20 April 2011

A Lesson You Don't Want Me to Learn

I think it was last December that I noticed the control on my power chair was acting a little wonky. It took me a while to convince myself that it wasn't just my imagination. Mike the Wheelchair Guy first checked it out in January. He confirmed that it was, in fact, wonky. After fiddling and plugging and unplugging and much head scratching, he decided that maybe Mike the Permobile Guy better have a look at it.

So, OK. We made an appointment with Mike the Permobile Guy. He confirmed that it was, in fact, wonky. He fiddled and plugged and unplugged and scratched his head, and decided that the problem was the control unit. Unfortunately my chair, a 2007 model, uses older electronics than they're putting on newer chairs, and it might take some time to come up with a replacement.

That was in January. Now it's April.

I started sending polite e-mails requesting status updates last month. The first polite e-mail to Mike the Wheelchair Guy got an auto-reply saying he was on vacation for a week, but would contact me when he returned. Not wanting to be pushy, I waited for his reply for another week after he got back, but never got one. Hey, I've been there. Your e-mail box can get pretty full when you're out for a spell. Stuff gets buried. It happens.

So I sent another polite e-mail requesting a status update. This time Mike the Wheelchair Guy replied, saying that Mike the Permobile Guy had finally found a control with the older electronics, and he would be calling me early the following week to set up a time to try it out. Mike the Wheelchair Guy would be seeing Mike the Permobile Guy at a conference in Las Vegas the following weekend, and would "remind him of his commitment to getting this problem resolved." Yeah, right.

So it gets to be Thursday of the following week, and I haven't heard anything. I don't want to be pushy. It probably takes a couple of days to recover from a Vegas conference. But on Thursday I sent another polite e-mail, asking if there's anything I can do to get this moving along.

Mike the Wheelchair Guy replies by cc'ing me on an e-mail he sends to Mike the Permobile Guy, asking what's going on. Very helpful. I don't know if Mike the Wheelchair Guy got any response from Mike the Permobile Guy, but I sure didn't.

When I still hadn't heard anything by Tuesday of the following week (that would be yesterday), I was starting to get a little cranky. I pointed out to both Mikes that we started working on this problem in January, and now it's April, and my chair is still broke. My insurance is different now, which is going to make all this more of a pain than it would otherwise be. I'm tired of being nice. I'm ready to start rattling cages.

I got a call from Mike the Permobile Guy a couple of hours later. He made an appointment to come and try the new control box the following afternoon (that would be today). The timing is fortuitous, because Scarecrow was planning to work at home anyway, so we won't have to take time off work to get this done. Finally.

Wait wait wait… not so fast. The appointment was for 2:00. Around 2:45, he calls and says he's running late. Can we do this tomorrow?

Um, not really. We're not usually home in the middle of the day. It just happened that we could do it today. Tomorrow is not a good day.

Mike the Permobile Guy has no idea how lucky he is that Scarecrow answered the phone instead of me. (Actually, it's a pretty good bet, since I can't physically answer the phone unless it rings on my laptop, and he was calling our home number. So scarecrow always answers the phone. But still.) I'm tired of being nice. You have no idea how much of an effort that is for me. I would have used Discouraging Words. I would have let him see the real me, and friends, it would have been a conversation he would not soon forget.

I don't know the end of the story. I don't know whether Scarecrow can arrange to work from home tomorrow, or if we have to try to find another time to get the chair fixed.

I do know that the lesson I take home from this is that as long as you try to be nice, as long as you're polite, as long as you're not pushy, you'll be at the bottom of everybody's priority list. It's only when you speak up, make it clear that you're tired of waiting around for people to get their fudging thumbs out of their ears, that you expect them to get their butts in gear and get it done, that things start to happen.

Don't be so nice. That's a lesson I can learn, but trust me, it's better if I don't.


  1. So sad that it is probably true now days that nice folks go to the bottom of the priority list.

    It amazes me how polite is out and rude is in to get any response from people sometimes.

    Ignore the lesson? Be pushy? I dunno maybe keep letting Scarecrow talk to or at em!

    How frustrating!!


  2. How frustrating!! I often put on my calendar notes to start calling vendors and then will call them on a weekly if not daily basis!!

    It is very annoying that the squeaky wheel often gets help before those of us who are polite.

  3. I hate to admit it, but I know you're right. When I act all sweetsie and nice and polite, I get dumped on! The old adage about grease and that squeaky wheel really is true. Hope you get some customer satisfaction soon.

  4. I wrote a post about this prior to my thyroid surgery. I'd been very persistent about some issues but relatively nice. Finally at my wits end, I pulled out the bitch boots. Miraculously things were fixed in one day and I was the recipient of multiple apologies.

    Reminds me of the babysitting days of my youth. The kids whose parents yelled at them were tough -- it took a lot to get their attention. It feels rather similar.

    Recently I've realized how much I've internalized feeling like a pest since most of my interaction are with the medical system. You know, how as chronic patients we have to remind, request again and again, cajole, etc. Now when dealing with my realtor, I'm so shocked when we run into problems. I don't have to remind her and she follow through on things and fixes them!


  5. I'm usually the push over. But the more disabled I get, the ruder I get too!
    I had several caregivers (paid) awhile back. I heard from several sources that the constant was me, so I must be the problem. BULLSHIT
    (excuse me)


  6. A life time ago when Patti could and did advocate for herself a related scooter repair is similar to your story. Then and now I have no doubt that vendors and support personnel simply de-prioritize customers who are disabled. There is no risk of someone kicking the door in or physically raising hell. Like it or not high drama is a motivator. Myself I've found it easier to apologize after I have someone's undivided attention. :)

    Caregivingly Yours, Patrick