Enjoying my time on hold: A terrible double murder, a rocky coast, and the US Marshalls


Here’s an idea that’s bold:

A thing you can do while on hold

Instead of music to hear

That will bore you to tears

Listen to the story that’s told.

 

SYNOPSIS:  I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, sold my share of a private practice, and, honoring a 1-year non-compete clause, went to have adventures in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand.  I returned to take a part-time position with a Community Health Center, now down to 40 hours a week from 54.  Right now I’m in Petersburg, Alaska, on a 1 month working vacation. 

I won’t dwell on the details of the case, or the drama and irony that unfolded as I watched the dancer pay the piper.  The bottom line came when the patient requested a referral to the Native Hospital on Sitka. 

I go out of my way to expedite referrals, consultations, and second opinions; I have never regretted doing so.  In this case, protocol required I call the physician on call at the referral hospital.

I got put on hold.

I have spent a lot of my life on hold; in 1990 my frustration with the insurance companies’ abuse of my time led me to put a yoyo in my pocket (which relieved tension and brought me to a degree of proficiency I could not have imagined).  I now do my best to leave my name and cell phone number rather than wait; I can get work done if not distracted by the hold music or the canned ads that impose on a captive audience.  The phone system at Mount Edgecome didn’t play music or ads. Instead, I listened to a Native story teller.  He had a good story and he told it well, drawing pictures with words, of a terrible double murder and a difficult bureacracy. 

My fascination brought me to another place, a stormy, rocky coast under gloomy skies.  Had I sat in his audience, my legs would have fallen asleep before I noticed.  I really could have listened to him all day.  And just as he got to the part where the US Marshalls discovered the bodies, the other doc picked up the phone. 

Her voice came through, clear and chipper and professional.  We exchanged pleasantries.  I told her about the case, and what we’d done so far.  She asked an incredibly insightful question about substance abuse, and 45 seconds into the conversation we poised ready to ring off.  But I had to tell her how much I had enjoyed the time on hold.  The hospital, she said, had recently changed the tape; I told her it was a great idea.

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