Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's Not Me, It's You

I'm ashamed to admit it but I cheated this week, and it was good. I've been seeing a physiotherapist, G, for lower back pain for a couple of months now, but after a visit last week that did nothing for me, I decided it may be time for a change. This left me wondering, how can one affect this change without feeling the guilt of betrayal? I called to make one last appointment with G, to give it one more shot, but the day I was hoping to book turned out to be G's day off. Serendipity had smiled upon me! I had no choice but to make an appointment with someone else. I was able to make the break I had been contemplating, safe in the knowledge that I wasn't going to get caught. I went along yesterday, relieved to know that G wouldn't see me waiting to be treated by someone else. Any doubts about my indiscretion were quickly brushed aside as J massaged and stretched my aching back with expert hands. I came out of there feeling better than I had in months.

I'm no expert when it comes to physio, but I know enough to know that it's a physically demanding profession that can often require some pretty serious manipulation and massage. I'm not sure if it's a cultural thing but G is Chinese and was very conservative when it came to remedial massage in more sensitive areas. In the half a dozen times that I saw G, she would only ever touch me between the waistband of my shorts and my shoulder blades, which was a problem given that the pain was in my pelvis and hamstrings. Now I have to work out how I can schedule all of my appointments with J on days when G isn't in. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I can't bring myself to explain that it just wasn't working out.

I know for a fact that it's not just me; I have spoken to friends who have had similar reservations about trying someone new. I witnessed a genuinely awkward moment at the doctor's last week. While I was sitting in the waiting room, one of the GPs came out and started chatting to the woman waiting next to me. It was obvious they knew each other well, and the woman seemed almost embarrassed when she admitted that she was there to see another GP. She hurriedly made an excuse, "I'm just getting a flu shot, it's nothing, I didn't want to bother you with it, you're so busy."  She was obviously feeling the same "cheater's remorse" that I'm trying to avoid. It's not just healthcare professionals either; cheating on your hairdresser can cause all sorts of grief and guilt as well. It's especially difficult when your new "expert" is in the same practice or salon as the old one. I used to see a hairdresser here in HK who was recommended by a friend (another potential minefield!), but after several cuts and no "wow" factor I decided I couldn't keep spending the money (he was really expensive!). One day I decided to try one of the lower-ranked stylists at the same salon. The new guy was cheaper and better, and I still go there, but only on the days I know the first guy isn't in.

Why is it that we can't just admit to our service providers that we're no longer happy with their services? They are professionals after all, surely they can take the criticism. Perhaps they might even take note and make an effort to improve what they're providing. Do we sneak around, afraid of stepping on toes and hurting feelings out of our own sense of guilt? Or is it that we're hoping that if things don't work out with the new person, we can just slip right back in where we left off without any awkwardness? I've decided that whether it's my health or my hair, I'm not going to settle for anything less than the best, but only on Mondays.

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