To answer the question, “Would you rather have judgment or mercy?” I say I’d rather have

. . . Cox.

For previous insurance reasons that required me to use a St. John’s primary care physician, for quite a few years, I had my mammograms done at St. John’s (now Mercy) in Springfield. Between the drive up there and back (90 minutes total), the registration time (5 minutes), the wait in the outer waiting room (30-45 minutes), the wait while scantily clad in the inner waiting room (10 minutes), and the time for the procedure itself (5 minutes), I generally allowed up to three hours for the whole shooting match.

But now that I am using a Cox primary care physician in Branson, my last two mammograms have been at the outpatient building at Cox Branson (formerly Skaggs), and I must say that in this regard, Cox can certainly teach their Mercy competition a few things.

Now, I will admit on the front end that parking was a challenge. In fact, it was the most time-consuming part of the whole adventure. For one thing, no one wants to park in the main hospital lot and then hike over to the outpatient building, so the natural tendency is to look for a space in the row of parking places in front of the outpatient building. Unfortunately, those spaces were obviously reserved for those who had camped out for them the night before.

The next place to look would be around the back of the outpatient building where a series of signs with big arrows (and we 50-somethings do so appreciate clear signage!) directs one to OUTPATIENT PARKING. Unfortunately, the few of those spaces that are vacant are “Reserved for Cancer Patients.” [Be it noted that I, not being a cancer patient, had no legal right to park there, and since I have great compassion for those who are, I would never park there anyway.]

So, having thus far located exactly zero available parking spaces, one finds oneself suddenly thrust, whether one likes it or not, into the depths of the new parking deck. I have always had issues with parking decks. These issues are probably about as rational as the deep-seated anxiety I face when popping open a tube of crescent rolls, but they are issues nonetheless. Actually, I suppose I just have a lot of questions about parking decks. For example. . .

1. Why must they have such massive, lumpy humps each time you turn to enter a new level? I could maybe understand this significant construction error occurring – and then being left uncorrected for all posterity – once, but on every turn into every level? Come on, guys! Are the parking deck builders not provided with levels? Even I, a somewhat normal (HA!) mom who lacks even an undergraduate degree in engineering can clearly see when concrete slabs have not been laid flat. With all the technology available today, can’t someone figure this out and fix it?

2. Why is it that the spaces in parking decks are situated such that if there really is an empty one, you cannot possibly tell it’s empty until you have driven past it? Really now, who wants to risk backing up in a such a structure? And then this corollary question, which I realize is probably just user error, but which happens so very consistently that one does begin to wonder: why are parked cars in parking decks always alternated big, little, big, little, big, little, so that if you do spot an empty space and begin to turn into it, you inevitably find that a tiny car only half the length of yours is already parked in it? Can people with micro cars not park so that the back of their car is flush with the backs of the two big cars on either side of it? This seems to be standard procedure for books on library shelves. Could we not sway the culture in this very logical direction for parking decks, too?

3. Why are there always workmen standing around in the depths of parking decks, and why are they so rarely working, and why do they give me the creeps as I walk past them and we exchange nods? Well, maybe the creeps part is my deal, but can’t the parking deck building and electrical and paving and striping folks just do all their construction work before the deck opens and then leave it alone?

4. And finally, why is it that if you drive on past the only three vacant spots in the deck because they are all three maximally distant from the stairs (and closest to the workmen standing around), the odds on your finding another empty space before you are see daylight ahead and are about to exit the parking deck are 79:1?

As I said, the parking deal was a bit challenging, but I did eventually squeeze my Durango into a space that was probably intended for a Honda Civic. At that point, I had the rather humorous challenge of trying to figure out how to exit my car without removing any door paint from the vehicle to my left, but I will leave that one to your imagination. Once extricated, I did also have a bit of a hike from my car – past the requisite workmen – to my destination, BUT from the time I walked into the Cox Health Women’s Center office until the time I walked out of said office with my mammogram completed was less than fifteen minutes! And on the shelf in the bathroom where I did my two quick changes, some sensitive female soul had placed a Dove milk chocolate!

This was my experience last year, as well (including the chocolate), but at the time I assumed it was all a fluke. Now, having invested a grand total of 48 minutes door-to-Walnut-Shade-door, I am convinced that this must be Cox’s S.O.P. for mammograms. I am duly impressed, and I am saving my Dove for a special occasion.

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