I try to follow social convention. I really do. But my ability to wriggle into ridiculous situations sometimes means going completely off book. “Goofball” doesn’t come with a protocol manual, sadly.
Take my current predicament. I’ve got eyes, and they’re not especially good. So I wear contact lenses — and at the moment, those aren’t especially good, either. They’re old, and a little itchy, and they’ve got some sort of proteinaceous gunk building up around the edges.
(At least, I hope it’s proteinaceous gunk. Otherwise, my eyewear is growing stalagmites. Which seems less than ideal.)
So it’s time for new contacts, and that means calling the optometrist — and that’s where the social protocol falls apart a little bit. You see, I missed the last appointment with my optometrist. It just slipped my mind, wafted right off my schedule, and I spaced. Eye appointment in absentia.
“Otherwise, my eyewear is growing stalagmites. Which seems less than ideal.”
This is not, in itself, a problem. There are plenty of social rules about how to handle missed appointments — and not surprisingly, I’ve used them all. Mostly, they differ in how long it’s been since the spaced-on event. To wit:
Less than an hour late: Call or stop by, apologize profusely, sound sheepish, see if it’s still possible to “slip in”.
One day late: Call, apologize profusely, sound sheepish, pretend you thought you had the day wrong, ask to reschedule.
Up to a week late: Call, apologize profusely, sound sheepish, make a hasty excuse, ask politely to reschedule.
Up to a month late: Call, apologize profusely, sound sheepish, make a really good excuse because you’ve had so much time to think of one, beg to reschedule.
These are all things I’ve done — not necessarily at this optometrist, mind you. I like to shop my bone-headed negligence around the neighborhood. But I’ve done them.
Still, the rules only take me so far out the timeline. Sure, I could stretch the ‘up to a month’ out to six weeks or two months, if the excuse included a kidnapping or some sort of recently-reversed coma. With a bribe of chocolates or flowers, I might even get a new appointment sometime before the radical expansion of the sun in a few billion years renders my myopia moot.
That’s about as far as “the book” on such things gets me. If I right my missed appointment wrong within a quarter or so, there’s some hope of redemption. And new lenses that come without a forced prostate exam. So when was this appointment that I missed, exactly?
About two and a half years ago. Give or take an eyelash.
There’s no protocol for apologizing for an appointment you missed two and a half years in the past. Warring countries have made reparations in shorter timeframes. If I call them up now, I might reach the receptionist’s grandkid manning the desk. And to sound that sheepish, I’d have to grow six inches of wool on my ass. I’m in deep, here.
In my defense — of missing the original appointment, anyway — it was scheduled for the week we moved into our condo. With all the packing and unpacking and dropping boxes and shoving crap into storage willy-nilly, a little thing like a contact checkup slipped my mind. It’s perfectly understandable, probably.
And then… well, the lenses didn’t bother me for another, what, thirty months or so. So, yay for them. High-quality little plastic doohickeys, apparently. Either that, or I have an inhumanly high tolerance for scratched corneas. Could be either.
But now they itch. Also I don’t see so well, and that’s kind of an important thing for modern biped mammals who use computers and books and drivers licenses a lot, But how do I call up this optometrist and say,
“Oh, hey there — yeah, it’s me. Sorry, I went out for that gallon of milk and disappeared for two and a half years. You know what they say — boys will be boys. Amirite?”
That’s hardly going to fly. As soon as they punch me into the system, they’ll see the history — assuming computers even existed when I had my last appointment — and then they’ll punch me in the face for it having the nerve to show itself there again.
I thought about giving a fake name, which would probably work. I mean, it’s not like anyone there would remember me from before. They’re optometrists, not freaking elephants, after all. But eventually, I’d want to pay with my insurance card. And when it doesn’t say “Reginald Pennybottom” to match the name I gave, the ruse would come crashing down around my ears.
And they’d probably strap me in the glaucoma machine and shoot air puffs at my eyes, just for fun. God, I hate that breezy little torture device.
As it turns out, there’s another wee little complication to using “sorry, I moved” as a long-term excuse in this case. Our house, where we moved from, was maybe a twenty-minute drive away from the doc’s shop. Not exactly inconvenient, but hardly a jaunt down the block, either.
The new condo, where we moved to? This optometrist’s office is, almost entirely literally, a jaunt down the block. Walk a few steps, turn the corner and BAM — there it is. At a decent jog, I could probably go door-to-door in under two minutes. Less, in sensible shoes.
So will they understand how I managed to sit here, in the veritable shadow of their establishment, for two and a half years without managing to stick my head in to reschedule? I’m thinking ‘no’. They’ll shove salt in my eyes and poof me with that air thingy all day. Clearly, the time has passed to make another appointment with those people.
And now I’m left with finding a new optometrist — one who won’t schedule appointments near any major life events I might have popping up, and whose office is at least a twenty-minute drive away. Not just because that’s how it seems to work best — but also so they won’t know exactly where I live when I see them on the street after my next missed appointment.
At this point, that just seems safest. Maybe I should write it in “the book”, no?