Tuesday, August 30, 2011

At the Eye Doctor: Since When Is "I'm Sorry" So Hard to Say?

Since when did people start becoming unwilling to admit to mistakes or imperfections? Is this just a Jersey thing? I do know one mark of a Christian is the ability to apologize. I have my blind spots on this. Today, however, I was struck by how an entire office filled with professionals could not muster an apology.

Here's what happened: I had an appointment with a retina specialist this morning. My optometrist was concerned about a freckle she had found on my eye during a routine eye exam. I arrived at the waiting room a couple of minutes before my 8:50 a.m. appointment. I left the office more than four hours later, still not having had all the required tests. (The good news: the freckle is benign) The computer software for scanning my eye was unavailable. No one could tell me when it might arrive.

I am not annoyed at having to return for a second appointment. I understand life often doesn't run the way we'd like. Heck, I am not even particularly annoyed at the long waits between various screenings I did manage to have at the office.

But what aggravated me is that not a soul in the office - from the receptionist to the ophthalmologist  himself, ever acknowledged or communicated to me or the other waiting patient that there was a problem with the scanner. We were left to wait for about two hours for our final test.

The only reason I discovered the source of the delay is because more than 3.5 hours after my husband dropped me off, I decided to ask the receptionist  the reason for the delay and when I might be seen.  I did not criticize or raise my voice. I simply said "I have been here three and a half hours now. Do you know what is going on?" Her response? "We can reschedule you."

I explained that I already had been waiting nearly four hours to finish up the visit and could they let me know how much longer it would be before I decided to reschedule? The long and short of it: they hadn't a clue. The ophthalmologist stepped out of his office and tried to blame an assistant; I told them I was not looking to blame anyone, just looking for information so I could decide whether to reschedule,

My husband, who had figured on a one or two-hour appointment, called me on my cell. Was I ready for him to pick me up yet? In the waiting room with me, sharing the same magazines and watching the same stories on the Weather Channel overand over and over (God bless the people of Vermont) was an older couple. The wife was there for her appointment. Because of roads left flooded and blocked by Hurricane Irene,  it had taken them two hours to drive 20 miles. The couple had left their home at 7 for their 9 a.m. appointment. It was now nearly 1:00 p.m.  They ended up leaving with me, and planned to call to reschedule.

I expected that at least when both of us, both new patients, were forced to reschedule our appointments, we would get a simple "Gee, I'm sorry" from someone in the office. I figured at least the older couple would, since the wife gently explained to the receptionist that she and her husband had been on the road since 7 a.m. so they could be on time for their appointment.

No one apologized. I left disappointed.


  1. How frustrating! Must be a Jersey thing ;-)

  2. I sadly do not think it is a Jersey thing; I sadly think it is a cultural issue. I have had similar things happen here in otherwise kind and sleepy upstate NY.

    Like you - I understand that things go wrong. That no one can utter these simple words makes me very upset.

    I'm glad the freckle is benign!!

  3. I ran into virtually the exact same problem when we had the hitch attached to the van - the first time. Again, it took four hours for something I was told would take no more than an hour. I truly do not mind delays, but please - let me know what is going on. This feels like common courtesy, yes?
    My husband thinks this lack of concerns steps from the mistaken notion that to admit something isn't going as planned makes the person look weak and vulnerable. For us, it is a sign of strength to be able to say "gee, this isn't going as we had planned. What we're going to do is XYZ. So sorry if this is inconveniencing you." But yes, counting my blessings here - the freckle is benign.