I called Woodland Terrace this morning to investigate getting a telephone line installed in my mom’s room. A woman named Rachel answered the phone and, incredulously, seemed to be annoyed and suspicious by my cheerful demeanor:
“Good morning. Woodland Terrace. This is Rachel.”
“Good morning, Rachel! I’m calling to get in touch with the business office.”
“Okay. And you are?”
“And what is this regarding?”
“I’m trying to get a phone installed in my mom’s room, and last night I was told to talk to someone —”
“Okay, hold on,” Rachel interrupted and immediately put me on hold.
I was more than a little aggravated that Rachel cut me off in mid-sentence like that, and I certainly didn’t like how she became obviously bothered by me almost right away, even though I was trying to be as nice as I could.
I left a message for Sylvia Gray the Business Office Manager who is responsible for arranging telephones in resident rooms. Then I called back to talk to Rachel.
“Good morning. Woodland Terrace.” I noticed that she didn’t offer that her name was Rachel this time.
“Good morning,” I said. “I just called a minute ago looking for the business office. Is this —”
“Yes, this is Rachel,” she interrupted.
“Rachel, I thought it was very rude of you to transfer me while I was in the middle of —”
“I thought you were done talking,” she interrupted.
“I was actually in the middle of a sentence, so I don’t see —”
“Is there something I can do for you now?” she interrupted.
“You can stop interrupting me, for one thing,” I said.
“You keep interrupting me,” she replied.
“Look, Rachel, my mother is a patient there —”
“What room is she in?” she interrupted.
I didn’t really want to talk to her about my mom because the last thing I wanted was for someone there to get a grudge against her, so instead I said, “Rachel, I’m just about the nicest person you will ever meet —”
“No. You’re not,” she interrupted.
It took me a second to process that. I really couldn’t believe how rude she was being.
“Yes, Rachel, I am. Now listen,” I was pretty upset at this point, “you have two options here,” I began.
“DO NOT THREATEN ME!” she barked into the phone.
“Rachel, I’m not —”
“YES, YOU ARE. DO NOT THREATEN ME!”
“Rachel, listen. I’m not threaten —”
It has been a long, long time since anyone hung up on me in anger 1.
Of course I immediately called again. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. After the sixth ring, someone answered.
“Good morning. Woodland Terrace. This is Rosa.”
I almost thought it was still Rachel, trying to disguise her voice and affecting a bad Spanish accent.
“Hello, Rosa. I was just speaking with Rachel. She was very rude to me and I’d like to speak to her supervisor.”
“One moment,” said Rosa.
I waited just a second or three and then Sherri came on the line. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was now speaking with Sherri Spillman, the Administrator of the entire facility. I’ll detail that phone call as soon as I can. (But I can tell you right now that Sherri was incredibly kind and sounded very intelligent; although unfortunately she did not give me the impression that Rachel was going to be reprimanded in any way.)
1 It was really around ten o’clock in the morning on June 13 of this year, when Keith, the case manager at Halifax Hospital, hung up on me because I was attempting to argue that my mom wasn’t really well enough to be discharged. But except for that it has been a long, long time since someone hung up on me in anger.