Real Simple’s Modern Manners columnist answers a reader question.

By Julie Rottenberg
Robyn Lehr

Q. Every time I see my doctor, I have to wait a long time. May I address this with her?
Michelle Ruiz
New York City

A. Frustrating, isn’t it? No matter how outrageously late your physician is running or how indignant you are watching the minutes (or even hours) tick by, it seems as though you’re expected to sit calmly without complaint and then greet her chirpily once she’s finally ready to see you. Like most people, I’ve followed this unwritten rule all my life, but recently I broke it. After spending more than 90 minutes in a tiny paper robe in an ice-cold exam room, I bolted out into the hallway and shouted, “Hello, is anyone here?” The office manager rushed over to find out what the problem was, and—wouldn’t you know it?—my doctor appeared moments later. I’ll admit, this tactic was effective but not especially gracious. We can probably all agree that streaking half-naked down a hallway is not the best way to express a grievance. For that matter, neither is venting about the wait to your physician, who may well be more irritated by her schedule crunch than you are. But, yes, it’s fine to let the doctor’s staff know that you have experienced long waits in the past and to ask for help finding a less harried time to visit the office.

My advice: Consult with the receptionist in advance of your next appointment. From her you may be able to learn which days are overbooked and which appointments (of other patients) are more likely to run long. (And be diplomatic; don’t imply that the office staff is to blame for the delays, even if you suspect that that’s the case.) When doctors are able to take you promptly, thank them profusely. If they get positive feedback, the more likely it is that you won’t spend your next visit hunched on an examining table with only outdated copies of Car and Driver to pass the time.


—Julie Rottenberg

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