The Appointment

I got sick! Sore throat, terrible headache, the works. I went to a walk-in clinic where they swabbed my throat and charged me $110 dollars. My husband took one look at the invoice and insisted I find a primary care physician.

"Just call someone out of the insurance book and schedule a physical," he said, waving the invoice at me. "It's not that hard."

I asked around for recommendations. My hairdresser has an internist she likes, but his office is three towns away.

I asked my neighbor who was working in her garden. "The era of personal care in medicine is past," she said, flinging compost too close to my feet. "All the good doctors are leaving medicine. Good luck finding someone you like." I stepped on some of her petunias.

My friend recommended her doctor. "The office staff is rude, and you'll be kept waiting at least an hour," she said. "But the doctor seems to know what he's doing."

I called immediately.

"The doctor is not accepting new patients," the receptionist informed me. "Try again in August."

I looked through the 550-page insurance book of service providers until I found a medical practice in a local office complex. "Perfect," I circled it with a red pen.

The voice mail picked up. I punched 5 for the medical office; 3 for new patient appointments; 4 for my type of insurance.

While waiting 'on hold,' I defrosted a roast for dinner, browned some potatoes and made ice tea from scratch.

"May I help you?" Finally.

I asked for an appointment with the physician listed in my insurance book. "That doctor is no longer with this practice," she said.

I held the book open with my cooking spatula. It left a big Pam cooking spray stain. I named a second doctor. "That doctor is no longer accepting new patients," she said.

I swatted at a gnat; Pam sprayed onto the wallpaper. "What doctor can I see?" I asked.

"Dr. Hammer is available."


She proceeded to probe for information, asking more questions than a four-year-old on a five-hour car trip.

Finally, it was my turn. "How old is Dr. Hammer?" I asked.

"Oh, I'd guess mid-30s," she was vague.

"Do you mean between 35 and 39?" I tried to pin her down.

"I'd say he's about 30," she said. She quite abruptly put me on hold, clearly hoping I'd hang up before she returned. I didn't. She sighed into the line with dramatic impatience.

"Is there a problem?"

A problem? Well yes, but I wasn't about to admit anything. I had given up trying to find a doctor older than me. But 30?

"If he has pimples on his forehead, I'm going to come looking for you."

She reminded me to print out the office provider statement available on their website and to fill out all three New Patient forms and corresponding documents. Also, I was to bring two forms of identification and my Social Security card even though I explained that I hadn't seen that card since I perfected my signature in the second grade.

I'll probably cancel that appointment when it gets closer. I'm feeling much better now anyway.