Goodbye, Mojo. You were a great guide for Joda when she was a puppy! You taught her to swim, showed her around Buffalo’s parks, and were patient with her bullying in the back seat of the station wagon. Like Joda, your early days didn’t look so promising, but then your life took a turn for the better. Unlike Joda, you always showed patience and friendliness with your companions, even when it was an African grey parrot or a pouncy kitten. We will miss you.
Archive for November, 2009
Okay, that is a sarcastic pronouncement. But my experience with bureaucracy this week left me feeling more amused than angry, so perhaps my tone is meant to be more fondly disapproving than purely sarcastic.
I lost my campus parking tag, the plastic egg-shaped slightly holographic hanger that cost about $100 and goes on my rear-view mirror. This leaves me open to the possibility of being ticketed, unless I drive up to the little parking booth each morning and ask for a day permit. The first time I attempted this was October 22, before I lost my tag. I was driving a rental car because I had smashed up my own car by hitting a deer, and the parking tags are not transferable from one vehicle to another (this also carries the possibility of being ticketed). The young man working in the booth would not give me a day pass, however, because I already had purchased a tag for my car, but for some reason my name was not on a list of people who had done this. Since I couldn’t prove that I already had a tag, he wouldn’t give me a temporary pass (this might be the part of the story that makes the least sense, but you can be the judge).
The next week, my car in the shop, I drove the rental car to work armed with my little plastic tag so that I could prove to the parking booth person that I already had one, and therefore deserved a temporary one for that day. Unfortunately or not, no one ever asked me for proof that I had a tag, or looked for my name on a list… in fact, I never saw the first booth staffer who had told me the confusing story about this. I hope I didn’t get him fired.
All was fairly well and good– until I got my car back and returned the rental, and realized that I no longer knew where the plastic parking tag was. Curses! I thought I had been so circumspect in keeping track of it! I returned to the rental car place twice to search their box of items left behind in cars (the box had some very interesting things in it), combed my garage and my office at school, all my various purses and backpacks and briefcase– all to no avail. Every time I searched at school, I thought of another place at home where it might be. Every time I searched at home… well, you get the idea. When neither place yielded the missing item, I thought I should make just one more trip over to the car rental office.
Finally, I realized that life could not go on this way, so I stopped in at the campus cashier’s office to admit defeat. However, it didn’t open until 9:00, and I had to be at the reference desk working at 9:00. So I stopped once more at the booth, only to find it vacant and closed up. When I returned to the cashier at 1:00, I discovered that I could only request a replacement tag if I reported the first one missing to campus safety. But I would have to wait until the next day, because the parking officer only works half days, and she was already gone for the day. Oh, and, I should probably replace the tag with a sticker, since she would have to charge me the full cost of the original pass if I wanted a plaster hanger, whereas the sticker was only $5. And, also, did I have a temporary permit on my car right now?! I explained that the booth had been closed that morning when I had driven up, attempting to be on time for work. “Oh no! I hope they didn’t get you! Did you leave a note on your dashboard?”
And thus, I learned the sophisticated ways of parking control on campus. A hand-written note on a blank scrap of paper might get you out of a ticket, and the parking officer only works half days anyway (now the trick is to figure out which halves of which days…). Compared to the other schools where I have been a student, this one is pretty small. Klamath Falls itself is not very big, and the city doesn’t try to collect money for parking. So, the school’s attempts to pose as a “big” school with parking control measures became more transparent to me as I walked back and forth across the 100-acre campus talking to the nice people who are trying to enforce the rules.
The next day, I found the parking office tucked away behind the engineering students’ labs, reported the missing tag to the parking officer’s brand new assistant, walked back to the cashier’s office, and bought a sticker. Now I just have to get the sticker glued to the car before it goes missing.
A couple days ago, on Veteran’s Day, to be exact, I was walking with Joda, absorbed in some long literary reverie that concluded with the thought that I wanted to read The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West. I was supposed to read it about 15 years ago for a seminar I took in grad school, so I knew I used to have a copy somewhere. After half a dozen moves, however, I didn’t quite know where it might be, if I indeed still had it.
Later that morning, I was listening to a podcast that specifically mentioned The Day of the Locust, which again reminded me of the morning’s resolution. So that afternoon, when I attacked yet another box of books in the garage, I was happy to see that my copy of the novel was inside.
Also in that box were two comic books that made me nostalgic for my college days: Matt Groening’s Love is Hell and School is Hell. With a fond smile, I put them in the magazine rack in the powder room for the intermittent reading pleasure of me and my guests. With the new unauthorized “biography” of the Simpsons out and the corresponding controversy about its claims that Matt Groening had little creative input into the show’s development and popularity, it was nice to reminisce about the “old” days, pre-Simpsons, when Groening was still a cult figure and my friends and I would read the Life in Hell comic strips religiously.
As of this morning, I’m about 6 chapters into The Day of the Locust and have just been introduced to a character named Homer Simpson. How funny! A series of minor coincidences has just come full-circle.
Like other informed citizens, I’ve been following the news about the US government’s efforts to reform healthcare. Unlike some, though, I’ve had the luxury of a more disinterested stance. I have a job, after all, and my employer provides me with a good health insurance plan. And, given the line of work I’m in, I probably will continue to have employment that provides health insurance for a long time.
That feeling of safety was shaken last month when I returned to campus for the beginning of the academic year and it was announced that the university system has changed health insurance companies because the previous provider was going to raise premiums by 15%.
A new health insurance company? my first thought was “what if this one doesn’t cover alternative medical treatments like my naturopath?” Then my worries shifted to a set of more general concerns about everything that could go wrong with a switch in companies: what is the new company’s record for responding to questions or complaints? how quickly do they process claims? do they have a more strict set of criteria for determining “pre-existing conditions”? will they be more likely to “drop” customers? A chilling fear began to pervade my mood: I could be one of the millions of Americans who are uninsured, or uninsurable!
I went to the open meeting with the state and campus benefits officers, and based on the information presented, it does seem that my employer (since I work at a public university, this would be a rather large entity– the state of Oregon) played hardball when they negotiated the deal with the new insurance company. It sounds like they managed to get pretty much the same package that we had with the old insurers. I will remain skeptical until after January 1st, however, when I see how the new company performs.
I consider myself to be a well-informed person, but this experience was an emotional wake-up call. It made me think about how helpless most of us are when it comes to health insurance, and even healthcare in general, in this country. When I signed the paperwork for this job, I agreed to the insurance provided by the university– and luckily, it was a good plan with good coverage. It never occurred to me that in the relatively short period of time I would be in this position (about two years, most likely), this health insurance arrangement would change.
An interesting story that aired on National Public Radio a few weeks ago explained the history of how health insurance became tied to employment in the United States. It shed light on the practice that so many of us take for granted as the historical accident that it really is (like so many things that don’t really make sense, it is tied to the tax system). Getting health insurance coverage through one’s employer may have made sense in the 1950′s, when people tended to have longterm employment with one company and costs were more stable. Today, when many people, like me, switch jobs or careers, or become self-employed, the system leaves many uninsured or otherwise inadequately covered.
The idea of widespread change is scary, and understandably so. We’re programmed to stay on the safe side when possible, to go with the tried and true, which tend to feel comfortable. In the case of those of us who grew up in the US in the past 50 years, that means employer-provided health insurance. Now that the landscape of American employment has changed so much, we need to change healthcare and the way it’s administered. I hope we manage overcome our fears and take advantage of the accumulated intelligence and wisdom that can help us get out of this mess.