The Cost of Kindness
“You’re so easy!”
Wait, before you go off jumping to conclusions, let me provide some context. I was in for my annual eye appointment. Once you hit middle age, it’s recommended that you get your eyes checked yearly, even if you’re like me and only need cheaters.
Because, as I’ve written before, this is the age where we start to fall apart.
But I digress…
The place was super busy for 8:30 in the morning. I started to get a bit anxious when the crowd at check-in seemed stuck with complicated issues. I hadn’t built in that much extra time when I left the house at dawn for the hour-plus drive into the big city. Just as I was next to approach the counter, a staff member approached, cut in front of me, and called out the name of some person who wasn’t me.
My anxiety switched to impatience. Or maybe it was annoyance. Now I was going to be deemed late.
I watched (and listened) as the staff person told the young man that because he didn’t have a referral, the thing he came in for was going to cost a lot of money and he was better off getting a referral and coming back some other time. Why this conversation was happening within earshot of me, I have no idea. The young man was crestfallen.
Actually, I don’t know if he was crestfallen - he, like all of us, was wearing a mask. The staff member apologized profusely. The young man walked away. Then it was my turn to check in.
Turns out I wasn’t late after all.
If you’ve never been in for an eye exam, I’d put it at about a 3-4 on the scale of annoyance or discomfort. Even though I only do this once a year, I’ve become familiar with the routine. Look at the balloon. Read some letters. Here are some drops and we’ll shine a bright light in your eyes. Read some more letters. Here are some stingy drops that will dilate your pupils. Read some more letters.
I’m generally compliant. Why wouldn’t I be?
So when the assistant to the ophthalmologist (is she a nurse? Technician? Optician?) cheerfully exclaimed how easy I was, I wondered to myself: what’s the alternative?
A year ago, at a different routine appointment, I found myself startled by a large sign placed on the back of the door of the exam room. Really? We need to be reminded that we can’t hit, threaten or intimidate others? When did it become necessary to remind us of the need for basic self-control? I realize that medical facilities are among the last places anyone wants to be for any reason. I’ve also learned how stress and fear bring out the worst in many of us, and the pandemic certainly didn’t help. We’re still coming to grips with physical, mental and emotional scars from a catastrophic upending of life as we once knew it.
For me, however, the pandemic created opportunities to be nice to people. To recognize that everyone is just trying to get through their day. To accept the tremendous privilege of good medical care and decent health insurance, knowing that others do not share that privilege.
In other words… to be “easy.”
My sister is a cardiac nurse who works in a small hospital in Upstate New York. She has said that since "you-know-who" was elected in 2016, violence has increased in hospital settings. This president condoned and encouraged violence & people followed suit. Witness what happened on Jan 6, 2021. He gave carte blanche to these extremist behaviors. He gave people permission to behave badly, and they do so in many hospitals around the country. Patient violence against medical personnel is not new. However, it has ramped up since 2016 and the pandemic. Based on the stories I hear from my sister and other medical professionals, where medical personnel get severely assaulted, I feel that these signs need to be put up. Not everyone is nice or civil.
Another great story from a great storyteller. Keep 'em coming. I'm not sure how I feel about the signage. It shouldn't be necessary but then again .... I just continue to try every day to be nice, to be kind.