“Do I charge them?” she asks.
“For sure! Charge ‘em!”
I’m in a take-no-prisoners mood, who knows, why, but have spent a good deal of the day working without a break. And the day started at the hospital, checking on my father. Every morning this week is at the hospital, which I don't mind, but I've been driving there, which is bad enough, and hate the parking lot, going around and around and around and around and around.
And there's no time to get home after the visit to change clothes to ride my bike to the office. There just isn’t time to waste.
So in general, I’m a little out of sorts. And some of the crank, for sure, is my father’s because he’s the helpless one lying around in a hospital bed.
I haven’t even told my colleague this, none of it, because (a) there hasn't been a lot of time to talk, and (b) I don’t want to talk about it. That’s what a blog is for anyway.
She says, “Charge them? How do I charge them? Should I call them up on the phone right now?”
“Don’t be silly! When you can talk to me? You'll get a call for another appointment and will say, ‘By the way, you know you owe me for the last visit. You didn’t show.’
And your patient will say, 'Oh, drat! I forgot!' or will spill out some excuse. Then you'll give that little speech we give." (Most professionals have a variation of this one.)
Sure, I understand, but you're supposed to at least call, we had a deal, even if you're sick, or have a funeral you have to go to, and you stole another patient’s time, because there's always someone who wants a cancellation. But no one could take your spot because it wasn't open cuz that didn't happen. That's why we charge, it's why I charge. Makes people more sensitive to other people the next time."You deliver the lecture," I tell her, "get paid and are no longer resentful and grumpy. The world is beautiful again."
“I’ll try it,” she says.
She might, but she probably won't charge. We social workers can be all mush.
So today I say to FD, “I’ve had it with driving. I’m riding my bike to the hospital and from there I’ll ride it to work. I’ll leave early so there's plenty of time.”
He’s skeptical, “Uh, that adds 11 miles to your bike ride.”
“No way,” I say. “And anyway, it’s all bike trail.”
For the most part it is bike trail by the river, meaning easy riding, and the only real danger is urban cougar, the feline species, and an occasional tricyclist. (By this we mean child on a tricycle, not someone on an antidepressant).
“You’ll see how far it is. It’s going to be tough. I can drive you, do what I have to do, then pick you up at the hospital. Then you can drop me off at work and have the car,” he continues.
“Senseless. It’s a beautiful day. Birds gotta’ sing, girl’s gotta’ fly.”
And it is fine, it truly is, for the first mile and a half. I’m very out of shape, have had no time this summer to get on my bike most days, and when I have done it, it’s been slow going. I’m not the person I was even a year ago. Enjoy your youth, my friends.
But I get to the hospital, no worse for the wear, and lock up my bike, take off my helmet and take a deep breath. I’m a half an hour late and for sure have missed the doctors. I want to talk to one of them, at least. Anyone on the team will do.
I get up to my father’s room and he’s rearranging the hoses and tubes that are sticking out of his arms so that he can sit down comfortably in his recliner. The drips are full of diuretics to get the excess water out of his body. The kidneys aren’t working, the heart’s not working, nothing’s exactly doing what it’s supposed to do. He’s braced himself for disaster and has been very philosophical.
“The food here is good, but I’m not hungry.”
“You’re sick,” I say.
“And it’s sickening, right, being sick, so how could you have an appetite? It would be weird to have an appetite, I feel.”
He laughs and shows me the paper and pencil review he’s given the nurses and the doctors so far. He has been very positive, very happy with his care-givers.
“I love it," I say. "You know, there are people who won’t give a positive review. No matter what, they will find something wrong with the people who are just trying to get through their day, trying to be helpful.”
“And those people are wrong!“ he confirms quietly. “They should write a good review anyway.” He would tip even the worst waitress. “Even if they’re terrible you tell their bosses how good they are. Then they’re not so terrible. They get better.”
We banter about nothing, and I realize that if I don’t get back on my bike I’ll be late for work and can’t let this happen. Mom will take the next shift pretty soon, anyway. I buy a bottle of water at the snack bar before leaving.
The ride to the office is LONG (about seven miles, FD is right on the money) and I have a sandwich in my backpack and I’m thinking maybe I should stop and eat or have a drink. There are plenty of park benches calling my name, but worry that if I do, and something happens, maybe a flat tire, I’ve wasted time eating and drinking. I hate being late. And I’m not hungry, anyway.
But I get to work in plenty of time and my fish (2 baby maroon clowns) are thrilled to see me. I feed them and they think they've died and gone to heaven. There are patients who have been calling all morning long on the office line, my cell phone, too, that I should call back, so I get to that. Eeeny, meeny, minee moe.
By 5:30 my back hurts and I reach for the Advil, pop open some email, too. One says in the subject line, 'I'm venting.' Why not? What's a therapist for?
There’s one more appointment to go, a 5:45. I get the call.
“Yup, where are you? Caught in traffic?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“I’m a genius.” (I don’t say this)
The city has been impossible, one of the allures of biking. Chicago has a short summer and construction begins and we end, so to speak, with the good weather. It is possible to spend the best hours of the day behind the wheel.
“Oh, a little birdie told me.”
“By the time I get to your office our time will be up,” he moans, remorsefully.
“We can talk on the phone,” I tentatively suggest.
“But you’re in traffic, I just remembered, and I want you to pay attention to the road.” And I’m thinking, I can leave! I can go home!
“Can we reschedule?” he asks.
I find him a spot next week, knowing there's money lost here. I tell him, “I’m not charging you.”
“Thanks!” He’s so happy.
“Have a great night.”
Fact is, I could have charged him, and he would have gladly paid me. But he is powerless here and I am happy here and why would we punish either of us for either of those things? Hey, and he's called.
I pack it up and am out the door. It’s threatening rain, but you know, it’s that light summer rain that doesn’t bother you, the kind that sort of wakes you up, reminds you what it’s like to be a kid again, not worried about things like rain.