Sunday, March 28, 2010

You're Special: Crib Notes

This is the second part in a series.

I collect money all day long. Every once in a while, almost everyone I speak with in a day lies about making a payment. That day was Friday.

First thing in the morning I was bullied mafia-wife-style by a real estate agent who had already lied twice about paying her bill. My next few clients were really mean. And then there was the young woman who had not paid her bill since she had become a client, had already lied about paying it three times, and still wanted her service back.

It went on and on all morning, and it started again after lunch. By mid-afternoon I was tense and grumpy. There was no doubt in my mind that the next client would try to sell me a load of shit, too. Natalie, I think, was the next client. She told me the last guy promised to credit some charges, but didn’t do it.

Yeah right, Natalie, I thought. That’s a common lie. Her account didn’t show that promise, so I assumed she was just another Friday client.

Well, I asked the guy who talked to her last, and it turns out I was wrong. Natalie wasn’t lying.

It took me half a day to throw out my basic philosophy about humans. I’m pretty committed to the fact that people are basically good, and every other day last week solidified that fact. Four hours of shitty people trying to take advantage of the system and get what they want without doing what they should have and I forgot all about the other guys.

Specialists must have heard lies, too. People lie to doctors for all different reasons: guilt, fear, stupidity and ignorance are just a few.

I bet they have days filled with lie after lie. You’d be screwed if you were the first appointment after lunch. But it’s one thing to assume a client is lying about money, something else entirely to assume a patient is lying; the stakes are much different.

So how do you cut through all of the human bullshit that even specialists can’t cure to get the treatment you need?

It’s hit or miss, truthfully. There’s no foolproof way. I know that sucks, considering we may be talking about life or death. There is one thing that may help if you can pull it off when you’re sick and dead tired.

Be prepared, but take his cues. I’ve read articles that insist writing a list of symptoms is the best way to get better. Those articles encourage you to take the list to your appointments. Some even suggest making a copy for the doctor to keep.

Here’s the thing about that approach: it works for some doctors and not for others. A doctor told me that patients who walk through the door with lists are considered hypochondriacs or liars by some.

If you run into that doctor, especially on a bad day, you’re not going to get what you need if you start your relationship by reading from a list. So, write a list, but keep it in your pocket. Concentrate on connecting with the doctor as a human.

Ask your advocate to help you remember the symptoms if you have a bad memory. Only take the list out as a last resort.


  1. well i agree about the lying part.. on both fronts.

    i love mothers that take their children to emerg because their child "really isn't well" only to find out they are teething or are just plain tired. (and yes this actually did happen i "gawfawed" when i saw/heard this) -- this however sets people up to lie.

    case in point. one of my trips to emerg (not that i'm racking up frequent flier miles here.. but have been a few times) was due to the inability to breath. not SHORT of breath...but flat out stopped. i did after less than a minute start again, but it was the randomness that had me there. one of the triage questions was "do you have chest pains, stroke symptoms or difficulty breathing?". My mom answered for me "she stops breathing". I was coded a traige 4 out of 5 -- meaning not serious or life threatening. i stopped breathing twice while waiting before they realized i "wasn't lying" about the breathing issues.

    back to my point: the system set up in emerg was one that people have learned to work to their advantage -- just like payment arrangements. "we" (read the company) have given the clients the upper hand. we have allowed them to deal their lies and bullshit to get what THEY want. i despise it. i loath liars. but i love you.. so when you feel defeated, beat out by the slime of our wonderful society; look over our partition.. i'll do whatever it takes to make you smile... and believe that good really does lurk in the murky depths of a lie driven job...;)

  2. Barb, that's whacked out!! First of all, YIKES! breathing is important... I'm interested to hear what happened after they realised you weren't lying. That's what I'm talking about - the impulse to believe a client is lying can have very serious and very scary consequences. I felt like an ass on Friday afternoon.

    Second of all, thanks for your offer. I WILL be taking you up on that... no doubt sometime soon I will need a big smile :)

  3. I haven't used a list, but I think it's a good idea. Start it a few days before you go, so you can think of questions and write them down.

    Straight From Hel

  4. When I worked doing street cop stuff, I either got lied to every single time I pulled someone over, or they tried to flirt their way out of a ticket. It was incredibly rare that someone just owned up. Which is why I always admit my being wrong when I get pulled over. Doesn't happen often, and I've only ever had one ticket almost 30 years ago. But people who get lied to all the time appreciate honesty.

    As you say, though, sometimes it's difficult to tell.

    I agree that having a list that you hand to a doc is a bad idea. The personal connection is more useful for them to diagnose you. If they don't see you as a person because you hide behind a list, a doctor is less engaged, is less likely to put themselves in your shoes--no matter how much they want to. It's human nature!

  5. Helen, I think a list is good to write, it helps you get organized before an appointment - it just might not be best to read the list directly to the doctor. It all depends on the doctor.

  6. writtenwyrdd, What you said about people who get lied to appreciating honesty is so true. Most people don't stop to think about that kind of stuff, though; they just do or say the first thing that comes to them.

    You must have heard so many excuses as a cop. I'd love to hear your funniest, oddest and most pathetic!