Excerpt: Help Wanted

They got to the substance abuse clinic just before 9:00 AM. Amy explained to the receptionist why they were there, and they sat down in the lobby.

After about 15 minutes, the receptionist called out, “I’m sorry, could you come up here again, I have a question.”

Amy went to the desk. The receptionist said, “Can you explain why you’re here again?”

Amy cocked her head a little at that. Had the woman simply not listened the first time? Oh well, take two.

We were told on Saturday morning that there was going to be a release today so that if we managed to be on site we might get the newly freed bed, as you don’t take reservations but act on a first-come-first-served basis.”

The nurse stared at her. “So you want to be admitted?”

Amy gave a tiny sigh. This wasn’t going well. “Not I, my fiancee over there.” She pointed, as she had little respect for this woman’s intelligence at this point.

The nurse stared at Guy, then looked back at Amy. “We don’t have any vacancies at this time.”

I know. I was given to understand that there was going to be a release today, which would result in a vacancy,” Amy explained patiently and carefully.

The nurse thought about that for a minute. “We don’t have any vacancies at this time,” she repeated.

Amy had a disoriented moment where she felt like she was talking to stubborn telephone system, not an apparently real human being. She decided to break it down further.

Do you have anyone checking out today. I don’t want to know who, I realize that would be a HIPPA violation. I just want to know if.”

The receptionist though about the question for several moments. Then she said, “I don’t know.”

Lord, give me patience, Amy thought. Out loud she said, “Is there some way you could find out? Or is there someone I could speak with who does know?” Amy worried that two questions at once my break this poor woman’s brain, but it was too late, they were out of her mouth.

Again, it took several moments of thought before the receptionist responded. “I might be able to find that out from the computer.” But she didn’t move.

Amy counted to ten silently, then said, “Please look in your computer and see if there will be any discharges today.”

The receptionist went to her computer without a word. She really seemed to be of subnormal intelligence, and that surprised Amy. It seemed a poor hiring choice. But she probably didn’t ordinarily have to handle anything more complicated than ‘I’m here to see _____.’

Amy called on all her powers of self-calming while she waited for the receptionist to look up the information. It was taking so long that she wondered if the woman had forgotten her and gone on to play tetris or something. But just in case she was working as hard and as fast as she could, Amy didn’t dare interrupt her.

Finally the receptionist spoke. “One patient is scheduled for release today.”

Amy held very still and carefully asked, “Can you tell from the computer what time that release will happen?”

The woman peered at the computer intensely. “No,” she said at last.

Amy tried another track, suspecting that this person was unable to make this sort of leap herself. “Do you know what time patients are usually released?” She asked in a kind voice.

The receptionist furrowed her brow. She glanced up at the clock on the wall and Amy hoped desperately that she knew how to tell time. “Oh, they’re usually out by 11:00. Never before 10:00.”

Praise be, actual information, Amy thought. She said, “Thanks, hun,” and walked back to Guy.

What was that all about?” he asked.

You do not want to know. Suffice to say, that woman is about as sharp as a bowling ball.” She glanced back up at the clock. That business with the receptionist had taken so long that it was already 10:00. Now there wasn’t any time to step out for coffee. It might be an hour, or it might be a few minutes.


It was not a few minutes, and it was not an hour. At 11:15, with great resignation, Amy approached the receptionist.

Excuse me,” she said to get the woman’s attention. Having gotten it, she went on, “You told me that patients who are released always come out by 11:00 and that the computer said someone would be released today. Do the patients leave through this room; is this one patient running late?”

The receptionist looked at the clock and her face registered surprise. She turned to her computer and started typing and mousing for several minutes, while Amy tried to be patient. Finally the woman spoke cheerfully, “Well here we are! This explains it! The doctors decided he wasn’t ready for release today, and signed his chart on for another week.”

Amy felt the words like a blow to the stomach. She had known that possibly someone would beat them to the place, but then they seemed to be first. She had also known that they might not admit Guy for reasons unknown. But she hadn’t expected this.

She composed her face, and went back to Guy. “Sorry, buddy. Looks like there’s no room at the inn after all.” 

This entry was posted in Help Wanted and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.