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Women. Know your place.

Let me introduce you to a man I met recently – Mr Peter Heather BVSc MRCVS. For those not in the know, this means that Mr Peter Heather holds a Bachelor degree in Veterinary Science and is a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. In addition to this he also holds a unique qualification in being spectacularly unpleasant and he is a member of one of the most offensive, intimidating, patronising and selfish groups of men in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no kind way to word this so I won’t bother trying – the man is an arsehole.

I’ve never done this before because I am not generally in the habit of publicly criticising people. However this man’s behaviour towards me and my child last Monday was so atrocious that I feel I honestly have little choice in the matter.

A bit of background: I had been with this veterinary practice for nine years and never had a problem. But then, I’d never seen Mr Heather, so that’s probably why. On this particular occasion my cat awoke with an eye that was fully closed and weeping. I swore slightly because I had a very busy morning, but located the cat cage, shoved him in and rang the surgery. I was given an appointment and as this was being put through the system, the receptionist mentioned that there was still an outstanding amount on the account to pay. I paid this immediately with profuse apologies and the receptionist on the other end was lovely; she thanked me and assured me there was no problem and not to worry. So far, so good.

We arrived at the surgery and I was forced to park blocking two people in because the car park is roughly the size of a tea towel. Cut in half. I even checked to see if there was space in the staff car park but there were about seventeen cars in there, even though I personally have never witnessed more than three members of staff in the building at any one time. I rushed in because we were slightly late, with the cat cage in one hand and my seven year old daughter in the other. She’s very small. Mr Heather (BSPu MOIPSGM) called us through. I was anxious about having blocked cars in so I put the cat cage on the examination table and began to say “Look, I’ve had to park blocking two people in so if I have to dash out and move it I hope that’s OK-”

Mr Heather (BSPu MOIPSGM) said nothing for a moment and then raised one hand to stop me. “Before we start Mrs Haynes,” he said, totalling ignoring me. “There’s an issue of an outstanding amount on your account.”

“Yes,” I said, immediately apologetic, standing with my back to the open door to the waiting room. “I’m ever so sorry, I had no idea, I paid it this morning.” I began to undo the cat cage as Peter leant back against the counter and folded his arms. He regarded me for a moment, very coldly. And then he spoke, softly and aggressively, like a Roald Dahl character who hates children might speak.

“You do realise,” he said, “that this means payment will be required at the time of treatment in every instance from now on.”

“Well, yes,” I said, confused. “I had presumed that was the case anyway.” Behind me, my seven year old sat on a chair and swung her legs quietly, taking it all in.

“I mean EVERY time.”

I stopped undoing the cat cage and looked at him. He hadn’t moved. “I know. As I said, I thought that was the case.” Peter still didn’t move, he just looked at me. I looked back at him and held his eye. “Can I just point out, there was never any suggestion that I wasn’t going to pay at the time of treatment?”

“You didn’t last time.”

“No, last time I’d left my purse at home so I physically couldn’t. I paid the bill the minute I was told about it this morning.”

“No you didn’t.”

“I can assure you I did.”

“They didn’t give you the correct amount. Because we’ve had to wait, there are extra charges on top. These didn’t get added on. So you have to pay these as well.” He made no move towards my cat at all, he just stood there, glaring at me in a very intimidating manner. Good grief, they must be hefty charges for him being this serious, I thought. His tone was deeply threatening and accusatory.

“Of course I will. I would have done earlier if I had known about them,” I pointed out. He said nothing and stared coldly and challengingly at me. In that moment he looked (and behaved) very much like Voldemort. At that point it occurred to me to walk out. Should I be accepting this treatment? I frankly felt about as big as a snail. A miniature one. He continued to stare at me and I was suddenly all too aware of the presence of my daughter in the corner witnessing this horrible scene and the open door behind me to the audience in the waiting room who would be hearing every word. He still did not break his gaze from me. “As I’ve just said, there was never any question of not paying for any treatment at the time of the appointment. It has never been mentioned as a concept.”

“But there are still charges to pay.” This was when I realised that instead of simply being informative and explaining the situation, he was actually propagating it. He was fuelling this scene – there was no argument – by his manner, voice and tone. It was aggressive, patronising and quite honestly I began to feel like a criminal. “Mrs Haynes, you will be required to pay at the time of treatment on every occasion from now on.” I made a decision and picked the cat cage up.

“There will be no future occasions,” I stated, anger surging through me. “I am not staying for this appointment and I will not EVER be returning.” Even now, there are no words for how unpleasant this man was being. He was deliberately trying to intimidate and belittle me, I realised. It was horrible. And he was prepared to do it in front of the waiting room and my child. He had shown not one iota of interest in treating my cat. He hadn’t even glanced at it. He had however, looked briefly at my daughter, clearly indicating that he knew how inappropriate this was. I turned and walked out of his surgery.

“You can’t leave before you’ve paid.” Again, a nasty, threatening statement which made me wonder quite what the size of this bill was. It must be substantial to warrant behaviour like this.

“You are an appalling man,” I told him, none too quietly. The collective ears of the waiting room pricked up. “I have never been spoken to so rudely before. You have behaved dreadfully.” By now, I was literally shaking with anger.

“Mmm hmm,” Mr Heather (BSPu MOIPSGM) said, “you can’t leave before you’ve paid.” I flashed him a furious look, said “You are a disgrace,” before turning and walking out of the double doors. Peter followed me, barged in between myself and my daughter and I honestly thought he was going to physically restrain me from leaving the building.

“You can’t leave until you’ve paid,” he said again, slightly desperately.

“You’ve made that perfectly clear,” I replied, without stopping.

“What?”

“I said you’ve made that perfectly clear.” I opened the passenger door of my car to get my seven year old away from the scene and Peter stood about 2mm away from me, presumably in case I made a dive for the driver’s seat over a child with a cat cage in my hand. I put the cat in the boot and slammed the door.

“You are a disgusting man,” I told him, trembling with rage. “Truly awful.”

“Mmm hmm,” he said, nodding.

“No, I mean it. Really atrocious.”

“Mmm hmm,” he said, nodding.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been treated that badly before in my life.”

“Mmm hmm,” he said, nodding.

“There was no suggestion by anyone, EVER, that I wasn’t going to pay you. The inferences you made were deeply inappropriately and upsetting. And in front of a child!”

“Mmm hmm,” he said, nodding.

“Mmm hmm?? Is that ALL you’ve got to say? Mmm hmm?”

“Mmm hmm,” he said, nodding.

“How much are these charges anyway?”

“Um, I think, about five pounds and 16 pence.”

“Five pounds and 16 pence?” I repeated incredulously. (FIVE POUNDS AND 16 PENCE PEOPLE?? The size of this ultra important debt was FIVE pounds and 16 pence!) “You’ve lost a regular client of nine years for five pounds and 16 pence?”

“Yes,” he said defensively. Well he could hardly say much else. I stalked back into the building, still trembling with anger and stood in the middle of the waiting room. “Well I hope next time you think to treat a client differently.”

“No, I won’t. I won’t do anything differently.” He started to sidle back towards his surgery.

“Really?” Liberal amounts of disgust flowed out of my eyes and dripped down to form toxic puddles around his feet. Or, at least, it felt like it did.

“No.”

“Shame on you,” I said and turned to the reception desk. I handed over five pounds and 16 pence and when I finished paying Peter was safely back in his surgery with the next client, back turned to me. And for some reason this incensed me. Quite against every good idea that there was in the world I went to the door of his surgery and told him again how appalling I thought he was. “And you always treat clients like this?”

“Not ordinarily, no.”

“You will regret this,” I told him.

And there you have it. A tale of a man who was determined to bully and belittle me despite everything I said and did to placate him. I was not confrontational, I did not disagree with him, I apologised, I explained – I have no idea why he was so nasty. But I do know that he is either a complete misogynist or a sociopath. He simply did not care how he treated me; it was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. And no woman should have to go through that complete disrespect and nasty bullying from a man. Especially not one who is supposed to be representing one of the biggest, most important institutions in Britain. It just should never, ever happen. And it most definitely should not be accepted.

So obviously I had to write this. And clearly I have made a formal complaint to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. And of course I will draft a piece for the local paper in addition to telling everyone I know.

Women make waves? Indeed. But this particular one is about to make a tsunami.

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