Yesterday Kish and I went out for lunch. When we were getting ready to place our order, the waitress pulled out an order pad — and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Why? Because lately I’ve been bedeviled by wait staff who don’t write down what I’ve requested, and my orders have inevitably been screwed up as a result.
It’s kind of maddening, really. The waiters stand there, listen as I tell them, for example, that I want only a slice of onion on my cheeseburger and specifically say that I don’t want lettuce or tomato or pickles. They nod reassuringly and then march off to the kitchen, and I groan inwardly, knowing that there is a better than a 50-50 chance that, when the order comes back, I’ll be scraping tomato and lettuce and pickle debris from my cheeseburger bun. But what’s a patron supposed to do? Hand the waiter a pen and piece of paper and plead with them to please, please, write down the order so there’s hope it will be correctly prepared and delivered . . . and thereby look like a jerk? Or wait until the order comes back and pleasantly point out that it’s wrong, so that the waiter has to trot back to the kitchen and bring out a new, correct order — and thereby further delay the meal? Or just accept that the order is wrong, eat it anyway so you’re not waiting even longer, and grumble at the injustice of it all?
Why, exactly, has it the no-write-down approach swept through the waiting world like a cold winter wind? Do waiters think that not writing down the order reflects their professionalism, or that we’ll be impressed at their memory capabilities and give them a bigger tip? Don’t they realize that, when most patrons see that the waiter or waitress isn’t writing down the order, their hopes for a pleasant meal take a tumble?
The waiting world works for tips, so here’s one: write it down, already!
Yesterday I had an appointment with a medical professional whom I see regularly. I always make my appointments with him and other doctors first thing in the morning so that I won’t have to wait in the event that prior appointments ran long. And I got there early, to make sure that I would not be causing a delay.
And yet, when my appointment time came, I wasn’t summoned back. Five minutes after the time of my appointment, I was still cooling my heels in the waiting room, paging through a magazine I really had no interest in reading because that’s what you do in medical waiting rooms. Finally, about 10 minutes after the designated time, I was called back, only to learn that the person I was going to see first was still getting set up — which delayed things further.
Yesterday wasn’t the first time this has happened, in that medical office or others. It drives me bonkers and really put me in a foul mood as my appointment began. In my experience casual, chronic tardiness seems to be endemic among health care professionals. You’d think that they would be concerned about internal health of their patients, and would recognize that making busy people wait is just going to add to their stress levels, as it did to me. You’d think that health care professionals would make sure that they do whatever possible to be on time, so as not to suggest that they think their patients’ time isn’t valuable. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
As I sat there, stewing, I pondered the appropriate response. Tell the receptionist that I’m too busy to wait and just leave? Complain to the young woman who saw me first? Complain to the ultimate medical practitioner? There really aren’t any good options. Leaving in a huff seems like the act of an egomaniac, and bitching about lateness to health care professionals who are going to be working on you seems unwise. So, I sat there and took it, as I suspect most people do. And I realized that these people do a good job — when they finally get around to it — and I guess that if I want to continue to use their services I’m just going to have to take the bitter with the sweet.
Still, it irritates the hell out of me. Is it really too much to ask that the first appointment of the day occur on time, and the person seeing the patient be ready to go?
Recently I was at the dentist’s office. It was one of those dreaded midday appointments, where the odds are that some emergency or other complication cropped up earlier in the day, meaning that the schedule is out of whack and you’ll likely be cooling your heels while the dentist and the hygienists work to catch up.
Like every waiting room — literally, a room specifically designed to accommodate people who are waiting — the dentist’s office had a full spread of magazines and a TV tuned to one of those home redesign shows. But as I looked around the room, none of the people waiting was restlessly flipping through a magazine, or watching the TV, or fidgeting and constantly glancing at their watches. Instead, they were all on their smartphones, checking their email, playing a video game, or letting the expectant Facebook world know that they were at the dentist’s office.
This is one of the little changes in modern life that happens without being noticed until somebody calls it to your attention. But now, thanks to smartphones, waiting time doesn’t necessarily suck. Sure, you’d rather not be sitting in some generic space in the company of a bunch of strangers — especially if they’re coughing or sniffling — but at least you’ve got a handy gadget in your pocket or purse that lets you be productive or see what your friends are up to or have some fun while you’re sitting on an uncomfortable chair. I’m told that some people actually look forward to waiting time for this very reason. What could be a bigger change than that?
I have no way of knowing whether this is true, but I’d bet that state license bureaus and federal administrative agencies and doctor’s offices get a lot fewer complaints about excessive waiting time than used to be the case. Every office administrator who works in a place with a waiting room should be grateful to the inventor of the smartphone.