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Bad for Business

She used to chew gum. As a receptionist in a doctor’s surgery, it was the epitome of disrespect. She would sit behind the counter, her disgusting saliva-filled mouth opening and closing, with the use of gum being her method of showing utter disregard for the patients who passed through. Despite seeming disrespectful and being told that numerous times, she herself believed it was a way to demonstrate that she didn’t have a problem with all the illnesses she was witness to. By being nonchalant about her job, she was expressing her desire to be neutral and at the very least detached from the GP’s most chronic cases of sickness and depravity.

This view of hers was enforced when she offered to bulk bill nearly all prescriptions and consultations. It was her way of saying she did in fact care about these people, and she was doing it by showing mercy upon their wallets.

People used to ask her why she chewed gum on the job. They weren’t rude about it – they were just curious. Perhaps they were perplexed rather than agitated by what they perceived as disrespect. Because she didn’t want to be seen as taking pity on these people, thinking they might get offended, she had merely said she was trying to lose weight.

“It keeps me from not eating,” she would say.

Indeed, she didn’t need to eat – because she was a rather big woman. Her fiancé often told her she should heed what she saw at her workplace. Being overweight did lead to serious health concerns. She believed therefore that people, whether it was her colleagues or the patients who passed through, should consider her as thoughtful.

Still, it had begun to drive some people up the wall.

It was again her fiancé that had given her some advice about how to behave. He chose to give her a copy of the PC game Theme Hospital. It was a business simulator, a creation tool where you build a hospital, viewing it from above, laying out the floor plans and constructing treatment rooms, all on a budget. When the hospital opened, it was the gamer’s obligation to ensure everything was kept up to date and working efficiently, not only with the medicine and the equipment, but the efficiency of the timetable, the amount of time the patients sat waiting to be dealt with, and the construction of new rooms and larger areas.

It was overwhelming to begin with, but it did change her entire perspective. She noticed herself waking up to new ideas and new possibilities, where she saw the real-life system in action as a microcosm, how Theme Hospital could be translated on a larger scale. These kinds of video game simulators did open eyes – one of the benefits of entertainment software.

“You once studied how to be an accountant,” her fiancé said. “Time to resurrect that career path, even if it’s not in an official capacity – because you know what? Accountants love people more than money, and you’ve proven that. The true meaning of the word ‘accountant’ is ‘love for people’.”

“This game is surreal,” she said. “It’s all about handling money. I know I can transform those actions into real-life ones!”

Indeed it was true. The uncanny result of all this gameplay was how she soon modified her behaviour at the doctor’s surgery, in order to benefit the people around her. She stopped chewing gum – she didn’t want to be seen as indifferent in any respect. She wanted to be seen as proactive, that she actually did care about the patients that came up to the reception desk.

She wasn’t rude, she wasn’t insensitive. Showing a lack of interest was a psychology she soon abandoned. Now she saw patients as precious commodities, to be interacted with to the fullest extent. She knew the doctor’s surgery was also a business, and having the mind of an accountant now, she desired to maintain a constant flow of happy customers.

That was why one day, she installed a wall clock in the waiting room.

Predictably, it set off a storm of controversy. The other receptionists working alongside her razed her.

“This is not appropriate,” they said. “No one has ever done this in the history of the world!”

Then she would explain her affection towards Theme Hospital, how it had triggered a more considerate attitude within her towards the patients.

“They need to know how long they’ve been sitting around getting bored,” she explained.

“They don’t need to know that! Then they’ll complain and harass us,” came the vexed reply.

“They can judge our services better,” she continued. “Trust me, I’ve studied business management and marketing, as well as accounting in order for me to have come this far. I’ve spent seven years at university studying how money works.”

“The patients will simply walk out the door and never come back if the doctor is delayed.”

But she persisted. This controversy bored her. She wanted people to be aware that she cared, and that meant the wall clock remained. What little praise she did receive from patients soon transformed and generated frequent ruckuses in the waiting room. Within two days, someone destined for an appointment with a doctor, and who had been delayed by twenty minutes, pulled out a weapon. All because of the wall clock.

Unsurprisingly, the wall clock came down, disappeared forever, and no one ever spoke about the incident again.

By Dan Spicer from Australia