A few days ago I was making a new acquaintance, a lovely woman who turned to introduce me to her friend. “Have you met?” she asked, and I opened my mouth to answer, but before the words could come out, her friend indicated that we had never before met and it was a pleasure to make my acquaintance. I closed my mouth, smiled, and echoed the nice to meet you too sentiments.
The thing is, over the past decade, I have met that same woman at least a dozen times, and every single time we have had a similar encounter. In the past, I would have mentioned that we met before, detailing the whereabouts and mutual friends, but each time this woman indicated that the meetings left no impression whatsoever and I was a complete stranger to her. This week, though, I mentally shrugged and went along with it.
Who knew I was so unmemorable?
It reminded me of how my next-door neighbour called me Michelle for the first twelve or thirteen years that we lived side-by-side. I was recounting this to a friend who asked why on earth I wouldn’t have corrected him. I did. I did correct him, but after the first several years I just gave up. I am Michelle now. Oddly enough, he now calls me by my actual name, which is nice, but a little unsettling after all these years of responding to Michelle.
Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to correct people.
When I make appointments, be it for doctor, dentist, hair salon, or bikini wax, I always have a very specific date and time in mind. I do not call to make an appointment until I check my calendar carefully and decide which of those specific dates and times would work. I don’t have the kind of job where I can easily switch things around; I have classes at certain times, and I work around that. Back in the summer I called to make appointments for the boys and myself for the doctor. I booked Friday – two weeks ago – at 2:00.
As I was driving to the appointment, my phone rang. (Please spare me your concern, I have Bluetooth.) It was the doctor’s office.
Me: Hi! We are on our way to you right now!
Doctor’s Office: Well, your appointments started at 1:00 and you missed them completely.
Me: What? Oh. I…had written them down as starting at 2:00?
DO: ONE O’CLOCK.
Me: Okay…will the doctor still see us today?
DO: No! He has a VERY full clinic this afternoon and cannot possibly accommodate you when you are THIS LATE! *insert deep and irritated sigh*
Now, when I speak to my children utilizing the tone of voice that the doctor’s office was using on me, it means that my children are In Need Of Correction, and They Are Not Only Very Wrong, But Also Kind Of Stupid. I save this Very Sharp Voice for Problems And Idiocy, and I don’t use it lightly. Therefore, I can tell you that I felt Very Small and also Very Stupid, in addition to feeling Kind Of Defensive, because I knew I wasn’t in the wrong. I teach on Fridays until 1:00 and I would have never made an appointment at that time, since I do not have a magic teleporter. But I also knew that really, there was absolutely nothing to be done. It didn’t really matter who was in the wrong (NOT ME) because the result was the same: we wouldn’t be seeing the doctor that day.
I took a breath, thinking this was a good time to Model Good Behaviour to the kids who were in the backseat listening to this exchange. I apologized for the mistake, and asked what could be done. Could I reschedule? I could and I did, not without some consternation in my mind.
I spent some time, as I made a few turns to go back home, being annoyed not only at not getting the appointments, but also for being Spoken To Sharply. No one likes to be made to feel like they screwed something up, especially when they didn’t. But then I started to think of it a different way: it was a gift. After a very hectic few weeks where I barely had time to sit down, I was given a free afternoon. I could go home and read a book! Have a glass of wine! Do nothing! I had been given the gift of time and after all, what did a few weeks’ difference make when I had made appointments in the summer?
Yesterday I had a call and a voice mail on my cell, which rarely happens – who calls anyone these days? But there it was, for the first time ever since becoming a patient in 2011, a reminder call from the doctor’s office. I have never had a reminder call before but I probably have “FLAKE” written on my file now. Well, it’s probably for the best. That way, if such a silly thing ever happens again, I can reschedule the appointment without being made to feel like I wrecked the doctor’s entire afternoon and everyone has been Highly Inconvenienced by me and my flaky ways.
As I said, it often doesn’t pay to correct people. In fact, I might go out on a limb and say it rarely pays to correct people. In this case there was absolutely nothing to be gained by it, I got a free afternoon out of it, and we still have appointments, albeit a few weeks later than planned. Now, here’s the true test: what time will I see the doctor this afternoon? Will it be 2:00? Or will he be, as he usually is when I go to see him, running significantly behind schedule? Stay tuned!