Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Please Hang Up and Dial 9-1-1"

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

-Annie Dillard

I spend hours and hours each week waiting.

I wait for computers to boot up. I wait for computer screens to load. I wait for programs to ask for and accept my user name and password for the umpteenth time so I can view a CT scan and then re-enter a different user name and password to retrieve the patient's phone number. I stay near phones and wait for people to return pages.

I know, I know...not everything can be instantaneous. There are millions of electronic baby steps that need to be repeated each time I complete typing in my password and hit “Enter.” Maybe someday, my son, the computer engineer, will solve that one.

However, there are things that make me wait that seem completely unnecessary. Consider the phrases below that you each have heard (and waited through) thousands of times:

“Thank you for calling Dr. Bob’s office.”

(I suppose that phrase is okay. It’s nice to know that I reached the correct number. And that they are polite.)

"Our regular business hours are 8:00 to 4:30 Monday through Friday."

(I check my watch, knowing full well it is 10:00 a.m. on Thursday.)

"If you are hearing this message during business hours, it means we can’t get to the phone right now."


“If this is a medical emergency, please hang up and dial 9-1-1."

(How stupid do they think I am? “I’m bleeding to death here!!! Any quick advice??? Can you squeeze me in today and sew my arm back on??? Gawd, I hope you are taking these calls in the order they were received!!!”)

“If you know your party’s extension, you can enter it at any time.”

(If I knew their extension, whether they are at a party or in their office, I wouldn’t still be listening to the recording.)

“If you don't know your party's extension or if you have a rotary phone, please stay on the line. We will be with you shortly.”

(Rotary phone??? Are they kidding? Who has a rotary phone? And what if it’s an emergency? Am I supposed to both hang up AND dial 9-1-1 on my rotary phone? While I'm bleeding to death??? I’m so confused…)

“Otherwise leave a message after the tone...”

I once had an administrative assistant who finished her message with, “... and I’ll get back to you at my earliest convenience.” At HER earliest convenience? I asked her to change that.

I wish I could live a whole week where I never had to wait for a computer to boot up, for a password to clear, for a page to load, for an operating room to turn over, for a person to answer a page, or for a recorded message to get to the beep.

Or else I wish I could learn to discover some form of regenerative and meditative peace in those endless delays where my life seems to slip away from me one wasted moment at a time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, Dr. Campbell! Unless you have lived in a third world country, you have no idea what the word "wait" really means! smile

But yes, I recognize the subtle annoyance of technology. smile