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Friday Report ~ May 20, 2016

"Was Blind But Now, I See...." - During the first week of Boot Camp, I was informed that I needed glasses. The Navy, of course, handed out pairs with large black rim frames -the ugliest things you ever saw. After I had been in the service for several years, a process was developed called PRK surgery. This involves the use of a laser to actually burn your cornea with a laser, to fix the shape of your cornea with a laser and remove your need for glasses - by burning your eyes with a laser.

After learning of this solution to my vision problems, I quickly applied to be accepted into the program. The wait list however was several years long. In fact, by the time my name came to the top of the list, I was deployed to the Middle East. I received an email congratulating me on having been selected for this great surgery, and informing me that my surgery date had been set for one month from the date on the email. Being in the Middle East, communication was not the best, so I decided to simply call the scheduling office and see if I could move my appointment.

I found myself on the phone with a gentleman by the name of José. José was the Navy Petty Officer in charge of scheduling laser surgeries. I explained to José my dilemma and he promptly replied that if he took my name off the list I would go back to the bottom and wait two more years. I politely inquired as to how many other soldiers were in the same predicament as I was: as many of our country's service people were deploying overseas. José politely replied with "I'm sorry sir, that's how it's done."

As many of you know, I am a firm believer in finding a way to make things work. So I called José again and asked, again, if there was a way to move my appointment. At the time, I was a member of a special operations unit, and my window of availability for the surgery was extremely small. In fact, in order to maintain my deployment schedule and keep the required recovery time intact, I really only had a two week window for the appointment about three months away. I am not one to get confrontational, but José was beginning to push my buttons. I tried everything. I was nice, polite, and friendly - I even offered to ship him a Lobster from Maine, but no luck. I understand that he probably had many many people trying to schedule their surgeries as well, but I felt he was not working very hard to help me solve my problem.

As our phone calls and emails got slightly more contentious, fueled by the substantial time difference, I grew more frustrated with José's approach to the situation. I was not willing to wait two more years. Although I rarely ever used my rank in the service to make a point, I decided that I needed to talk to Jose's boss. I asked José to connect me with "the person he reports to." And I may have said something to the tune of "you are clearly not interested in doing your job."   I was promptly connected to a gentleman of equal rank as myself, and we were able to find a date for me to be scheduled. Feeling victorious, I went back to my tent.

Fast forward three months and I am happily seated in the briefing room in Bethesda, Maryland on the day of my surgery. There are several people in the room with me, all lined up for surgery the same day. The doctor came in and explained the procedure, and one by one we were called into the surgical suite. I was fourth in line, and by 10 o'clock they had called my name. I excitedly walked into the surgical suite and lay down in the fancy chair as directed. The doctor came over to me. He reminded me of the procedure (burning my eyes with a laser), confirmed that I still wanted to continue, and introduced his laser operator for the day: José...

Wait. What?! You know that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you've done something you know has backfired? I lay there on the table with my future eyesight in José's hands, and a knowing smile on his face. I felt like a complete jerk. Luckily, despite my prior badgering, José maintained his professionalism, and the surgery was a success (for a few years anyway). I do wonder if the post-op pain was a bit more severe than it should have been, but I will never know.

So how do you treat those that you interact with? Although I have always prided myself on being a "nice" person, I lost my patience with José. My father used to say you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. After this experience, I understood completely what he meant by that. So as you go through your daily activities, consider how you interact with others. Are you aggressive? Demanding? Do you set ultimatums? If so, you may want to consider your methods. It will only take one interaction with the wrong person to realize that you don't always hold all the cards.