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Monday, September 29, 2014


Today, Monday, I'm about to lose my mind from waiting three hours to get a return call from the doctor's office. The phone number in the book doesn't work. The phone number listed online doesn't work. The number the drug store gave me doesn't work. I looked back in my caller ID on the phone to the time they called here a week or so ago. That number didn't work. I was at least able to get through to an answering machine on the fourth number. Three  hours ago I left my phone number in the answering machine, as requested, and no call in return. I'll give them another hour and attempt to get through again. Friday morning the drugstore could not fill my prescription because they needed to fax the doctor's office to get a return fax to fill the prescription. The drugstore taught me years ago never to come in for a refill a couple days before I run out. I can't get any until I run out. This is three days after the drugstore faxed the doctor's office. The doctor's office has not yet returned the fax and I can't get through on the phone to plead my case. I ran out the day I went to get a refill, knowing I can't get a refill until I'm out, and the computer knows. Three days later, I've been out three days. All I can say to myself is, if the doctor's office doesn't give a shit, I don't give a shit. To hell with all of it. I have to shut down my concern. Any concern is like watching a fence post to see it sprout a branch. No need to name the doctor's office. The one I went to before was the same in the casual return of prescriptions by fax. It's like, whatever. When I fall over dead, I'll never know it. It's no concern to me. I'll wait until tomorrow and call the drugstore and ask if they've received the fax. If not, I'll not concern myself with it further, will call the next day or just forget about it.

It's not just my doctor. The part I don't understand, I mean really don't get, is the population in this county is actually less than it was forty years ago. Then, you could call a doctor's office and somebody answered the phone. Phone lines and electrical lines are more functional than ever by now, the population about the same, and doctor offices need you to walk through a maze of options to find the right number for your specific purpose in calling. It's like trying to get through calling a government number. Maybe Monday is the doctor office's day off. I've only heard of museums being closed on Mondays. But what do I know? I'm one of the proletarian masses that figures for nothing but easy to rob, and doesn't have enough assets to pay attention to otherwise. I prefer never to call offices that put me through a list of options, then another list of options, then another until I want to pull a Lewis Black and give myself an aneurysm cussing. Because I need to get through, I'll sit here and punch buttons all day long when the process starts going. Very soon I'm into Kafka's Castle, referred from this place to the next place, to the next place again, and so on, never learning why. Or like the end of Kasuo Ishiguro's, The Unconsoled, riding a trolley endlessly in a circle around the city. It's insane for a county of less than ten thousand to have to go through the government phone call maze, when at least half the people leave the county for their doctors. It cannot possibly require any more phone answering personnel now than then. All I know to do is adjust. When I get within a week of running out of a pill the drugstore needs to fax the doctor's office about, I'll set the process in motion a week before I need the pills from here on. It's this way so consistently I wonder why this process that does not work goes on being used. Maybe it does work. Maybe I'm the only one who's noticed that I can't get through on the telephone. Maybe it's just like calling your next door neighbor, easy, for everybody else and I'm the only dufus that doesn't get it. And then, there's the obvious: they don't want me to call. 

The problem is really not the doctor's office. It is so much bigger than that, the doctor's office is just a metaphor for all the rest of the depersonalization of the human being that is the unconscious side-effect of our social progressions through technology. We've become slaves to the New without entertaining any concern for what the new I-gotta-have might do toward tightening the restrictions on our innate humanity, what we used to call our humanity. It isn't called anything anymore. Our humanity has no value. Our individuality has no value. The only value in our lives is money. I refuse to concede to having my own values I carry for myself devalued by money. I can't help it that it doesn't matter to others. I have to live in the world created by the people who only value money. I've never liked it, but resigned self to it many years ago. By now, it merely pisses me off enough to make me cuss a good long mellifluous streak, then it's done. The phone corporation evidently came up with a package a doctor's office can't afford not to have, including endless mazes to punish anyone who calls. I take them to mean: Caint ya see, we aint wantin you callin here. Leave us alone, we a-workin. At six o'clock the call came from the doctor's office wanting to know what I wanted. She couldn't find evidence they'd received a fax from the drugstore. She called the drugstore that closed at six and caught the pharmacist, ok'd the prescription, so I'm good to go in the morning. "We been awful busy today." The damn thing about it was when I finally was able to talk with a human voice after 8 hours of being put off by the computerized blockade, unable to get through to the doctor's office trying every phone number available, none of which worked, the human voice was sweet, her name, Angel, and calmed my raging mind in just a few seconds by talking to me. 

I heard one day last week an interview with somebody on, I think, the Diane Rehm show, saying that after all these years of doctors as clinicians, we've lost a very great deal in doctor as healer, doctor as human being, doctor as someone who knows you, doctor who takes into account that you are a conscious entity with a lifetime of experiences. The doctor I see now was trained to be a clinician, but he, himself, is unable to separate from his humanity. It is not possible for a Cuban to walk away from his humanity like it is for a "white man," an Anglo. My thinking about the office phone is the woman who answers the phone has been out, like vacation, sick, quit or let go, I don't know. She wasn't there last week and Angel, whose job it is not, was covering for her absence. Evidently, Angel was without phone answering person again today. My argument is with our gadget crazy culture that is giving our humanity no place to lay its head. Being regarded as numbers is in the past. Now we're talked down to as illiterate criminals. Makes me want to put on Rage Against the Machine and rage with them. I'm remembering riding in the van through the city of Charlotte feeling the weight of the congestion, houses and businesses everywhere, traffic from hell, thousands of cars. I love what a city has to offer, like auditoriums for big rock concerts, small clubs for punk concerts, art house movie theaters, art museums and little else. I had to let what I love go with all the other I can't live with in a city when I left and came to the country thinking I'd find more "humanity" in the country than in the city. Actually, I found less. First gas station I went to in Sparta I never saw the attendant I paid. He sat behind a plywood wall and stuck his hand through a hole in the plexiglass to take the money like one of those toy children's banks that is a black box--put a coin on it, a white hand comes up and snatches the coin. Gimme yer money and get the hell outta here. My introduction to rural living.    

the sky saturday
it was like this all over the sky
all pics taken inside five minutes
all photos tj worthington



  1. TJ, you've laid out in great detail the essence of what is terribly, terribly wrong with American healthcare. It is both exasperating and horrifying to someone who has known the learned care of a doctor with empathy, to fall into the sterile clutches of a detached, clinical environment devoid of empathy. Not all doctors should be painted with the same brush, but the system as a whole not only does not care about a patient's humanity, it functions (more like malfunctions) in a manner that takes away your humanity and sense of hope that things will be o.k. once you've sought treatment. Your story is the story I've also come to know as a middle-aged man with a chronic illness and one I suspect most people will soon face if they haven't already. The sense I have of what lies ahead leaves me feeling nothing but dread, and the hope that when my time comes, it is sudden, swift and painless. On a lighter note, your atmosphere shots are beautiful. What a glorious day that must have been. Skies like that always make me happy and your photos have the same effect. Well done.

    1. Thanks, Rob. When I started the writing, it came to me this is a universal American issue that everybody goes through. I feel like this telephone maze and striking indifference have become characteristic of American medicine. Your word empathy is key. The doctor I recently left told me when he diagnosed a heart issue:
      "You're gonna die." I couldn't help but think it about the stupidest thing I ever heard. Of course, I'm going to die. I assessed it too disrespectful to say, so I let go my urge to say, Duh. That was it. He said, Two years. You'll die in your sleep. Seven years ago. The doctor has a brilliant mind I respect, the reason I went to him. But he's a tron. I learned after 35 years going to him he didn't even know me. That's why I changed doctors. The new one has an equal mind, but he's a human being. First time in his office we had a person to person conversation and came out of it knowing each other. When I see him at the coffee shop he acts like he sees a friend. See the other one in the coffee shop and I'm no more than a vaguely familiar face. I can't defeat tron mind, but I can withdraw my support.