August 10, 2013 by Dara Mathis
I am reclining, engrossed in Denzel Washington’s preternaturally calm face as he flies a plane upside down. The massaging chair kneads my lower back. It has been aching of late and the rotating balls feel pretty good.
So, why am I absolutely infuriated?
It is 12:55 pm and I have just 5 minutes to get back to work. My mouth is full of cotton and dental tools and my dentist is nowhere near finished with my fillings. She asks me, belatedly, if I have to go back to my job today. I nod a little and hold up my left hand, fingers spaced apart. “Five minutes?!” She kicks herself into gear and tells me that she will have me out in 20. I fume silently, held hostage with my mouth propped open like a guppy.
My appointment should have started at 11:00 am. After waiting about 25 minutes, I asked the receptionist, a little disingenuously, if I had come at the wrong time for my appointment. I knew full well what time it started; I just wanted her to be aware of it. I wanted to leave but I had already paid for the visit. She confirmed the time. But the dental assistant did not come for me until 11:50 am, at which point I was past irritated.
I told the receptionist that I would not be able to get the second procedure done due to my job, and she blithely said, “Oh, the first one won’t take too long. You’ll be out by 1:00 pm, just like we scheduled.”
Staring at the ceiling-mounted DVD screen at 1:05 pm, I am angry. But my anger doesn’t boil. It simmers. I plot. I scheme. They ask me if I am okay, they apologize for being late, and all I say is, “Mhmm.” Nawl. I am debating whether or not it is time to quit my dentist, whom I have actually grown to like. She has cool things like movies and massages and head-circling x-ray machines, and I don’t want to give that up.
But I hate awful customer service. I am patient to a fault, but when people take advantage of said kindness, I feel helpless. Like aliens are experimenting in my mouth with sharp tools and I dare not move, lest I get cut–while every cell in my body yearns to escape. They hold my time hostage. Waiting, it infuriated me that I had 1) already paid and could not leave without raising a stink to get a refund 2) warned the lady there was not enough time and that I would be late returning to work and 3) that I did not want break up with them based on one bad occurrence.
I imagine walking up to the receptionist and saucily requesting that my January appointment be cancelled because I’m switching dentists. But she isn’t sitting there when I leave. I storm out with a thundercloud over my head and numb cheeks, so I can’t smile even if I want to.
The only leverage I have against this ever happening again is withdrawing my patronage from their practice. I absolutely cannot stand businesses abusing my time. Generally, they give good dental service and are friendly. I like that the practice is black women-owned and operated; I try to support minority businesses when I can. An hour late, though?! Grumble, grumble, grumble. I’m still mad!
But should I give them another shot? What would you do?