While you’re making other plans

When last we left our hero, he had just finished a very nice production of Dracula, and felt better of himself in every way. Could a return to the theater be possible? Was life looking up? Would he stop hating his job?

Well… no.

In fact, just after Christmas, we lost our third dental assistant in a year and a half. I pitched in where I could, while the doctor ruminated. Then he told me that the woman I had replaced back in 2005 did front and back office work, and he paid her commensurately. Would that interest me?

Well. More money is always good.

The combo duties were tiring, to be sure. I was in constant motion and constantly re-prioritizing. With only two operatories, each had to be cleaned after use. I found I got a lot more job satisfaction out of sterilizing instruments than I did making appointments and arguing with insurance companies. No surprise there.

But it made the job wear on me even more. The B and C priorities had a way of stacking up, and when the summer craziness hit – and it always does in the healthcare biz, apparently – things were getting punishing. Keeping the day-to-day smooth was hard enough, but stuff I dearly wished could have been outsourced – the denied insurance claims and collections – began to multiply and stack. At least my fantasies changed from killing patients to an office space sporting a computer made this century (I was on a temperamental Campaq Presario running Windows 98 – not even Windows ME, mind you), and ditto for the office software (a DOS program running in a Window). The siren call of automating many of my chores. Internet? What’s that?

And the doctor’s wife was diagnosed with MS a couple of years ago. His insurance doesn’t cover her medicine. So we were going to have to stay open more days a month to get the jack for that.

So. Ten hour days were the norm. I would come home, collapse at the dinner table – and God bless my wife, who was no less exhausted, for cooking dinner – clean up, and head to my computer to let off steam until it was time for bed. Up at sunrise the next day, go back, Jack, and do it again, wheel turning round and round.

But I was making enough money to pay the bills and still have a little left over, which is extraordinary enough. I would look at the piles of paperwork and consider coming in a day off and getting some of it whittled down, but the portion of my brain in charge of sanity would veto that, almost immediately.

Yeah, I still hated the job, and told myself that likely 95% of all Americans feel the same about their jobs. Now go to the office and do your job, slacker.

Now in all this – and much drama and fireworks at the school my wife runs – two of our friends, who had bought into a time-share in Orlando, told us there was no way they were making it this year, and offered my family their week in the summer. It came with two Disneyworld tickets, and they threw in a third for my son, who was ringbearer at their wedding.

Trips to Disneyworld for your family do not fall into your lap every day, or even every year… or decade. We began putting aside money for plane tickets, and meals. I wheeled and dealed my way into a few days off in July. Not easy, as the doc always shuts down the office in the last part of July for his family vacation. But he was a decent sort, and I think the grind was getting to him, as well. It was agreed that though my wife and son would be flying to Orlando on Sunday, I would be in the office Monday and Tuesday, and fly up early Wednesday morning.

Sunday morning started ill enough. Driving to the airport before sunrise, I was pulled over by a constable, read the riot act, and ticketed for violating a law of which I was unaware; considering I first saw him ticketing a car on the tollway, and saw him doing the same on my return trip… well, my thoughts were distinctly uncharitable, especially for a Sunday. Good thing I’m not a churchgoer. I might have been in trouble.

Then worked the Monday and Tuesday, which were made a little lighter by knowing I was about to go away for five days, and a little heavier by knowing that the Monday I returned would be hellacious. The office would be closed in my absence, and I knew that the “emergencies” that would wait until someone could talk to a human on the phone Monday morning would be staggering.

Speaking of emergencies: one that was scheduled for the very last slot, at 5 PM on Tuesday, did not show. Oddly, the doctor’s wife and his niece-in-law showed up at the office and hung around. Ah, well, I had instruments to set up and an office to prep for a five-day closure. The doctor announced he was tired of waiting for the patient, and left at 5:30.

Which was the point at which the doctor’s wife handed me a check and informed me that my services were no longer required.

There is, as you would imagine, a moment of complete unreality. There had been no mention of dissatisfaction with my work. If anything, the last two days had been quite amiable. The doctor was a far better actor than I would have thought.

After wondering for a second what the punch line to this obvious joke might be, I realized this might, indeed, be serious. “So I guess this is my severance check?”

“That’s right.”

A pause. “Why didn’t he say anything to me about this?”

“Because he doesn’t have the balls.”

It was explained that it wasn’t me, you see. It was the cost of her medicine. So the niece was taking over my position.

I spent the next fifteen minutes getting all my stuff out. My laptop and spare power supply (because dammit we needed my ability to leech off a nearby restaurant’s wireless access to Google stuff occasionally), about a hundred CDs (radio sucks in Houston), my calendar, photo of my wife and kid, and the lucky bamboo I had nurtured into a small shrub. I occasionally remember something I left, like some Lean Pockets in the freezer, a spare inhaler, an extra vial of plant food. Oh, well.

The Happiest Place on Earth had its work cut out, in my case, I tell you what.

So that’s where I’ve been, best beloved. I admit, I had nothing nice to say about the Hated Job, but the money was okay. Looking for work is, as a wise man once said, way more work than I want to do for a living. I hold out hope that the next job will be slightly less hateful.

And hey, I’ve got time to bitch on the Internets again. Lucky, lucky you.


  1. That does suck. I’m sure you’ll find something else.In the mean time: Blog monkey, blog!!!

  2. Ironically enough, today I just trashed the remnants of my old job that evaporated back before Christmas, and then I read this. Yeesh.Although the job sucked, I’m sure the money was nice. Thing is, they make jobs out there that don’t suck, and they pay you for it, too. You’ll find one; heck, you deserve one.

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