Thursday, August 31, 2006

Weird coincidence

I'm breathing easier now that I've solved a strange little mystery that's bothered me for the past two days.

I was sitting in my office Tuesday afternoon when I got a phone call from some doctor's office I'd never heard of. The marginal English speaker on the other end of the line was calling to confirm my September 1st appointment with doctor (unintelligible name.) I said I'd never seen that doctor and hadn't made any appointment. The caller responded with my name, and address, and work phone number, and repeated that she was calling to confirm. I replied that there had been a mistake, and to cancel any appointment. I didn't think much more of it after that, just an odd mix-up.

Yesterday I got home from work around 5:45 and found a message on my answering machine. The message was confirming my September 5th appointment with doctor (unintelligible name.) The caller left an office number, which came back to a large medical group associated with a nearby hospital. I've been a patient at the hospital (car crash where I got knocked unconscious, broken leg, needle stick, tuberculosis exposure and what I thought was a heart attack but turned out to be really bad indigestion) but I had not made any appointments with any doctors there.

Just as I finished playing the message back my youngest said, casually, from the next room, "oh, some guy came by and did something with the roof today." WHAT!? Who was it, someone from the village, or a contractor or what? She didn't know, she said our eldest talked to the guy and she didn't know anything else about it.

I began to feel my heart beat faster and could feel the muscles in my neck, arms and legs start to tighten. We're done with contractors, and there was no reason for anyone to be at our home doing anything with our roof. I called my eldest, and she described the person as a "blonde kid in his teens, with a work truck parked in our driveway." She said he asked for me by name, she thought, but wasn't sure, because he "mumbled in that teenage way." And of course, she didn't bother to ask any questions or find out anything else about him, in that teenage way. She did get a business card from him and gave me the information. The place appeared to be a legitimate roofing contractor, so at least I wasn't worried about some gypsies trying to scam my family while I was gone.

I like to think of myself as...prepared, not paranoid. While my children have compared me to Mad-Eye Moody from the Harry Potter books (CONSTANT VIGILANCE!) I don't think I'm unreasonable. I've never really worried about retaliation, and only rarely have I ever run into any former customers on the street. This got me though. Two calls from a doctor I've never seen, confirming appointments I never made, and a visit from a mystery contractor, all in two days. I called the numbers I had and left messages, and made plans to run my own credit the next day. Over the years I've collected quite an assortment of identity theft and harassment horror stories, and I was trying really hard not to get carried away thinking about what could be going wrong.

This morning I hit the phones. 20 minutes on the phone with XXXXXXXX medical led to the discovery that one of their patients must have a name close to mine. Given the English skills demonstrated by some of the folks I talked to, one of their staff ended up pulling up my records and contacting me by mistake. They apologized and said they'd contact the other patient and re-schedule the appointments that I'd cancelled. Boy, that really inspires confidence in the accuracy and security of your medical records, doesn't it?

The roofing contractor called back just after I got off the phone with the medical people. His estimator had gone to the wrong address. He thanked me for letting him know, and told me an amusing story about one of his crews beginning a roof tear-off on the wrong house a few weeks earlier. They stopped when the lady of the house ran outside screaming at them.

I'm proud of myself. I talked to everyone involved without freaking out, I managed to get a full night's sleep, and I didn't pass out guns to the girls and barricade the house. The angry, tuned-up Bubs from a few years ago would've let fly with a string of obscenities while imagining the worst case scenario, changed the phone number and all the locks, and spent all night sitting in a blacked-out house, cradling a gun in my lap while drinking bourbon and black coffee to stay awake and loose at the same time.

Isn't it nice when there's a simple explanation?


Katy said...

working at a doctors office I can tell you unfortunatly is does happen that we pull the records from the patient. We have a few patients with the same name and try to verify their DOB and addresses but sometimes it just happens. I however would have freaked out if 3 strange things happen within that short of a time frame.

The Special Sauce said...

Got a good laugh outa that. Glad to hear it all turned out okay.

Bubs said...

Glad you enjoyed it! Stop back any time, always glad to see our boys and girls in the military.

I constantly wrestle with the desire to go off-grid, living on cash only. We'll see what happens when I retire in a few years.

Katy, I get what you're saying. It's weird, I was telling this story to my mom, and it was clear she was thinking "doctors office" like an old-fashioned practice where you could just talk to someone and straighten things out. This "practice" is something like 100+ doctors, with everything computerized. The potential for record screwups is just amazing.

Katy said...

yeah technology is just as good as the people using it.