Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Maybe I'm getting old and cranky, but I did it again...I fired another medical professional.

I went to the dentist yesterday to finally have a crown put on after the first attempt failed due to his poor workmanship. For this one crown I have spent possibly 4 and a half hours at the dentist's office, most of it waiting.

As soon as I entered the office, signed in and sat down, the business manager poked her head through a small window, much like a scene from the Wizard of Oz, and literally bellowed my name. My previous experience told me I wasn't being quickly seen by the dentist so I walked back over to the window only to have this woman shove a sheet of paper at me while loudly proclaiming, "Mr. Main, some of your bill still hasn't been paid!"

There were perhaps 3 other people in the waiting room and 4 or 5 office workers ensconced behind the glass with the business manager as she started chastising me very publicly about a relatively small sum of money. I stood there as she said, "This seven dollars is for the crown you're having put on today...there's 6 dollars due from when Tiffany was here...there's 8 dollars that insurance didn't cover on Lisa's last visit..." In all I think out of the five family members who had perhaps had $2500.00 worth of work done by this dentist, the outstanding balance was about 120 bucks.

Normally I would have paid it on the spot or at least a good portion of it, but some of that bill is in dispute, plus I was stunned that this woman decided the best approach to collect was to call me up like an errant schoolboy and publicly flog me with my financial failings.

I muttered something along the lines of, "Well, I'll see what I can do" to which she replied, "You better because we'll turn it over to the C.P.A.!"

Personally, out of all the nightmares I have conjured up in my life, none has ever featured an accountant in the role of the boogie man.

I suppressed a laugh, shook my head and went back to my seat to wait for another 20 minutes until I was called in by the dentist.

As a dental assistant tried in vain to make light banter, I decided on my course of action. As soon as my crown was completed I marched up to the desk, this time on the insider's area of the glass enclosure and wrote a check for one fifth of the outstanding bill. Then, very loudly, I announced I was firing the dentist and his staff.

I was pleased that several staff members were present, and a few patients were well within earshot. They all looked at me incredulously.

Amazingly the dentist, who barely had 5 minutes to work on my teeth, came zipping around the corner almost instantly. He asked what was wrong so I told him, again making sure everyone could hear. I said his business manager had decided to embarrass me in front of his other patients and his staff members about the 100 bucks I owed him. In return I decided I was firing him.

He gently tried to coax me into another area to discuss the situation. I refused.

I said, "No, your business manager -that woman (thank you God for placing her office in the immediate vicinity so I could point at her for emphasis) thought it best to make a show of this debt, so I want to make a show of my firing you."

Perhaps I should add this small disclaimer: Some folks might debate this, but I'm not usually insane. Really.

The business manager, who was visibly stunned to be singled out, turned red and then stammered out, "I never did any such thing."

At that point some of her co-workers noticeably dropped their heads and started trying to look busy.

I laughed and said, "You certainly did...and now you know what it feels like."

The dentist tried again to get me to some other area of the office where people couldn't hear me, but by this point I was having far too much fun.

Finally he gave a look to his business manager, as well as a look of resignation to me and walked away. He obviously realized the longer he stayed the more times I was going to declare that I was firing him and he opted to cut his losses.

I smiled as I walked out into the waiting room to see several patients staring at the office area after obviously hearing the entire exchange.

I'll eventually pay the bill, although I'm considering 2 dollar a month payments - the dentist shouldn't mind waiting, he didn't mind it when I waited.

I don't feel the least bit guilty about that, or embarrassed by my actions.

Besides, I learned long ago you can't get anything accomplished at the dentist's office if you keep your mouth shut.