15 February 2009


Thank you for calling the Christ Hospital, how may I direct your call? Hi, I need to make an appointment at your vascular clinic. Do you have that number? Clinic, sir? What kind of clinic? The vascular clinic. Do you need to be examined by a doctor, sir? Naturally. What is the name of that doctor, sir? It's not a specific doctor. I have a referral to the vascular clinic. To the first available doctor. Sir, the vascular clinic requires a referral for you to be seen by a physician. You are absolutely correct. I have a referral from my primary care provider. She sent a referral to the vascular clinic. You should have it in your --- All right, sir, let me connect you to our appointment line. Pause. Canned music accompanies a syrupy, heartwarming advertisement. Our caring, highly trained specialists provide state-of-the-art medical and surgical services. Our cardiac care is second to none. Your sledgehammer myocardial infarction would have killed you had you chosen any other clinic for treatment. Treatment provided by our caring, highly trained ---- Gynecology clinic, this is Tiffany, how may I help you? Dear God. The operator was supposed to connect me to vascular. I'm sorry sir, this isn't, um, vacluous, this is gynecology. Tiffany, you can tell from my sonorous, baritone voice that I do not require gynecological services. I'm trying to make an appointment with the vas-cu-lar clinic. Appointment? Oh sir, we can't make an appointment for you here --- you have to have a doctor's reference! It's called a referral, not a reference. And I do have one. I'm a male, I don't need a pelvic exam, I need vascular. Could you please connect me with--- Okay, sir. And you said --- what was wrong? You have an infected bar bone? Vascular, vascular, VASCULAR! --- sir, I'll just transfer you to the clinic information line, please hold. This wait is not as long as the first one. A young man answers after only two rings. Specialties Clinic Information, this is Brad speaking. Good morning. My name is Raymond Tasker. My doctor referred me to the Vascular Clinic, and I'd like to make an appointment. Which clinic, sir? Vascular. Have you been to that clinic before, sir? No, I have not. That's why --- I'm sorry Mr. Blaster, you are required to have a referral from your doctor to make an appointment. Brad --- I feel strangely connected to you, do you mind if I call you Brad? Well, uh --- Brad, I do have a referral. It should be in your system, if you look. In your scheduling database. Oh, so you know about the scheduling database! Are you a hospital employee? No. I just made that up because it sounded like the sort of sententious bureaucratic jargon that you'd understand, Brad. And I do. Have a reference. Excellent, sir. And why are you needing this appointment, sir? Why? Because my saphenous vein is so enlarged it looks like a dozen parsnips are ripening inside my leg. Wow, I see. So --- are you saying you need to be examined by a doctor? Yes! A doctor! You'll make employee of the month, Bradley, there's no holding you back now, brother. Sir, I'm going to connect you to our information operator, and she can help you with your situation. Oh no! She's the one I first talked to! Brad? She'll send me to gynecology! Don't do it, Brad! Again, there is a silent pause. A muffled fumbling. Another pause. And then --- Muzak. Bland sonic treacle, with none of your challenging, subversive chromatics, please.* Another wait, another zero gravity tour of limbo. The late George Carlin once inquired, "If you die while you're on hold, does your light go out?" Ray considers this. He rubs the itchy, opportunistic fungus that has formed lesions on his leg because the skin doesn't get enough oxygenated blood. He massages the saphenous vein that bulges even while he sits with his legs crossed. Ray shares this phone with eleven other people at the residential shelter where he has been given a room. Somebody tramps down the stairs. The front door bangs open. He is thinking he doesn't want to be accused of monopolizing the house phone, and, as if reacting to his thoughts, his connection to UC is broken, and the dial tone fills his ear. * Readers well briefed on current events will be aware that because of the economic recession, the company that provides Muzak has had to file for bankruptcy.

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All original text (C) 2007, 2008 David J. Carney. All rights reserved.

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