Coffee heat rising

Adventures in Pharmaceutical Marketing

Okay, so day has dawned. Accordingly, I leave the house at 8:30 to make the 20-minute drive down to the dentist’s office. Because I know which roads the City has kindly ripped up, blockaded, flooded, exploded, and whatnot, I fly in the door right on time, to the minute: 9 a.m.

A-n-n-n-n-d-d-d-d-d….

Yeah. No dentist.

Whyyy, one might ask?

“Wrong day.”

Waddaya mean, wrong day?

“It’s Monday. Not Friday. Today is Friday.”

Evidently I wrote it down on the wrong day on the calendar. Come to think of it, though, it’s a minor miracle that she’s there, because she’s waiting for her out-of-town relatives to show up and meet her there, whiling away the time fiddling with some new computer software. But she’s getting worried, because she thinks they should’ve gotten there by then.

I say the traffic is its usual bitch-ish self: they’re probably tangled up in whatever mess the city has kindly created along any of the several routes whereby they could have found their way to Dr. D’s office. She says yeah, that’s what she’s thinkin’…but she’s still worried. I ask her if she needs me to do anything for her — pick up some office supplies (there’s an office supply store just down the street), donuts, or any such. She says naaahhh….the truth is, all she really has to do is wait for the relatives to surface.

I’ve already made my way down to her precincts by avoiding Main Drag East, whose blacktop the City has bladed off all the way from Gangbanger’s Way down the entire length of the central city to someplace south of the Doc’s office, mile on mile on catastrophic mile. To accomplish this evasion, I’ve driven way out of my way over to Throughway Drag, a long, dreary strip of asphalt that will take you from way, way south of the river through downtown, through mid-town, through North Central and then the blight that is Sunnyslop, up and up and up till you reach the 101 freeway and from there dumps you into tract-littered desert, a deeply dreary journey, indeed.

Needing a flu shot, I decide to navigate back up Throughway Drag, because it takes you past a Walgreen’s and a Safeway, both of which dispense the flu vaccine. I don’t really need anything else in either store, but both of them are more or less on the way. Sounds propitious, hm?

Hit the Safeway, a right turn off Throughway, easy to access. Not very crowded. Prance to the back of the store, where the pharmacy resides, and find just one (only 1!!) customer ahead of me at the pharmacist’s counter.

She is a very elderly woman, all wrapped up for wintertime (it’s 105 out there now as I write this) and leaning on a walker as she tries to fill out a form the pharmacist has inflicted on her.

No kidding: this thing is PAGES long. And no mere 8.5 x 11 pages: page on page on page of 8.5 x 13-inch paper, covered with lines for her to fill out.

The poor soul is sifting through the goddamn thing, line by line by interminable line, trying to figure out what they want her to fill in and trying — with little success — to dredge the required data out of her memory.

She struggles and she struggles and she struggles and…

I stand and I stand and I stand and I stand…and….

Finally I think OH FUCK IT! It’ll take less time to drive across the intersection to the Walgreen’s, park in their lot, hike to the back of the store,, and get the damn shot there. So I leave her doing battle with Safeway’s paperwork and head across the street.

Yeah.

There it only takes about 10 minutes to get the attention of one of the two clerks. I say I just want a flu shot. She says no problem, and proceeds to give me the Covid Third-Degree. I go no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no… to another eight or ten minutes of questions that could easily have been condensed into three or four questions. Fork over my Medigap card and my Medicare ID.

She asks me for my “Blue and Red Card.”

Huh??????

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I have no idea what on earth you’re talking about.”

She says, “You know. Your Blue and Red Card. Your Medicare card.”

“You mean this one?” I give her the photocopy that I’ve been carrying around ever since my original Medicare card was stolen.

She looks more closely at it. “Ohhhh, yeah! That’s it.”

No kidding, kemo sabe?

Now as we proceed, it develops that she cannot figure out how to enter the data to charge up a flu shot on Medigap/Medicare. She asks her coworker how to do it. Coworker, visibly annoyed (because she’s visibly very busy) drops what she’s doing to instruct.

In the process, our heroine remarks that she was off work for eight weeks and so has forgotten how to work the computer.

Uhm. You forgot how the computer works in eight weeks? 

Definitely not the brightest rhinestone on the pharmacist’s lab coat.

It takes her another eight or ten minutes to figure out this two-minute process, during which another elderly woman hoves up to the drive-through window in her Cadillac, whence she asks for something that was supposed to be ready. She is given a nice runaround.

I think If I’d stayed behind the Safeway crone I’d be on my way home by now. Matter’o’fact, I’d probably be in the house by now.

The paperwork filled out and the stabber in hand, I ask if they could please send a notice over to the Mayo to let them know (as the doc there requested) that I received this inoculation.

Now…get this: She says “Where’s that?”

No kidding. Another sentence or two, and it becomes startlingly clear that this little lady has NEVER HEARD OF THE MAYO CLINIC. Not only does she have no clue where it is, she doesn’t know what it is.

I think…I’ll bet you were in one of my 300-level “professional” writing courses, weren’t you? Probably one of the classmates who never heard of the Civil War or never imagined it happened during the 19th century. Whenever that was…

Holy shit. Next time I’ll drive out to the Mayo to get a shot.

Adventures in Bureaucracy: Motor Vehicle Division

My friend Shannon is trying to help her teenaged daughter get her first driver’s license, an enterprise that has turned into quite the bureaucratic adventure. They called the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division and were flamboozled to be told there were 300 calls ahead of them! When last heard from, she was on Facebook critiquing the Muzak while they waited. 😀

In Arizona, one of the hoops you have to jump through, if you drive a car, is an annual air pollution test nuisance. To drive your car, you have to waste an hour or 90 minutes of your time on that before you can update the registration, which you have to do every year.

Each year – in my case, smack in the middle of the hottest part of the summer – the state sends you a form that you have to drag down to the pollution test site, get certified, and then mail in to the Department of Motor Vehicles (known idiosyncratically as MVD in these parts).

Ummmm….  I don’t recall doing that. True, I’m a senile old bat. But the process is annoying enough that it surely would catch my attention. Especially since I would have enjoyed performing that bit of my civic duty in 118-degree heat.

Did I pay for two years? You can can do that…but…I can’t find the receipt!

Trudge out to the garage: the registration tag on the license plate says “expires in September 2020”!

Ohhhhhhh f!ck!!!!!!!

If a cop catches me with an expired license plate, I’ll get a killer ticket.

No way to find out on the MVD website whether they imagine I’m registered for two years. No way to ask a live human, because presumably there are no humans in attendance. Anywhere.

I can’t not drive my car: you can’t survive in Phoenix without a car.

On a clue from Shannon, I finally found a page where a form invited me to pony up $241 + change to renew the registration. But NOTHING about the emissions test. Normally they don’t allow you to renew your registration without proof that your car passed the emissions test. So I imagined they must have opted it.

I now charge the $241 that I can’t afford on my American Express card and forge on in search of the form to give to the emissions test guys.

But nayyyy, this scheme is not to be.

Online I find a form to fill out to entitle you to a “no contact” emissions test. This also entails your coughing up money, and it requires you to physically go to the emissions test place and be exposed to whatever the members of the public are carrying. In the 118-degree heat.

You have to fill in a VIN number, which I can’t find in the usual place one would find the damn thing on a car.

After a fruitless search, I come back to the computer and try to get to the form you need to take to the emissions test people, so I can fill that in and tote it over to the nearest testing station, so as to get the test done so as to get the car registered. But now I can’t find it online, even though earlier in the day I’d found it but gave up when it demanded the VIN that I couldn’t find on the car. After my son tells me it would be on the insurance card, I try to go back into the site and download the emissions nuisance form. Can’t find it for love nor money.

I message someone unfortunate enough to have his email posted on the Department of Environmental Quality site. He emails back and says later in the day someone from the DEQ will telephone me.

This personable fellow—let’s just call him Bob—surfaces around 4 p.m. 

He says that when you fill out a registration form online, the system will say you can’t enter data until you have the emissions test.

I say wellll….I had no problem filling it out and in fact have a receipt saying “Your vehicle registration renewal is complete…”

He says the only explanation for that is some kind of system glitch.

After a fair amount of back & forth, in which I get the receipt and read the first paragraph to him over the phone, he says (I summarize greatly…) that MVD has such a huge backlog that no one may notice. On reflection, he suggests I may already have paid for a two-year registration, in which case the test is not necessary. If that is the case, it would explain why I never got the paperwork this year.

He proposes the following: On Thursday: check AMEX. If the charge went through, it means MVD accepted the application without the emissions test.

If that’s the case, he says, then just go on about your business and do not waste time with the emissions test. It probably means I paid for two years and do not have to do a test this year,

But, he adds, if  the charge has not gone through by Thursday, call the MVD and ask if an emissions test is required, and ask them to send (or resend) the paperwork. (Reference, if you will, my friend’s experience with this hopeless maneuver…)

HOWEVER, Bob’s guess that I paid for two years is wrong. The vehicle registration receipt from last year, which of course I kept for tax purposes, says it expires 9/30/2020. So clearly there’s some kind of screw-up here.

Apparently things are such a mess down at MVD, they don’t know their collective ass from a hole-in-the-ground. He said it would be the end of September before the tags show up, at soonest. I said I sure don’t want to get a ticket. He said it was extremely unlikely the cops would pull someone over for out-of-date tags. Besides, I have the receipt from MVD stating that the car is registered and registration is paid for.

Why we have emissions tests… Yeah, that IS smog over lovely downtown Phoenix.

Got that? I GOT A GUY FROM DEQ TELLING ME TO IGNORE THE REQUIRED EMISSIONS TEST. Is that off the wall, or what?

This is sounding suspiciously like another piece of mail that got misdelivered to my larcenous neighbor’s house and thrown in the trash. That would be the one who signed for a certified letter addressed to me from my doctor, who couldn’t get through to me on the phone and was trying to tell me I had a nascent cancer and needed to get my a$$ to her office and have it treated. That neighbor.

He did, though, say that the place was pretty much in chaos. So it’s possible that maybe they really didn’t send the annual notice. Except…welll….those things would’ve been-machine generated and stuffed into pre-stamped envelopes. Wouldn’t exactly have required legions of skilled workers…

Apparently state offices are off the tracks because so many staff are either sick or have been told to stay out. Got the impression from Bob that there essentially was nobody there at MVD — that they’re so understaffed the department is inoperative.

Here, the emissions test procedure would put EVERYBODY at high risk of covid. The driver is taken out of the car and told to sit in an enclosed booth. (Yeah: if the guy ahead of you had the bug, you sit there for ten or fifteen minutes breathing in his viruses!) The worker has to get inside the car, handle the controls, and run it for ten minutes or so. So he gets royally exposed to whatever you may be carrying. And if he’s got the virus but is asymptomatic, he’s still contagious, meaning when you get back into your car, you get exposed to whatever bugs he deposited on the steering wheel or breathed into the air.

So…it would seriously make sense to cancel the tests for the duration of the epidemic.

Apparently that’s not what they’ve done here, though. Our Bob said I could just go over to the facility and get the test: no paperwork needed on my end. They give you the paperwork there. BUT, said he, since MVD apparently accepted my application for registration (we quickly found, at the AMEX website, that they’d charged my credit card), he thinks they screwed up and the best thing to do is lay low and go yup yup yup, thankee boss!

The guy theorizes that they messed up at MVD. That’s why he suggested that I wait for a couple of days to see if the charge on the AMEX card goes through. He said if it does and the state accepted the money for the registration bill, then we’re looking at what he called “a glitch in the system”…and what I would call “a f**k-up.”

Live-Blogging (sorta…) from Bureaucracy Hell

So…I’ve lost my Social Security card and my Medicare card was stolen. Getting these back, as you can imagine, entails an unholy amount of hassle. Which do you suppose would entail less pain?

  • Call Social Security on its 800 number; jump through a thousand robotic hoops, and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait… Finally reach a person who has no clue what she’s doing. (As you might guess: been there, done that!)
  • Drive in person to the Social Security office in Scottsdale, the bureaucracy’s nearest brick-&-mortar venue. Take a number and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait… Sometime today (maybe) get to speak with a human who knows how to solve the problem.
  • Go to the Social Security Website, create a “My Social Security” account (or, if I stupidly did this some time in the past, find it and figure out how to break into it), dork around and screw around and dork around and screw around and dork around and screw around and dork around and screw around and dork around and screw around and dork around and screw around and MAYBE get the new cards ordered. Or not.

Any of those involves time-sucking frustration of the first order.

Experience shows that physically going to a Social Security office is less time-consuming (despite the drive time), less frustrating, and less outright enraging than either of the other two options. So early this afternoon, after finishing the minimum amount of work needed to make progress on the client’s huge project, I climbed in the car and started driving.

Arrived at the SS office right at 1:44 in the afternoon. They close at 4 p.m.. That left two hours and 15 minutes, sooo…there was at least a shot of getting to speak to a functionary before they threw us all out.

Drew “Welcome to Social Security” coupon number Z140. Sat and waited for them to call that number

Z135.

Z132.

Z134.

Z168.

Z136

Z143….

And on. And on. And fuckin’ ON.

Meanwhile, I’d learned that to get a new Social Security card I had to apply at this office. But to get a new Medicare card, I had to go around the corner and stand in ANOTHER line to beg for that.

Finally, after about half an hour or 45 minutes of this futility, I think oh fukkit and get up and leave.

I walk around the corner to see if maybe I could at least get the Medicare card with a slightly more reasonable wait. Pass through the security guard — this one a lot more hostile than the guy in the Social Security office. Yeah: a WHOLE lot more hostile. Help a couple of terrorists in their early nineties figure out how to use the punch-a-button nuisance to generate a ticket to wait. Generate my own. Sit down.

Many fewer victims here. I figure out that actually there are only about five people ahead of me. Take a seat and…well, yeah. About ten or twelve minutes later, my number is called.

I claim that both my cards were “lost.” If you define “thieving” as a variety of “losing,” that’s probably accurate. Why do I resist admitting that the Medicare card was stolen? Because the gummint’s web page says you have to file a police report before asking for a replacement. And THAT will cause still more trouble and headaches that I DO. NOT. NEED.

To my astonishment, the doughty bureaucrat behind the desk asks me a series of rote questions, goes CLICKETY CLICKETY CLICKETY on his keyboard, and announces blithely, “The Medicare card should arrive in two weeks; the Social Security card will take about three months to show up.”

uhhhhh…HUH!

“But…,” say I, “they said I have to go to two different offices and apply for each one separately.”

“I just ordered them both.”

Oh. My. GOD! You beautiful, spectacular ebony saint of a man! Can I take you out to Ruth’s Chris Steak House and buy you a T-bone? How about an orange soufflé swimming in heavy cream for dessert? A bottle of Domaine Loubejac Pinot Noir to go with?

Stop by the Fry’s on the way home to stock up on veggies and miscellaneous junk. Stumble in the house, bolt down a box of sushi and a couple bottles of beer.

Having finished the day’s ration of the client’s index before heading off for the Adventure in American Bureaucracy, I now sit down to write this post, and….

In comes this fine message from DropBox:

Hi Victoria,

We really appreciate taking the time to write in.

For security reasons could you please confirm the restoration?

Just to summarize, we are going to undo the following event link in order to remove the selective sync conflicts from your account:

https://www.dropbox.com/event_details/87657979/123465432/713437281

I just want to confirm that you want these events reverted in their entirety, and there are no other actions you’d like me to take on your account at this time.

Once you’ve written me back to confirm that’s the case, I’ll pass this along to our Restorations team to perform the requested operation on your account. If there are other things you’d like done, please write back with additional event links or a description of the circumstances surrounding your situation.

I look forward to hearing back from you!

HOLY SHIT!!!!

I have not asked Dropbox to do anything in the past week. The last I looked — about three hours ago — all is well. I do not know what this means, but “remove” or “revert” sounds a whole lot like DELETE stuff. Random fuckin’ stuff.

This causes a complete, total, exhausted-old-lady can’t-stand-another-minute-of-bullshit-hassle MELT-DOWN!

I have NO idea what this worthy is talking about, but I can NOT afford to have some good soul delete the project that I’ve spent the last gawdAWFUL number of torturous, tedious, brain-banging, mind-numbing hours on!!!!!!! GAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

E-mail back, also having no idea whether a reply will reach a human being, DO NOT CHANGE ANYTHING DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING and frantically start copying key folders to the iMac’s desktop, not knowing whether the machine has anything like enough memory to hold that much data.

Meanwhile… The MacBook, the one whose repairs absorbed some six hours of driving time, days of down time, and hour after hour of fuckup-recovery time, is NOT fixed. Last night it started shutting down again. Same story: PLINK, out of the blue. Reboot, find there’s plenty of power on the battery, data has been lost, pages have disappeared, fuckups have been fucked up. Last night I call Apple’s 24-hour service and reach a tech in Australia. Explain that this saga is beginning to wear on me. She says with AppleCare I have two or three in-house visits coming. She tries to set this up but because of course Apple has gone to bed in this country, she can’t get through. Gives me a phone number to call.

Reach one of Apple’s accelerated AppleCare dudes here. He says well, that would be true if we were in Australia, but it doesn’t apply in the US. I complain about the interminable drive to Scottsdale, now that the bastards have closed down the central Phoenix store. He says they have a deal where they will send me a shipping box and cover the cost of FedExing it to the repair dudes and FedExing it back to me.

Well. That’s better than a hit on the head, anyway. Best of all would be if you could FIX the damn thing.

Finish copying stuff to the iMac’s desktop, including all The Copyeditor’s Desk’s present and past client data.

By now it’s getting dark.

Take the dog for a doggy walk. She lunges onto a neighbor’s lawn to have a good grass-wallow and then launches into one of the worst episodes of reverse-sneezing she’s ever had. If you’ve never seen a dog doing the reverse-sneeze thing: it’s much like a kind of seizure. Even if you know the dog will get over it, the dog doesn’t know that. And the dog tends to panic. Now Ruby is wheezing and gasping for air and shaking all over her little body in terror.

Whenever she gets to the point where she can more or less breathe again, I have to pick her up and carry her the quarter-mile back to the house. Jolly fun.

Day from Hell…