Friday, October 20, 2006


The end of the week is always an extremely hectic time in the office because patients seem to wait until Fridays before it occurs to them to get prescription refills. They also try to lure the doctors to the phone to make allowances for them after they are informed that an appointment won't be available for a month or so. When they can't get the doctor to take the call, they want to shoot the breeze with us and ask questions that only a doctor could--and should--answer.

PATIENT: Listen, sweetheart, I know the doctor can't come to the phone but have you ever heard of this procedure: a needle is stuck in one's throat. This is for a thyroid test. Have you ever heard of this? Hah?
ALICE *not wanting to think about this*: Only on CSI.

So I was losing my mind trying to keep up with the patients who were on hold on the phone when the very last number that had been free, rang. It was my office mate's boyfriend. When told that she was stuck on a long conversation with a woman who spoke Ukrainian, the boyfriend was surprised.

BOYFRIEND: But Joanie doesn't speak Ukrainian.
ALICE: Don't we know it.

After hanging up with the boyfriend, the phone rang again. This time it was the mother. I got worried because I thought something was wrong at her home, so I slipped a note to her and she handed me the phone and went to speak to her mom. It was alright because even though I don't speak Ukrainian either, the woman was shouting and complaining about the doctor and the insurance company so I didn't need to say a word.

When Joanie came back and took the phone from me, I asked her if everything was alright.

JOANIE: Oh, yeah. It's just that my mom had to tell me about the woman who sells me cigarettes.
ALICE: What do you mean?
JOANIE: Well, I buy boxes of cigarettes from this woman who gets them...shall we say, cheaper...on the internet. My mom was calling to say that the woman was arrested last night at the Bingo parlor. That's all.
ALICE: Arrested? At the Bingo parlor?
JOANIE: Yeah. That's where she sells them. I think the Bingo manager sold her out.
ALICE: Well, what are you going to do now? For cigarettes, I mean.
JOANIE: No biggie. She'll be back on Sunday.
ALICE: Won't she stay away from the Bingo parlor now that she's been arrested there?
JOANIE: Nah. She'll be back. Hey, do you smoke?
JOANIE: Well, if you ever decide to, let me know. I can get them for you wholesale.

The Ukrainian woman had stopped shouting and the only words that we had understood were: doctor, bad, stupid, why, never, in mother tongue, and do it now.

Joanie and I entertained ourselves for a little bit rearranging the words to form this kernel of brilliance: Stupid, bad, doctor! Why it? Now never do tongue in mother.

Yes, yes. That was part of my day. A big part.

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