Service of Appointments

October 11th, 2010

Categories: Appointments, Arrogance, Attitude, Audacity, Manners, Medical


One of the technicians in my doctor’s office told me what a now retired dentist patient mentioned to her. He said, “I wish that I had been a hair stylist because none of my female customers would have cancelled appointments with me as they did when they had a tiny headache or the inkling of a sore throat. When they didn’t feel perfect, they’d cancel with me but they’d never cancel their hair appointment.”

scardey-catAnd he’s right in my experience although I honor dentist appointments equally as half of the hard thing for me to do is to call up and make the appointment, the other half is to show up and get it over with. Sometimes I wonder if the anxiety over the whole thing is what makes me feel icky on doctor/dentist day. [I’ve noticed that connection with checkup appointments of any stripe. I’m a scaredy cat.]

And I admit to practically crawling to have my hair cut when I’ve felt dog-sick because looking at myself another minute when my hair cries for attention would send me over the edge.

But I’m the type that takes all appointments seriously. Not everyone does.

One person I knew through a professional organization pursued me for months to have a drink after work. I couldn’t duck any longer so we made a date, which she kept changing. This was fine with me as I didn’t want to see her in the first place and don’t like to cut my workday short to meet with someone I don’t particularly want to see. The day came and she pleaded with me to move the appointment from 6 pm to 5 pm which became horrendous for me, but to get it over with, I said, “OK.” I got to the place at 5 and waited. She had the audacity to arrive half an hour late. Throughout our time together, she kept looking at her Smartphone screen and taking calls and to this day, I cannot tell you the reason for this meeting, other than to assure me that my instincts about her were spot-on: She wasn’t worth my time. And I should have left the place when she was 10 minutes late.

churchI’d already written this post when I read the “Left at the Alter” letter to Philip Galanes in yesterday’s New York Times Style section. The letter writer and her husband left the church after an hour when the bride hadn’t yet appeared because they thought the bride was rude to keep a church full of people waiting. She asked Galanes if her action was defensible. I have a feeling that this wasn’t the first time the couple was kept waiting and they were acting out their annoyance at the bride’s incredible self-absorption and probably shouldn’t have accepted to go in the first place. That wasn’t Galanes’ answer.

Some doctors and lawyers consistently make patients wait having nothing to do with emergencies. Friends told me of having to wait at the bar of a well known NYC steakhouse for an hour after their reservation time and there were empty tables which they acknowledged were saved for regulars and celebrities. They eventually stalked out. Going to restaurants with my father was nervous-making because he didn’t care what the place was in the firmament of famous, if he had a reservation and if he was on time, he expected to be seated, period. If he wasn’t, there were words.

How long do you wait when someone is late to meet you? Now that so many people have cell phones, 10 minutes should do it, don’t you think? And unless you are meeting on the street, another option has always been to call the restaurant and ask the staff to give a message to the person you are meeting along with your ETA.

Have you changed doctors or lawyers or other service providers who routinely make you wait? What about friends and business associates who do so? Do you honor all appointments equally?


9 Responses to “Service of Appointments”

  1. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    Most of my friends and associates keep their appointments, as scheduled. My major problem is with my various doctors.

    There’s one doctor, for whom I often had to wait more than an hour—only to have him rush through the examination as though continually checking his watch. For that reason, among others, I finally dropped him and found another.

    How often I’ve wanted to tell a physician, “I consider my time as valuable as yours!” But I really haven’t had the gall to actually say that!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I think we are all intimidated by our doctors and people who work in hospitals. I wonder if doctors are intimidated by one another.

    My Mom took nonsense from zero people, wouldn’t sit still if waiters or bus drivers were rude to her and corrected them. Like you, she no longer went to a doctor who kept her forever because he felt that as she no longer worked, her time didn’t count.

    However, the night before she had a hip replacement, a voice over the intercom in her hospital room hollered, “Come to the desk, someone wants to take you for another test.” I asked her why she didn’t ask the someone to pick her up in a wheelchair, as she was having the operation because she could hardly walk. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said, very unlike her usual assertive self, as she hobbled down the hallway.

    I know you, Merv, and you don’t get huge projects completed on time, meet book and article deadlines by silly sallying around with people. I’m as direct as they come yet around doctors, not nearly as much as I should be. I bring lots of work and things to read when I wait my turn.

  3. Simon Carr Said:

    This is an interesting and nerve-touching question.

    First, a public disclosure: I am not now, nor have I ever been, an egalitarian. I will add that I doubt that I will ever become one. It is an irrefutable law of nature, thank God!, that no two things in the universe, even snow flakes, are equal.

    Like most of us, secretly in some cases, I expect to be treated better than equal. However, if my brains are dripping out on the ground, and I’m waiting to see a brain surgeon, whose treatment I can’t afford, to stuff them back into my skull, and some rich shyster gets treated before I do, I can’t complain. The poor doctor is terrified of being sued. Obviously the shyster comes first. I hope the doctor kills him, because, rich as he is, he probably wouldn’t pay him anyway for curing him. Fortunately, my regular doctors don’t keep me waiting. If they did, they wouldn’t be regular.

    Your restaurant illustration is familiar. I’ve walked out of a few restaurants and not gone back. Usually there is a reason why you were kept waiting. You were the wrong demographic, too old, too female, wrong nationality, whatever. Under the law restaurants can’t turn you away, but there is nothing that says that they can’t give you a “mediocre” meal — like an hour at the bar. I recall a lunch a few years ago when a large bunch of ladies walked in to the small dining room. We skipped desert and coffee and left. There is nothing worse than a bunch of ladies cackling, except a bunch of adolescents! The owner gave us an apologetic look, and we forgave him. All hell would have broken loose, had he turned them away.

    I used to be in the business of dispensing appointments. I had no rule of thumb, but I suspect it worked out that if I liked you, I didn’t keep you waiting, if you were a good customer, I tried not to keep you waiting. But if you were nasty or arrogant, I was slow and ready to lose your business.

    That is the way it ought to be. There is no right answer. It all depends…

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    I am the “sinner” here, so my tolerance of lateness is much greater than average. Plan ahead as I may, something always seems to “happen” while the inconsiderate clock races on.

    Some doctors and/or dentists charge for lateness, so I will run over grandma to get there on time, and arm myself with reading material if made to wait. The same applies for timed events, such as bridge tournaments. What if I am made to sit while an “emergency” looms? I leave, expecting the same understanding that I will give under similar circumstances. That said, being over an hour late for ones wedding is a bit much, but there could be a valid explanation. I’m all for finding out.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As I have often gone places with a brace of friends, I hate to think of our having a good time as cackling and annoying others. Seeing people have a good time and really laughing actually puts me in a good mood, even if I started out in a horrendous one. Are you a grump?

    So often half a restuarant is waiting somewhere in order, like airlines, to protect from no-shows and last minute cancellations. I don’t think it is always associated with management not wanting you there, [sometimes I also think they like additional income generated by a bar bill] although I have felt the sting of discrimination, I never forget it [it’s insulting] and to help remove the stinger, I let management know how I’ve been made to feel and if not too far into it, leave.


    The reason the bride was late, according to the writer of the letter who quoted the minister who came out at 4:15, the bride was still dressing. [Unlikely that she didn’t know what to wear or what time the event was–4 p.m. or……….NO EXCUSE.]

    As for medical emergencies, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t tolerate these and worse comes to worse, and you have another appointment you can’t miss, you reschedule with the doctor. [Oh, my, having to again look forward to another doctor’s appointment. Ugh.]

  6. Lucrezia Said:

    Yes, there are some women who will spend hours applying makeup and even more time dressing. It’s not a matter of knowing what to wear, but how to arrange it to the nth detail. I’ve had a couple of close friends who were like that, however, somewhere along the way they learned to start the process earlier!

    Might be that I lucked out so far since I am not frequently made to wait, or haven’t noticed because of reading and/or puzzle props. Some have alert office personel. When an emergency strikes, they call and make a serious attempt to reschedule at mutual convenience. Not all the medical/dental world is rude or inconsiderate. The one who is suddenly beset is the one who must be considered first, so others must wait. That’s the way it should be, all our busy lives notwithstanding. It’s much more “fun” to be waiting than to be whisked by ambulance to the ER, no?

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There is something selfish about making people–one or a church full–wait an hour to get your makeup just right and today, people with those tendencies use makeup artists to pretty them up the day-of such a big event.

    I’ve been to an average number of weddings and can’t recall having to wait very long if at all for the bride to appear, but maybe I don’t look at my watch during events like this as I figure the day or night will be devoted to this activity so what’s an hour or two? [ha ha]

    Doctors and lawyers who consistently make people wait for unreasonable amounts of time obviously can’t handle the workload they have and unless you like knocking your head against a wall, best move on and get someone else. The key words are consistently and unreasonable.

  8. EAM Said:

    I read that article in Sunday’s Times about the bride. I think it’s completely arrogant to keep people waiting but the columnist made a great point when he asked the advice seeker “Weren’t you going to wait and go to the reception anyway?” I want people to know while they may believe that their lives are busier than mine, it doesn’t mean that my time is ANY less valuable than theirs. I had an appointment with a therapist once and she told me to hold on a minute while she made a quick phone call. Well, ten minutes later, she emerged from her office to greet me for an already late appt. I made it clear to her that it wasn’t acceptable to keep me waiting for my scheduled time. Dates, especially first dates, I always try to be prompt and I expect the same courtesy. If he’s half an hour late, I’m gone…

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are very good to give folks half an hour. I guess for a first appointment or date, that is a good round number. If someone is chronically late, best meet them at your office, so you can keep working until they show up, or your home, so you are comfortable and able to get things done.

    As for the whole issue of being late, there are no doubt volumes written on the subject. I think it has to do with power, who thinks their time is most important as you suggest, in some cases that a person doesn’t want to do whatever it is so they drag feet and are late, disorientation–getting lost in a project–and/or a general sense that others don’t matter as much as the late person does.

    That bride sure thought a lot of herself! And true, what else did the couple who left the church have to do….yet I think the bride might have learned a good lesson if the entire congretation had gone out the back door to wait there so she’d enter an empty church [and come back in after she had that shock]. Bet that would be the last time she’d make anyone wait again.

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