Working for the MAD DOCTOR

I left Santa Ana and took a room in a shared house in Costa Mesa, another little California beach town. Out of work again, I took a job as housekeeper for a doctors wife in Newport Beach, a very nice house in a very nice neighborhood, for minimum wage, $2.00 an hour in those days. But I was delighted with her. We hit it off. The first thing I learned was they had 11 children. Then I learned she played cello, my favorite instrument. I was contentedly cleaning the kitchen while she played arpeggios and sonorous tunes. She was the most gracious, calm, soft spoken and pretty woman I knew. Half of the kids were grown up and the younger ones were in school, except for the late baby.
It didn’t take long for for her to find out I was intelligent and she sent me to her husbands office to do some filing. It turns out he was the most famous and busy bone surgeon in the Los Angeles area. He did surgeries in Los Angeles hospitals, then returned to his home office in Newport. His secretary recently quit and they were desperate for a replacement. Well, how hard could filing be…I could say the alphabet, right? But when I saw the files, on long open shelves, they were literally upside down and backwards, out of order, and up to 20 years old. I had been pecking at it for a few hours a day when they found a new secretary. I continued to do filing.
The doctor was gone most of the day, at an L.A. Hospital doing surgery. He would come back in the afternoon, tired and cranky. He would nitpick on the new girls work, more rude and irritable all the time. On the third day he burst into the office, agitated, and slammed a paper down under her nose and shouted, WENSDAY! Is that how you spell WEDNESDAY! You dumb little snit! Don’t the train you? They send me idiots! He screeched, on and on. It was unbelievable. I sat there with my mouth hanging open. She burst into tears and ran from the office. Soon I was calling the agency, and we went through two more girls, until they said they wouldn’t send any more. The doctor bent over me, eyes glittering, and said “Can you type?” “Well a little,” I answered nervously.
The next thing I knew I was receptionist, and in charge of billing and insurance. Unfortunately the billing was as bad as the filing- up to 20 years out of date. No one paid this doctor for visits to the home office, no one asked them to. I decided to start with the last two years. At least half had never been paid, except recently, he asked them to pay in advance, and then billed insurance…and never reimbursed the patient, who were calling constantly. It was apparent he never would repay them.
A strange ominous man came in, asking for the doctor. He told me it was urgent, but the doctor was out. When the doctor came in I told him about it and he said if I saw him again, to immediately call him in the back office. He taught me how to recognize a federal license plate on a car, and call him. He would run out the back door when I called. Soon I learned the sinister man was an Internal Revenue Service agent…the doctor did nor pay taxes
I walked into his office one day just as he was stuffing a big bottle of whiskey in a drawer. I pretended not to notice. He always had a half empty glass on his desk. He was such a prim and trim looking man, with spectacles and thinning white hair. He looked every bit as a famous surgeon should. I was still working for his lovely wife…how did she put up with him? One evening I was working late, and he arrived with an attractive lady, blonde hair neatly coiffed, very professional looking, she might have been a doctor herself. They closed themselves in the copy room, there was busy clattering and humming for an hour, when I knocked timidly, I had to leave. He invited me in and introduced me to Clare, and explained they were printing flyers for a tax resistance group.
I stayed on for several more months even though he never paid me more than minimum wage. At one point he got me a nurses uniform so I could help him with the patients. “Of course don’t tell them you’re not a nurse,” he cautioned me.
30 years later, I was watching the evening news, and it caught my attention when his name was mentioned. He had a large home in an upscale Newport neighborhood, and he was being sued by neighbors because of an unsightly yard…stacks of old newspapers, baby carriages, old sinks on the lawn, tires on the roof. So far he had refused to clean up. And that’s the last I heard of him.

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