I used to volunteer one day a week in a Veterinary Clinic. I did this for a number of reasons, the primary one being that I really loved who I worked with. The people there are wonderful. Pet owners, however, can be a breed all their own.
It was a very small veterinary clinic. There was one doctor and only two exam rooms. We were basically an ENT for dogs and cats. We would do minor surgery, but no emergencies. We were just your primary care physician for your puppy or feline, appointments only, rigid schedule due to our size, but always happily refereed and recommended doctors for emergencies. We would always squeeze unscheduled people in whenever we could, but it is simply not always possible. As far as clientele goes, we handled anyone in Austin and anyone willing to drive to us…and there are a lot of eccentric people in the surrounding hill country. Very unique and I guess peculiar would be the nice way of putting it. Don’t forget: a lot of horror flicks take place out here.
We all have dealt with odd people in our daily lives, we all have been those “crazies” to someone else at some point. It’s what makes life interesting. And this encounter was interesting.
On this morning, as I organized the charts for the full list of appointments we had that day, a car pulled into our lot. The driver of the car was a woman dressed in a uniform, a state or city worker, with a badge on her chest that shone in the sun when she got out of her new model Nissan. She went over to the passenger side and removed from the car a lumpy and squirming pillow case. She strode in our door, sack in hand, and I greeted her warmly, as I do all our patients and their owners.
Let me just note here that cat carries are always preferable. That being said, it is not uncommon for people to transport their cats in pillow cases. I’m not kidding.
She grunted at my hello and sat down. I began to ask what we could help her with this fine morning and for her name so I could check her off the appointments list. Her answers were…well, it was as though she knew what she wanted, wanted it done, and didn’t want to deal with logic. In fact, it seemed even paying attention to anything was out of the question.
I asked what she needed, she responded with something about crazy drivers. I asked if we could help her pet in the pillow case, and she was upset with the weather and angry at metal. I don’t know if she meant technology or cars or the genre of music.
My outward queries of her needs became inner queries of wonder: just how did she get on this planet? It seemed she was trying to get care for her cat in the most confusing and angry way. She was very animated when she spoke, doing so with sudden, sharp hands gestures, arms swinging with each sentence. This wouldn’t have bothered me normally, accept in one of her hands she grasped the pillow case containing her cat, who was very obviously not enjoying its morning.
Photo credit unknown. Not me, that’s for sure.
I’m no doctor, but after a few minutes with Unknown Lady #1 of the day, I felt confident to make a diagnosis: Bull Goose Looney. Not mentally handicapped mind you, just missing some marbles. Normally, I wouldn’t jump to make that call; you never know what someone is going through. I promise you, I am normally very kind and patient when I’m in the office, as much as I dislike the human race.
This woman, however, was mean. She was nuts, angry, and none too bright. A deadly combination. ‘Deadly’ as in her existence in common society causes others to kill. I very politely let her know there might be a wait for the doctor, but we would try to see her cat, and I attempted to keep her as calm as possible. I offered to put her cat in the exam room so it could stretch it’s legs and calm down before the exam, but she refused. In fact, in order to even get her to acknowledge her own pet, I had to basically pressure her for answers, and those only came after over ten minutes of angry rants and in short bursts of sentences.
I was trying to be nice and helpful, but I was getting more concerned for her cat with each passing moment.
“You have your cat with you it seems. And it doesn’t seem that you have an appointment. Does your cat need vaccinations?” I asked slowly and clearly.
“Nah! Needs shots. I had my cat’s shots done in Austin last year. I need ’em done agin.”
“Sure, we can do that! Did your cat receive those shots here last year? What’s your last name? I can look up his records.” I rose
to look through charts.
“I ain’t never been here before,” she answered.
“Oh, that’s no problem. We’ll just take your information as a new client. Please fill out the new client form on the counter. Where did you have the shots done last time?” I asked.
“Oh, I dunno. Somewheres in Austin. Y’all have ’em in the records.” She ignored my request for the form.
“So, we DO have the records? So your cat HAS seen our doctor before? Or did you have the records sent over from the previous vet? What’s your last name? And, if you’d like, I can help you fill out the new patient form.” I still had no answer on either a name for the woman or her cat.
“I haven’t been here before and I sureishell don’ know yer docteer!”She seemed to be getting annoyed and again ignored the new patient information request.
We looked at each other. I was blank and confused, but at least I was in good company. Let me just point out, that by this time my boss, the veterinarian, his assistant, and the vet tech were standing just out of sight of the client area in the hall listening, a swirl of confusion and entertainment playing on their faces.
I repeated, “Did you have the records sent to us from a previous vet of the vaccinations?”
“I don’t need vassinations, I need shots! I don’t need ‘er records neither, cause I got her shots done ’round in Austin. YOU – GOT – DEM RECORDS!” She was yelling now.
I had no idea what to do. I paused. I was not a cryer. If someone has the audacity to make you cry or come close to tears at the office they are horrible human beings and not worth the energy.
And…Stupid does this. It seeps in, infects the air, hovers heavily, thickly like a smelly fourth grader with awful hygiene and weird food for lunch. It hangs there, staring at you, waiting yet thoughtless, ignorant of it’s own irritating cycle.
You almost want to feel sorry.
I forced my self to smile. And I maintained quiet and calm and spoke…very…very…very…slow…ly.
“Ma’am, if you haven’t been here before…
…and your cat hasn’t seen our Doctor…
…and you haven’t had records sent over from another vet…
…then there is absolutely no way that we have records for your pet.”
The woman was silent for a moment. After a bit her eyes changed, like suddenly she was figuring it all out. For about an eighth of a second I was thankful, I thought we could move forward and communicate. I almost sighed with relief.
Then the woman blinked. Something had clicked. Evil.
Out she spat her next topic, which still had nothing to do with her cat. “You’re a big girl. You gained weight since las’ time I were here.”
That was it.
At that point I had worked at the clinic barely a year and I could hear my coworkers snickering out of sight in the exam room hall. Our waiting area was filling with competent pet owners who actually had appointments. And I wasn’t about to hold them up any longer.
Screw reality. Reality isn’t a necessity. Let’s do crazy, bitch.
“Ma’am,” I sighed calmly, politely. “We can’t treat your cat.”
Suddenly, the prospect of no longer getting attention made her understand English. “But the sign say y’all do cats!”
“Yes, we do ‘do cats’. But those are special cats. We only treat THOSE cats,” I pressed, leaning forward as though I was sharing a secret with her.
“Oh…Thems like those SPECIAL cats?…” she asked.
She started to smile. Thems special cats. She was nodding like she was privy to a veterinarian insider tip, like she knew exactly what I meant. I didn’t fucking know what I meant. It seemed, however, to make her feel special that her cat was in a “special cat” vet office, like being there was AS GOOD as getting her cat the actual shots it needed, even though she was being turned down.
“Yeah. I’m sooooooo sorreee about that. Thought your cat had been here, but hasn’t, so can’t. So sorry! But you have a good day!”
I walked over to the door out of politeness in case she needed a hand leaving.
“Tha’s fine, darlin’. I gotta git to work any how. Somebody’s gotta drive that bus.” Magically and totally placated, she was smiling a far off smile, and left nodding without another word, just like that.
I wish I had asked her the bus route she drove just to avoid it. I should have asked her if she was going to drop her cat off at home or if it had to stay in a pillow case in her car all day. And I should have asked if she needed a recommendation for another vet clinic. But, after a frustrating and fruitless 20 minutes in which I couldn’t even get a name, other people waiting and getting annoyed as well, it was too important for my own sanity’s sake to get her out the door.
And to this day I have no idea what ‘thems special cats’ are, but I bet they’re awesome.
Like Thunder Cats.