The Frustrations of Phone Six

I know I shouldn’t even talk about it, let alone complain about it. I’m incredibly lucky to get it at all. I can call anytime I want after 7 pm and there it is, or, rather, there she is, that anonymous woman with such precise pronunciation it makes me squirm a little in my chair.

But there we are, every night, her precise, pert voice asking me intimate questions about intimate bodily functions and I dutifully push my own buttons in response (1 for yes, 2 for no, 3 for moderate and 5 for very severe, etc.).

We’ve been at this almost a week now and I still look forward to the nightly calls. I’ve propped the prompt card against a votive candle holder on my desk/dining room table to remind me to pick up the phone and dance my fingers all over the dial pad.

The call should take only six minutes, the clinician told me on Tuesday. Maybe for most people it’s a quickie, but apparently not for me. Each call has taken longer and longer.

I start with my identifying digits: codes so she knows it’s me. Then we go through the routine of her asking me how I feel. It goes well until we get to question six. Six grinds her to a halt. She stutters, fails to understand me, asks me to do it again. And again.

Question six is, “During the past 24 hours have you experienced tiredness?”

She gets it when I respond, “yes.” Thank God. I hate it when someone assumes yes means no or doesn’t take no for an answer.

Once I answer “yes,” the second question comes: “How severe was your tiredness at its worst?”

I’ve tried “2” for mild and “3” for moderate and she says, “Your response was invalid.”

Last night, she asked, I answered, and she invalidated me seven times. Seven times! I tried going slower. I tried going faster. Neither worked. Whatever number I pressed, she declared it invalid.

By the sixth try my tiredness was approaching severe, so I changed my answer to “5,” but she rejected that, too. Argh!

“It’s the last question, lady; can’t we end this?” I pleaded into the phone. Of course, she only said, “How severe was your tiredness at its worst?”

“Twenty-seven!” I shouted at her, shaking the phone. Of course, I had to calm down. If we got disconnected, this entire session would be invalidated and I could get flagged for botching my entry which could kick me out of the study. High stakes, indeed. I took a deep breath and calmed myself.

On the next pass, I gingerly selected “2” and held my breath. Finally, finally! She said, “You indicated that your tiredness was a 3. Is this correct? Press 1 for yes and 2 for no.”

Resisting the urge to press “1” seven times–yes, yes, yesyesyesyes, yes!” I pressed “1” and she replied, “You have now completed all of the study questions. Please remember to call back tomorrow.”

“Yeah, and please remember to fix yourself, Missy, or I’m reporting you!” I growled back.

And then I heard, “Thank you and goodbye,” followed by a harsh beep as the system disconnected me. It wasn’t the happy ending I hoped for, but it got the job done. That would have to be satisfying enough for the night.

Let’s hope it goes better tonight. I’m more than moderately tired.

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