Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wood's Rules: #2

Rule 2: I never wait for anyone, not even God, for more than 20 minutes.

The Mister and I went to vote this morning. Lines have been long, but Mr. had called ahead and was told that we could go to the front of the line because of my disability. So we turned up promptly at opening time this morning (8 am). It was a madhouse. The parking lot was full and there were lines of cars snaking up and down the aisles looking for a spot. Which of course they weren't going to find because no one had voted yet and therefore no one was leaving. Ever the optimist, Mr. dropped me off at the front door and I went to the front of a very long, very fat line--only to find that handicap voting didn't 't start until 9:30!

But it all got me to thinking again about disability rights, which we talked about in Ethics class on Wednesday. Going to the front of the line is not a privilege. It merely evens up the playing field. I could wait in line all day, and have done (Jimmy Carter's election comes to mind) but a lot of handicapped people can't maintain for that long. So they could not vote the way things are this year. Point is, "privileges" like going to the head of the line enable us to do things we could not otherwise, things the able-bodied take for granted.

The dean of my graduate school told me once that my fellow students envied my special parking space. At the time we were moving through a buffet line: I picked up a carving knife and told him that anyone who wanted one could bend over and I'd qualify 'em for special parking right here, right now. He did not get the message that he had it all backwards. Curb cuts, special parking, wide doors, grab rails, ramps, all that stuff is not a privilege to be resented by TABs (Temporarily Able Bodied people) like him, but assists that we need so that we can attend graduate school, travel, get to a job, go to the store, stay in a hotel, see a movie, and partake in community life in general. His facial expression clearly said that he thought I was the one being inappropriate.

Anyway, to get back to Wood's Rule #2, which is where we started, I wasn't inclined to wait an hour and a half for special voting privileges. Why, if everyone else can start voting at 8, can't we? Mr. and I have things to do this morning, so we came back home. We will try again later. Maybe we will be able to get a parking place.

But it did occur to me that every rule has an exception, and this rule is no exception to that rule. I would wait in line ALL DAY to vote, if necessary. In fact, before I found out about my disability getting me to the head of the line, I had planned to take Tuesday off if standing in line all day today didn't get me to a voting machine before closing. It took all night to vote the year Jimmy won: I went to the polls after I got off work at 4:30, and they closed the doors at 7. There were so many people already inside that gym that it was after 10 before I finished. Boy was I bored! There's only so much you can chat about to the total strangers in line with you, and you can only study your ballot for so long. Somebody had a paper, and we read it about seven times each, then that got old, too. But voting is so important that it was ok. I would have still been standing there at daylight if that's what it took. I'm just glad the pollworkers were willing to keep at it until we had all voted.

Generally speaking, however, I consider my time valuable, and I hate late. If you are my last client of the day and you aren't there by 20 after, I'm gone. If you are meeting me for lunch and you aren't there within 20 minutes of the agreed-upon time, I'm ordering without you. If you're my doc and you aren't ready for me within 20 minutes of my appointment time, I'm leaving. And I tell my classes that if I'm not there within 20 minutes of the scheduled start time, I'm not coming and they are dismissed. I once had a professor whom I never actually met because he was late for every single class the first few weeks of the semester. The fourth time this happened I went to the Registrar's at 20 after and withdrew: I made them give me every penny back, too. No withdrawal fees, or late registration fees for the new class I signed up for either. I felt disrespected, and I worry that, when I'm late, no matter the reason, that I am communicating a disrespect that I don't feel to the person cooling their heels waiting on me.

Why is this such a big issue for me? Possibly because my mother was late everywhere she went. When I was a kid, I don't think I ever saw a movie from front to back. We would arrive late, stumble around in the dark looking for a place to sit, then climb over people in the middle of the movie. I was always so embarrassed! We'd watch the last half of the show, then sit through the previews and the newsreels and the cartoon and watch the first half of the movie. Mom would announce, "This is where we came in," and we would get up and leave, climbing over everybody again and stumbling out of the theatre in the dark. My mother-in-law was the same way: The Dad-in-Law used to always tell her things were starting 45 min. before they actually did in order to get her dressed and out of the house in time, and even that didn't always work. Mr. is prompt, thank heaven, or we never would have made it as a couple.

Part of promoting Rule #2 to patients is that so often they--especially the women--do not hold themselves in high enough esteem. They are willing to be kept waiting endlessly by people who obviously are disrespecting them by making them sit. One of the faculty at the Internship From Hell pulled that on me once, deliberately, and when I left after 20 minutes he went ballistic. (It turned out that he had not arrived for nearly two hours!). In business and politics, apparently, keeping people waiting like that is a deliberate ploy to establish dominance: What made the guy so mad was that I didn't demonstrate the expected subservience. I won't play that game, and don't encourage my patients to, either.

Anyways, that's Rule #2.

Postscript: The second time was the charm. There were no handicapped spaces available, so Mr. had to drop me off, take the car across the street to the drugstore, and walk back, then repeat the process in reverse afterwards to pick me up. But except for that we were in and out with no problems. The guy in front of us, who had come through the regular line, said he'd been there 4-1/4 hours. My hat's off to him and to every one of those other good people so determined to vote. You go, America!

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