Sunday, August 28, 2011

Biding our time

One of the Associate editors of the Tallahassee "mullet wrapper" did an interesting little column this weekend on his experience of waiting an excessive amount of time in a physician's office and finally walking out without seeing the physician. I think that all of us have had that experience.

For twenty years of a thirty year career I used to have to try and access physicians in thier offices to detail them on our pharmaceutical products. I facetiously called myself a professional waiter. The drill went thusly: you walked into an office and presented your card to the receptionist and asked if there was any possible way that you might grab their doctor for a moment. You then sat down and waited. Many times the receptionist was kind enough to tell you that there was no time today because they were slammed. Towards the mid part of that twenty years, I would wait 30 minutes maximum and then leave some literature and be on my way. Otherwise you could be sitting in the corner there for hours.

I have observed steamed patients giving the receptionist an earful of painful monologue, interjected with severe profanity after having spent 2-3 hours in the pursuit of an appointment and still no face time with the physician. " If I ran my business as inefficiently as you run this business, I would starve to death." I had a man almost attack me once in a parking lot as I was putting my detail bag back in my trunk. I had just spent 30-45 minutes with the physician talking about drugs, football, the war and telling jokes. This man had been steaming in the waiting room to see the physician and blamed me for holding him up. His wife held him off from taking a swing at me as I advised him that the samples he held in his hand came from my trunk or one of my competitors. He was old, agitated and markedly short tempered. Of course who is to say that he didn't have a handgun in his pocket. I was therefore apologetic and diplomatic.

I could tell the personality of a physician before I ever met them. If you walked into a bright, cheery office and were greeted civilly, you can bet that the physician was bright, cheery and fun to be around. He enjoyed his job and took good care of his patients. If you were greeted cooly by a grouchy receptionist and the staff looked cowed and nervous, you could bet your boots that the physician was a near tyrant having a bad day. Best to steer clear and be on your way. I always liked that part of my job. I could have a very unpleasant exchange with the physician or a staff member and get my plow cleaned. However, as I drove away I assured myself how lucky I was to not have to work there. I had so many potential clients to call on that I really never had to go back into that office. Pity the poor people who had to go there everyday.

My wife has to go see a vitreoretinologist here in Tallahassee. One time she waited for 4 hours to have him spend 1.5 minutes with her. Cost? $120. That office is sheer chaos. The up front staff are the most sanguine, unfriendly people you will ever meet. Why do you suppose that is? I would conjecture that they catch heat every day from one or more patients over the extraordinary wait times. The physicians are overworked because there are no other such specialists within 2-3 hours of Tallahassee. They are the only show in town. You would think that they would set a schedule and adhere to it very rigidly. If they got off course then maybe you would be 30 minutes to an hour off your appointment time. But FOUR hours? Hardly excusable.

I remember calling on a physician in Blountstown named Elga White. He was a general practitioner and had a very busy practice. He would see drug reps just before lunch and just before 5:00 PM. On occassions he would see you in between I am assuming if he had a no show or two. On those occassions he had a nurse who monitored his time. If you got too embellished with him and took too much time she would come into the room and advise him that he was 5 minutes off pace in seeing patients. He would politely conclude his visit with you and return to his patients. Now that was a man in control.

I once read a book on time management. I cannot remember the name of it but I do remember one very impactful quote." Time is life. It is irreplaceable and irreversible. Waste your time and you waste your life." As I have meandered down the road of life I find myself into my 66th year. I am becoming more and more conscious of how I spend my time. I am prioritizing more than I used to. I am irritated when people waste my time. They will do that seemingly intent on sucking the life out of you. You have to get in control of what you agree to do and you act on decisions related to time investment. It is a precious commodity. Bide your time and do it with stinginess and thought.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One Frosty, Cold, Day in Tallahassee

I had an interesting experience in Tallahassee a few months ago. Florida State University was hosting an intercollegiate men's golf tournament at Southwood golf club where I played most of my golf. I noticed a petition for volunteers to help with the tournament and called a phone number listed in the paper and soon had a volunteer job.

Now this was mid-March. You non-north-Floridians most likely think that the weather was warm and tropical with our palm trees gently flowing from a soft gentle breeze. Those of us that live here year round know that the opposite generally holds true January through March. The weather for this tournament was bitter cold. The first day had wind gusts in the 30 mph range and the wind chill was in the teens. I was out there with sweater, jacket, gloves and thermal underwear.

My job was pretty simple. I was to drive a 6 passenger golf cart between green and tee box on particular holes. I generally had a threesome of players from the 12 universities participating. I loved rubbing shoulders with them and shooting off my big mouth. To me it was a mitigated carnival atmosphere. Shuttling the players helped to move the pace of play.

On the second day that I was there, I drove to the course to start my shift by 7:00 AM. Once I got there I found that there was a frost delay 'til 8:00 AM. In order to fill my time for an hour, I went up to the practice tee to watch the players warm up.
I spoke to several parents and friends of players watching their golfer. I welcomed them to Tallahassee, asked about their player and made general chit chat. They didn't know for certain that I was not some tournament official so everyone made nice to the old geezer, entertaining my arcane questions and comments. Until I came to this one older couple.

The man was in his late 60's to his early 70's. I said to him, " Welcome to Tallahassee. Are you enjoying your stay? Where are you from? Who is your golfer?" The man turned towards me as if his neck was stiff from sleeping on a strange pillow. He had a snow white cardigan sweater on and enormous cigar clenched in his teeth. He did not speak to me or acknowledge my presence for one split second. As a matter of fact he looked as if it was taking all he could do to restrain himself from expectorating on me. The BIGGGGGGG FREEEEEZE ! I felt like a complete doofus.

Almost instantaneously his wife jumped into the conversation. She was as ebbulient as he was condescending. She advised me that they were from Sarasota and were in Tallahassee to follow their grandson who was a North Carolina golfer. She was a lovely lady with a confident and pleasant air and I felt better. She was obviously trying to make amends for the frosty treatment this man had given me.

I made my way to the snack bar and got a drink and a snack readying myself for my shift. Mike, the Southwood golf pro, came over to sit a moment and visit. During our visit this couple walked by. I asked Mike who the old guy in the white cardigan was. He responded with do your remember the name Tony Jacklin? I thought for a moment and I said sure. Didn't he win the British Open in about 1970? He did. He was also the lead player on the 1969 European team that won the Ryder cup in a brilliant performance. I told Mike about the experience on the practice tee and he said that was a shame. I responded to him that I didn't mind. Can you just imagine how many people interupt him around golf courses when they find out who he is.

I later told my wife the story and she of course never heard of him and categorized his demeanor as unacceptable, no matter who he was. I told her, " He is Tony Jacklin, a living legend. If I was him, I would probably act just the same way." She told me that no I wouldn't. I was a pronounced people person and no matter the other person's station in life I would treat them kindly, because that was just the sort of person you are. He on the other hand is a jerk." I really couldn't argue with her.