Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Life Through the Dark Eyes of Winter

"Life is only something taken for a moment, rubbed warm and held back from the chill… Winter waits and finds all life. In the end, each of us stares through the dark eyes of winter.”
 - Richard Nelson, The Island Within

I have lamented at length before about the state of customer service and how people now work for computers instead of vice versa. So let’s not talk about the trials and tribulations I’ve had with Blue Shield so-called health insurance; or with USAA bank, of all places.  

Except to say that Blue Shield was the only coverage I was unfairly permitted to “elect” by my retirement system and, although allegedly covered since 12/1, I have paid for most of my medical, dental and pharmaceutical care since I moved here in November and still have no proof of coverage.

As for USAA, they found the large deposit of the proceeds from the sale of my house confusing and after I transferred a large portion of the escrow deposit from my primary account to my household account their reaction was to simply initiate an investigation of possible fraud. The bank progressively inactivated my debit cards, then disabled the credit function of said cards, then declined my checks, and finally shut me out of both accounts. A week long death by a thousand fiscal cuts. They almost certainly notified me of the security alert, but since I had been locked out of online access, I have been unable to retrieve the messages I can see are waiting for me. 

Let's just say that repeated phone calls to so-called customer service representatives have been not only frustrating but fruitless.

Finally yesterday, I was able to sort out both problems. I was assured the check I wrote to the plumber would be honored. Today I was able to withdraw $500 to pay the yard guy who graciously waited a week for payment.  As a bonus, during the 45 cumulative minutes on hold with USAA, I was able to master the steps required to un-encrypt the proof of coverage Blue Shill has e-mailed me several times.

Instead of carping about the necessity of resorting to profanity to obtain customer service, I could blog about the cardiologist I waited 6 weeks to see only to miss the appointment by a day because I’d written it down wrong. When I called to apologize and reschedule I was told that they wouldn’t make an appointment for me because I was a no-show. I said that was probably just as well because the doctor was an asshole, and it turns out I was looking for somebody with compassion. Another 40 days to see another cardiologist.

I could blather about the degree to which mood swings have overtaken my life, but I have no constructive observations about how to avoid dizziness and palpitations when they leave me momentarily suspended over the precipice. I just hold on when things tip sideways, and take great comfort in feline companionship and hard cider. Nor can I impart words of wisdom for defending against panic attacks, or less severe quiet smothering of all confidence in dealing with the world. When I went to the gym this morning, I realized I hadn’t left the house for four days. From the weather, you’d never know. It’s perpetually damp and rainy, or cold and drizzly, or twilight at noon. Or it’s the middle of another night spotlighted by neighbors whose houses are too close and who are afraid of the dark and leave lights glaring in my bedroom windows all night.

Much other contemporary social media like FB and Instagram are hipstamatically illustrated, presenting curated lives of love, adventure and happy children; or posters of banal clichés (is that redundant?) or two sentences worth of pre-digested and misspelled thoughts some twit incorrectly assumed would interest the internets. Blogging seems positively relatively primitive anyway and requiring an attention span longer than a TV commercial.

Upon further thought however, my thoughts this gloomy afternoon can be summarized in two short sentences: It has been a long time since winter has found me. I had forgotten how much my mood is influenced by real winter.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Sunny With Chance of Contentment

Have you seen the rain
Turn the earth to mud?
And watched the mud turn gold in the rising sun?
Have you seen it, brother?
Will you come outside and see?
-       The Handsome Family, Frogs

According to a legitimate peer-reviewed study conducted by reputable scientists that I just made up for this post, grumpy old ladies have perfect comic timing; we just don’t perform standup very often.  I exclusively perform for my cats, who appreciate the sublime cosmic significance of my humor, the subtle double entendres, the understated sarcasm, the self-deprecating modesty that I deploy with such dependable and consistent hilarity. My cats don’t judge me.

Actually, although the above was correct when I first wrote it back before Thanksgiving, it’s not true now. It’s me and my cat – singular. Patti was old and tired and now she’s gone. We agreed it was time and we said goodbye.  She cried on the way to the vet – real tears.  I don’t want to talk about it any more.

I was depressed and that was the low point and now I’m a lot better. I feel a bit guilty when natives meet me and immediately apologize for the harsh weather: we don’t usually get this.  Of course I don’t tell people not to feel personally responsible for my misery.  I’m enjoying too much the pity I get for being exiled from Paradise in this stark, dark, cold wet winter.

The sun is out at the moment and I’ve done some catching up on my Honey Do List. Yesterday, I finished an onerous chore: I got my WA driver’s license and replaced my CA tags on my old car. It was an all-day task, requiring a visit to the DOL drivers’ license place, and then a perilous drive across-town in the rain where I got my WA license plates at another DOL office. There is no DMV in Washington and apparently it hasn't occurred to them to combine the offices. They have the Department of Licensing, complete with different branches in different places to obtain your driver's permit, and to register your vehicle and obtain license plates. And all supported by an unhelpful website. From the website, it was unclear whether I had to have my license before I could register my car (I did), whether I'd have to take a driving test (I didn't) and whether I'd have to provide proof of insurance (I didn't although it's required go figure). It was unclear precisely what I needed to get a license, how long I'd have to wait (just under 4 hours) to find out whether I'd guessed right and brought originals of my expired passport and sewer bill to prove citizenship and residency. Possibly respectively. 

The biggest source of uncertainty and anxiety was whether they'd check my license and find that I had a speeding ticket - photo enforced up the street. in mid-November. Thank goodness the cameras in WA only photograph the vehicle and license plate, not the driver. Which was lucky because the ticket that chased me to So Cal and back to WA and included an affidavit I could have signed to deny being the driver although the car was clearly mine. One of the registered owners is deceased, so I gave a moment's thought to whether his ghost could have been speeding. But then, since the tags had been expired over a month at the date of the ticket and were over 2 months expired by yesterday, I decided to go under the radar and pay the fine. Which I did and which included a "courtesy fee" of $4 for the privilege of paying online instead of sending a check. Presumably, WA needs to fund their DOLs from such polite fees and should probably increase the courtesy instead of increasing the wait times.

I opted for an Enhanced ID that includes a magnetic strip for identification details like what I had for breakfast and that enables The Man to see through the back of my eyes and read my thoughts.  It takes longer to sell your soul in exchange for the promise of visiting British Columbia without renewing a passport than it took MYS yesterday morning to fly back to -19F weather and 600 emails. In exchange for paying an extra $25, my license will include my motorcycle permit, and no irony intended, my consent to donate my organs. I also registered to vote, I think.

After getting my "temporary" license (which looks suspiciously like a  xerox copy of my license) I went to the registration store across town where there were two signs hanging from the ceiling. The first, which had 0 people beneath it, said "New or Transfer Registration" and the other line which snaked out the door said "Renewals Only".  So I stood beneath the empty sign and was immediately waved to the front by the next available clerk. Only to be rudely interrupted by a woman at the back of the long line who demanded that I tell her what line I was in. When I pointed to the sign above, she said she didn't see that sign - like it was my fault and that's the line she should have been in.  I graciously waved her in front of me without even suggesting she pay me a $4 courtesy fee for being a dumb shit. 

Just now, I walked around the front and back yard with a landscape expert who will return next week and do a yard cleanup to undo the effects of months of neglect and weeks of freezing temps and rain. I can’t wait to see the yard again, even if it’s months before I can go outside and play.