It was the second time that Carolina Internal Medicine had shunted me to Dr. ____when my 15-year, much-trusted primary doc David Clements was not available. The first time went terribly.
And the second time this ____ guy totally pissed me off. He is such a terrible listener and so attached to being alpha. An even-somewhat-empowered patient drives him totally around the bend.
On Wednesday, this substitute doctor guy and I got off to a bad start immediately. I had used the time (only ten minutes) that they had me waiting in a treatment room before he came in (really not bad) to conduct text message exchanges. When the doc came through the door, I – my phone in hand – politely said “Give me just a moment to finish this and I will send this off, then I’m with you.” It was OK for him to make me wait for ten minutes, but I sensed from his stiffened body language that making the lord doctor wait for 30 seconds was just not done.
Then I dared to empower myself even a little more – even as I was genuinely letting him know that I was fully with him. “I’m going to keep this phone in my hand because my entry for this appointment lists the questions I want to ask you.” Was his even heightened telegraphed tightness a sign that he just doesn’t understand such gadgets and applications? Or that the very idea of a patient having a list of questions for him somehow offends him.
“Tell me again, why are you holding your phone?” Such a terrible listener – and clearly aggravated by something: I think maybe that I didn’t immediately put my phone away and focus all my attention on him. He might have been just as bothered if a woman had exhibited these “big” behaviors, but I really think there was something mano-a-mano competitive about him when he sensed that this other male was not going to bow to him.
I thought “Oh, God – he’s gone to full combat mode in the first three minutes – this is going to be a very long meeting.” In my weakened, infected state – in pain, overtired and stressed from pain continually interrupting my sleep – I was completely capable of meeting him in that same mano-a-mano combat field. I really wanted to. I thought “Fuck him! I don’t have to take his patriarchal bullshit. I can dish out hostile just as well as he can – maybe better.”
But some wiser, more patient part of me coached the pissed-off part of me. “Hey, what good is it going to do you to let him so much get your goat. It’s going to make this process so much harder if you unnecessarily piss him off. Keep your cool, you can do this. Leave it out.” The “Leave it out” mantra has become very central and reliable for me when I sense that I am over-extended, that I need to ground myself.
I proceeded, throughout most of the whole 15-minute (or so) appointment to be very relatively measured, though I know that my irritation had to have been at least a little apparent in those moments when it was undeniable that this goof was really not listening to or respecting me. But I succeeded in never giving him the direct “Hey, asshole” challenge that was, for most of the meeting, right on the tip of my lip – and which I have seen myself, several times lately, enthusiastically surrender to (and sometimes, it has seemed clear to me, to very good effect.)
At least three other times, I responded to a question of his with the only answer that really, for me, had any integrity: “I just finished answering that question.” Until he had asked the question, he apparently was incapable of processing the information I was giving him.