So a couple years back I’m sitting across from my shrink and he tells me I should go down on my xanax. But he doesn’t say “I” should. He says “lets” instead.
“Let’s go down on this medication.” He says.
“Bad timing.” I say.
“How’s that?” he asks.
“Well, ‘we’ should not do that because my wife is pregnant, my porch is falling apart, I am more tired than ever, and it feels like the economy is collapsing. And did I mention we don’t have a savings yet for my wifes maternity leave she insists she will take? And my insurance deductible is seven grand. I have a lot on my plate. So let’s not do it.” I say.
I emphasize the word ‘let’s’ so hopefully he gets that I don’t like being talked to like a child, with the ‘let’s’ and ‘we’ when in fact it’s about ‘me’.
“We should think about it though.” He says.
“We don’t have to.” I say. “We are fine just as things are.”
“I just remembered” he says, “My billing person says she can’t get your insurance to pay for our last appointment.”
Ahh, the threat. The passive aggressive threat. No more meds until I pay up his bill. This was a power struggle. He didn’t need me to pay up that minute, but I questioned his authority and challenged his treatment plan – for “us”.
“Let’s call her, then.” I call his bluff.
Here’s what I say about medical billing people who work from their home computers. They are mostly retired old ladies who are in over their heads.
They are inexpensive (because they are in over their heads).
This is about my psychiatrist pulling a stunt about my past due account as I tell him I do not want to go down on my Xanax, a controlled substance. He is basically doing a combination of tough love meets don’t challenge me, but I am not in the mood for it.
Anyway, he nods, and sets his phone to speaker as he dials her number. It rings, no answer. Her voicemail kicks in. Very professional sounding.
HI IT’S ME I AM NOT HERE RIGHT NOW LEAVE A MESSAGE AND I WILL GET BACK TO YOU WHEN I AM.
My shrink leaves a message.
“Hey” my psychiatrist says. “I have Pete here and he wants to talk to you about the past due, give me a call, thanks.”
He hangs up, and a half a minute later his phone rings. It is her, Gramma Moses. That’s mean. Lets call her Whistler’s Mother. He puts her on speaker phone.
“So I have Pete here and he wants to talk to you about his account.” He says. Then he looks over at me and winks at me. I’m not sure why the hell he did that. Is he making a pass at me? What?
“Okay, I have his account on screen.” She says.
I hear what sounds like something tipping over, maybe a cup of coffee, maybe a glass of whiskey, followed by an “excuse me a minute” then a “Ok, I’m back-sorry. What’s your question Peter?”
“My question is how come you keep sending me statements, not necessarily on a regular basis(that is a dig at how inconsistent her statements are mailed – my shrink makes a facial expression of surprise, mission accomplished). They are different colors, and say I still owe money. First, what do the different colored paper colors mean – like I get blue one month, red the other month, and sometime white plain?”
I actually know what Gramma Walton is trying to accomplish. By having different colors, it is supposed to – a) get my attention to act on the past due balance, and – b) stop me from tossing it in the garbage with all the other past due notices I may get. I do neither.
“Well I show you still owe a balance from your last four appointments.” She says, not missing a beat and blowing off my question. “How would you like to pay today?”
“Can I give you my credit card number?” I ask.
I know she doesn’t take credit cards, and it makes me seem like I intend to pay. Remember, Old Yeller does not have a big operation.
“Well, no, I can’t do that.” She says, predictably.
I believe she is giving me the finger over the phone. I feel bad vibes coming from the phone speaker. I am sensitive to the negative vibrations of angry old women. I always have been.
You can’t convince me that when she gets home to her efficiency apartment, dressed in her floral moo-moo, watching television from her worn green sofa, she doesn’t yell and slap at her cat for sniffing out the noodle salad she is eating from a tupperware container (“No human food Josie, you rotten little cat!”).
Maybe she doesn’t own a cat, though.
Meanwhile, back in the present, my shrink is interested also; he moves forward in his chair and has his hands clasped.
“Well, you know insurance companies.” she says.
“Which insurance company are you speaking with?” I ask.
There is a shuffling of papers for a moment, then she
“Actually” I say, ”It’s Blue Cross”
“Oh, has it changed?” she asks.
I feel like throwing her a lifeline and saying it has, but screw it. Nobody has ever thrown me a lifeline.
“Actually, no.” I say. “It’s the same one I gave you three years ago.”
Another pause. Then my soul comes back into my body.
“I tell you what,” I say, “I will pay cash for the current appointments starting today.”
She goes for it. When we hang up, I get what I was after all along.
“So” my shrink begins, “I’ll write your prescriptions for the Xanax and Paxil. Let’s just keep going the same way we are going.”