*Staff members' names and some minor details have been changed to protect anonymity.
This week in the clinic at Grady:
I had just finished seeing a patient with a resident and exited a patient room. As I passed the front desk, I made eye contact with one of our patient access representatives.
(Holding up her finger to me while speaking on the phone.) "Uuuuh. . .okay, ma'am. . . but Dr. Manning is with a patient, ma'am. . . .uuunhhh huh . . . . okay, I'm going to have to ask you to hold on."
I walked over toward the window and mouthed, "What's up?" Just as I prepared to push the blinking hold light, Ms. Johnson rolled her eyes and grabbed my hand.
"Dr. Manning, you might want me to take this one." Her expression was mischievous.
I gave her a curious stare. "Why? What's up?" I asked aloud this time. I was a little scared to hear the answer.
She froze for a moment looking at me with serious eyes for beat. Then she started laughing. . . hard. That laugh came from way down deep in her belly and floated over her head like smoke. People in the waiting room who had no idea what was going on seemed to chuckle, too. One Grady elder in particular seemed to enjoy the energy she was witnessing between us. "You don't even want to know, Dr. Manning. This lady has called up here three times in the last week looking for you."
Apparently she'd gotten the attention of Ms. Thompson, one of our senior nurses. "Oh. . .that lady? Again? She called about Dr. Manning again? How funny is that!" They both erupted for a few seconds and quickly regained their composure. The Grady elder kept smiling in our direction.
"Okay, y'all are starting to scare me. What is it?"
"Better yet--go ahead and take the call, Dr. Manning. I'm. . " Ms. Johnson snorted to keep herself from laughing, "No, for real. I'm serious. Go ahead. . . on the blinking light."
I stood there staring at them suspiciously. I wanted to know what I was getting myself into. "Is this someone who could be mentally ill? Like is it inappropriate?"
Ms. Thompson pressed her lips together to keep from giggling. "Is it inappropriate? Hmmm." She exchanged another glance with Ms. Johnson. "Well, I guess that's a matter of opinion. Drastic circumstances call for drastic measures."
"I know that's right!" Ms. Johnson cosigned. Again she pointed to the blinking light. I narrowed my eyes as Ms. Johnson grabbed the receiver and quickly said, "Dr. Manning will be right with you. . . .uh huh. . .okay. . . .unnh huh. . . okay." She placed the hold button again and gave me an exaggerated grin.
"Is it like a medical emergency?" I asked, immediately recognizing how dumb that question was.
"You know what?" Ms. Thompson answered with her eyebrows raised, "Technically, this could be an emergency. Right, Johnson?"
"Oh yeaaaaah. Definitely."
I gave Ms. Thompson a playful scowl. "Oh, see. Y'all tryin' to be funny."
"I'm for real, Dr. Manning! It could be an emergency depending upon who you ask."
"Shooooot. 911, even." Ms. Johnson took a big sigh and held up the entire phone, blinking light and all.
I couldn't take it any more. Stretching my arm behind the counter, I released the hold button while balancing the receiver on my shoulder. "Good morning!" I announced, "This is Dr. Manning!"
"Dr. Manning? Oh! Hey, Dr. Manning!" The voice was young, enthusiastic, and female. It was also in direct competition with what sounded like at least three kids in very close proximity.
"Good morning, ma'am. How can I assist you?"
"Oh! Well, this is my third time trying to reach you. I'm so glad I got you! See, I called twice and -- SIT DOWN! SIT YO' LITTLE BUTT DOWN! DON'T MAKE ME--SIT DOWN! --sorry, yeah, I called and said it was important. Did you get my messages?"
"Ma'am, I apologize. I haven't been in the clinic much this week, I'm sorry. I hope it wasn't something life threatening?" I cut my eyes over at Ms. Johnson who was now covering her mouth with both hands to keep from doubling over.
"Well, it was important. . .not life or death, but important, you know what I'm sayin'?-- PUT THAT DOWN! DON'T TRY ME! I MEAN IT! WHAT THE. . DO IT AGAIN! SEE WHAT HAPPENS! -- See, I saw you on Fox 5 News. In fact, I see you every week when you on there." (One of the kids is now crying in the background--loud.) "I seen you last week and said, 'I'm 'bout to call Grady Hospital right now!'"
Now I was feeling nervous. What the heck was she calling about? "Okay. You've got my undivided attention. Tell me, ma'am. How can I help you?"
"Well, I seen you on Fox 5, and like I was saying, I always be seeing you. And -- SHUSH YOUR MOUTH! THIS THE HOSPITAL ON THE PHONE!! THIS IS IMPORTANT!! -- Sorry 'bout that. . . yeah, so when I see you, I always think, 'Damn, her hair is hot to death!'
"So, yeah I see that cut every week and love how you rock that short cut, you know. And--HEEEEY! DID YOU. . .AWW HELL. . .IS YOUR SEATBELT OFF?? AWWW HELL NO! -- Excuse me, Dr. Manning." (scrambling, scolding, mama-with-gritted-teeth-voice muffled through phone) "Sorry, 'bout that. . . so, yeah, last time I saw you I was like, 'Oh yeah, that Dr. Manning? Tha's my girl!' 'Cause you know, I been thinking 'bout goin' short again."
0_0 -----> (look on my face)
"So ANYway. . . I called up here and asked for you, you know? And-- TOUCH THAT SEATBELT AGAIN AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS!"
0_o -----> (me)
"Yeah. . .so anyway. . . I left like two or three messages, you know? I said, 'I'm just gon' keep callin' till I get her on the phone! Like I said, I been thinkin' 'bout goin' short again, so -- BOY! IF YOU DON'T GET OUT MY PURSE!'"
I cleared my throat. "Uuuhhh. . . thanks?"
"Yeah. So . . .wait let me get a pen. . .hold on. . . . . okay. . . . so, yeah, I wanted to get the name of your hair stylist. . . .okay. . .I'm ready. . . ."
(Oh, and in her defense? Take it from this black woman--when it comes to sisters and our hair, the situation can become an absolute emergency. Like 911, even.)