This call came in from an 82-year-old man. I'll call him Oughta-Know-Better. He hadn't received his ID cards. Not a problem, easily remedied. So I asked him to verify his information, including his address with zip code. This was especially important in this call because sending him new ID cards wouldn't work if they weren't going to the right address. So here we go:
Me: Sir, would you please verify your address?
Oughta-Know-Better: 12345 Place Place Street, Wherever, Some State
Me: And the zip code, sir?
Oughta-Know-Better: What's that?
Me: The five digits on the end of your address.
Me: That's an area code sir, I need your zip code.
Oughta-Know-Better: I don't have one.
Me: Everyone has a zip code sir, it goes on the end of your address.
Me: No sir, that's an area code. Do you have an envelope lying around? It will have your address on it, read that to me.
Oughta-Know-Better: This letter you sent me says PO Box 1234, Place Place, Wherever.
Me: Sir, that's OUR address. Look for YOUR address.
Oughta-Know-Better: There's this 003456 number on this envelope you sent me, next to the stamp.
Me: No, that's not it. Look on the envelope for YOUR address.
Oughta-Know-Better: Let me look at the back. The back is blank. There's nothing on the back!
Me: The back of what sir?
Oughta-Know-Better: I'm telling you, there's nothing on the back!
I eventually deduce that he's looking at the back of the envelope. Commence headdesking. Eventually he gives me his area code, the code next to the stamp, his phone number, his social security number, his Medicare ID number, and his date of birth before spouting out his zip code apparently by accident.
Me: Great sir! That number you just gave me, that's your zip code.
Oughta-Know-Better: But it wasn't on the back!
This call came in from a middle aged woman. I'll call her Lives-Alone. She called in with a complaint about her doctor's office. Apparently, she had received a notice from them saying she smoked.
Lives-Alone: I don't smoke! It's libel if they say I smoke. I could sue them but I'm not going to do that. I can't believe they said that about me. You know at this place there's a lot of white doctors and one black doctor. Now I'm not racist, but one of them doesn't like me. She put it on my record because she doesn't like me and she thinks I've got money. I don't have money.
Me: (interrupting, as the stream of useless information showed no signs of ending) Ma'am, did you have a question for me today?
Lives-Alone: Yes, I want to know how much I'll owe for next month. Can you believe they said I smoked? My mother died of lung cancer and I haven't smoked since! Do you know what it's like, to see someone die of lung cancer? I smoke electronic cigarettes, but I don't buy them. My friend lets me try them. They don't have any nicotine! You know, this is all because I gave this young girl in the office a complement about her teeth. I'll never have white teeth. My mother told me that. But now I'm going to have white teeth, I'm going to try Crest Whitestrips. When I left the office that day that doctor gave me such an mean look, wouldn't give me the time of day. But I'll show her. I'll have white teeth now! She's just mad because I have Insurance and not Other Insurance-
Me: (interrupting again) Ma'am, did you want to know your monthly premium next month?
Lives-Alone: No. I want to know how much my next month's doctor's visits are going to cost.
Me: I don't know ma'am, they haven't happened yet. We can't predict the future.
Lives-Alone: Well I also have a visit tomorrow.
Me: That still hasn't happened yet, we don't know how much it will cost.
Lives-Alone: Well I'm not racist, but I have to say.... Are you a white girl?
Me: *thinking, wtf?!?!* I'm female....
Lives-Alone: Well I haven't seen the doctor in months and it isn't right for them to say I smoke. That's libel and blah blah blah blah blah....
At this point I bring out my word search book and sort of tune her out while I let her get it out of her system. Some of our callers don't really want help with their issues, they just want to feel they've had a good vent and been heard. Eventually they run out of steam. She erratically bulldozes through a dozen or so boring topics, and 20 minutes later I am so sick of hearing her voice that I have to interrupt again.
Me: Ma'am, I can't help you find out what your future services will cost. Is there any way I CAN help you today?
Lives-Alone: I want to know what my bills will be-
Me: (interrupting) I can't help you with that. Why are you calling me?
Lives-Alone: I don't know. I don't smoke! Is there any record that says they will call you next month to discuss my smoking?
Me: (interrupting) We don't have records of the future.
Now I have dropped all pleasantries and let my voice drop a few octaves as well. I also begin interrupting her more quickly, just to make it end. Finally, she begins peppering her diatribe with some low-grade curse words out of frustration. Now, normally I would overlook this kind of cussing. She's not calling me names or anything, she's just expressing her frustration with the whole situation. Apparently starting with being born and working her way down from there. But at this point I'm looking for any possible reason to terminate the call. I give her three strikes in very quick succession and then:
Me: Have a nice day! *click*
In my line of work I am continually amazed by people. I have spoken with people who amazed me with their patience, working steadily through their own limited knowledge and confusing paperwork to finally grasp the situation.
I have spoken with people who have managed to establish themselves as a one-of-a-kind delightful character within the first sentence spoken. And I have spoken with many pharmacists, billing specialists, and office staff who have probably have been as run down and frustrated as I was, but were willing to put it aside to work with me to help solve a patient's issue. Humanity can be wonderful.
I have also spoken with people who won't-do-it, don't-care, the world is as-they-think-it-is, and no amount of evidence to the contrary will ever make them change their mind. I have spoken with people who have somehow managed to attain a ripe old age without ever acquiring any social graces whatsoever. And I have spoken with people who believe that they are a special little snowflake and the rules simply shouldn't apply to them in any circumstance. When the Vulcan fleet invades I am signing up for Kolinahr.
Live long and prosper.