Article Date: 10/1/2003

lessons learned
It's All Alexander's Fault
Shared accounts of the myriad perils and aggravations of the telephone
By Jack Runniger, O.D.

Alexander Graham Bell, what hast thou wrought? As I become older and more crotchety, I find that more and more uses of your invention aggravate me. The following are a few examples.

More than we bargained for

Now cell phones transmit photos! So not only can drivers careen around the corner at 35 mph with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a phone to their ear, concentrating on the conversation rather than the road -- they can also take their eyes off the road to glance at pictures on the phone. Ah, the wonders of modern science!


Are you guilty?

Other telephone transgressions also annoy me. And because you undoubtedly have some patients who are as irascible as I, you might want to ascertain if your office is guilty of any of these offenses:

► I make a phone call. I'm asked to hold for the party I request. So I hold -- and hold! However, every 20 seconds a syrupy voice comes on to say, "Please hold. Your call is very important to us."

If it's so important to them, why don't they answer the phone instead of keeping me hanging for five minutes or more?

► "This is Mr. B. G. Wheel's secretary," I'm told when called to the phone. "He would like to speak with you. Please hold while I get him on the line." This shows that Mr. Wheel considers his time to be much more valuable than mine.

I always wish I had the nerve to reply, "I would be happy to speak with Mr. Wheel. Tell him to phone me when he gets a chance." And then hang up.

► "May I tell him what you're calling about?" asks the secretary when I've phoned someone's office. Why should I tell her when it's him I want to talk to about it?

I once heard of a man who had the perfect answer to this request. It was, "Why, yes. Tell him I want to find out what he intends to do about getting my wife pregnant!"

► Last, but not least, is the ever increasing necessity of talking to machines rather than to people. And having to play "Button, button, please punch the button" when I make a call.

I called a physician's office the other day. A machine answered the call and asked me endless questions, each requiring pushing a button in reply. After playing the game for about five questions, the machine said, "The person you want is not available. Please leave your number and she'll call back." Which I did. And which she didn't.

Which door?

I've heard the federal government is copying the same "runaround" technique for a system of operating health care more efficiently, thereby saving Medicare and Medicaid costs. To test it out, they set up an HMO prototype.

The man who told me about it said he was one of this HMO's first patients. He entered the front door and ended up facing two doors -- one reading, "Have insurance," the other, "No insurance." He went through the first door to find two more doors reading "Male" and "Female." Entering the "Male" door, he found two doors reading "Over age 60" and "Under age 60." Finally he came to two doors that read, "Republican" and "Democrat." He went through the "Democrat" door -- and found himself back out on the street.

Jack Runniger, our consulting editor, lives in Rome, GA.  He's also a past editor of OM.


Optometric Management, Issue: October 2003