Excuses, excuses

30 01 2012

An unfortunately large part of my job is dealing with missed appointments. People very often are not where they say they will be, when they say they’ll be there. Sometimes I find myself happily (really, happily) typing notes, only to look at the clock and realize that it 3:45, and my three pm appointment hasn’t showed up. It’s even worse when we’re supposed to meet somewhere out of the office.

Recently, a mother and I scheduled a meeting with her child’s guidance counselor, in an effort to calm a situation that erupted from her daughter jumping another girl and the police being called. I waited for an hour, they didn’t show. Another time, I waited for an hour and a half for a child safety conference at the ACS borough office. Apparently the mother and her child showed up two hours after I left. It’s socially awkward to sit in a waiting room for that long. You begin to resent people being called in for successful meetings.

Honestly, I don’t know how I got through any of this before Fruit Ninja.

You often can’t tell who will show and who won’t. Sometimes the people who are the most conscientious about writing down their appointment time, requesting printed directions to the office, and calling to confirm, never make it in. You start to worry that they were kidnapped by pirates, until you call and it’s confirmed–they just didn’t come in.

Some participants offer an explanation. “I had a court date.” No you didn’t. I would know that. “My son was sick.” OK, but he was in school. “I couldn’t find the place.” You live down the block and we have a sign.

We lament the fact that people aren’t honest with us. Don’t insult my intelligence by scrambling for an excuse. Just tell me the truth!

But, to be perfectly honest, sometimes that’s even worse. These are some of my favorite, totally true, occasionally repeated, “excuses.”

  • “I don’t take the kids out in the rain.”

I think I have to report you for this. This is New York, not Maui, you can’t only go out when the weather is nice. We have about eight really nice days a year. Otherwise it’s too hot, too cold, raining, snowing, hailing, humid, whatever. Do your children attend school? Are they snowmen?

  • “She has a hair appointment. We’ll come in on Saturday.”

Well, yes, hair comes first. And I won’t be here on Saturday, but I hope you get some good work done.

  • “My mom keeps yelling at me and I’m in a bad mood, I’m just going to stay home.”

Sounds like a really good reason to skip counseling and stay home with your mother.

  • “I’m sorry, SJ, I’m not feeling well. I got the runs.”
Oh, Jesus. Less is more. I would have appreciated you stopping after that second sentence, really.
  • “Miss, my hair is a mess, my mom hasn’t had the money to get it done.”

Why is everyone having a hair crisis?! I realize that not everyone can pull off the thrown-together-ponytail look with the class and elegance that I can, but come on. In this case, I would have paid to be one of my coworkers only hearing my side of the conversation:

“Well when are you getting your hair done? So what, you’re not going to come in for weeks? You’re not going to go anywhere? What if there was a Justin Bieber concert, would you find a way? No, we’re not talking about Chris Brown, you know how I get. There are so many scarves in your house, I’ve seen then, throw one on and get over here.”

  • “It’s snowing.”

It’s December.

  • “I’m exhausted. I was up drinking way too late last night.”

Oh my god, why wouldn’t you lie in this situation? Just lie! You saw your social worker was calling, you answered the phone, and “too hungover to function” was the best you could do?

  • “I don’t feel like it.

Oh. Well…ok then.

  • “SJ fell on my leg and it hurts.”

OK, let me explain this one. Yes, I did fall on her leg. We were on an outward bound sort of weekend trip with girls’ group, and these things happen. But it had been a week, she was running around all weekend, and she was totally fine. This is America, and no one sued! No way there was a legit injury. Right?

Getting an excuse like this can be horribly frustrating. Sometimes it means your boss will be all over you because a contact wasn’t made. It might mean important work isn’t done, or a deadline that affects a child’s future isn’t met. Often, it’s a frightening glimpse into people’s priorities.

But we all know that I strongly believe that if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry. So let’s laugh. What are your favorites?

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7 responses

30 01 2012
Emma

“Oh yeh I was out shopping”

30 01 2012
Tanya

I don’t have to deal with excuses anymore. The way my job is set up, people can’t leave the ER until *I* show up, so often the excuses are the other way around…

*Sorry you had to wait, but I live 40 minutes away.
*Sorry you had to wait, but I was working another call.
*Sorry you had to wait, but the roads are really icy….

30 01 2012
Erin

“I can’t meet with you today because I have to go grocery shopping.”
“umm, how about you go grocery shopping now and then I’ll come see you in 3 hours, at the scheduled time?”
“No, that won’t work. I have to go grocery shopping.”
“….okay, then…”

30 01 2012
annette

“I have to get the front of my hair washed” (really, what is it about hair??)

“He’s locked up. I told his probation officer to call you. He didn’t call you??!” (I wish there was better agency communication but such is the life of contracted workers..plus it’s not his job to cancel your appointments.)

31 01 2012
ScottWarkentin

“I had basketball tryouts” This girl was not even attending her out-of-school progrma, let alone trying out for her first school’s basketball team.

1 02 2012
Cheap Social Worker

The worst excuse I ever got was when I asked a patient’s wife to come to the hospital to discuss hospice for her dying husband with the doctors. The poor woman was obviously in denial…

“I can’t do that time! The cable guy is coming to fix the TV and I can’t cancel my appointment!”
“Ma’am, this meeting is pertaining to your husband’s health. It’s extremely important that you attend.”
“No! I’ve been waiting for the appointment with the cable guy for several days now! You need to move your meeting to a different time!”

We moved the time to accommodate the cable guy.

4 02 2012
Lizzi

“My car broke down, so I have to find a place to fix it and I don’t have transportation.”
“Um, well, they’re coming into your home and are there to help with anything you need, so they can help with that.”
“I can’t because I have to get this done.”
“O…k?”

I’m a caseworker, so this was actually with a program trying to help with family reunification. Mom had called to cancel the past two home visits with them.

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