My heart is racing as I dial and then hear the phone begin to ring at the other end. A machine picks up and I do exactly what the outgoing message directs me to. Speaking slowly and clearly, I leave my name and phone number twice, trying to sound friendly but not too desperate for a return call. The person that I am trying to woo with my friendly telephone manner? The receptionist at my children’s pediatrician’s office.
I’m not sure why I find this lovely woman with blue eyes and a blonde perm so scary. What I do know is that I am so intimidated by her that when she called a couple of weeks ago to remind me about Ava’s next appointment, not only did I not have the courage to tell her that the time was not great for me, I didn’t even have the guts to tell her that Ava is not my daughter’s name (it is an A name, though, so I figured that she was close enough).
For the first few weeks of my son’s life she didn’t seem to like me and that was not fun particularly for a crazy person such as myself, who enjoys calling the pediatrician on a regular basis with random health concerns I have read about on the Internet. And then, one day, the unthinkable happened. I said something and she laughed. (Bonus! I was actually intending to be funny, meaning she wasn’t laughing at me this time). I saw a glimmer of what could be. And ever since, she has been really nice to me. Now that I know what its like to be on her good side, I am terrified of going back (I have so much more to lose).
Despite my newly acquired status we’re not exactly besties but I can say with confidence that she doesn’t loathe me I will still take any appointment she gives me. The one time I had double booked and had to reschedule, I rehearsed what I was going to say with a friend who shares the same doctor before making the call. I also seriously contemplated rescheduling the other appointment with a specialist whom we’d been waiting to see for several months so that I could avoid calling to switch altogether.
For the record, I am not simply motivated by a pathological need to be liked. I know this because I am quite certain that my dentist’s receptionist hates me I often switch appointments at the last minute and I really don’t care all that much. It’s the fact that the pediatrician’s receptionist has power. She can go ask the doctor a question on my behalf or make me schlep my sorry ass in to see her myself. She can call a prescription into the pharmacy, or not. She can make me feel like an idiot when I call to ask about green poo or tell me an anecdote about her niece’s similarly colored bowel movement. She is the gateway to my children’s healthcare (and, okay, maybe sometimes my self-esteem).
Though when I was there last week I realized that maybe I don’t have to try quite so hard. The woman in front of me spent almost 10 minutes trying to set up an appointment for her son, yammering about why each suggested day and time didn’t work for her. And in that time the best thing ever happened. The receptionist looked up at me (while aforementioned annoying mom was looking at her Blackberry) and rolled her eyes. At me! I won’t say that it felt as good as the first time my kids smiled at me, but it was pretty close.