Today I visited two medical offices: Planned Parenthood Hollywood and JC Penney Optical.
The first was for routine care and the second for an eye exam. I found out that my eyes are still hovering perilously close to legal blindness and that there is indeed a reason that I pay extra for special lenses in order to not look like Woody Allen.
I was also reminded that I'm not ALWAYS the nicest person in the world. Initially I was all laughs. I liked how PP Hollywood had the waiting room televisions turned to E's 101 Juiciest Hollywood Hookups. It was fitting. Not only were people's eyes glued to the screen, but many were chuckling aloud to the "hilarious" celebrity commentary. How juicy. I smiled at the carpet when the girl next to me made noisy phone calls about headshots and shoots and how very booked up she is next week.
I was even tolerant when she decided we were buddies and turned to me with asides about commercials and new reality programs.
"Why'd they cast HIM? That's BS!"
"Who the hell are Katie and Peter? Why do they get a show?!"
When the nurse called me back to ask intake questions, she seemed tired and not particularly friendly. I answered her politely and went into smile overtime so she'd know I didn't care that I'd waited an hour and a half and would wait another hour and a half to leave. I wasn't a complainer who would make her day more trying than it already was. I tried to imagine what it'd be like to work at Planned Parent Hollywood and sympathized. By the time I was following her to the bathroom to pee in a cup, she'd cracked a grin or two and I felt we'd reached the sort of truce that, in another setting, would have lead to an afterwork margarita.
Later, after shuffling between more rooms and thumbing through several copies of In Touch magazine, I biked to Glendale to find the JC Penney optometrist that 1 (800) CONTACTS said I had to see before they'd fill my prescription. I made my way through the ladies clothing and wove around the makeup counter before finding the empty corner that holds the optical department.
I filled in their intake forms and was told, "Dr. Quinn will see you in a moment." Fantastic.
Dr. Quinn, a young Asian woman, appeared. I got the feeling that it had been a slow day for her. Like she'd just thrown on her white jacket after ripping off fuzzy slippers and slamming them into her desk drawer with the Sudoku book that keeps her company. She seemed really, overly, happy to see me.
But that's cool. I was geared up and ready; I was all LET'S DO THIS, DR. QUINN because I need some fucking contacts and the internet won't give me them until you say so, so just go ahead and put in those drops that make my eyeballs numb or dilate or WHATEVER. I don't even care if I can't ride my bike home, I will crawl. That is how badly I want to get this over with.
Dr. Quinn, however, started jawing on and on about how she can't do the exam accurately unless she knows which kind of Acuvue contact I wear, because there are three kinds of Acuvue disposable contacts and for some reason - that I don't understand because it's spoken in opticalese - it makes a difference. I don't know offhand which Acuvue I wear.
I ask, "Can't you just examine me and I'll get whatever contact I need in that prescription and measurement or whatever?"
Dr. Quinn looks at me like she's not in mood to repeat herself but she puts on a huge plastic smile and measures out a heaping dose of professional condescension in tones dripping with exaggerated friendliness. Now I'm pissed. Because I don't like fake and I don't like patronizing. I'm also having trouble concentrating with my associative flashbacks involving Dr. Michaela Quinn/Jane Seymour and the television series in which she got to "befriend" the ruggedly handsome mountain man and adopt the kids whose real mom died from a rattlesnake bite.
So I think I was distracted when I agreed to pretend I wear another type of contact lens, just so she'd GET ON WITH IT.
I told myself at this point that I need to get over my irritation, that this eye exam is a dumb thing to get moody over. Maybe if I had considered how it would feel to work at the JC Penney optical department everyday I'd have relaxed, but instead I concentrated on how every word coming out of her mouth sounded disingenuous and how I wanted to smack a bitch. I was not having a Thich Nhat Hanh moment.
"Jessica, do you have any particular occupational needs?"
"Jessica. Please HELP ME so that I can HELP YOU."
I pause to take a deep breath. Then I led her to believe that I work with computers which she took as Information Technology. Haha! I almost cried last night just trying to change the masthead on this blog. I am very far from being an IT person.
Then, out of nowhere, Dr. Quinn belted out with much engineered enthusiasm and wild laugher, "IT'S ALWAYS GOOD TO HAVE A COMPUTER PERSON AROUND!" Yikes. I sink deeper into the ditch of anti-compassion that I've been digging.
After I've proved I'm almost legally handicapped and am thinking about how it feels cool to touch my totally numb eyes, she tells me how nice it is to work with me, someone her age, how most of her clients are teenagers who were born the year she graduated from high school and how her brother is only a year older and married, with a family, and how she's making her way, out there in "the jungle", but "Hey, we all have our issues!"
And finally for a moment, I understood and my heart went out to her just a tiny bit. Yes, we do all have our issues don't we? I also got her business card and found I'd been spelling her name wrong the whole time.