Tales from the Front Office

I have had worse jobs. The food industry, for example, can bite me. But managing a dentist’s office, I find, reminds me of the time during my spangled career when I managed the box office at a small regional theater. There is no ticket more attractive than the ticket you cannot buy, and people get very demanding when they cannot buy it. Much the same in the receptionist trade: as the year’s end approaches, and people must spend their cafeteria dollars, everybody’s got to see the dentist. I try to arrange them as best I can, with what small knowledge of procedures and the time they take I have gleaned. Mistakes are made. I’m still making them. Probably always will, as the laws of the universe dictate that everything shall happen as once, and the floor of my work area is pockmarked with the signs of the balls I have dropped.

Weighing heavily on my mind are the people in pain I cannot accomodate quickly; the best I can do is take their number and call them if a cancellation occurs before the time I was able to give them. I think I manage to get in about 75% of those people. The time spent playing Tetris in my youth has come in handy.

Hardly any wonder that after dragging home after nine hours in the trench I eat, wash dishes and go online to kill things. The catharsis is more than just nice, it has become necessary.

In the spirit of the holidays… and the office radio station has started playing Christmas music, three freakin’ days before Thanksgiving… let me give you some helpful hints for dealing with receptionists, and making the day far more pleasant for both of you.

It is considered bad form to look into the office and exclaim, “A man???!!! How the hell did you get stuck with this???!!!”

Similarly, it is likely not a good idea to tell the new guy what big shoes he has to fill, especially if the old receptionist told him that every five minutes during the day and a half of training he got.

The proper response to “The earliest we can get you in is Tuesday the second at 10AM” is not, “What do you have that’s earlier.”

If you ask, “What have you got this afternoon?” expect the answer to be “A lot of people who made their appointments long ago” or maniacal laughter.

If you call and launch into a long spiel about how much pain your child is in, and no other dentist will see him, and the receptionist moves the afternoon’s appointments and convinces the dentist and the assistant to stay late so they can attend to the wee tot after hours, “That’s no good, what have you got tomorrow” is not a good answer.

No, your insurance does not pay 100%. Either you are one of the lucky few who actually does have uber-insurance, or the dentist has been eating the difference between what he got paid and what was actually owed.

Or, as in my case, the current receptionist’s predecessor just threw away certain peoples’ bills. For years.

Similarly, when you are disagreeing about your bill, it is not a good idea to shout at the current receptionist that his predecessor always took care of it. Doing so will result in your opinion of the predecessor being severely challenged.

Rest assured that all remarks about how you’re glad the old receptionist is gone provide golden shafts of sunlight on a storm-wracked day.

Do not abuse the answering machine that provides you with the dentist’s home phone and cell phone number, particularly not to bully your way into a 7:30AM appointment when you feel the receptionist hasn’t given you a timely enough appointment, possibly by jettisoning some children or a needy senior citizen. Especially do not do this for a strictly cosmetic procedure. Or if you do, don’t be smug about it. The receptionist has a remarkably long memory. There are still people in third grade who are going to pay.

I’m just sayin’.

Yet Another Open Letter to the Coca-Cola Company

Dear Sirs,

Regarding your announcement that you will remove Vanilla Diet Coke from the market at the end of this year:

You bastards.


Freeman Williams, Esq.


Okay, so I took stock of yesterday (my day off). And totaled up six extra hours of sleep. Six. That’s

• Two hours extra sleep while the Power Pug Princess muttered and snorted outside the bed room door.
• A three hour nap when exhaustion overtook me in the afternoon
• Going to bed an hour early.

I may never get anything done ever again.

Not entirely true. I did pay bills, go to the grocery store, and cook dinner.

Being an adult sucks.

But we knew that.

Also not entirely true, in the larger sense. Last Friday I had the pleasure of being that hour’s guest on Winnipeg Manitoba’s CJOB late night talk show, Nighthawk, when the subject was horror movies. Mostly I got to talk with host Geoff Currier until my head rattled, a few folks called in (and two nominated Pet Sematary as their fave, that was a surprise), and was sad to find the hour had ended so quickly. Geoff showed himself to be a Person of Superior Taste when he agreed with me that Videodrome and Eraserhead were two of the finest horror films of the 20th Century. Geoff said he hoped to hook up again, and I look forward to the opportunity.

Odd thing is, I likely owe that honor to something that has been a particular thorn in my side for some time. There is a section in my horribly torpid (heavy sigh) website, The Bad Movie Report, called The World’s Top 100 Horror Movies? This was a list some guy put together when the AFI was doing their “100 Greatest Movies of All Time” celebration. This fellow – his name and original website lost to antiquity – did an informal Web survey, and the resulting list was a terribly askew concoction. My page is a critique of that list and the taste of the people who had bothered to vote.

Not that you would know from the mail I get.

Somebody finds that page every three or four months, and posts it to a message board somewhere. I know this to be a case because I suddenly get a surge of e-mails informing me that I am an idiot and I really should know more about horror movies before I attempt to so a Website about them. This resulted in a box at the top of the list disclaiming any ownership the list, over and above what was already there in the preamble and subsequent commentary – not that this seemed to matter. My responses to these mails has, therefore, gotten more and more abrupt and acidic as time goes by.

But every time I make up my mind to delete the page, an opportunity like the radio show crops up to massage my ego. SO it looks like I had just better get used to being called an idiot. You’d think that, as I approach the half-century mark, I would already be used to that.

And you’d be wrong. Idiot.