There is always an exception to every rule, but there doesn’t seem to be when it comes to the type of receptionist who uses a nail file at work. You walk in to the doctor’s surgery and there she is, busy shaping her impractical nails into talons. After a full minute, she will deign to look at you and, with her mouth shaped like a cat bum, sigh loudly.
“Yes?” she will snip at you.
You look hopefully at the harried person in the background – typing, filing, shelving, cleaning. This person – if you watch for long enough – will check off a list a mile long that they have completed in the absence of any support. And they remain stubbornly friendly and efficient. This is the person who, come downsizing, will be the first to go. But it’s not about her.
Cat Butt in front of me lets out another sigh waiting for me to acknowledge that she holds my future destiny in her hand.
“Uh, I have an appointment?” I apologise.
She sighs loudly. “Name?”
“Uh, Meg.” She looks at me until I apologise and give her my surname and a nervous giggle.
She looks at me until I take a seat, not quite sure if that’s what I’m supposed to do. But when she looks back to her nails, I guess I have obeyed her silent command well enough.
I wait for half an hour and watch her stare up at the ceiling, file her nails some more, look at herself in her hand mirror, and roll her eyes at almost anything that happens to annoy her (and that included a telephone call, two other patients, and a request to send a fax).
I was wondering if I really needed to see the doctor when an older lady, chest like the prow of a ship, walked in. She fixed Miss Cat Butt with a stare that could have stripped wallpaper and demanded to be seen.
Was Cat Butt intimidated? No, sir!
“Have a seat,” she said, boredom exuding from her in waves.
“I shall not have a seat. I have a rather large haemorrhoid and sitting is painful.”
Cat Butt rolled her eyes. “I don’t need to know, I’m sure.”
“Well let me tell you, young lady, when you have a haemorrhoid the size of mine – and you will, sitting on your bottom all day – I hope someone tells you they don’t want to hear about it,” Her chest raised another metre as she took an enormous breath. “There’s nothing I like better than an uppity little worm who thinks she’s God’s gift to reception. And now, because I am a patient at this surgery and you are a mere receptionist, you will hear all about my haemorrhoid.”
She proceeded to tell Cat Butt all about it. The size, the shape, how obtrusive it was. At first, Cat Butt rolled her eyes and did a great job pretending not to hear. But after a while, she could ignore the woman no longer.
When the older lady reached a particularly detailed description of going to the bathroom, Cat Butt attempted an escape, but the other receptionist blocked her exit by ‘accidentally’ dropping a stack of files in her path. Cat Butt then had a clear choice of whether to stay and listen to Mrs Haemorrhoid, or assist with the re-filing of about four dozen folders.
So of course she chose to sit down and attempt to file her nails with a rather panicky, jerky motion.
Eventually my name was called, but so engrossed was I in the scene before me, I pretended I was someone else. The doctor then called for Mrs Haemorrhoid, and she sailed down the hallway, her voice echoing through reception.
Cat Butt blinked several times and tried to continue with her nails, but she stopped when the next patient came in.
“Can I help you today?” she asked him. She even smiled.
I shook my head and picked up an ancient magazine. Sometimes all it takes is an old woman with a haemorrhoid, and customer service becomes a lot less painful.