Typical Reception

Read First Leg of My Hand Odyssey

Years after the warehouse administration admitted me, I decided I needed surgery on my right hand. A hand surgeon practiced in a labyrinth of offices and lab facilities that sprawled throughout a cavernous brick building, located on a college campus in downtown Chicago.

I allowed for chronically unpunctual cripplevans when I scheduled a ride¹ to my 2:30 appointment with the digit butcher. In my experience doctors always show up late—like the pusher in “I’m Waiting For My Man”—and imagine they’re doing a tremendous favor for you by making an appearance. Patient’s are at their mercy and they know it.

When the cripplevan dropped me off in front of the medical building, I had just enough time to check in at the reception counter. I parked my chair in the chasmal waiting room and opened a copy of Harper’s magazine. Some youthful Bro-magnon wearing a lab coat, with a stethoscope slung around his neck strutted uninvited up to my chair and collapsed on one knee. He began prattling that it’s important for “people like [me] to exercise [my] mind” though he presumed I didn’t “understand what [I was] reading.” I suggested that he kiss my ass and advised him not to fret, he’d be ready to shave in a few years. His smile deflated and he whizzed away.

After reading a couple of crappy short stories written by pompous dickweeds and the chronicle of some whining nancy artfuck reaching out to his feminine side, I checked the digital readout on my cell phone. It was 3:45. If you live in a warehouse, nobody respects your time because everybody assumes you lead a useless life. Many doctors—that is, their lickspittle secretaries—schedule a ridiculous number of needless appointments and unnecessary tests, clearly because the government is footing the bill, and they think warehouse residents have nothing better with which to occupy themselves anyway. Unscrupulous MD’s adopt the excuse used by countless run-of-the-mill shoplifters who swipe merchandise from national chain stores: They won’t miss anything; they handle zillions of dollars every day.

A fat broad wearing a civilian dress scuttled back and forth behind the counter like a cast iron duck in a shooting gallery. She advertised her supervisor status by loudly issuing commands to the white-clad receptionists/secretaries. I later learned her name was Celia. Drunk with awe-inspiring power, Celia’s tone was hyper-businesslike, if not at times a bit surly. She reminded me of the senior dishwasher at the strip mall Chinese restaurant where I worked when I was fifteen.

Several patients approached the counter and complained that they’d been warming their chairs in the waiting room for upwards of an hour. They each griped to a different worker, but Celia strong-armed her way into every conversation, forced a smile and explained: “Sorry. We’re running a bit late today.” I’d made three trips in as many months to this office, and Celia had recited the same excuse verbatim each time an inquisitive patient had approached the counter. Some actually apologized for daring to question a medical professional.

Liars and pussies irritate me. I wheeled over to the counter and flagged Celia down:

“Excuse me but I have a 2:30 appointment and I’ve been waiting for over an hour. Is there a problem?”

She smiled her wooden smile: “Sorry. We’re running a bit late today.”

“Yeah, that’s what you always say.”

She scowled and asked my name. I told her and she found it in the appointment book: “Did anyone from the home come with you?”

I snorted: “Do you see anybody with me? This is ridiculous, I’m leaving.”

Celia tried to take control of the conversation, a valuable administrative skill she’d probably learned as a telemarketer employed by a local aluminum siding contractor. She briefly examined me: “Well, I’m not going to argue with you.”

She led me into an unused office and deadpanned: “Doctor will be with you in a moment.”² I guess she expected this arrangement to appease me. She returned twenty minutes later, sat down behind a desk, interrogated me and scribbled my answers onto a form.

She asked stock questions I’d already answered on my first visit. I opened my mouth to protest, but she suddenly looked up and for no apparent reason, with the zeal of a Tupperware party hostess striving to earn free products asked, “Did you ever think about going back to school? Y’know, just ‘cause you live in a nursing home doesn’t mean you can’t go out and do things and join the community.” I marveled at her keen insight.

When some do-gooder uses the word “community” e.g. “give back to the community” or “the (minority of the moment) community,” it’s almost always a tip-off that they’re teeming with pigshit. To suggest joining an outside “community” is a veiled attempt to herd warehouse residents into some manner of controlled environment under the guise of encouraging independence. Then again, maybe I would’ve benefited from taking Clothes Hanger Repair 101 at a community college.

¹ I alone decided I needed surgery on my right hand. The doctors that breezed through the warehouse and half-assedly examined residents didn’t suggest anything that might nurture my independence. If residents developed autonomy, the administration would become hard-pressed to manipulate them. And then residents might start leaving, which meant an end to allotted government funds. In private, Mr. Gold often blustered that warehouses are first and foremost businesses.

² A doctor’s flunkies never use the article “the” when referring to their master.

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