About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Introduction to A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR PEOPLE WHO TRAVEL TOGETHER

I'm about 90% finished with a new manuscript titled, A Survival Guide for People Who Travel Together: Tales from the Road. Most of the anecdotes are Charley's and mine, but at least a dozen other travelers have contributed. Thanks to all who so willingly recounted their stories with great laughter or nostalgic affection! I might add, there are no children on these journeys. That is another whole book, probably not mine.


Introduction


     Charley and I have done a lot of traveling together over more than fifty years. It started while we were engaged. I was still in college and he was an Air Force officer assigned to Dover, Delaware.  For two years we drove back and forth between Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and Dover Air Force Base in his white VW “Beetle,” shouting fraternity and sorority songs to stay awake:  “Give a rousing cheer/For the boys are here/Lift your glasses high…”
Saigon, Viet Nam 1967
     After we’d been married a year, Charley was assigned to Viet Nam. We met in Honolulu halfway through his year-long tour in ‘67. He arrived at the agreed-upon hotel at 3 a.m., but the desk clerk swore his Rolodex didn’t have any record of my being there. “Try under my name,” Charley said to the man.
     "No, sir, nothing under 'Charles Carey.'"
Honolulu, 1967 
     “Try again under ‘Pamela Carey.’ That’s spelled C-A-R-E-Y.”
     ”Wait a minute! Here she is! Her card was stuck to the card in front of it.”
     “Honey, it’s me,” Charley said quietly, knocking on my door. Since I was expecting him the next morning, I was sound asleep with my hair in curlers and a mud-gunk mask all over my face. Today cell phones would prevent such tragedies. “Open the door!”
     Half asleep, I stumbled to the deadbolt and slid it back. Thirty seconds later, bits of my mud mask hung all across Charley’s stubble.
     We began to travel with another Air Force couple, but he was a pilot and none of us stayed in one place very long. Eventually we traveled with friends from each town where we settled.  We learned quickly there are close friends you can travel with and close friends you can’t. After we had kids, we gave up travelling with other couples. It was too exhausting to make decisions for more than four, and some of the other females qualified in the “bitch” category, were ALWAYS thirty minutes late, or simply couldn’t make up their minds. Charley and I needed our “quiet time,” without any explanations for the hours we might be missing-in-action.
Buzios, Brazil  1982
     Travel is one of the things we enjoy doing together most….unless there’s an argument. And on foreign trips, especially, one of us will always get pissed off, probably from a lack of sleep. Let’s face it – we all dream of an idyllic trip before we leave, but no trip can be perfection. There are often mis-communications, unforeseen emergencies, as well as plain old physical discomfort. No accommodations are quite like home. A sense of humor and the ability to “roll with the punches” are indispensable, even if the punches come in the form of a stolen car or poison ivy surrounding your torso. As we age, "rolling with the punches" has become more of a "get on your feet before the countdown."
Baldissero, Italy  2005 
     When our sons were playing amateur and professional baseball (college ball and the Red Sox organization), we traveled across twenty states to watch them play. During Charley’s professional life, we traveled around the world on business. In retirement, we devote several weeks a year to international travel.  In addition, we drive from Massachusetts to Florida and back as “snowbirds” each year. On one of those trips, we didn’t speak from Massachusetts to South Carolina.  It wasn’t smart to have an argument before leaving on a 1200-mile ride together in a small metal cylinder!
On the equator    2008
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador  2008
Machu Picchu, Peru   2008

   When we travel we are on a figurative journey without a map. We know memories of the unexpected, the funny, the touching, and the exasperating will remain with us long after we get home.  We will always have that! It’s mind-blowing to immerse ourselves in another culture, even if it's within our own country. It teaches tolerance and respect. It’s about “crossing borders into foreign regions of the soul,” as Sue Monk Kidd said in Travelling with Pomegranates.
Sampling the lagers in Castlebar, Ireland  2017
Our date with the raptors, Ireland  2017
     I've developed some unwritten "rules" along the way to help us survive our trips. Sometimes we 
follow them; sometimes we don't. May those who journey together do so in reverence, excitement, and 
never-ending repetition of the mantra, "Zip it!"
                                                        Athens, Greece  2014
Dubrovnik, Croatia   2009
Puglia, Italy   2010

Monet's Giverny, France   2011
Zulu headpiece   So. Africa      2011
Relaxing in Key West 
Oia, Island of Santorini, Greece   2014
Island of Majorca, Spain   2015

Utah Beach, Normandy, France    U.S. Navy Memorial
Disney World   2014
Bonita Springs, Florida
                                      Harbour Island, Bahamas    2015                                 
Cape of Good Hope, So. Africa   2011
Photo below Las Vegas, 2007 

Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris   2016
Lacco Ameno, Island of Ischia, Italy    

 Amsterdam, Netherlands    2016











Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cobh, Ireland (Queenstown from1849-1921 under English rule)

     Cobh, Ireland (pronounced "Cove"), is the second-largest natural harbor in the world after Sydney, Australia. Each year around sixty cruise liners visit the port. We visited the waterfront town for several other reasons.
Waterfront Cobh, Ireland
     For many years Cobh was the port for Cork, lying on a glittering estuary dotted with brightly colored houses and overlooked by the massive St. Colman's Cathedral high above the town. More on the Cathedral later.
     Charley's family history could be traced to County Kildare and later County Cork and the port of Cobh. From 1848 to 1950 no fewer than 2.5 million emigrants left the port for other lands. During the famine years (named "The Great Potato Famine," although there was a plentiful supply of potatoes but the English demanded the shipments), seventy thousand people left from Cobh to escape the ravages of starvation.
Statue of Annie Moore and children, representing all those who left to seek a better life.
     In 1838 the Sirius sailed from Cobh, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. In 1912 Cobh was the final port of call for the Titanic. And in 1915 the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Kinsale. Survivors were brought to Cobh and many victims were buried there.
     We visited "Cobh, the Queenstown Story" exhibit in the Cobh Heritage Center, where we saw convicts' quarters below deck on their way to Australia, "so airless that candles could not burn." We saw families of emigrants in steerage quarters and read their diaries. The howl of a storm almost knocked us off-balance. We saw photos of those who had crossed on the Lusitania before its fateful voyage.
A passenger documented her Atlantic crossing on the Lusitania 1913
We saw recreations of life aboard the Lusitania, complete with china, linen tablecloths, and drawing rooms that rivaled the finest mansions of the time.
     We went next door to the "Titanic Experience Cobh" in the original White Star Line offices, where 123 passengers embarked on the SS Titanic. The technical wizardry was impressive but more memorable was standing on the spot from which passengers were ferried to the waiting ship offshore, never to return.
     Before our trip to Ireland, Charley and I had both read Dead Wake by Erik Larson. It's the story of those who sailed on the Lusitania, as well as those who destroyed it, hour by hour from its sailing in New York to its sinking off the Irish coast. We paid a visit to the massive French Gothic St. Colman's Cathedral, out of all proportion to the town, where many of the bodies lay after tragedy struck.
Cobh waterfront 1880's with St. Colman's Cathedral in background
     Begun in 1868, the Cathedral was not completed until 1915, mostly through donations from nostalgic Irish communities in the US and Australia. We did not see or hear its famous 47-bell carillon, the largest in Ireland.
Inside St. Colman's Cathedral, Cobh
     In fact, we didn't examine much inside the Cathedral. A shrouded body lay beneath the altar waiting to go to its final resting place, apropos of the Lusitania story. Since we were the only ones inside the Cathedral, we abandoned our tour and let the soul journey in peace.



   
   
   

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

J.J.

After driving for thirty-plus years while traveling abroad, Charley got sick of it. We decided our new policy would be to hire someone local to get behind the wheel who could speak decent English, unless we were with a tour group (which we'd only done twice, when we couldn't make all the arrangements ourselves). If someone else were driving, we could relax and enjoy the surroundings without getting lost or having an argument.

John Jennings drove us from Kenmare, Ireland, on the southwest coast through the Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Lakes of Killarney, to Kinsale, Ardmore, Cobh, Blarney, and up to Dublin on the east coast.

A retired 6-foot Waterford police detective with bushy gray eyebrows overhanging piercing olive eyes, he showed up the first morning in a biker's jacket that matched his eyes. A trimmed gray mustache gave his squared face a rugged Sean Connery look. I could picture him in an interrogation, never taking his eyes off a suspect. "Call me J.J.," he said.

I asked him where he was from. "I'm from Waterford," he said, "but I spent last night in a B&B over the mountains. It's only about fifteen minutes from where I picked you up." We proceeded to retrace the exact route through the mountain passes that J.J. had traversed to meet us. It took us thirty minutes.

"Why didn't you stay closer?" I said.

"There was a gym in one of the hotels near where I booked, and I like to stay in shape. But the gym wasn't open. Besides, B&B's in Kenmare, where you stayed, are too dear (pricey)."

"What else do you do for excitement?" I asked.

"I climbed St. Patrick's Mountain to the shrine three times on my hands and knees in rock and gravel," he said.

"You must feel very blessed," I said.

I sat in the rear directly behind J.J., whose driver's seat was on the right but who was, of course, driving on the left side of the road. His gray hair was sheared to a stubble, police-style, surrounding his bald 60-year-old dome. A half-inch tentacle from his beard sprouted untended to the left.

J.J.'s right hand never strayed from the wheel, while the long fingers and soft flesh of his left hand gestured in the air to emphasize his constant tales. Strawberry-blond wisps of hair escaped the cuffs of his jacket. His hands belied his avocation as a rugby player throughout his thirties.

While maneuvering through fog on the Dingle Peninsula, weaving around banks of peat and through stone tunnels in the mountainous Killarney National Park, passing lorries and bikers on roads wide enough for a single car approaching Kinsale, and circling round-abouts outside Cork, J.J.'s left hand would scrunch together, supplicating for understanding, or jump up and down to imitate the actions he was describing. We learned of Gaelic Games in his youth on a pitch longer and wider than a soccer field, where'd he had to change afterward on the embankment into rained-out clothes to bike home; of his All-Ireland basketball championship game in the 60's representing County Mayo; of the farm his father owned, whose horses competed in local Sunday jumping competitions.

Since J.J. was so tall as a youth, he couldn't jump in competition on his own horse. "Dad told me to tend another horse while my best friend did the jumpin' in the ring on mine," he said. "My friend was shorter than me.

"'And whatever you do,' Dad said, 'don't let him eat the grass. It will give him a stomach ache.'

"For three hours I pulled that horse's neck up off the turf every time he tried to eat.  Ohh, my arm was achin'.

"Meanwhile, my best friend won first prize. He brought my Rory out to me and Dad said, 'Since you trained him, why don't you ride him to pick up the trophy?'

"I did just that. I rode up to the judge and took hold of that silver urn and turned Rory around to head out. Everyone was cheering like crazy. That's when Rory decided to buck and I went flying forward and landed on my arse. Managed to hold onto the trophy, though. I still have it.

"Now when we get to Blarney Castle, Pamela and Charles, the Stone is 100 steps up inside. You must go to the top and lean backwards while you hang over the wall to kiss the Stone. You'll be given the gift of eloquent speech." He turned in his seat to face us with the smile of a leprechaun.

Seems J.J. had been multiply blessed - three times by St. Patrick, and once by the Blarney Stone!















   

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Our Date on the Wild Side

     During our recent trip to Ireland, Charley and I had an experience we won't soon forget.  We had a date with birds of prey.

     It was something I'd wanted to do since a dear friend, now departed, described her experience bonding with a falcon as full of wonder and joy.  We tried to book with a falconer while staying at Ashford Castle in Cong, but our itinerary was too tight. We tried to arrange another date in Kenmare, near Killarney National Park, but the falconer was totally booked. We finally succeeded with "Willie the Birdman," a traveling falconer outside Waterford.
Willie the Birdman 

     Falconry has been around since 2000 B.C.  It became the most popular form of hunting in the aristocracy, both for sport and for supplementing the table. An aristocrat's status could be determined by his bird of prey - a king had a golden eagle, for example; a duke, a falcon.  Other birds used by falconers today are hawks, kites, and owls.  Owls, however, are very difficult to hunt with because they find their prey with their hearing and hunt at night. They are mortal enemies of diurnal (daytime) raptors.

     We met Willie outside the mews he'd built for his birds, their chambers where they remain tethered unless they're in the falconer's house. The mews looked like over-sized open cages. Eagles had blocks or stumps on which to stand; owls and falcons had limbs or branches.

     There are stringent laws regulating falconry in the U.S. A falconer must pass an exam, build facilities, get them inspected, serve a 2-year apprenticeship, keep records on the birds, catch a wild bird, and get it licensed.  In the UK there is a lack of laws regarding the birds' mews. The only regulation states their mews must accommodate their wingspan.  Taking a bird from the wild is illegal in the UK. However, the survival rate of wild immature falcons is only 10-20%, compared to 90% for those captured and trained.

     One by one Willie introduced us to the owls, starting with an immature barn owl called a passager, which he tethered with a leather leash (jess) from the baby's anklet to my gauntlet by wrapping the jess round and round my little finger and securing the end into a ring on the gauntlet. The young one just sat there and stared at me. I stared back at him.  After a few minutes of mutual admiration, he started swiveling his head around in a circle.  "You can touch his back," Willie said. Touching his feathers was like sinking my hand into a bowl of white cotton.
 
     I wanted to take him back to the States with me, but Willie reminded me these are NOT pets, but birds of prey.  A full-grown owl eats mice, rats, or quail each day. Willie stocks three-month supplies in a freezer, along with shredded raw chicken for the larger species. The falconer must measure each bird's diet to control its weight. If it gets too heavy, it can't fly high and fast; too light-weight, it can't pick up the prey. Their beaks are hooked and their feet are either three or four talons, depending on the species.  Those with four have two talons facing forward and two backward.

Coming in for a landing for food on my glove
     The birds are trained to accept the falconer as a hunting partner who will facilitate his hunting for food, since birds of prey are carnivorous.  The falconer creates positive reinforcement with his voice and with offers of food in small bits at the blow of a whistle. When fully grown, the bird is given freedom from the glove while the falconer helps flush out prey and lets the raptor dive, sometimes up to 200 miles an hour. A bell on its leg alerts the falconer as to its position. At times the raptor is so high the falconer needs a radio tracking device. Sometimes the raptor doesn't come back at all.

     As each owl was released from its mews to my glove, my arm got heavier and heavier, especially with the Snowy White.
















          "You don't have to hold your arm out straight," Willie said. "You can bring your elbow against your side." The snowy got jittery, so Willie put him back in his mews.

     Charley was given the great horned owl, who put on a show after he was released by targeting fresh pieces of chicken on Charley's glove from across an indoor hanger when Willie called.

     Finally Willie took out a kestrel (small falcon) and removed its leather hood . Willie tethered him to my gauntlet while I stared at his beautiful yellow eyes and beak.  He wore an ID band and bell on his leg.  He just sat there immobile, as if he were waiting for me to ask, "What's up?"

   
     The time had arrived!  Willie took a lure (a simulated dead animal) and swung it round and round on a little lasso, then let go. That's when he released the kestrel's jess from my gauntlet. That falcon was in the air in a blur.  Within seconds he had the lure in its beak as Willie whistled him in.  He landed just where he'd begun, on my gauntlet, and was fed the real thing.

     What a thrill!  Nature is truly remarkable. That's my idea of a date on the wild side these days.
Red-tailed hawk, one of two species allowed trapped for falconry in NY State.
Photo courtesy of Alamy

   

   

   

   


Monday, May 29, 2017

The Missing Trophy


(Based on real events)...  

     Detective Fleming:  "What is the tennis captain's name and where was she on the day of the disappearance?"

     Tennis Player:  "Her name is Jones, as in James Earl.  But not the same heritage.  Her first name is Wendy, as in 'Peter Pan.'"

     Detective Fleming:  "And Ms. Jones did not accept the trophy?"

     Player:  "No.  You see, she had torn her Achilles over a year ago and was still in treatment.  She was undergoing acupuncture or she might have been at the doctor's that day.  Not sure which."

     Detective Fleming:  "Who accepted the trophy?"

     Player:  "A member of another team from our club.  Am I going to get her in trouble?"

     Detective Fleming:  "Not if she's innocent."

     Player:  "It was Denise Porter."

     Detective Fleming:  "Were you familiar with this player?"

     Player:  "Well, I know she has two grandchildren and she lives at our club and she has been on the Tennis Committee and received awards and was a captain of a team."

     Detective Fleming:  "Would you say her reputation is impeccable?"

     Player:  "I can't say what she does on her off-hours, but yes, I'd say so."

     Detective Fleming:  "Who else was seated at the table?"

     Player:  "We had other players from our club, including one captain and another member of the tennis committee."

     Detective Fleming:  "But Denise was the one who received the trophy?"

     Player:  "That is correct."

     Detective Fleming:  "What happened to the trophy after it was presented to Ms. Porter?"

     Player:  "She brought it to the table and placed it in the middle, while we all yelled and hollered.  We got a little loud but everyone else did, too, if they won something."

     Detective Fleming:  "Is there reason to believe any other club might have wanted the trophy?"

     Player:  "Every club wants the Sportsmanship Trophy, but it has to be earned and voted on."

     Detective Fleming:  "When did you realize the trophy was missing?"

     Player:  "When we decided to leave. We'd had a good time and the banquet was over."

     Detective Fleming:  "Was there drinking involved?"

     Player:  "We all had a glass of wine, if that's what you mean.  In the middle of the afternoon, most of us can't handle more than that."

     Detective Fleming:  "What happened between the time the trophy was placed on the table and the end of the banquet?"

     Player:  "We were talking to other players at other tables. We were all so glad to get up from our chairs after a long banquet!  I'm sure you know what I'm talking about if you've gone to kids' banquets, Inspector."

     Detective Fleming:  "And when you returned to the table it was gone?"

     Player:  "That is correct."

     Detective Fleming:  "What was the trophy made of?"

     Player:  "It was made of crystal.  Nothing fake, like some banquet awards."

     Detective Fleming:  "Would you say it was valuable?"

     Player:  "Its value lay in the honor to our club and Wendy's team. Do you want me to guess a monetary value?"

     Detective Fleming:  "That won't be necessary. We're investigating everyone on the closed circuit tape who exited the premises.  At the moment a person owning a white SUV is under consideration for something she carried to her car."

     Player:  "A white SUV?  One of our club captains has a white SUV.  As a matter of fact, she was sitting with us."

     Detective Fleming:  "Her name, please?"

     Player:  "Will I get her in trouble?"

     Detective Fleming:  "Not if she's innocent."

     Player:  "Joanne Grubman."

     Detective Fleming:  "I'll look into Ms. Grubman's departure.  Thank you for your time."


Ms. Grubman's cell phone rings.



     Detective Fleming:  "Ms. Grubman?"

     J. Grubman:  "Yes?"

     Detective Fleming:  "This is Detective Felming of the Boca Raton Police Department.  I'm investigating the theft of a crystal trophy from the South Palm Beach County Tennis banquet this afternoon. Specifically, the Sportsmanship trophy won by Wendy Jones' 55Love team."

     J. Grubman:  "Theft?  What theft?  I'm looking at the trophy right now!"

     Detective Fleming:  "Where are you precisely, Ms. Grubman?"

     J. Grubman:  "At Quail Ridge Country Club in the tennis clubhouse. In front of the trophy case, where I put the trophy."

     Detective Fleming:  "Please remain there until I arrive."

     J. Grubman:  "The captain couldn't attend so I brought it to our clubhouse for her."

     Detective Fleming:  "Very thoughtful."

     J. Grubman:  "I have to pick up my children at school, Inspector."

     Detective Fleming:  "I'll be sure to put my lights and siren on for you, Ms. Grubman."

 Thirty minutes later...Ms. Grubman, Detective Fleming, three pros, two pro shop employees, and a court maintenance employee stared at the trophy.

     Detective Fleming:  "It's a beauty, isn't it?"

     Ms. Grubman (on the phone):  "Can my kids stay at your house till I can pick them up?  No, I'm not under arrest.  No, I don't need you to bail me out.  No, don't call my husband.  And not a word to the kids!"

   



     

   



   



   

   

Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Inheritance from My Dad

     My father commuted from Connecticut on the train every day to NYC till he was in his mid-seventies.  On weekends he transformed the wily brook on our property into a tamed stream and built a bridge; he sowed and reaped vegetables and fruits; he mowed two acres; he planted, then transplanted, a nursery of evergreens.  He never lacked exercise.

     Dad would slather mayonnaise on his sandwiches and layer each piece of toast or muffin with several swipes of margarine before adding the jelly.  Every evening after dinner he would enjoy a frozen yogurt.

     After their move to Florida in their eighties, Dad's new doctor suggested a cholesterol test.  The total reading was around 350 - off the charts.

     The doctor prescribed a cholesterol-lowering statin pill.  Dad began the treatment but within a short time resembled Big Bird.  His liver was malfunctioning.  The doctor prescribed another statin and another.  Dad couldn't tolerate any of them, and there weren't many to choose from back then. Both he and the doc gave up and Dad went back to his routine -  a bowl of cereal for breakfast with toast (covered in margarine) and banana, a sandwich for lunch (with mayonnaise), and whatever Healthy Choice frozen dinner my mother stuck in the microwave, followed by frozen yogurt.

     He lived to be 95.

     I am my father's daughter.  My body is on overdrive producing cholesterol.

     What is cholesterol?

     Cholesterol is a type of fat found in our blood.  The body needs cholesterol to function.  It occurs naturally in every cell of the body.

     HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) or "good" cholesterol is one of five major groups which enable fats to be carried in the blood stream.  Other lipoproteins which enable fats to be carried include LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol).  In healthy adults, approximately 30% of cholesterol in the blood is carried by HDL.

     LDL's function lies in its use in cell membranes, as well as the making of hormones and Vitamin D. However, since our cells take only what they need, excess levels of LDL can enter blood vessel walls and build up under the lining.  Deposits are called plaques.  The "good" cholesterol or HDL acts as a scavenger, picking up excess LDL "bad" cholesterol and delivering it to the liver, where it's broken down. If there is too much excess, deposits can clog arteries, restricting blood flow (hardening of the arteries).  A blood clot may eventually result in a heart attack or stroke.

     I have always lived a healthy lifestyle.  I've played tennis for forty years.  I go to the fitness center and use cardio machines, free weights, and long-and-short muscle machines twice a week.  As a New Englander I eat fish regularly - sometimes more than three times a week.  I enjoy fruits and I mix a fiber drink every night.  I am a lifetime Weight Watcher and panic when I'm five pounds overweight. Sometimes I'm so sick of salads for lunch that I rebel and eat a wrap.

     My HDL "good" cholesterol is very good.  Although it fluctuates, at this moment my LDL "bad" cholesterol is very bad.

     I had no discipline while the grandchildren visited.  I ate Easter candy, frozen yogurt (with hot fudge), cheeses, pastas, and cake.  I ate nuts and homemade breads and chocolate chip waffles with syrup.

      After many trials, the doctor found a statin I could tolerate without resembling my father's sunflower yellow.  It will have to suffice while I revert to my healthy diet.

     The doctor told me there's a monthly shot that's been developed which he's testing on a few patients.  It costs $800/shot.  Seriously??

     Thanks, Dad, for the inheritance.  I'll take my chances with your longevity any day.





Friday, April 28, 2017

A Doctor's Office in Florida

     One November a doctor (not my primary-care) ordered an ultrasound - a simple outpatient procedure at the hospital which lasts approximately twenty to thirty minutes.  I wasn't scheduled to have the test until the following April, and in-between I lost the prescription I needed to take with me.

     I called the doctor's office two days before the scheduled date to request another written prescription. "Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and the nurse will return your call," the answering machine told me.  I did as I was told.  No return call that day.

     I called back the next day to make the same request. Again I heard, "Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and the nurse will return your call."  I explained what I needed and described the urgency for the ultrasound test the next day.  If the doctor couldn't fax me the paper, I was prepared to go pick it up.  No return call that day.

     Since my hospital appointment wasn't scheduled until the afternoon, I jumped in the car the day of the test and headed to the doctor's office in the morning. I signed in and knocked on the closed window. A sign on the glass read, "Please do no knock on the glass."

     "Yes?" the receptionist said.

     "I don't have an appointment but have left messages for two days that I have an ultrasound scheduled this afternoon and have lost my script.  I haven't heard a word."

     "Your name?  (I answered.)  Take a seat, please."  The glass window slid closed and I found an empty chair.

     "I don't know why anyone comes here, but their reputation is so good," the patient sitting next to me said, her long braid following her as she shook her head back and forth.  "There are too many doctors in here.  I had a reaction to a medication and I called this morning, but the doctor's gone on vacation. So now I'm supposed to see another one, but I've got to get back to work in an hour.  They told me on the phone there would be no problem.  I've already waited thirty minutes."  Her mouth turned down as she got up to approach the glass fortification at the window.

     Just then we heard pounding from the outside hall against the waiting room door.  "Let us in!" someone shouted.

     "We're stuck out here and can't get in," another voice yelled.  The pounding continued.

     The patient closest to the door rose to help.  His helpful willingness camouflaged his sallow complexion and sagging Bermuda shorts.  He fiddled with the door knob but couldn't disengage the lock.  The next patient in the row jumped up. "Let me see what I can do, old-timer," he said. When the lock disengaged, a torrent of patients poured in and lined up behind the closed glass doors.

     The woman with the time issue stood at the front of the line.  "Excuse me," she said, knocking on the glass till it shivered in its tracks.  "I'm sorry to cut in," she said to the person signing in, "but I have to get back to work."

     The glass slid open.  "Mrs. Carey?" I heard.

     "Yes," I said, out of my seat like a kid's jack-in-the-box.

     "Here's another copy of your script," the receptionist said, handing me the paper and swiveling an evil eye toward the woman who'd knocked.

     "Thanks," I said, spinning in place for a quick retreat.

     "You're next," the receptionist said to the irritated patient who'd spoiled her day. "Please enter the door to the left. The rest of you, please sign in," she said, slamming the glass shut.

     When I got home, I found the original script buried in my calendar.

     On my follow-up visit, I bit the bullet.  "I've been coming here a long time," I said to the doctor. "May I have a private conversation with you?"  I proceeded to explain the situations that had arisen in one day's visit.

     "If you don't tell us the issues, we'll never know," the doctor said.  "Would you be willing to explain all this to our office manager?"  He led me down the hall.

     The day before I visited that doctor the following year, I got a personalized message on my answering machine confirming my appointment.  When I arrived, the glass doors above the sign-in sheet stood open. Inside the office, one staff member was answering the phone, another writing receipts and scripts for patients exiting. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Carey," the receptionist said with a smile.  "The doctor will be seeing you in about ten minutes. Meanwhile, please sign in and let me know if there's anything I can do for you."