I work in a medical clinic and recently we’ve been short-staffed. That means that I’ve been tasked with answering patient calls on practically a full-time basis for the time being. Some calls are entertaining – like the woman who told me that, “I’m standing NAKED in my kitchen with sweat POURING down my body! I can’t STAND these hot flashes one more MINUTE!!”
Or, the elderly woman who told me, in a quavering voice, “Dear, my husband and I used some sex toys last night and now I’m having a little irritation down there.” You go, girl!
While most patients are friendly, or at least not hostile, every day there are a few calls that are…challenging.
Yesterday, I answered a call in my professional voice, introducing the clinic, myself, and asking how I could be of assistance. The woman on the other end (henceforth we shall call her “Crazy Lady”) responded, “I got a message from you about scheduling an appointment.”
Now, sometimes patients use the word “you” but really mean “someone at your clinic.” This is usually not an issue – we have electronic medical records, so I can just look up the patient and then look in their chart to see who placed a call to them and what it was about. In this case, the woman had never been seen by our clinic before and I did not see an outgoing call. However, I noticed that she had a referral to the clinic.
I responded, “I’m not sure who called you, but I see you have a referral to our clinic and I can certainly help you make that appointment.”
Crazy Lady: “It was YOU who called me.”
Me: “I didn’t call you ma’am, but I’m happy to make that appointment for you.”
Crazy Lady: “You DID call me. I have a voicemail saying that Jana, from THIS clinic, was calling. Are you trying to tell me you have more than one Jana at your clinic? It’s not a common name!”
Me: “No ma’am, I’m the only Jana. But we do have a couple of Jens, some Angelas, and a Nan – perhaps it was one of them – but I can help you.”
Crazy Lady: “It was JANA – so if there is only one Jana, then it was YOU who called me!”
Me, wondering what the hell was happening here: “I’m sorry, it wasn’t me that called – but like I mentioned, I can certainly schedule that appointment for you.”
Crazy Lady: “I don’t know why you keep denying it! It was YOU who called me. I have a voicemail!”
At this point, I started to look deeper, trying to figure out who had called this woman. In the referral, I finally saw that one of the other gals from our clinic, Nancy, had left a message for the patient three weeks earlier, asking her to call to schedule the appointment.
I shared the information: “Oh, I see that it was Nancy who called you a few weeks ago and left a message! She’s not available right now, but I’m able to assist you instead.”
Crazy Lady: “What is your problem? I know it was YOU who called me! I have a voicemail! I’m going to come to your clinic and play that voicemail for you!”
I couldn’t help but chuckle a little at that point: “That’s not necessary ma’am. It doesn’t really matter who called you – I just want to help you make your appointment…”
Crazy Lady cut me off: “I DOES matter! You are saying I’m a LIAR! I have a voicemail with YOUR voice and YOUR name – YOU called me! How would I know your name if you didn’t call me?”
In my head I said, “Well, I did greet you with my name when I answered, you insane bitch!” But out loud I answered, “I’m sorry, ma’am – I’m certainly not calling you a liar. I just don’t remember calling you – but now that you’ve called me, let’s go ahead and set up your appointment.”
Crazy Lady: “Don’t try to placate me! You ARE calling me a liar! I don’t know why you just can’t admit you called me!”
I just wanted her off the phone and out of my life by this point – and I was losing my patience: “I’m sure I DID call you and I just don’t remember. So, would you like me to help you schedule this appointment or no?”
Crazy Lady went even more ballistic: “You don’t believe that at all! I want your NAME and your employee ID number! I’m going to be reporting you! You shouldn’t be answering phones – and I’m going to make sure you are FIRED!”
Me: “Well, you have my name – on voicemail, apparently – and as I mentioned, I’m the only Jana here. I would be happy to transfer you to one of my supervisors, but they are both out of the clinic at a meeting just now. I could take a message and have one of them call you back when they return.”
Crazy Lady: “You are lying! You just don’t want to let me talk to them! And why would I trust you to take a message and give it to your supervisor when it will get you fired? Do you think I’m crazy?”
Me, again just in my head, “Yes, Crazy Lady – I definitely believe you are crazy!”
Crazy Lady: “I don’t want to talk to you anymore – transfer me to someone else.”
I happily transferred Crazy Lady to Jen, one of my co-workers – who had the pleasure of listening to Crazy Lady rant and rave for a full ten minutes about how horrible I was, how I wouldn’t admit that I had called her, and how I should be fired.
Jen responded, “I’m sure that was frustrating for you.”
Crazy Lady practically screamed, “I’m NOT frustrated! I’m not UPSET at all! It’s JANA that has the problem! I’m just confused! She is SO crazy!”
Then Crazy Lady asked for my co-workers name and, when she introduced herself again, Crazy Lady responded, “Jennifer! That is who Jana told me had called me! But YOU didn’t call me, it was JANA! She is SO crazy!”
Just for the record, let me again mention that I told Crazy Lady that it was Nancy who called her. I contend if Crazy Lady can’t remember a name for ten minutes – then how could she possibly remember who called her in the first place? Or in the however many minutes/hours/days it was between listening to her voicemail from three weeks earlier and calling the clinic?
When Jen explained that our supervisors were out of the office, Crazy Lady demanded to know who was our supervisor’s supervisor – and then demanded his cell phone number. Jen provided it (perhaps the crazy was rubbing off on her a little by then). I can only imagine what the big boss is going to think when he gets a call from Crazy Lady.
Don’t worry about me – I’m in no danger of being fired. I was texting my supervisor real-time during the entire exchange, so she knows what was going on.
But do you know what is REALLY crazy? After the call, I started wondering if I had really called Crazy Lady and just forgot. Never mind that I would have no reason to call her. I don’t work the referral list, so I never would have seen her name or phone number – let alone called it. Crazy Lady nearly gaslighted me into believing that perhaps, weeks ago, I was trying to help out and made a few calls from the referral list that I had forgotten about.
Then I remembered – I barely do MY work – I certainly wouldn’t have secretly volunteered to help out with another job I know nothing about.
I feel much better now.