A Philosopher's Blog


Posted in Miscellaneous by Michael LaBossiere on January 23, 2011
Wait and see.
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Like most folks, I make appointments to my dentist, doctor, mechanic or whatever and show up on time. Then I wait. Then wait some more. In some cases, I understand why I have to wait. For example, if someone comes into the doctor’s office with a screwdriver stuck in his chest, then I don’t mind waiting a while for my yearly checkup. As another example, I understand that appointments later in the day might not be quite on time because of some appointments going a bit over. However, having to wait 30 or more minutes past my early morning appointment time really summons up my inner grumpy old man. I’m especially annoyed when I get up at 5:00 am so I can work out before a 9:30 appointment and then not get called in until after 10:00. Hell, I could have slept another 30 minutes or gotten in four more miles.

I am not quite sure why it is so difficult for an appointment to start on time, or at least close to the time. After all, these things are scheduled way in advance and it is not like people have no idea how long some normal procedure (like a dental checkup) is likely to take. Sure, emergencies might result in some schedule problems, but I have never actually seen one of those going down while I have been waiting. Maybe they just think we should wait because we are called “patients.” Or maybe the people who schedule appointments have eternal amnesia and can never remember how long things take or what is scheduled when.

I have, of course, been tempted to just show up 20 minutes “late” for an appointment. However, I am sure they are wise to this ploy-after all, they always have a sign in sheet and no doubt would make a point of calling out the name of anyone who had an appointment but had failed to show on time. Some places even have a penalty charge for missing an appointment or being late. Of course, I have yet to hear of a place that gives the patient a discount or even some candy when they are forced to wait and wait.

In the past, I have tried switching in the hopes of not having to wait. However, either my luck is bad or this is standard practice. So, I’ve gotten to be good at waiting. I learned long ago to always bring something to do and the advent of the Game Boy and then the iPod Touch made waiting less of an ordeal.

I suspect I really need to get really rich-that way I can make them wait for me.

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11 Responses

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  1. WTP said, on January 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Whenever possible, I take the earliest appointment they have. My dentist opens at 7:30 AM. My doctor, I believe at 8:00 or 8:30. Like you I get my workouts in in the morning before work, but on days I have an appointment, I just skip it. If you’re as religious about your workouts as I am, and judging from what you’ve written you are probably even more so, skipping one day isn’t going to hurt you that much. Especially if you’re not a professional or young Olympic level athlete. In fact, I think it’s important for someone who has a life outside of athletics to skip a workout once a month or two just to keep things in perspective.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 24, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      I do take Fridays off from working out. Took me over 20 years to be willing to do that. 🙂

  2. erik said, on January 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    From the point of view of one who has more than a few medical issues , I appreciate that my GP takes the time to answer my questions and gather necessary information to deal with immediate problems . I’m certain he has numerous patients who require additional time even during yearly check-ups.That being said, my circumstances are not unknown to my GP. He’s likely intimately aware of the conditions of those other patients, too.

    In an age of computers, we “special” patients could be scheduled for routine exams on specific days, where our time wouldn’t cut into the schedule time of those who, at least fat this point in their lives, take yearly exams as a formality–a quick “I’m fine, doc. Put me up on the rack and check’er out”. Any gaps on the “special” days could be filled with walk-ins, call-in requests, hospital emergencies, etc.

    What goes unsaid in your article is that (I believe) some physicians, for all too obvious reasons) go out of their way to cram in as many appointments as possible. Other physicians, like mine, are in high demand specifically because they treat their patients as humans– and not as products. They must actively restrict their patient lists to maintain the quality of care that attracted their original patient base.

  3. FRE said, on January 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Waiting in a doctor’s office is annoying. However, that occurs infrequently compared to having to waste time on the telephone which, overall, may be a bigger problem.

    I absolutely hate having to telephone a business. Usually there is a recorded message telling me to listen carefully because menu options have changed. Then, one has to listen, sometimes for an inordinately long time, to an advertising spiel before the menu options are recited. Often no menu option seems to fit the situation, so one has to guess at the best choice. After one makes the choice, one is put on hold, often for a few minutes. If it turns out that the wrong menu choice has been made, sometimes a transfer is impossible and one has to call back and repeat the entire frustrating process, including the message that options have changed (even though they haven’t changed in the last five minutes) and the advertising spies. Or, if a transfer is made, sometimes the call is dropped. Some menu systems are multi-layered rendering it necessary to make several choices.

    With voice response systems, it is sometimes possible to get connected more quickly to a real person by saying something that the computer doesn’t understand, such as “shut up” or “abracadabra” or perhaps something less genteel. However, some systems will simply disconnect if you do that.

    These systems are designed to save time for the companies which have them. However, probably they do not save time on a national basis since we all end up wasting time dealing with them.

    So, although waiting for a doctor can be annoying (if one can even get an appointment), for many of us that occurs less frequently than having to waste time on the telephone because of automated menu systems.

  4. magus71 said, on January 23, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    In general, I hate any situation where my time is not treated as something valuable. That goes for individuals who are chronically late for everything, too. I regard it as a form of selfishness akin to that of people who play their music too loud or are bad, partying neighbors.

  5. T. J. Babson said, on January 24, 2011 at 8:48 am

    I always figured it was a very clear reminder that the doc thinks his time is more valuable than yours.

    • WTP said, on January 24, 2011 at 9:55 am

      Well it is, isn’t it? Odds are he makes more money than you do, thus his time is more valuable. I’m sure most people on the other side of the economic situation make doctors wait for them. Of course they pay more for the privilege.

      • FRE said, on January 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm

        Some patients may be paid by the hour and also be on a tight budget. It can really hurt them when they have to wait.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 24, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      Quite so. Because of my own experiences with waiting, I try to provide my students with quick “customer service” such as fast turnaround on papers & tests, rapid responses to emails and fast resolution to problems (such as writing a recommendation letter and mailing it the day it is requested).

      • WTP said, on January 24, 2011 at 2:59 pm

        There’s a greater supply of philosophers relative to the demand for them. For doctors, it’s the inverse.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm

          True. While everyone thinks they’re a philosophy, most people just want to play doctor.

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