Trust Yelp, Not Your Husband

This post goes out to two special Chicagoans:

1) The Gangster Vampire who furiously biked past me as I ran on the lakefront path yesterday. I’ve met a lot of gangsters, and a few vampires…but never you. I only wish that I had my Google Glasses so that I could have snapped a quick photo of you for posterity. I wish our encounter would have lasted longer, but I understand that you were dying from being out in the sun. And you had just stolen that kid’s bike.

2) The owner of the lone sailboat in Belmont Harbor, sitting in ice bergs and covered in snow. Either you are the laziest sailor ever and just “opted out” of removing your boat from the harbor for the winter, or you are the bravest because you started your sailing season in January instead of waiting until May like the rest of us. Somehow you have managed to make me feel like an overachiever and a slacker all at once. Well done.

sailboat in snow_Fotor

Anyway. Let’s begin.

If you know me at all, you know that I rarely try anything without reading many reviews first. Hotels, restaurants, spas, spray tans, doctors, acupuncturists, clowns (that one’s for you Little Sis)… you name it, I obsessively read reviews before trying it.

I wasn’t always like this, and honestly, it still irks me somewhat that I have succumbed to this Lemming-like behavior.* Following someone else’s footsteps dramatically contradicts my inherent desire to follow my own sense of adventure and march to the beat of my own drum. After all, I was the girl who drove across the country after college with no job prospects and all of my possessions piled in my bright blue Ford ZX2 (a.k.a, Blue Flash). To the chagrin of the many naysayers, that actually worked out well for me. Making decisions based on my own instinct rather than the advice of others was kind of my thing. (I’d like to publicly apologize to my parents for never seeking their advice about anything, and always informing them of my plans after I had already determined the path I was going to take. They’re great people, and they have great advice. It wasn’t you, Mom and Dad, it was me.)

Ok. This post is getting a little heavier than I had anticipated – I was talking about online reviews. Let’s get back to that.

Unfortunately, my cool-girl, individualist persona was eventually challenged by a succession of horrendous dining and travel experiences that could have been avoided if I would have gotten over myself and read a review or two. Begrudgingly, I decided to take a lesson from my husband, who had been perusing online reviews before Yelp and TripAdvisor were verbs. Of course, I had always made fun of him for that, along the lines of “Hey, think for yourself, man.” Like a jerk.

So, with his help, I became a believer in the great system of online reviews – but not without a few hiccups first. An ill-fated trip to Mexico taught me that the key to successful online review utilization is understanding who is writing the reviews, so that you know if you share the same standards and taste. I.e., “BingeDrinker82’s” excellent review of a hotel may not mean excellent for those seeking a luxury, zen getaway. (Tip: if someone from Singapore gives a hotel five stars, BOOK NOW. Singaporeans have the most ridiculous standards, in the best possible way – probably because their streets are so clean you can eat off of them.)

There are only a few people in this world who I trust more than the online review community. Obviously, one of these would be my dear husband. Since he is my best friend, my soulmate, and we are essentially joined at the hip – I trust him on all levels.

Unless he’s referring me to any sort of medical practitioner.

It just so happens that the two most awkward and disgusting experiences I have ever had at medical offices both resulted from his personal recommendations. While these experiences were really not his fault, they were bad enough that I’m just not taking chances anymore. Sorry babe.

I may have casually mentioned in a prior post that I am a germophobe. If I didn’t casually mention it, it’s because it’s not a casual thing to mention. I am a HUGE germophobe. And I could write a weekly column detailing the daily challenges encountered by a germophobe when living in a dense urban environment. Suffice it to say that recently, one of my best friends told me that my legacy is my love for both Prosecco and Purell.

If anyone reading this post is a fellow germophobe, even slightly, you will feel my pain. If you’re not, I envy the nonchalance that will envelope you as you read on.

The first experience happened years ago, when I was looking for a new dentist. Husband tries out a new dentist, and tells me I should go to the same dentist. Enough said – I booked an appointment without another thought.

Upon meeting her, I felt incredibly comforted. She was like a perfect Dentist Grandma. Unlike every other dentist visit I have had, she, the dentist, would be cleaning my teeth, rather than a dental hygienist. She didn’t even shame me for not flossing between my permanent retainer. Instead of the 5-minute obligatory check that the dentist typically completes at the end of the appointment, she spent 45 minutes cleaning my pearly whites herself. What personalized attention!

A blessing that turned out to be a curse, as she had apparently contracted tuberculosis in the few weeks between my husband’s appointment and mine. Every five minutes, she bolted to the hallway to commence a coughing fit of the type we read about as children in American history class during the Plague section. I sat awkwardly, alone, in the dental chair, wondering if I should tell someone…or do something. I didn’t. After losing half a lung, she returned silently, red-faced, and continued plunging her hands into my mouth as if nothing had happened.

Except that it did keep happening. At least nine times.

Looking back, I should have just excused myself with something like, “Hey, when you get to feeling better, let’s reschedule.” But when you are helplessly prostrate in a dental chair, outfitted with a bib and goggles and a water tube in your cheek, and you know that you are already going to have to pay a co-pay for the partial visit, and you’re going to have to explain to both the insurance company and the receptionist the reason for your hasty exit, while trying to secure another appointment without paying double co-pays … you lose your sense of normalcy. Plus, as patients, we are ingrained with this strange societal reverence for doctors, where we wouldn’t dare utter perfectly acceptable sentiments like, “Hi, I’m not ok with what’s going on here…Oh you seem surprised? Well, would YOU be ok with me coughing all over myself and then working on YOUR mouth? Do everyone a favor and call in sick.”

So instead, you just endure, politely smile, and lie in your chair wondering how long the incubation period is for tuberculosis. You come home to tell your husband the entire sordid tale, complete with many impressions, and your husband nearly dies in convulsive laughter, showing zero remorse over his role in the events.

Ok, in his defense, it was not his fault. He had no idea that she had contracted the Black Lung. We can chalk this up to a coincidence.

Until the second incident. Which happened about 6 months ago.

We were both looking for a new eye doctor. To be fair, I had previously recommended my own eye doctor to him, and for some unbeknownst reason, the medical assistant hated him immediately and gave him an incredibly aggressive glaucoma test. So, after that experience, we both went looking elsewhere, since I really never liked that doctor anyway and only kept going to him out of convenience.

Dear husband finds an eye doctor, goes to eye doctor, comes back with raving reviews about eye doctor. Again, I book an appointment without a second thought. This was at least 6 years after the dentist incident.

Well, the long and the short of my appointment was that it ended with me in the waiting room Purelling my entire face. Twice. Oh, and as much as I’m a germophobe, I can assure you – I have never Purelled my entire face. Certainly never twice. Certainly never in public.

I would have done it more than twice, but I ran out of Purell.

Let’s just say a very large, very smelly man fondled my face 6 times while attempting to manipulate my face into a machine for the new photo technology where they take pictures of your retina. Don’t worry – there was nothing sexual about this. This was akin to your elementary school picture day, when the photographer keeps telling you to move your chin up, move your chin down. Apparently, I couldn’t follow his instructions well enough, and he literally took matters into his own hands, manipulating my face for me as he sweated profusely. Six times.

And just like at the dentist office, I merely sat there silently and allowed it to happen while screaming on the inside.

I am not a shy person and I don’t have a problem standing up for myself – hello, lawyer. Yet apparently, both of these incidents have shown that if you plunk me down in some sort of medical office, you can subject me to experiences completely abhorrent to a germophobe and, well, nary a peep from me.

The best part? I came home and told my husband and what was his response? “Oh yeah! That happened to me too – I just forgot about it.”

Like  I said, the life of a germophobe is not easy. One man’s forgotten memory is another woman’s worst nightmare.

Until next time,


*Anyone who doesn’t remember playing Lemmings and who isn’t mildly disturbed by how much fun it was to make the Lemmings jump off the cliffs is not invited to my birthday party.