Some of my younger readers may not know this, but there actually was a time in the not too distant past when not everyone had a cell phone. The early model cell phones weighed about five pounds each and made you look like you were holding a shoebox up to the side of your face. Not everyone had the stamina for that. So in order to talk to someone, you had to call their home phone, and most people had answering machines to take messages when they were not at home to take the call.
The story that I am about to relate takes place in just such a primitive time. The emotional scars that I suffered from the ordeal still glow pink with the blush of humiliation every Valentine’s Day, but my therapist has assured me that “the only way to get over it is to get through it.” For $150 an hour, you would expect more than insipid platitudes from a licensed therapist, but whatever…he’s the one with the degree, so here I am about to spill my guts.
This probably ranks up there as the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me, but I am buoyed up by the realization that I am still in mid life and still have a good number of productive years ahead of me in which to engineer even more embarrassing situations.
It all started because our answering machine decided to go on the fritz. This necessitated us actually having to answer our phone, which my redhead, Tami, has made clear to me on more than one occasion that I am never to do! (You will understand shortly the wisdom in this).
I was home alone. It was the Monday before Valentine’s Day. The phone rang so I picked up the receiver.
“Hi. This is Doctor ‘blank’s’ office.”
Now, there are a couple of things that you need to be aware of before I go any further. The first is that I knew that I had an appointment the following day with my dentist, doctor “Bonder”. The second is that I had completely forgotten that my redhead had made an appointment with our veterinarian, doctor “Ponder”, for our dog’s annual checkup. I don’t want to belabor the point, but it is an important one. The dentist is “Bonder” with a “B”, and the vet is “Ponder” with a “P”. Now, back to the phone call…
“Hi. This is doctor “Ponders” office. I just wanted to remind you of your appointment tomorrow at ten a.m.”
Now, because I had forgotten about the appointment with the vet, and was fully mindful of my appointment with the dentist, I heard her say “Bonder”, not “Ponder”. Therefore, I thought I was talking to the dentist’s office, not the veterinarian’s office.
“I have it written down on my calendar,” I said. “I’ll see you then.”
“We’ll see you tomorrow,” she replied.
We said our goodbyes and then she added, “Oh, there is one last thing. You will need to bring in a stool sample.”
There was a long pause before I asked, “A what?”
“We’ll need a stool sample,” she repeated.
“That’s kind of an unusual request, isn’t it?” I asked.
“Not really,” she assured me. “It’s actually quite common.”
“REALLY!” I was incredulous! It had been a while since I had been to the dentist and I had to admit to myself that I had not kept abreast of the inroads made in dental technology.
“Well, I suppose if you really need it,” I said. “But how do I go about … uhm … collecting the sample?”
“The easiest way,” she said, “is to do what most folks do. Slip a plastic bag over your hand and just pick it up. Then turn the bag inside-out and there you have it…no mess.”
I assured her that I would be there the next day, with the required sample, and I hung up the phone.
The next morning I set about to collect my sample. I am not going to go into the details. Believe me; you will thank me for this. There are a couple of things that I need to mention, however, in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
First off, when I talked to the receptionist I failed to find out exactly how much of a sample they required. I wanted to make sure that they had enough to do whatever it was that they were going to do with it. Fortunately, I had had a huge dinner the night before, so I put forth my best effort and pretty much filled a gallon sized Zip-lock freezer bag. I chose this particular conveyance because of its size and because they have a place on the side of the bag where you can write the contents and the date. I figured that having this information on the bag would keep it all scientific looking.
The second point I want to bring up is more a matter of personal preference than anything else, and it has to do with the actual method used to “capture” the sample. Plastic bag or no plastic bag, I was not about to pick up anything with my hand. I said that I would spare you the details, and I shall. Suffice it to say that I shudder to think what will happen to me if my redhead finds out what I did with her salad tongs.
I arrived at the dentist’s office promptly at ten o’clock, sample in hand. For the sake of propriety, I had placed the Zip-lock bag into a brown paper bag. Keep in mind that this is Valentine’s Day. I knew that it was Valentine’s Day, but I never really thought much about it. Besides, it is not really that important of a day. The really important day is the day after Valentine’s Day. That is the day that all of the Valentine’s chocolate goes on sale for half price at Wal-Mart!
I walked into the dentist’s office and up to the receptionist’s desk. “Good morning,” I said cheerily.
The receptionist was early twenty-something and very pretty. She was playing up the whole Valentine thing to the hilt and had the office and the lobby decorated with red and white and pink hearts and cupids.
“Good morning,” she said, and smiled up at me as I signed the patient register, “and happy Valentine’s day!”
“This is for you.” I said, as I handed her the brown paper sack.
Her eyes got big as saucers and she exclaimed, “More chocolates?”
Apparently, a lot of their patients thought it would be a good joke to bring a dentist chocolate on Valentine’s Day. But I thought that she was making a joke. So I said, “Yep; the best kind. I made them myself.” Then I gave her a little wink.
What happened next was like a nightmare. Smiling, she opened the bag and reached in for her “chocolates”. Her smile was quickly replaced by a look of utter repulsion and horror. The color drained from her face and she dropped the bag on the counter. She looked at me and yelled, “What kind of sick joke is this?” Then she started yelling, “Doctor Bonder, Doctor Bonder!”
The next moment, Doctor Bonder and several other people ran up from the back rooms where they had been working, and the receptionist starts accusing me of being a “sick freak”. One of the other women who came running up to the front when the receptionist started screaming (I think she was a hygienist) led the receptionist to another room to try to calm her down.
I was totally dumbfounded by the whole scene. I had no idea what her problem was, or why she had freaked out the way that she had. I spent the next five minutes trying to explain to Doctor Bonder about the phone call that I received the day before. At first he looked like he was about to call the police. Then, all of a sudden, he asked me, “Do you have a dog?”
Puzzled, I said that I did.
“Do you take your dog to Doctor Ponder on Twenty-Third Street?” he asked.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! I remembered the appointment with the vet! “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD,” I thought to myself. Beads of perspiration broke out on my forehead as I realized my mistake.
He started laughing and soon was doubled up, laughing until tears started rolling down his face. He was joined by the others who had run out with him to see what all of the commotion was about, as well as the six or seven people who were sitting in the lobby and had witnessed the whole scene.
When he had somewhat composed himself, Doctor Bonder explained that they had had problems before because of their similar sounding names, “But nothing like this,” he said, barely able to contain himself. He assured me that he would explain to the receptionist what had happened and that there would not be any problems.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally turned to leave, wanting nothing more than to get as far away from there as I could. However, before I reached the door, I heard Doctor Bonder say, “Please take this with you.”
I turned around and saw him holding the sample bag at arm’s length. This started a whole new round of laughter throughout the reception area. I hastily grabbed the bag and left as fast as I could.
I was absolutely mortified as I made my way to my truck. After getting inside, I just sat there for several minutes. I kept saying over and over again, “It was the vet who wanted the sample! It was the vet who wanted the sample!” It became my mantra as I pulled out of the parking lot.
Now, please don’t judge me for what I did next. Remember that I was in shock. I had just had the most humiliating experience of my life. All I could think of was that it was the vet who wanted the sample. I had an urge that was akin to self preservation to put this whole thing right. I figured that if I could get the sample to the vet, then I could deny that this whole episode had ever taken place.
Before I knew what was happening, I had pulled into the parking lot of the veterinarian clinic on Twenty-Third Street. I took the sample inside and handed it to the receptionist. My redhead had just left with our dog, Pudge, not two minutes before I arrived there, the receptionist informed me.
“How did you get here so fast with your dogs stool sample?” she asked.
That’s when I snapped back to reality. I was thinking clearly again. The fog of my earlier humiliation had lifted and I was facing a brand new humiliation, because I had just handed the receptionist my sample and she thought it was the dogs!
I fought back the urge to scream and run out of there as fast as I could. I had to keep my head. I couldn’t ask for it back. That would be too weird. And I certainly wasn’t going to tell her the truth and relive the whole ordeal I had just gone through. So I said the only thing I could think of at the time.
“Tami left without this,” I said, “so I thought I would drop it off.” I told her good bye and headed out of there as fast as my legs would carry me.
When I got home and told my redhead what had happened, I thought she would wet herself, she laughed so hard. Her idea of sympathy was to call her family back in Wisconsin and tell them all about it.
As a result of my little misadventure, I am once again forbidden from ever answering the phone. We are also looking for a new dentist and a new veterinarian. For obvious reasons I can never show my face in either place ever again.
If you want to look for the silver lining in all of this, there is a positive note that I can end this on. The veterinarian called the other day and informed me that I am free of tape worms and other intestinal parasites! That is always good to know.