allergic to conflict

Yesterday my son (B) – who’s eight – and I waited for an hour and twenty minutes to see a doctor. We weren’t in the emergency room or anything, we hadn’t been triaged to the end of the list. We had an appointment, and the doctor was an allergist.

While we spent some time working on his homework and some taking turns with riddles, we didn’t have nearly enough to entertain us as we waited in the exam room. I lent my son the article I was reviewing and he drew all over the blank sides while I caught up on reading. Soon all the reading was done, there were no clean pages left to draw on, and we were still waiting.

I was annoyed. My son was irate.

B: Who does he think he is?

me: He’s a doctor, and clearly a busy one.

B: You’re a busy doctor. Do you leave people waiting for over an hour?

[a thump as we hear the chart come out of the box, the sound of rustling papers outside as the doctor flips through it]

B (louder now, realizing the doctor is in earshot): He’s a jerk. Doesn’t he know we have other things to do? I want to go home. It’s not right to keep people waiting like this.

me: Shhhh! Take it easy. Be nice. Patience is a virtue. Come on now, it’s almost over.

[doctor enters… I smile, my kid frowns]

Here’s the thing: I wanted to be more like B. I wanted to have the courage to tell someone how unhappy I was. I was pissed that the doctor kept calling me “Jess” like we were friends or something. I wanted to drop the social graces and frown like my son. Alas, I didn’t.

What I want to know is if I didn’t because I’m the “mom” and know more or because I’m a woman and think I deserve less.

8 thoughts on “allergic to conflict”

  1. There’s a New Yorker cartoon where a receptionist says “Your appointment with the Doctor is at 2:00, but the Doctor’s appointment with you isn’t until 3:30.”


  2. I tend to react like your son but, as a 40 year old woman, I feel that I get sanctioned for it. It’s as if folks just don’t think it is okay for woman to get so upset, as if we are not entitled. Hasn’t stopped me, but I am sure walking out of many a doctor’s office has not been good for my health! Bravo to your son, though!


  3. So true, Kieran. This doctor is the only one we’ve encountered here, though, that’s so slow to get to his patients (and then, of course, only spends a couple minutes with them).

    Jeremy – I wish that my meekness was confined to interactions with those in modern medicine. :)

    I’m sure that you’ve heard about this, Shelley, but your comment reminds me of the research by Tori Brescoll. I wish I could be a bit more like B. I’m sure most penalties would somehow be made up for in the long run!


  4. The part I hate the most in all this is that we’re called by our first names while we aren’t even given the doctor’s first name. It’s always Doctor X and we’re just Firstname. I wish I had the courage one of these days to just respond with “Hi, I’m Dr. Hargittai”. But of course in this kind of a situation where you’re about to have your health examined by someone, it doesn’t seem like the right time to be perceived as hostile (even if the response wasn’t even meant in a hostile way).


  5. Everyone I’ve met here asks me why I moved to South Bend from Arizona, so all the professionals we deal with know what I do. Only one of them has called me doctor (not that I expect it, at all – in fact it makes me pretty uncomfortable, especially when it’s in front of the nurse). Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s a female physician who does it.


  6. And they never apologize for the delay.
    The trouble is that most of the time, you go to the doctor because you really need to see a doctor. You can’t pick up and leave saying that you have to be somewhere else at 3:00. But maybe if more people did . . . .


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