The phone rings. The landline phone, I mean, the only phone I have.
I'd say at least 95% of the calls that come in on that line are unsolicited, and so I really shouldn't have the dimwitted Pavolvian reaction I have to a Facebook bong or beep...but I do. Kind of the way you phone zombies grab your pockets, I get up and run to the nearest extension.
By the time I get there, the ring has become one of three things: a standard ring for a local call (almost always a telemarketer or a wrong number); a syncopated ring for a long distance call (ditto); or maybe, just maybe, the Ode To Joy snippet from Beethoven's Ninth if the caller is someone we've told the phone to consider Important.)
Check the call display: we only pick up if it's a call we want to take. Telemarketers take note: if you've called our house 666 times--and all of you have, damnit--and we've never picked up, there's a reason for that.
(Why don't you just answer the phone, Ken, and tell 'em off?) Not worth the negative energy. I am vehemently against telemarketing and door-to-door sales. If you've got something worth buying, I'll come to you, don't come to me. But a very good friend of mine has done time in telemarketing hell and I myself have done market research, which isn't too far removed. I get it, it's a job, and I am not the sort of person who looks to chink someone's armour if I can at all help it. Better to just let it go.
Anyway, today the call display says : PAYNE DENTAL
...with whom I have an appointment tomorrow. They're just calling to remind me, but I might as well pick it up and confirm the time, rather than go through the rigamarole of retrieving the message they're about to leave.
"Hi, is this Ken?"
Quick check to see if I am in fact someone else. Nope. "Yes".
"Hi, this is Dr. Somuch Payne's office, just calling to remind you of your appointment Wednesday at 10:20 a.m."
"Thank you, I'll see you then".
I'm not looking forward to this. It's the initial consult, the first step in what promises to be a prolonged and Payne-ful journey. But it's a journey I should have taken a long time ago for my own good.
My teeth are hideous. You know the picket fence that surrounds haunted houses? Like that. Misshapen, dented, chipped, leaning--if you ever see a full smile out of me, you're one of the few people I feel truly comfortable with. I have done nothing to correct this, though. At first, it was because I flatly refused to sport both glasses and braces--the glasses alone got me far too much unwanted attention. Later on, the money stopped me. Very few health insurance plans cover anything more than routine cleaning when it comes to matters dental (many don't even cover that). The cost of restoring my mouth to something I'm not ashamed of is--well, we're about to find that out. I'll try not to fall over when we do. Tomorrow. 10:20 a.m. Dr. Somuch Payne, or perhaps his Asian assistant, Dr. Ban Crupt Yu.
I slept pretty well last night, considering. This morning, though, the fear and guilt and shame mixed uneasily, producing its usual gastrointestinal festival of side effects in me. See, dentists and I have this hate-hate relationship and for the most part I have stayed away from them my whole life. There was a time early in my marriage to Eva that I was going semi-regularly for cleanings and such; that didn't last long. I went in for a cleaning and he told me I had a cavity that required attention; he quoted me a price to fill said cavity; and when I went back to have that procedure done, he went and filled two cavities and charged me more than double the quoted price because the second one, the one he didn't bother to mention, was bigger than the one he did. Unexpected charges always seem to occur when you don't have the money to cover them, and this one caused Eva--consummate budgeter that she is--to madly juggle the cash flows.
I resented that episode. In fact, I think it's fair to say it pissed me off royally. But I didn't see a point in confronting them about it. It wasn't like they were going to refund us or anything. I simply ignored the increasingly frantic calls at six month intervals to come in and get hosed again. After a while, they stopped: I'd been given up on as a Lost Cause.
Lost Cause is about to be found again.
10:05 a.m., Dr. Somuch Payne's office
"Hi, Ken Breadner, here for my initial consult. I'm early because we haven't filled out the new
"Hi, Ken" She checks her computer. "Your appointment isn't until tomorrow, actually."
This flummoxes me. "But-- I got a call yesterday..."
"Yes, we give two-day and one-day reminders, we were going to call you today as well."
"Oh". Now I'm a lot more comfortable, in my normal state of you screwed up you dumbass. But I can't help thinking as I walk out, who does that? Two day appointment reminders? No office I have ever dealt with has called me two days ahead to remind me that in two days my attendance is required. It's always and without fail been a one day thing. I play the conversation from yesterday back in my head. I'm sure I heard Wednesday.
I'm sure I heard Wednesday because that's what I expected to hear. The secretary could have said Thursday ten times and each time my brain would have simply autocorrected her. After the seventh time or so, it would have started protesting (beneath my conscious notice, of course...) You keep saying Thursday when since it's Tuesday you obviously mean Wednesday, what is wrong with you ... and several hours later when I access the memory in response to Eva's inquiry my brain will smugly conjure forth Wednesday at 10:20 a.m. She said so because I say so, so there.
This is selective hearing and it has plagued me for years. I have selective sight, too...if I'm not expecting something to be in front of me, chances are fair to good I won't notice it, whatever it is...a shoe, a bike, my wife...
But the hearing can be almost as embarrassing. It can be extremely frustrating for Eva, as well: just ask her. Let's say we're discussing plans for something. My mind will seize on those plans, or more likely one small detail of them, and when those plans inevitably change (because that's what plans do, right?) I'll have forgotten the change she has discussed with me while vividly remembering the original plan. It can cause friction. (Compounding that: Eva's mind works so fast and on so many planes at once that she has several times admitted she isn't sure whether she's told me something out loud or simply thought she has.) It's...safer...not to play that card, though. Husbands, you know what I mean, don't you?
Paying attention. It's not my strong suit. I can run down a list of basic human skills that aren't any suit at all for me, but I won't do that here because ugh, depressing, I start wondering if I have any skills at all worth anything. So let's just stop here.
At least I have the new victim forms.
Until tomorrow, when we find out the appointment's actually for next week.