On Thursday, I awoke to a 5-alarm fire of phones ringing. The house phone, my cell phone, the house phone — I knew, without question, that someone had died. My husband ran frantically, phone to phone, missed the call, missed the call, then hit pay dirt. Found Marilee on the line on the very last ring, then promptly handed over the phone to me, still semi-comatose in bed. Although I am generally up at 7:40 a.m. on a Thursday, I had indulged myself by staying up to watch the end of the Cubs baseball game. Marilee was unhappy.
First, an aside. Although I presume Marilee spells her name Marilee, henceforth I will refer to her as “Merrily” because her name is incongruous with her chosen profession. Dental hygienist.
Merrily sounded anything but merry. Stern, annoyed, grumpy. Any of those adjectives would do. And because I was just stirring from sleep, her voice sounded so very loud.
She started off by saying, “This is Merrily from Dr. X’s office,” then pointing out the time. Having just awakened, I had no idea of the time, so that was somewhat helpful, but my gratitude was quickly replaced with dread.
“Oooh. Sorry. I totally forgot, just blanked it out, I knew I had an appointment, but then forgot…” I could have gone on for hours with my mea culpas, but Merrily was having none of it.
“You confirmed the 7:30 appointment,” she pointed out stonily.
“Yes, yes, I know. I did. I just forgot, you know, just forgot.”
She didn’t know. Clearly Merrily has never forgotten one single thing in her entire orderly life.
After a stone cold silence, “Can you be here by 9:40?”
“No, no, I have to go to work. Have meetings.” Frankly I couldn’t remember if I had a meeting or not, but I was petrified to face Merrily in less than two hours. Best to wait until her memory of my grotesque inadequacy had dulled.
For a moment, I considered offering an explanation, but it was clear from Merrily’s tone, that telling her I overslept because I stayed up until midnight watched a baseball game would never do. So, I pivoted quickly to my stock of white lies — stomach flu is always reliable. But before I spat it out, I realized if I had stomach flu, I could not be going to a meeting. Should I offer a death in the family? No, no, too big a lie. Car trouble? No, because she can tell from my voice that I am still in the sack. My panicked review of possible excuses was interrupted by her next question:
“Do you want to reschedule now?” But it came out like, “You lazy good-for-nothing, when ARE you coming in?”
I faltered. I couldn’t face a reschedule. I hate the dentist’s office and all the worse, when I know they hate me. “No, no, I can’t. I am still in bed.”
There it was. Out. Admitted. A longer, stonier silence. “So you’ll call later?” Translation: Any self-respecting individual would have leapt out of bed and had calendar in hand by now.
“Yes.” I almost said, “Yes, certainly” for good measure, but I was feeling anything but certain.
And here’s the worst part. I didn’t call later Thursday or even Friday. I remembered, but didn’t call. Her chastisement laid me low. It is on my calendar to call tomorrow. God, give me courage.