Fresh off my lunch break, I pressed the button on my headset to answer the incoming phone call.”Dental Clinic, my name is Morgan, how can I help you today?” my voice isn’t fake, but it’s not necessarily genuine either. I answer all my calls the same, I politely get right to the point. There’s little worse than a wordy call center rep.
A rough voice barks back at me, slurring his words slightly. My first impression isn’t that he’s drunk, although that’s always a possibility, no, it sounds more like he’s missing some rather important teeth, and so he can’t quite pronounce his words.”Yeah, are you guyths hiring for the Dental Athistant position you have pothsted?”
His question wasn’t hostile, but his tone was, and so I worded the answer carefully, trivial as it may be. “Um yes, I believe so. I can connect you with the Lead Dental Assistant who would be overseeing this, or – ” I was cutoff before I could finish, giving me an even clearer hunch that this guy wasn’t looking for answers… Just someone to complain to.
“Do you juth not higher minorities or thomethin?” He forced this second question over my voice. I sensed that he was “unhappy”, about what I wasn’t sure. My first instinct was to firmly exclaim “of course not!” but I knew that wasn’t going to satisfy him. Before I could accumulate a proper answer to this queer question, he raced on, “becauth, if thomeone wasss already qualified, and had experience as a Dental Athistant, why wouldn’ you juth higher them?”
I conceded, this was clearly out of the scope of my job. “Sir, let me transfer you to my Lead Dental Assistant. She would be able to answer your questions regarding the job opening. One Moment.” I hit the hold option before he could protest, and quickly dialed Lydia’s extension.
Lydia had an attitude all her own. At 5’2, her size was no indication of her intimidation abilities. Her Italian-Spanish roots gave her a creamy, coffee color to her skin. She was well into middle-age, but hid it well with a short, fiery blonde hair style, a dolphin-shaped nose piercing, and an ear delicately decorated with hoop earrings of various sizes. She was the nicest person you could ever hope to meet, but she was a mama bear at heart, and if she felt her cubs were threatened, she’d bare her teeth and charge.
I waited as the line rang. In our clinic we all had phones that were equipped with a webcam. When you called anyone within the company, their name and their face would pop up as soon as they answered. It was a little odd, but the company believed that seeing our coworkers face would create an environment of openness at work, and allow us to “bond with a smile, not just a voice” as they put it. I think it’s a bit over-the-top, but not in a bad way. It actually works – it’s a lot harder to be rude to someone’s face, so drama and backbiting between coworkers is low.
Lydia’s face came on my call screen, donned with a surgical mask. She had just finished up with a patient, and seemed a little flushed, but I could hear the smile in her voice as she chirped an airy, “Hello dear”.
“Hey, I have a gemstone on the phone who wants to know why we don’t higher minorities to work with us.” I phrased this very abruptly, with an under layer of incredulity.
“What? Is he serious?” Lydia was great dealing with Loonicult patients. Loonicult was a portmanteau used in our clinic quite often. A combination of “loony” and “difficult”, it was a way to label patients who weren’t quite “all there”, and more obtuse as a result.
“He’s sort of strange. He doesn’t sound quite right, but he wants to know why we haven’t already filled the DA position with someone who is qualified, with experience.”
“Alright,” Lydia sighed, “send him through.”
I hit the transfer button and the line went dead. I sit in a separate office than Lydia does. Our office doors are diagonal and across the hall from each other, but with both our doors open, I could hear a muffled version of the conversation taking place.
“Well, have they already finished the Dental Assistant program, certified to work in the state of Washington, and have prior experience…?” Two minutes in to the phone call, and Lydia’s patience was already wearing thin. With each word more carefully dictated than the last, I could hear her finishing up the conversation with a firm statement. “We higher solely on qualifications for the job. Ethnicity, gender and age have nothing to do with the decision to higher someone here. If they are the best candidate then they will get the job. If you have further questions I would be happy to transfer you to the VP of operations for our clinic. If there’s nothing else I need to get back to my patient.” A brief hesitation, and then Lydia put the phone on the receiver with a little more force then intended. I heard the plastic phone hit the receiver with a hollow thud.
I wondered if Lydia was going to come in and give me some of the details to the peculiar conversation. I wasn’t left wondering for long. Lydia stood at my desk, leaning heftily against the door frame. “That guy was a frickin’ fruit loop. First he wanted to know why we had the position for the DA posted on our website if we didn’t intend to fill it, then he went on for ten minutes about how he knew for a fact we didn’t like hiring minorities because he knew someone who came in for an interview who was qualified and perfect for the job, and we didn’t hire her! He wanted to know what we had against a, “beautiful, minority woman”. Like we didn’t higher her based solely on the fact that she was a beautiful minority wo – wait,” Lydia’s eyes lit up. “Do you know who that was?!” Her eyebrows had raised so high at this point, they disappeared into her cropped bangs, giving her a semi-permanent look of surprise.
I shook my head, “He didn’t give me his name. Why? Who do you think it was?”
“I’ll bet it was John Sullivan. Brandi, his wife, or girlfriend, or something, interviewed with us a few months ago. She made it to the second interview, when we found out she hadn’t finished the DA program, and never got certified. She wasn’t eligible to hire on, and we told her that. And was she mad! She accused us of not hiring her because she was too beautiful, and didn’t want someone who looked like her working here. Said that we didn’t hire beautiful women, ’cause we’re jealous.”
“I think I’m offended by that! We have a ton of beautiful women working here.” myself included, I thought confidently. My phone lit up again, signalling an incoming patient call. Lydia motioned she was going back to her office, and I clicked the receiver on my headset.”Dental clinic, my name is Morgan, how can I help you?”
“Hi, can I talk to Kate?”
“Let me see if she’s at her desk. Who can I say is calling?”
A brief pause, “I’m calling about Brandon Tate.”
Ookay then. I thought, “One moment please.” I dialed Kate’s extension and waited. After a long moment I switched back to the other call. “It looks like Kate is out to lunch right now. Can I take a message or transfer you to her voicemail?” The caller hesitated. I could hear the tension in her voice as she spoke,
“Does she just not want to talk to me?”
Now it was my turn to hesitate. I wondered what the backstory was here, and why this patient would be lead to think I’d be fibbing about Kate’s whereabouts. I laughed uncomfortably, “Um, no. She really is at lunch. It’s 12:30pm, which is the normal lunch hour.” I hadn’t meant to sound sarcastic, my tone was a reaction to her tone. Nevertheless, the inflection was noted. I ignored the “humph!” and went on, “would you like me to transfer you to her voicemail, or take a message?”
“I guess if she just doesn’t want to talk to me then I will.”
At this point I was over the novelty of weird and awkward conversations. I had had my fill for the afternoon. “Unfortunately, because Kate is out for lunch, those are your only options. You are also welcome to call back if you like.” I spoke these words sickly sweet, like a sorority sister, rejecting a new pledge.
“I’m sure she wouldn’t return my call. My name is Brandi Sullivan, and Kate hate’s me because I’m a really good Dental Assistant. And I just thought I’d call to be polite, and let you know that your dentist working at your clinic isn’t very good. He’s nice, but he’s just not very good at his job. He misdiagnosed my son’s cavity, and now his tooth fell out. He also said I only had one cavity, and I went to another dentist who found three more. But I’m just going to have another dentist do the work. Anyway, I just thought I’d leave a message, and let you know.”
Well then, I thought, I’m so glad such a goodly, and mighty dental assistant with a bonafide certificate, has an opinion on our dentist, who only has a lowly doctorate in dentistry. Oh my soul. “Would you like to leave a call back number for Kate to return your call?” I said, the honey in my tone completely dissolved.
“No that’s okay. She won’t call me back anyway. Because she hates me.”
Because you’re such a good dental assistant – I’m sure. “If you’re sure. I’ll give this note to Kate, and let her know you called. Thank you. Have a nice day. I made sure Brandi hung up first, that way she couldn’t accuse me of hanging up on her.
The nerve of some people. “Lydia! You’ll never believe who just called!”