When to keep one’s mouth shut


By Betty Slade

I have come to understand that older people aren’t more difficult, but they become less interested in maintaining their masks. They no longer pretend. They feel they have a right to say whatever is on their mind.

Maybe that’s what happened to me. I was on a tangent. I’m not sure what got into me, maybe four months of keeping my mouth shut, and I had had enough.

My daughter waited in the car during my last doctor’s appointment. When I arrived back at the car, I said to her, “I did it.”

“Noooo. What did you do?”

“I told the receptionist I had a problem with her.”

“You didn’t.”

“Yes, I did. She pushed me to my limit.”

My daughter and I have been driving back and forth to Denver since February. It was our 10th trip and the last one to take care of the vein problems in my legs. For four months, we have dealt with a young 20-year-old receptionist.

She was not workable, flexible or interactive. If you asked me, I’d tell you I acted very pleasant toward her. But she didn’t return the same courteous social skills, which I thought she was hired to do.

Throned, stationed at the front desk, the queen with the tightly woven blonde ponytail guarded the castle. There was no exchange of welcoming words. I told her I was there for my appointment and I took a seat. She looked as if I had ruined her day.

The nurse called my name and I stepped into the examination room. Once I passed the guard at the front desk, the visits became pleasant, professional and we even joked as old friends.

Making appointments to coincide with our arrival time, back-to-back office visits and hotel reservations became difficult. My procedures were finished except for one more follow-up visit. My daughter’s procedures were beginning and would overlap with my last visit.

I left the examination room and told the queen, “I need to make a follow-up appointment in August to fit the time with my daughter’s appointment.”

She didn’t say anything.

I said again. “We need to come in on the same day. We drive six hours each way to get here.”

No response. Apparently, she had no sympathy as to how many hours we drove.

“What time can I see the doctor?” I demanded.

She looked at me with no expression. She wouldn’t tell me. I asked her again.

She finally said 10.

I asked what time my daughter’s appointment was scheduled. I guess she thought it was privileged information and I didn’t need to know.

“Do I need to go get my daughter from the car?” I asked.

Reluctantly, she said “10:30.”

So, I said, “You’re the face of this doctor’s office. Are you happy? You don’t act like it.”

She stretched her arms, yawned and said she didn’t sleep well last night.

She looked pregnant, so I said, “I see you are pregnant.”

She said, “My sister is.”

I said, “That’s nice, have a good day,” and I walked out. I had a lot more to say to her, but the sister thing threw me.

When I came back to the car and told my daughter what I said to the receptionist, she asked, “What did she say when you told her you had a problem with her?”

She was appalled, surprised and taken aback. “Me? Why?” She couldn’t believe I would ever have a problem with her. After all, her office clerical duties were perfect, impeccable and probably never had an overbooking or made a mistake. Maybe she wasn’t hired to communicate with the clients.

Still on a tirade and wound up when we entered an upscale restaurant, I said to my daughter, “Look at all these fingerprints on the glass. You can tell how clean their kitchen is by the glass on the front door and the restroom.”

At the restaurant, the young teenager sat with menus. I’m sure he heard my snide remark. He directed us to our seats without a word. On the way out, I looked to see if the fingerprints were still on the glass. They were.

My daughter said, “I don’t think the young man knew it was his job to clean the glass. And, probably, the queen thought she was doing her job perfectly, guarding the treasure of her domain. She’s not there to make friends.”

“Wow! What is their problem then?”

She looked at me, “Mother, I think you might have the problem.”

Final brushstroke: Is the burden of this age about accepting a younger generation in charge? Maybe it’s not my job to tell them how to do their job, and maybe I need to learn how to guard my mouth. I guess we all have a lot to learn.

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