At first I felt slightly alarmed by the site of the bits and pieces of tissue floating to my left. The way they swam through the solution, plainly visible for all to see even through the “HAZARDOUS MATERIALS” stamp, made seem as though they still contained some trace of life from the human they had been cut out of. Oh, God, what if part of this person’s soul was hovering above me right now, watching me stalk people I haven’t seen in years on Instagram instead of doing my work? Oh, Double God; I moved here years ago because I wanted to get serious about my acting career and I’m spending nine hours a day as an assistant to the administrative assistant in a plastic surgery center.
Then again… How many people can say, with 100% seriousness, that they spent the day doing data entry next to two plastic buckets full of goop formerly known as Jane Doe‘s Breasts while breathing in the scent of her charred flesh? I suppose this is as an appropriate enough time as any other to note that humans, when cauterized, smell ridiculously similar to Kroger’s rotisserie chicken tossed in a salad with freshly melted hair.
If this sounds strange to you it’s because it is. Your standard outpatient surgery center wouldn’t let a slab of freshly removed belly figuratively chill with the receptionist. I’m not complaining; I kind of revel in the opportunity to be honest about my exploits in administrative work and voluntarily surrendered organs. It keeps me from literally screaming at the thought of women my age who are crushing it as creatives in the entertainment industry. They no longer have room in their lives for the joy of staring at some rich lady’s organs all day.
I came to work at the plastic surgery office, which I will affectionately call the New You Store, last March. My temp guy normally sends me on assignments where all I have to do is transfer calls and look like I’m not spending the whole day on Facebook, but he knew I was capable of doing real work and he was running out of options.
“They just need someone for a few days this week. Their regular girl left and the last few temps didn’t work out. Just please stay off your phone. The doctors saw the last two I sent on their phones and apparently had a fit. You’re a rock star, though, and I know you won’t do that.”
(Side note: It’s fairly easy to be a rock star temp. Show up on time and make sure you delete your browser history before the end of the day so they won’t know that you spent hours Googling spoilers to the end of Bridget Jones’s Baby or how long a dead animal must lie in the sun before it explodes. You can be a rock star temp for the small price of not blowing up the coffee maker or the building.)
I knew I was in for a treat when I walked into the plastic surgery center lobby and immediately thought looked like a 90’s workout video.
The staff was everything I dreamed it would be and more. The two main doctors of the practice, Dr. NewFace and Dr. NewYou – and please keep in mind that everyone gets an alias since I prefer to stay out of trouble and also because I legitimately like everyone there – are seasoned veterans in their field. After finding out that they had been practicing since before I was born I had only one question that I had to ask. That question was:
“Are you the guys… who turned… that other guy… into a tiger?”
Dr. NewFace stared blankly at me.
“No,” he said, flatly, “that was not us.”
The doctors do almost every procedure under the sun. Nose jobs, injections, hair jobs, boob jobs, revision jobs over other doctors’ bad jobs… Actually, one of my favorite things that ever happened during my time there centered around a revision job. I was answering phones and took a call from a frantic woman with a thick, middle eastern accent.
“Hello, this is the New You Store. My name is Jas.”
“Yes? I am coming in today.”
“Who may I ask is calling?”
“I need to see Dr. NewFace immediately. I am coming in today!”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“I got rhinoplasty with Dr. NewFace and something is gone horribly wrong. I must see Dr. NewFace today!”
“I need to know who you are.”
Side story: I never transferred calls to anyone unless someone gave me a name I could verify in their ancient scheduling program – and sometimes not even then. We periodically received calls from a woman with a lower-middle class British accent who claimed that Dr. NewFace operated on her over ten years ago and ruined her life. According to this woman, Dr. NewFace’s surgery caused the following:
1. Her mother’s subsequent disowning of her;
2. Her husband’s subsequent leaving of her;
3. Her terrible luck in obtaining another husband;
4. Her complete inability to have children when it would have been biologically appropriate;
5. Her first and second attempted suicides;
6. A whole assortment of violent familial squabbles.
She called every few months and launched into a three minute diatribe as soon as I picked up the phone. One day she claimed that she was about to “go pro in the semi-professional Tennis world” and that, unless Dr. NewFace agreed to fix her nose, she would write about it in her inevitable tell-all book.
Dr. NewFace insisted that he never worked on her and has no idea who she was. I couldn’t find her in the ancient scheduling program.
And by ancient, I do mean “DOS ancient.”
This was why I never transferred her calls.
With that in mind, surely you understand why I was suspicious of the women who called and started making demands.
“I am coming in,” she announced.
“You need an appointment and we are all booked today!” I repeated.
“I will see you at 3:30pm.”
“The doctor will be with someone else at that time!”
“I will see you at 3:30pm.”
Of course she arrived at 4:30pm.
She had gotten her nose done with Dr. NewFace and Dr. NewYou a couple of years before, but then went to another doctor for a revision on a perfectly good nose job. That second doctor completely destroyed her nose. It looked like Michael Jackson’s famous pencil shaving nose, but with an inflated balloon stuck in the middle. Dr. NewFace finally came out to see her and all it took was one quick glance for him to literally yell,
“WHAT DID YOU DO?”
The yelling faded as he took her back to his office, but suddenly the door swung open and out the door, clear as a bell, the doctor cried,
“I can’t just put it back! Your nose is literally in the garbage somewhere!”
“You need to fix it!”
“It doesn’t exist anymore!”
“But I need to have it fixed!”
“Two things: you have to wait at least six months before I can even TOUCH your nose. It could literally fall off. That’s a real thing that actually happens. Also I have no idea what this other guy did. I won’t have an idea unless you get him to release his records to you. Then and only then will I be able to see what can be done.”
He turned to me.
“We are done here. It’s up to her to make an appointment. I’ve got nothing until she does.”
He turned and left. The woman paced back and forth in front of my station, stealing glances of her face in the hall mirror. She’d touch her face and whisper, “We will fix this.”
She finally turned to me and said,
“Does this look OK to you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, playing dumb.
“Would you look at my face and think I am ugly?”
“Um…No? I’m also not a doctor. Or a medical professional. Like I never went to a technical college or anything. I can’t draw blood.”
“But do you think I am ugly?”
“No,” I said. I wanted to add, “I think the fact that you got your nose done by Dr. NewFace and then paid another doctor to chop it up so bad you felt the need to bust in here with no appointment and make demands of us is ugly, but your nose? Eh. I’ve seen worse.”
“Can I see the doctor again?”
“I’m pretty sure he’s with a patient.”
“Can you ask?”
I dialed Dr. NewFace’s extension.
“Dr., she –”
I pretended to listen for another minute before I hung up the phone.
“Dr. NewFace says he is very sorry, but he’s just booked back to back until the end of day. See what you can find out from your other doctor and give us a call.”
She took one last look at herself and left the office repeating, “We will fix this. We will fix this. We will fix this.”
Patients travel from all over the world to have these guys work on them.
Once, a man flew in from Eastern Europe with his teenage daughter. One of her eyes sat lower than the other and her jaw failed to sync up with the rest of her face.
“This is after three operations,” he said in a thick, brisk accent, “and I am marrying her off in three weeks. She cannot meet his family looking like this.”
“They’ve never seen her?” asked the nurse.
“No,” the dad said. He might as well have said, “Duh.”
I am no doctor, but three weeks to perform an intensive facial reconstruction and heal from said facial reconstruction enough to fool your betrothed and new in-laws into thinking you never had significant facial deformities seemed like stretch. They used the least invasive surgical techniques available, but the girl still had to have a make-up tutorial session with our aesthetician to learn how to conceal the bruising.
I wanted to ask the nurses,
“Now, how in the actual fuck is she going to make it through her wedding night without knocking something loose in her face?”
I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which the husbands in arranged marriages were gentle lovers. Everything I came up with was more like Kal Drogo turning Daenerys Targaryen over on a rock and raping the shit out of her – and that would definitely knock an implant out of place.
Patients who needed extra attention – which was their way of saying patients who are total pains in our collective asses – got a gold star sticker on their chart. One gold star patient called constantly to ask questions that had already been explicitly covered in her pre-operative instructions. Then, after her nose job, she called to ask if she could remove the cast so she wouldn’t look silly at a rave. The question was so incredibly stupid that I feared Dr. NewYou would stroke out if I asked him. I don’t know what I would have done if the nurse hadn’t taken the phone from me and said,
“You want to go to a rave? First of all, no. You cannot go to a rave with a nose that’s not even two days out of post-op. Second of all: listen, dummy, what are you gonna do when you remove that cast and your face swells up like a friggin’ balloon? I — NO. That cast is on there so that your shit stays in place and it doesn’t come off until you come here and we take it off.”
The nurses there were so badass.
They offered me a full time position at the plastic surgery center, though for the life of me I cannot understand why. I constantly misfiled things. They never trained me in much more than minor day-to-day details since they rarely knew if I was even coming back the next week, so I frequently ran out of things to do and would surreptitiously check my phone. I almost always asked the other admin assistant, who was a great deal younger than me, where to find missing charts instead looking for them myself. She would stop whatever she was doing, come out of her office, look on the shelf, and pull it out with ease, leaving me to wonder why I was even alive.
Once I absent-mindedly let someone who had just gotten intensive rhinoplasty sit in the lobby. We were never supposed to allow anyone with visible bandages in the lobby to begin with, but blood still trickled from this woman’s face. It was only after she complained of being too hot that I thought to ask the if we could room her, but by then my error had caused an office wide panic. Dr. NewYou’s administrator ran out in the lobby and scooped the patient over her shoulder, acting like a human crutch, and helped her to the aesthetician’s room.
I put a patient in danger. I should have been sent home on the spot and told never to return, but they still asked me to come back.
They actually hired three women while I temped there, but all three of them quit within a week. One said it was too boring; another said she didn’t appreciate how Dr. NewYou got so close to her when checking the schedule. I remember feeling that way until I realized that Dr. NewYou’s eyesight was so bad that he had to wear special headgear during surgery to support the lenses that allowed him to see.
I hemmed and hawed when they finally called me into the office and asked me if I wanted a proper position within the company. I had just moved to east east east Los Angeles and my commute had gone from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. I wasn’t the biggest fan of their neighborhood, either; the novelty of working in what was essentially mash-up of Abu Dhabi and New Jersey wore off within weeks.
“We really like you,” they said, “We think you fit in very well here and we’d love to have to stay and dedicate some real time here.”
I told them I’d think about it, but I knew that I couldn’t stay. I booked out the following week and somewhat forced them to try out another temp. To the best of my knowledge that temp is still with them.
I do enjoy my stranger stints of employment. I also liked working there while it lasted. However… it’s someone else’s turn to keep Jane Doe’s breasts company.
Farewell, breasts. I will never forget that magical day we spent together.