Post Title: Tapping Into a New Dentist

Same Day Appointments

One thing I’ve learned about life is that what seems like a big problem never really is. It’s all in how you handle it.

As my older brother and I forged ahead after Mom’s passing, we supported each other the best we could. I reminded Mike of his appointments and he drove me to mine. Once in a while, I waited too long to tell him and he had his own doctor’s visits to tend to. In that case, I usually deferred mine. For some reason, our miscommunications always fell on the days I scheduled my six-month teeth cleanings. The last draw for my dentist came when after a friend drove me, and I arrived late. I explained to the receptionist we had gotten lost. I tried to elaborate. Since I couldn’t see well, I was poor at giving directions. But she cut me off and fixed me with a glare.

“From this point on, you must have only ‘same-day appointments.’”

Her pronouncement came down, merciless, like a guillotine, over my neck.

Mike and I never worked out when we could do it. I always remembered at the weekend. That’s when I realized appointments worked better for me, as they did for most others.

Then Covid-19 came and no one went anywhere.

Suddenly, I needed to see the dentist. One tooth on the right-hand side took on a valley-shape. It didn’t hurt, but I think it needed some work. When businesses opened up, I called them straightaway. “Sorry, we aren’t taking new patients until February 2021.”

I gasped. Six months from now?!

“But I’m not new.” I didn’t remind her about my ‘same day appointment’ status.

“We are booked until mid-February 2021,” she repeated.

Looking For a New Dentist

I called my insurance company to generate a list of approved dentists covered in the area. I had already waited months, and certainly could not wait six more months!

The clerk gave me the names of dentists in the area. After giving me one name, I reported back. “I already called them. They don’t take my insurance. Well, any insurance.” And so we continued through his list. I carefully annotated four or five names neatly along with their addresses and phone numbers. After thanking him, I followed up on them.

I called them one by one. Most had a long waiting list. I scheduled one for 8 am in the following month in case nothing else opened up. But it would be difficult to make such an early appointment.

Luckily, I hit the jackpot in the very next call. I could hardly believe my ears. They would take me that same day at 2 pm. I couldn’t wait!

On the drive in, Mike asked me, “Are you sure they take your insurance? I didn’t have much luck with this dentist earlier on mine. You better make sure before you have anything done.”

What Kind of Coverage

“Okay.” But I knew they did. After all, I had gotten their name from my insurance company.

When I reached the receptionist desk and gave them my insurance cards, the clerk asked me “What kind of coverage do you have?”

I stiffened. “I don’t know. But I’m sure I’m covered. I received the name of your dentistry from my agent.”

Somehow there seemed to be a problem with her getting through to the agent.

“You’re going to have to call,” she declared.

“Me? I can’t see the number on the card. I don’t have a magnifying glass.” I backed away. What was the problem? Why was I doing her job? This seemed highly irregular.

She rattled the number off while I hunted for a pen to write it down. I finally found a stubble of pencil in my bag “Hang on, tell it to me again.”

I sat down in one of the few non-roped off seats in the waiting room, despairing that I had to do this task. Mike was waiting for my okay in the parking lot so he could take off an eat lunch. I had problems hearing so I moved to a corner and put it on speaker phone only to find I was listening to a recording. I gave my number for the company to call me back.

“This is ridiculous. I. am. Insured,” I told the receptionist.

Ten minutes later, I spoke to a customer service representative. Yes, I was insured. But I had to pay up front and then the company would reimburse me. My jaw dropped. Did I have the money? Oh, Lord. Did I? It turned out they would only reimburse a limited amount as well.

A Mix-Up

I looked at my watch. 2:45 pm. “Is it too late to have my appointment? I was scheduled for two o’clock.”

“Date of birth?”

I told her my birthdate.

She looked up. “No, you’re not scheduled here.”

What? “Aspen Dental? Yes, I am. I know because when I called, I thought of Colorado, and how my cousin and I nearly drove there in the middle of the night from Pittsburgh after …”

She was looking at her book. “No, you are not scheduled. Are you sure it was with us?”

“Yes!” I was adamant. “Look! I held out my cell phone. This is my phone call to you this morning.” I tapped my phone where the number appeared.

Silence. “But Miss Amy, that’s not our number.” The receptionist’s voice soothed as she added the honorific to soften the blow.

I clutched my white cane in confusion. My shoulders slumped.

“There is another dental office called Peach Street Dental and Dentures a few blocks away. Perhaps you called them?” She sounded practical. “It’s right by Chick-Fil-A.”

I looked at my notebook and found the name of that dental practice on the sheet. It had a little heart beside the address. At the bottom in bold black a note read “2pm.” And scrawled about six inches over was Chick-Fil-A.

Aspen Dental was listed just after the name she mentioned..

My eyes must have landed on that name, and I somehow misread it. That can happen to a sighted person, too, right? The big thing is how are you going to handle this embarrassment? Dignity, Amy, dignity.

“Yes, I think I made a mistake.”

She probably couldn’t see me roll my eyes because my mask, like a pair of pants with the elastic stretched out, nearly covered them. She might have been able to guess I was smiling under my mask though.

My eyes rested on her wedding ring. “Well, you have a story to tell your husband tonight,” I said, brightly.

“That I do. Let me call the other dental practice and tell me you’re on your way in. They’ll wait for you, I’m sure.”

I thanked her, and swung my cane out in a wide arc to find the entrance. Every day I found myself facing an unexpected adventure. Life never let me down. A gust of wind nearly blew me over outside. For a moment, I felt like Mary Poppins. But instead of an umbrella to carry me along, I had a white cane. As I swept my way to the car, the words came to me, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…”

The sweet response from the receptionist sure helped me get rid of that awful taste on my tongue as my apology went down. She could have tapped back even more pointedly to my phone tapping, or responded in a number of snide ways. But she chose kindness.

“Sorry Mike, I was at the wrong place.” I giggled behind my mask. “It’s next to ….”

“Let me guess,” he said, “Chick-Fil-A.” He pulled out of the parking lot, resigned to his fate as my driver.

“You got it.”

When have you gone to the wrong place? How did you handle the situation? Did you see the humor of it afterward?

You have just read “Tapping into a new Dentist” by Amy L. Bovaird. © November 24, 2020. All rights reserved.