Friday night, I had to go get some x-rays. I had seen the doctor earlier for a follow-up. The physician noticed swelling, so she recommended I get x-rays before she orders an MRI.
The Imaging clinic, which I cannot name, is a beautiful facility. Due to the holiday season and late hour, I was the only person in the waiting room. A security guard to me I had to check into the clinic via kiosk. Medical kiosks are very popular in my neck of the woods. They look similar to an ATM machine. You scan your driver’s license, military Id or type in your identifying information.
I scanned my card and sat alone, in this massive facility, among the hundred empty chairs among the silence. All I could think about was how perfect this night and location would be for a scary clown movie. Not that I watch scary clown movies, clown movies or scary movies for that matter. It was just odd feeling with the occasional house cleaning services lady quietly passing and the security guard on the phone chatting about 50-feet way.
Back to the story, the radiology technician comes out and calls off a number. Cluelessly, I just sit looking at her as she keeps repeating the number. First, being hearing disabled, I do not hear numbers well. I can hear numbers if they are spoken slowly without an accent. After about the third time of this technician starring at me and calling off four random numbers, I just ask, “Are you saying my name?”
“No, is your number A347?”
“Yes, your number from the kiosk.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot I had gotten a number.” It was late and I was tired.
I pick up the ticket and hand to her. The technician leads me behind a door and down the long cold hall. She is mumbling something while looking through a folder.
“I can’t understand you.”
She keeps talking while reading the chart. It was almost like she hiding her breath or face for that matter.
I respond, “I can understand what you are saying if you don’t look at me. I’m hearing disabled.” From that point on, the woman started to talk while looking at me. She began to treat me like a human, not a number. Everything went smoothly from that point.
Back home, I was talking to my husband about my experience at radiology.
“Why couldn’t the technician just say my name the first time? Instead, she just kept staring at me and repeating a number over and over and over. She looked like a villain in a cartoon with laser eyes.”
“Sure,” he replied.
“You don’t get it. I mean, this woman walked me back and had to verify my identity. She wasn’t sure who I was. Why is it that she couldn’t just say a name? What’s up with using numbers?”
“I can tell you are very concerned about this story, but go write about.” Responded my annoyed husband.
Now, here I am writing about why I am upset about being called a number and not a name at the medical office. The issue at hand is that this is one of many medical clinics that I go to where my name has nothing to do with identifying me. Now, I am just a number.
When society begins to identify persons as just numbers, we are doing a very dangerous thing. Psychology has studied the effects of taking away a person’s identity, such as name or title, and replacing it with a number is dehumanizing. It’s not good.
Humans are complex. We are a sum of our experiences, not numbers. Numbers are something we call off, mark of lists, count and so forth. Numbers are not emotional connections. On the other hand, numbers eliminate any emotional connection.
There is no reason we should refer to people as numbers unless it is for meat at the deli or dry cleaning. Still, even at those venues, customers prefer to shop somewhere where they are identified as a person, a wife, a husband or a family member, not a number.
It concerns me that society is accepting of identifying persons by numbers, other than names. Can this trend flow into schools, churches, and jobs?
Last summer, the Pope said that internet shopping is running society by removing the necessary human interaction to create a flourishing and emotionally healthy society. Pope Francis spoke, the future is in us. Us meaning, humans as a whole, not numbers. We must consider the importance of acknowledging persons in the doctor’s offices, waiting rooms, stores, neighborhoods, states, nations and globally as numbers, but as individual humans.
I hope you take the time to consider the importance of treating people like humans and take time to use names to identify persons. Meanwhile, I hope the right person considers the importance of changing medical care back to personal care.