Rules of the road

Appointment scheduling is a lot like surviving rush hour
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May 01, 2009

Recently, I had the opportunity to enjoy several thousand miles of our federal interstate highway system. So I figured it would be a great time to try a fun experiment.

I decided to drive my car at exactly the posted speed limit. Within a half hour, I almost got rear-ended four times. Although many of the other drivers seemed to salute my efforts to remain compliant with the law (oddly enough they just used one finger), no one else was going as slow as I was.

In an attempt at self preservation, I sped up and tried another experiment. Do you remember when you were taught that the space between you and the car in front of you should be one car length for each 10 miles per hour of speed? Try it sometime. When I tried to leave just one car length at any speed, two people would try to squeeze into it. There was no choice other than to "go with the flow."

Why am I telling you this?

Because I noticed that there is a similarity between a busy highway and my appointment schedule. I set the speed limit at a reasonable hourly pace with adequate space between appointments. The rest of the world conspires against me.

Mrs. Highbrow is just one example.

Her most recent request went something like this:

"Doctor, your girl said that I would have to wait until tomorrow to get Fleecy's ears cleaned. That's why I insisted on talking to you personally. You know, I am a very good customer, and I don't see any reason why you can't squeeze me in today."

Once, on a similar occasion, I mentioned that she could come over and have a technician do the ears. She threw a verbal tantrum that almost melted my telephone. Mrs. Highbrow is the Jaguar sedan that races up the right lane at 90 miles an hour and shoves between me and the somewhat reasonable driver in front of me. We are all entitled to use the road, but she is more entitled. I usually back off and let her have her own way. (Okay, I am a wimp.)

Mr. Dunyet provides another example.

His cat comes in for an enema every two weeks. His request is always the same. "Can you get Logjam done first today? I like to pick him up as early as possible. If you do him before any of the other cases, I could pick him up before the traffic gets heavy."

Izzy Dunyet is the guy in the BMW who is desperate to get ahead of everyone else. If there is a road sign asking drivers to form a single line, he guns past the orderly row of drivers so that he can squeeze in at the last possible second and declare victory. I do not let him dictate my schedule.

There are, of course, many other examples.

Clara Fye comes to mind. She can make any office call last three times as long as it should. She is the road hog who is yakking on her cell phone while driving too slowly in the left lane. Traffic (and office calls) are backing up behind her.

Mrs. Fye has questions that go on and on until it becomes necessary to send her on her way politely.

How I choose to handle each annoying client (driver) varies from case to case. It has to do with my attitude.

Sometimes my mood is restrained as if I am driving my car. I will let clients have it their way. I don't feel like starting an altercation. (My wife is in the car.)

At other times, I feel as if I'm driving alone in my 1995 truck with the snowplow on the front. Watch out!

Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.