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?


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!


  1. My elementary school music teacher called me Margie for a solid 7 years. I just went with it because I always knew who she was talking to and frankly I’ve never been good at remembering people’s names either so people in glass houses etc…

  2. Beth had an acquaintance who thought our kids’ names were Will and Rosie for years. The funny thing was I could kind of imagine using those names. William was actually on our boy list when I was pregnant with North, and we would have used the nickname Will. It was like glimpsing a parallel world version of our family. In that world, would Rosie have changed her name to South?

  3. I have MANY THOUGHTS about the doctor thing, because I see it from the other side. But I would like to say that it is NOT OKAY that you got scolded! You are a grown up! The person calling should not treat you that way! Even if you were the tenth patient who was late that day, even EVEN if you were late for your appointment for the tenth time in a row, they should not treat you the way they did! ARGH. Rudeness is not acceptable, in my opinion. You have such a great attitude about it, and I really want to bottle up that graceful flexibility for my own use.

    The “we’ve never met” thing is so weird. There is another mom at my daughter’s school who is like this. We have met MANY times and she always acts like she’s never even spotted me across the preschool lobby. What is the deal? It does, however, make me worry that there are people in my life who don’t register for whatever reason. It’s one of the reasons I always say “nice to see you!” when I’m introduced to people (rather than “nice to meet you!”), just in case this is the tenth time I’ve encountered them.

    • I can totally understand her irritation – since she thought we didn’t show up. BUT WE WERE ON OUR WAY FOR 2:00. Rude! Also rude is the “we’ve never met” – it feels like it’s on purpose, but WHY.


  5. Whoa, the neighbour name thing is weird, I regularly get mis-named by random people and the name is ALWAYS Michelle

  6. My oldest goes to school in New York, and I cannot call his doctor’s office. The receptionist has a thick New York accent. She is always annoyed and always acts like I am stupid. ‘No, you NEVER gave us his insurance info.’ That kind of thing. How does she have such great job security?

    And I totally have people in my neck of the woods who KNOW me, but act like we’ve never met. So annoying!

  7. I’m not saying I’ve never mixed up an appointment time BUT. One time the salon called while I was running errands because I was “late” for a 3 pm appointment for a haircut. I had the appointment on my calendar for 3:30. The stylist (who is a HS friend of mine) teased me the whole time about getting the time wrong. So I went home, found and photographed the appointment card that had 3:30 written in *her* handwriting, and texted it to her.

    She apologized.

  8. I have a scarring experience with the off-the-charts bitchy receptionist at our old eye doctor. I made an appointment, wrote it on the calendar, the receptionist called to confirm and said it was the day after. When I went in she was a total beeyotch about it and the kids were small and I was livid and it was horrible. On the way home I realized we didn’t have to put up with this shit and changed eye doctors and we’ve been much happier at the new place, so really, she did me a favour NO SHE DID NOT SHE IS A TERRIBLE HUMAN BEING. Ahem. Also, a lady I work with every year at the book fair really really wants my name to be Wendy. And I’m fine with that, except she always eventually realizes her mistake and is mortified.


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