Since I quit my job, I have realized just how many protective layers I had to don every day so I didn’t lose myself among the dysfunction. I had different political and religious views than most of the people in the building, which wouldn’t matter if all those people didn’t feel the need to bring those things up in every other conversation. Sometimes monitoring surgery was like a trap because many surgeries last 3-4 hours, plenty of time to get in a good anti-foreign aid speech, a summary of last week’s Sunday School lesson (which, I’m sorry, I’m less inclined to tolerate if you don’t live according to your professed morals), or a prayer for George W. Bush, bless his heart. The discomfort didn’t just stem from the differing world views, though. There were also sexist undertones running rampant among the male doctors, and also 100% reinforced by our two female administrators. That was awesome for the two male employees there, but pretty much sucked for the rest of us. Rules were enforced based on either mood or previous favors or information about fellow employees shared with administrators. If you played your cards right you could get anything you want, but you’re screwed if you try to complain about someone breaking a rule and causing the entire system to fall apart, especially if you have made similar complaints in the past. It doesn’t make sense, does it? But hey, a person needs a job to survive, and I was not one to discount job security. So I did what I had to do to make it through the days even when it took every ounce of energy I had.
Now that I am away from that job and in a period of detoxification, I feel that now is a good time to share some stories. I’m no longer struggling to make it through the days anymore, so those things that happened that made me and my coworkers want to go home and drink now seem like excellent writing material. I’d like to start with a story that, while it was happening, marked the first time I knew I wanted to write a book one day. Actually, it was when I knew I had to write a book one day. The story involves a dead body.
The owner of the clinic is a genus, and I say that not to flatter or sway your opinion either way. The man is an actual genius. His brain operates of a completely different plane than most people’s. I played Words With Friends with him for a while until I got tired of losing to him by 300+ points within a day. His genius and his intense competitiveness combine o make him amazing at what he does. As for all the rest of the things that have to happen to run a thriving practice, that was up to us. He would walk out of an exam room when he was done with an exam and start giving orders to the first person in his line of sight, whether that person was doing something else, assigned to a different doctor, or not an employee. He once gave lab orders to the water delivery guy until one of us ran down the hall to intercept. I don’t think the doctor even noticed. Eventually we technicians became able to read him pretty well and know what he expected for each case, and we knew when we had to go back and fill in the wide gaps in detail he left.
As the clinic is a specialty practice dealing only with eye related issues, we did not hospitalize any patients overnight, and we did not have to do any euthanasia. I had worked in general practice and got to help with my share of euthanasia, so that was just fine with me. Occasionally our doctors would help out an employee or a friend in euthanizing a pet after hours or on a weekend. One weekend, Dr. Genius did this for one of his family friends just before leaving the country on vacation. We knew he had done the euthanasia because he left us a post-it note listing his controlled substance usage for our records.
On that Monday morning my fellow technician and I found the note and recorded the drugs, but, knowing how this doctor operates, we began thinking through all the other details of the process to make sure everything was taken care of. We were about to call to have someone pick up the body, but we found that we had no body to pick up. There is one place, for the entire building, designated for bodies awaiting pickup, and ours was not there. We looked in his office, a borderline Hoarders case, for another note he may have left telling us where he put the body. There was no note.
We began to consider our next step. “Surely he would have told us if he or his friend were going to take the body with them?”
“But do we ever expect him to leave specific information for anything?”
“Well, no, but if he didn’t drive a dead dog to his house, there is a body lying around here somewhere.”
“Oh god, what if there’s a body lying around here somewhere?!”
“Oh god, knowing him it could literally be anywhere.”
“Where is he, can we call him and ask?”
“He’s in China.”
“Call his phone and see if he answers. I’ll start…um…looking around.”
Of course the doctor wouldn’t answer his phone, so we started in the pharmacy refrigerator and freezer. Nothing. We tried our lunch refrigerator and freezer, praying nothing would be in there. Nothing was. We looked in every drawer and nook and cranny in his office. We looked in surgery, filing cabinets, storage closets, other clinics. Do you know what it feels like to open a desk drawer while facing the very real possibility of finding a dead body inside? Everything after the freezers we opened together. We took turns gripping the handle and we both held our breath and each other’s sleeves as we slid the potential casket open. We found nothing. We could never decide whether we were thankful there weren’t dead bodies in our filing cabinets or mortified that a pet might be missing.
There wasn’t much else we could do until we talked to the doctor, so we left him another voice mail and started the day. The rest of the day we were alert for smells of decomposition or terrified screams of discovery. Informing the rest of our coworkers went something like this, “We need to run an in-house blood panel on that patient before surgery, and do not give him any Acepromazine. Also Dr. Genius may have hidden a dog’s body somewhere in the clinic. Let me know if you find it, thanks.”
The doctor returned our call promptly at 4:30pm to tell us that his friend had taken the dog home to bury in his backyard. We told him we thought that was illegal and he told us that he did not care. In retrospect, that should have been the very least of our concerns in this situation. That was a long time to sweat out a horrifying situation. He is lucky we were good at our jobs because things like this should not ever slip through the cracks. When it’s time to say goodbye to your pet, it is comforting to have someone you know and trust helping you out. Just be aware that in some cases, taking your dog to an ophthalmologist for an “off the books” euthanasia is not advisable. When I type that out, I wonder why I should ever have to say something like that.