for the blinding pain because I must drive. I draw from a stable of mostly useless techniques learned over three years of therapy in pain control and hope I can maintain the level of concentration needed for them.
I arrive 45 minutes late for my appointment because they have shut down I-40 through Knoxville. I know this but am not worried because they supposedly put signs up. I couldn't find any signs. I get terribly lost.
The office staff at Dr. Cooper's office decides a punitive approach is called for to deal with this overweight woman who had the temerity to show up late in her badly clashing dress and arm sling.
Mind you, by this point, because of being lost my ability to ignore the pain in my arm is greatly diminished.
I apologize and explain that the signs and billboards were not there at Strawberry Plains.
"Yes, they were."
"No they weren't--or at least they weren't where I could see them."
I know this because I slowed down there to scan the billboards looking for the directions.
"Well, you just didn't see them. They were there," she snips nastily at me.
They talk among themselves behind the glass before threatening me with rescheduling. I can tell that they are indignant in the way office workers can be with the stupid people they have to deal with every day. I am that stupid person. Their stupid person of the day.
They tell me to sit down.
At this point my composure breaks as the last shred of control over my pain evaporates. I am too fragile and hurt to deal with their punishment. I grab a box of tissue and begin to do the thing I fear most. Weeping in public. I'm terribly embarrassed by it but I can't help it and I can't stop it. The pain in the arm is now completely out of control.
But they have not had their fill of punishing me yet. They call me over and tell me the doctor will see me but it will be the last appointment of the morning. I am fine with this. They refuse to give me any sort of time frame--at this point I'm wondering about how much worse the arm will get.
I go back to my chair and my crying. I still can't stop it even though I try pressing my thumb and forefinger hard into my forehead--so hard it leaves marks. I am unable to cause a pain equal to or greater to the pain in my arm. I would need a knife to do that.
An elderly woman comes up to me with a box of tissue. The waiting room is full of elderly people because Dr. Cooper is an internist.
"I know you already have some tissue..." she starts, having exhausted all other excuses to approach me, "but you seem to be having a hard time."
She is sweet and generous and lovely and I cannot possibly regain my composure when someone is reaching out to me. You see, all I really want to do is stop hurting and crying.
But now I feel I must console this lady because she is upset for me.
She's done something quite brave since, for all she knows, I may not be an overweight woman in a black dress and mismatched arm sling having a bad day--I could be a dangerously unbalanced overweight woman in a black dress and mismatched arm sling about to have a psychotic break.
I try to explain that I'm late and my arm is so painful I can't concentrate--it makes no sense at all what I blurt out to her. So I thank her for her concern and there we are--me, sitting and crying and her standing there looking concerned but not knowing what to do. We are at an impasse.
At this point the office staff becomes concerned that I'm upsetting the old people. They hurriedly hand me a piece of paper and send me back. I tell them it's okay and I'm sorry for crying. I don't want to take anyone's place. I get it. Really I do. I was 45 minutes late and I deserve to be punished.
It was a short visit. They didn't want to see me again. I'm sure it's going to be a dreadful black mark on my record. They write up these things called patient encounter forms. I'm sure this one will be entertaining reading.
And it's all my fault for being late, lost, in pain, unable to stop crying and wearing a black dress with a navy blue arm sling.