You get great service at a reasonable price—and it doesn’t smell as old as it looks—so what’s to complain about?

OK so I complain a lot about my less-than attractive workplace. It’s in suburban hell, buried in the back of one of the most unsightly strip malls on one of the most clogged intersections in my area. If I didn’t work here I’d avoid the place at all costs—except that it’s my favorite practice, on the way to my favorite local produce market, and near my son’s pediatrician—not to mention the Starbuck’s.

That saying about location, location and location? It’s true. Yet this hospital has survived Miami’s relentless sprawl, white flight and poor mall management. Somehow it’s managed to retain old clients (many of whom travel from the neighboring county) and forge relationships with the new locals.

The space is 40 years old, has about eight feet of frontage, and boasts a small, black and white sign in illegible script as a token symbol of our existence. Clients have to walk down a dingy, linoleum-floored hallway to get to our front office. In there, things look better, but it’s all about painted wood paneling and exposed fluorescent bulbs. There’s one desk for three vets. The one bathroom’s always occupied. I eat lunch, write on my laptop and complete my paperwork by the dumpster out back. But it all works.

All those pretty practices we vets drool over in our trade publications? They’re always someone else’s. Sometimes I want one of these sleek, new, stainless steel-ridden practices with all those trendy kitty-condos so the cats can “look out.” (For the record, I think most of my feline patients would hate them—unless they were perched at roof level and sound-proofed, then maybe.) I have a serious case of hospital envy.

It’s been drilled into me since I was a child…”don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” “pretty is as pretty does,” (and a few Spanish versions on the same theme). Yet Vogue magazine and my sister’s successful modeling career did me in. We all have our learned prejudices to deal with and my workplace is apparently not exempt from mine.

I don’t mind so much for myself but it irks me that some clients will never walk down our dingy hallway without thinking: “What’s wrong with these people that they can’t get it together to fix this place up?” Alternatively, I sometimes think our shabbiness exudes a certain “old style” charm. Perhaps we attract the “right kind” of client with our shabby chic; the kind of client who could care less about what the practice looks like as long as they get the right kind of care. Wishful thinking?

I’ve been working at this place for so long you’d think I’d have grown accustomed to its grungy charms. And I have—sort of. Yet I continue to complain. I guess it’s high time I shut up on the subject. After all, I can’t think of any place else in this town I’d rather work.