“…and I’m sitting, or lying, whatever… Waiting for him to finish. Yadda-yadda-yadda. It’s been…what? Maybe ten minutes since I asked him if he liked what he did, ‘cause he’s a good dentist and I was wondering if he’ll retire tomorrow and then I’ll have to find a new tooth doc.”
“All I wanted to hear was, ‘Yeah, I’ll stick with this for a while,’ and then we could have gotten back to my teeth. But no, he had to get into details about the changing dental industry and the new, expensive but un-needed technology and the phony marketing and horror stories about his patients trying out the new guys just out of dentist school with computers that scan tooth decay. And I’m thinking, not only is this incredibly boring, but he just pushed me past my maximum hour of parking on the meter.”
“But I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt his passionate because…like, who else would listen to it? He needed me. But still, that meter…”
“So between sentences I opened my mouth hoping he’d get the hint and come back inside, but he kept going on and on and on! Yadda-yadda-yadda! I should’ve stopped him after he switched to victimization – his own. But I didn’t.”
“You think I should’ve just said, ‘Stop already!’ Or would that have made me an insensitive jerk?”
I wait for her wisdom as I stare at the ceiling of dimmed lighting and faux stucco. I wait for advice, like… ‘Yes Irv, you ARE a jerk. It takes maturity and self esteem to resolve a situation like that. But you let people walk over you because you value their welfare over your own.’”
But I don’t hear that. Or anything else.
I turn my head toward the lady shrink who’s… WHAT? She’s phone texting!
My throat tightens, and clearing it, I politely ask, ‘cause I was taught to be polite… “What are ya doing?”
She glances up at me, over her glasses. “I had to respond to this.” And going off-line, she says, “You were saying?”
Jeez! She tuned me out! How could she do that? Was I boring? Too many words? Or is personal stuff taking her down and I’m in the way?
Maybe I should pretend this didn’t happen. Does the world revolve around Irv Podolsky? No…except it should in my therapy.
Anyway I see that she’s listening again, notebook in hand, so I resume my story.
“Finally, he finished my teeth. I rinsed, grabbed his $114 bill and the Reach Total Care tooth brush and raced out the door, only to find… a $63 dollar parking ticket on my windshield! I was ten minutes late! The exact ten minutes it took for my beloved dentist to rant how he hates the world. And now I do too!”
“And I’m sitting behind the wheel staring at that sixty-three dollar drain on my account and I hear a knock on my passenger door. I turn, and a guy, maybe thirty, is signaling me to lower the door window. I do, and he says something like, “When I saw the cop walking to your car, I put in a quarter but he gave you a ticket anyway. He didn’t have to do it, and I took a picture of him writing you up in front of your green meter.”
“I was stunned, and I said, ‘You took a picture?’”
“And another younger man said, ‘He did. Two of them. I work in the same store.’ Then he pointed to the car rental place I was parked in front of. ‘I saw the whole thing,’ he said. ‘The cop’s a jerk. Gammer put in the quarter and he wrote you a ticket for a green meter. You can fight this.’”
“Wow. I got out of my car and walked over to the guy named Gammer, and I told him that he was really kind and I asked why he helped a stranger that wasn’t even around.”
“And he said, ‘We gotta stick together. They tax us enough. They don’t need another sixty dollars for ten minutes of parking.’”
“And I felt…so relieved, thinking…”
“Maybe the world IS a kind place after all. Maybe my dentist is wrapped in so much rage he can’t see the love on the street. It’s so easy to hate the world, to hate change, to hate your competition when it’s new and you’re not.”
I sigh. Heavy stuff.
And as I continue to stare at the ceiling lights, I ask my therapist, “What d’ ya think? Is there a cosmic plan? Was I supposed to listen to a defeated dentist, absorb it myself, then get the ticket so I could meet the Angel of Parking?”
Silence. Once more I turn to the woman sitting next to me. She’s doing it again! Typing on her phone!
And now she sees I’m upset. “Sorry, she mutters, texting away. “Just five more words.”
Seconds later she’s done and her eyes are back to mine. “Sorry about that.”
She should be! How unprofessional! I’m buying her time! Which means she’s working for ME! Why do doctors think they can treat their patients like children, as if it’s a privilege just to get in their office? And then they make us wait, really wait, like OUR time isn’t worth as much as theirs!
“You’re upset,” she says.
She is so right about that. But I want to be a better man than I am, so I say, “I’m sure it was important,” without believing it.
“It was,” she replies.
And now I’m getting that look of hers as she reads me, which any four year-old can do. I can’t hide stuff. So she probably knows I want a bigger apology.
“I apologize for the texting,” she says.
Yep. She read me, and she’s dropping the phone into her purse. “I should have cancelled our session,” she continues, “but I knew you count on them and I couldn’t disappoint you.”
Great! Now I feel guilty!
Why didn’t she just ask for a break? I would’ve given it to her.
Why did she spare me an explanation when there’s no meter outside?
Why can’t I get information exactly HOW I want it, WHEN I want it?
Why can’t people adjust to my needs?
Why do they always think of themselves first, except when they don’t and they take pictures of parking cops on my behalf?
But most importantly, why can’t I be more tolerant of everything when I KNOW better!
Why can’t I look at the positive side of encounters and appreciate their benefits?
Why am I keeping score of the “good” and “bad” stuff people do?
And why am I judging myself as well?
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks, somehow knowing what I’m thinking.
No. I don’t want to talk about it. I know the answers to all those questions. What I really want, is to talk about HER problems and help her in some way.
But I won’t probe, ‘cause I know it’s deeply personal – probably about her partner who has cancer and is heavy into chemo.
“Is it worse?” I ask, expecting I wouldn’t.
I get a sad nod.
I wish I could hold her hand. I can’t. We’re not friends. So I say, “Do YOU wanna talk about it?”
She gestures a ‘No’ and thanks me. Then stands. “I have to go to the hospital. I’ll see you next week.”
Yeah… I’ll get that Next Week, but maybe her partner won’t. How trivial my stories feel in the light of life and death. Why do I keep forgetting I won’t live forever?