When waiting room gloom turns into a rage

Time is money, if you're a doctor or dentist or do something that involves billable hours, that is. The rest of us can just wait, apparently. Well, no. I'm bored as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.

I'm in the dentist's chic reception area - no longer called a waiting room and no longer coloured pond-life green - and it isn't the best place to hang about. The noises coming from the tooth abattoir beyond the swing door are grim enough without watching the clock, too.

My appointment is for 9am and I'm early because, 48 hours before, a text reminder pings into my phone. Twenty-four hours later there's another, this time stating that, if I don't make the appointment, I will be charged anyway. Ordinary levels of pre-dentist anxiety are considerably ramped up by the time I get there.

After listening to the high-pitched whines and grinds from behind the swing door - for at least an hour - I check and it's actually ten minutes past my appointment time. I have my phone, though, so I check Facebook. Who's doing what, saying what, cat pictures, puppy pictures, a funny horse video, jokes and a couple of good rants about Tony Abbott and Andrew Bolt. More time passes and still the sounds of modern dentistry are the only things coming out of the swing door.

Fifteen minutes pass; 20, 30. Other patients come and go. The receptionist's smile is practiced. ''Sorry to keep you waiting.''

No you're not, I think, this is routine and you know it.

A half hour creeps by and my patience has gone with it. I wouldn't mind waiting quite so much if it were somewhere other than a dental practice. My doctor is routinely late, but she has twinkly blue eyes, so it doesn't seem to matter so much. But her mob send out similar text reminders: don't miss your appointment, or else.

Does the Australian Medical Association have guidelines on waiting? Should there be a ToothAdviser with stars and reviews for best practice treatment (''Nice music, but the waiting got old.'') What about consumer law? When is waiting just too long?

At 36 minutes past my time, I crack. Why should I have to wait? Why is their time more important than mine? Why am I sitting here like a hamster whose wheel has broken? The receptionist smiles nervously as I approach: ''Very sorry to keep you waiting.'' I still don't believe her.

''I'm not waiting any longer,'' I tell her. ''I'm going now.'' She looks shocked. ''I'll have to charge you for your appointment if you don't keep it.'' I get the giggles. The receptionist looks affronted and puts out her hand. For my card? ''I'm not paying. I kept the appointment. He didn't.''

Other waiting patients look at me as though I've just announced I'm a terrorist.

''You can't leave without paying!'' calls the receptionist, agitated.

''Watch me!'' And out the door I go, feeling instantly all floaty and liberated.

Sauntering along the street, Facebook friends are informed of this anarchy. It starts a flood of similar fury at being kept waiting. Except one, who reckons I should have waited longer. Perhaps, but that half hour symbolises the endless hours that add up to more lack of respect than is now bearable.

Businesses routinely expect me to waste my time in order to save theirs and their bottom line: the bank, for instance, for whom I'm an unpaid online teller, the supermarket where ''convenient'' self-serve checkouts mean I do the scanning and packing instead of a paid worker.

The damn dentist - who was going to hurt me anyway - was the last straw. Keep the appointment or don't make it in the first place. First come, first served would work just as well. Meanwhile, I will not wait. No more.

smh.com.au

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