If you’re familiar with your local doctor’s surgery, you’ll doubtless have a few gripes about the customer service. My particular doctor’s practise seems to have gone out of its way to make getting an appointment as difficult as possible.

You have to ring at exactly 8.30 on the day you want to see your GP- it was only recently that my surgery begrudgingly allowed pre-booked appointments. When I say 8.30, what I actually mean is 8.27, or 8.28, or 8.29. This morning I rang at 8.26 and heard the recorded message telling me the surgery was closed. Ten seconds later I got the same message. Ten seconds later I was told I was my call was being held in a queue- and that I was 40th in that queue.

I usually go away and have breakfast at this point, while the on-hold music plays cheerily away on handsfree. When you do get through, the receptionist does their best to divert you with other options- ‘Is this something you could see the nurse about?’ ‘Is this an ongoing problem?’ ‘Can you tell me what the problem is?’ –  You begin to feel that they get paid commission for every patient they send away.

Not all doctor’s surgeries are like this. Last year I lived in a different city and went to a doctor’s ten minutes away. They were always pleasant and always able to fit me in ahead of time or on the day. They were prompt without being perfunctory. They didn’t make me feel as if I was intruding upon their hospitality by seeking assistance. They didn’t greet me as if I had been hammering at the door of their home at 2 o clock in the morning, begging for a plaster.

Today, however, the biggest slap in the face came from the other patients at the doctors. Waiting room etiquette dictates that you avoid eye contact at all costs. You never sit next to the person holding a washing-up bowl. If someone coughs or sneezes you delicately look away and hold your breath until the germs have ‘passed.’

Today the waiting room was mercifully empty. I settled down with an Etch-a-Sketch that had been left lying around, and proceeded to create an impressive post-impressionist landscape. I signed it with my name and fully expected to find it untouched and hung on the wall next time I visited.

But when I emerged from my consultation not five minutes later, I was greeted by a green-and-grey pair of pensioners who resentfully watched me cross the room with narrowed eyes, as if I had personally requested to be seen before them. I nonetheless gave them a pleasant smile, until I saw what was lying in the chair beside them- my Etch-a-Sketch wiped clean with one cold, heartless swipe.

But I decided to forgive them. No doubt, they had simply misplaced their indignant energies about the terrible customer service.

Photo found at: http://brittlepaper.com/2012/08/photo-chilling-skeleton/


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