Ethics, Pretentious iPhones and Accepting Car Rides from Patients

I recently moved to a different part of New York City where keeping a car is no longer feasible due to the high cost of parking and increase in traffic in that area. That, along with the fact that my vehicle was recently burglarized, pushed me to sell it off as soon as possible. There’s an uncomfortable, violated feeling that goes with burglary, even if no one is hurt. I wasn’t even at the scene when the scofflaws had their way with my car, but seeing the broken glass, CD’s scattered everywhere and various insurance documents tossed around made me feel uneasy and vulnerable, as if they might have learned something about me I would have preferred to keep secret. Plus they stole my navigation system and EZ-Pass which just pissed me off. Thugs.

So I’ve been taking the train out to the office I rent, which is a short ride to a nice part of town. Unfortunately it’s about a fifteen minute walk from the station to the actual building which is going to pose a problem now that the weather is getting colder. As I had mentioned, I don’t wear suits and heavy jackets aren’t really my thing either.

Because I’ve been in transition from one home to another I don’t have internet access set-up just yet. Thus I’ve been using my iPhone to get my email and access the internet. Like the Wii, this phone is also an addictive tool of Satan. I immediately take it out of my pocket upon exiting all trains and cabs, as well as after each appointment. Usually I’ll have a voicemail or two from a client looking to schedule or cancel an appointment and, if I’m really lucky, there will be an email from Dr. John:

To: Dr. Rob Dobrenski
From: Dr. John
Subject: Last Night

Rob, guess what I did last night? Your mom!!!

-J

See how important I am?

Upon leaving the train to Dr. Steve’s office I immediately took out the phone to see if John had any more carnal bliss to share. Like every other idiot in the city with a delusion of self-importance I began walking with my head down, clicking away at the keypad. This allowed me to walk into a large pole. Strangely this pole actually saved me from a more painful fate, because if I had gone another five feet or so I would have fallen down the steps of the train station, possibly ending my somewhat brief time in this world. A toast to you, Pole!

It was raining pretty hard outside which really got me thinking that I shouldn’t be so uptight about wearing suits, jackets or carrying an umbrella for that matter. Walking down the street to the office, my first client of the day pulled up in her car along side of me. “Rob, is that you?” she asked.

“Oh…hi there. Yes, I’m just going over to the office to meet you.”

“Where’s your car?”

“I recently sold it.”

“Oh, I see. Well why don’t you hop in and I’ll give you a lift. You’re getting awfully wet.”

Yes, especially because I had to stop walking to address WHY I’m getting wet.

“No thanks, I’m fine. I’ll just meet you there.”

“What? That’s silly. We’re both going to the same place. Just get in.”

She had a valid point and I could feel the water starting to accumulate in my shoes. She and I have been working together for years and have a very solid relationship. However I felt a bit awkward, not just about sitting in a client’s car, but also by accepting an invitation outside of the therapeutic domain. The dual relationship had reared its ugly head. I’ve cautioned against this dynamic and although some practitioners see the dual relationship as completely benign I decided that I felt more at ease sloshing my way to the office on foot.

“I think I will just walk to the office and explain why when we’re there.”

She looked at me and tilted her head, like I had just turned insane right in front of her, and then shrugged. “Okay, I’ll see you there,” she said and pulled away with just enough force to push some water from under her tires onto my pants.

Sitting in the office, beads of water dripping from my hair and earlobes, a pink welt burgeoning on my forehead where the pole had attacked me, I explained to her the inherent problem with the dual relationship, regardless of how innocuous the situation might seem at the time. As professional, well-kempt, and dignified I appeared at that moment there was simply no way she wouldn’t understand my position.

“Okay,” she said. “That makes sense. You really should buy a coat and umbrella, though, because there’s supposed to be a freezing rain all day into the evening. You’re going to dry off only to get soaked again on the way back to the train.”

Being ethical isn’t always easy.

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12 Responses to “Ethics, Pretentious iPhones and Accepting Car Rides from Patients”

  1. Jing says:

    funny and insightful as always

  2. s says:

    I don’t know, I guess maybe East Coast US is a lot more formal, but that refusal seems sort of weird to me.

  3. Nick Fury says:

    For what it’s worth, if the guys who tossed your car got your EZ Pass and try to use it, it might be possible to track them down. Probably not worth it for what they took, but I hate to let a chance at retributive violence go by without at least considering it.

  4. Amber says:

    Okay, as for the violation I totally feel you. Six years ago or so my little car was stolen, when it was found it had been completely destroyed, although everything but one thing was still there….the picture my husband kept of me. He kept it tucked in the little panel where the tachometer and speedometer are. My hubby searched the car for it, as I said everything else was there just destroyed, and he could not find it. It still makes me cringe.
    Onto the pole, welcome to my world. Only I don’t have to be looking down to run into stuff. I can be looking straight ahead and run into some random thing. My poor son has my sense of coordination and luck for running into walls and poles, etc. Although, my manager was ogling a sexy pair of shoes one day and ran into a pole in the mall right in front of this old guy, he laughed his ass off at her. Well, so did I. But hey, it’s funny when your friends get hurt right?

  5. Wayland says:

    So are you “keeping it in perspective”?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Way to go pole! I am glad it saved you from falling into a worse fate. I couldnt imagine life without you on here writing amusing things for us to read!

  7. Nan Tucket says:

    I suppose I can try to understand your wicked straight-laced borderline OCD ethical approach. But what if one day you find yourself hanging off a cliff, would you take a client’s hand to save your life? Or would you say, “I think I will just take my chances and explain why if we meet again.”?

  8. Savi says:

    Rob, I can see your conundrum. In regards to the constant worry of seeing a client outside of the office setting, I have to say that I find urban therapists’ behaviors rather comical. Notice that I say urban. In small towns, where there is only say one therapist, and only say one grocery store and one main street, it is inevitable to run into clients. It’s impossible not to. But, I don’t think these small-town therapists get their underwear in a knot every time they bump a client outside the office. You’re both human beings, and it happens. Making the situation larger than it is is only going to confound the neurosis both parties have. I do applaud you on not getting into the car, but I do not applaud you on having a slightly neurotic episode about it. A common situation presented itself, and having an uncommon reaction to a common situation can meet some definitions of “neurotic.”
    While you undoubtedly won’t like this post, and I thus don’t think you will post it, I do still find your work and writing to be fantastic and intuitive. I mean no offense whatsoever by this post, just my opinion.

  9. Yasmin says:

    Well, I am not in the same field as Rob and Savi, but I think Rob did the right thing.
    But Rob, no heavy coats?? The no suits thing I can understand, but coats? That is like refusing to bring an umbrella…Oh wait…hmm…

  10. […] many of you know, I am a Pretentious iPhone user. It’s gotten me into trouble before but, for the most part, I’m pretty happy with it. Even after almost two years I haven’t fully […]

  11. Tippy says:

    “This allowed me to walk into a large pole.”

    I’ve done this, but I was drunk and I didn’t miss the stairs.

    I had martini glass bits in my chin for a long time.

    They’re gone now:)

    MARTINIS + POLE = DANGER

    I don’t have a car or a cell phone. Yes, I’m very smug about it.

    (& you really should have an office umbrella)

  12. Annie says:

    I don´t know, but just spending a couple of minutes in the car doesn´t seem like a big deal…