Joanne I. Sheeham, RDH
It`s 6 a.m. The phone sounds like a fire alarm as it rips you from your reverie. You leave your moonlight stroll with a handsome someone and are transported back to reality as Monday morning screams in your ear. Bleary-eyed, you grope for the phone, determined to make it stop! And now that you`ve got it, you may as well answer it.
"Hello?" is about all you can manage.
"Hi, Sue! This is Mary from Dr. Packemin`s office. Laura just called and said she`s not feeling well today. She knew you were only part time, so she wanted me to call to see if you could fill in for her today."
The words "fill in" jolt you from semi-comatose to semi-consciousness. You hate temping, especially for offices with unrealistic schedules. Dr. Packemin ... isn`t he the one with the 30-minute recall appointments ... for adults?! So ... his hygienist isn`t feeling well. You`re surprised she`s still alive! Your mind tries to grasp what is happening here. You`re in a squeeze play, girl - you better wake up! You know you had something planned for today ... what was it? Yes, you and Jenny were going to the pool. It`s supposed to be gorgeous, sunny, and 80 degrees. But that`s not a good enough excuse to give.
You wrack your brains and come up with nothing but violent, emotional responses. As the seconds tick by, panic gives in to anger at your inability to think on your back. You realize she`s got you, and you`re headed for the salt mines. You grudgingly concede to the winner and surrender your day off for lack of a legitimate-sounding excuse. As you hang up the phone - along with your hopes of a beautiful tan - you swear this never will happen again!
Indeed, it need not ever happen again. Part-time hygienists who have done their full-time stints, then graduated/semi-retired to two or three days a week, used to be sitting ducks for calls like this. The trick was to call them at O- dark-hundred and hit them with a dilemma that took some thought to escape unscathed. Full-time hygienists with sick leave to use or lose could prey on unwary, half-awake part-timers at will. But no more! I have formulated a list of legitimate-sounding, yet somewhat contrived excuses, to give an office manager from the "wrong office."
"10 Good Reasons Why I Can`t Temp Today" is a must-have for all part-timers whose names have been circulated as being "only part time" (OPT) and, therefore, fair game. Not to be used on your own office, this list will save you the hassle, aggravation, and the terror of trying and failing to come up with something on short notice. Keep it by your bedside and never again live in fear of that 6 a.m. phone call from the assembly line! Just make sure you check off the excuse you use and enter the date and the office that called. This eliminates confusion and possible repetitions. With "10 Good Reasons," OPTs of America finally can protect themselves from unwanted disruptions of their time off from work. So with that said, here`s my list. Goodnight, Ladies!
Reason No. 1: Injured hygienists are not conducive to fast-paced offices ...
Before you pick up the phone, grab your right foot and pull it under and backwards as far as it will go. Hold it there while you talk. Caution: Done correctly, this really will hurt!
"OW! ... Hello!? ... AUGH! Oh, it hurts so bad! I tripped over my husband`s stupid Army boots trying to get to the phone! I told him not to leave them there! It feels like I ... sprained my ankle! Oh, man! I don`t think I can walk on it like this! Honey? Jack! Would you get some ice for this? I need to see a doctor ... it feels like something`s broken. I`m sorry, Mary ... bye!"
Reason No. 2: Let them think you`re a bit off ...
Have your husband answer the phone and relay that you believe you were abducted by aliens last night and you`re not feeling well yourself, what with the puncture wounds and implants and all!
Reason No. 3: Lois Lane had this problem all the time ...
"The editor of RDH magazine assigned me a feature article for the March issue and the deadline is today! I had the whole thing written and ready to e-mail when my computer went down last night. So today, I have to start from scratch and try to remember what I wrote. (I didn`t put a copy on a disk.) I guess I`ll have to fax it! Better get started! Bye!"
Reason No. 4: You`re such a good citizen!
Reason No. 5: You`re in big trouble with the hubby unless ...
"My husband gets home tomorrow, and I only have today to get the rear bumper on his `98 Concorde fixed! Hey, it wasn`t my fault!"
Reason No. 6: You might just share something besides oral-hygiene instructions ...
"It`s the funniest thing ... ever since our picnic in the woods, I can`t stop itching! At first, it was just me, but now everyone in the family is scratching themselves raw! Do you think it`s poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac?"
Reason No. 7: If you want her to think you`d endanger the office, give her ...
"I`m being stalked by this deranged guy who thinks I`m responsible for his wife finding out he`s already married to this woman in El Paso with eight kids and no child support. He`s got a gun!"
Reason No. 8: If you want her to think you`re dangerously unbalanced, try ...
"We have to appear in court today. My husband and I were shooting archery in the backyard and accidentally hit the neighbors` Shitzu. You know, they`re those aggravating little mutts that bark constantly and drive you absolutely crazy? My husband`s pleading guilty by reason of insanity, but I shot the thing in self-defense!"
Reason No. 9: Don`t need to work anyway!
"I think I won the lottery! As soon as I can find that ticket, I`ll be sure! My son said he threw it in the garbage yesterday by accident, then took the bag to a dumpster on the way to the movies last night. If I hurry, I can catch the garbage man! Thanks for waking me up! Gotta run - bye! ... Hey, wish me luck!"
(Hint: If you don`t take a breath like those telephone solicitors, she can`t offer to dig through the garbage for you while you`re at work.)
Reason No. 10: If you`re tired of making excuses, there`s always the truth ...
"I`m sorry. I believe you can bake a dozen muffins in 30 minutes. You can watch a sitcom. in 30 minutes. But, you can`t effectively update a medical history, scale, root-plane, polish, do an oral exam, probe, and document on an average adult patient in 30 minutes. I`ll pass!"
Joanne I Sheehan, RDH, graduated from the State University of New York at Farmingdale in 1974 and has practiced in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Alabama. She has taught in North Carolina and worked for the Army as a dental hygienist in Germany for three years.