Coffee heat rising

The Endless Tide of Hassles…

In the Never-a-Dull-Moment department, Funny has surely taken the proverbial cake. The past two weeks have devolved into hassle after hassle after ever-more-astonishing hassle.

Surprisingly, Funny is still on the air. Fancy that! Since last we scribbled at each other, in came another threat from the scammers impersonating staff at BigScoots, which provides the web hosting service for this blog. By then we had ascertained that this is a fraud, a fraud, and nothing but a fraud.

Problem is, it’s extremely difficult to tell whether the demands for money are coming from the scammers or whether in fact it’s time to update the auto pay for BigScoots. As we sit here, yea verily here’s another dunning email floating around in MacMail. Just now I’m too harried and too maxed out on annoying ditz to try to figure out whether it’s real or not. I believe not, though: BigScoots was auto-paid.

Which sounds good EXCEPT….

Yeah. Always an except, right? Just now the True-Life Except is that BigScoots is still paid out of my corporate account. I decided to close down the technical editing business...think I will just freaking DIE if I have to read another 30-page scholarly disquisition that purports to prove, using the highest and most intricate of intricate higher math, that automobile exhaust emitted from cars traveling along an inter-city highway in China backs up against the foothills of a bordering mountain range and…

…wait for it…this is too, too amazing…

causes smog!!!

Holeee mackerel! Who’d’ve thunk it?

Academia. What a place! Apparently it’s no less ridiculous a place in China than it is here in the U.S.

Face with Rolling Eyes on Apple
So anyway, in my enthusiasm for BREAKING FREE(!!!!!) of academic editing, I conveniently forgot that the corporate bank account happened to host a whole slew of auto-pays. Meanwhile, it’s been one fiasco after another, leaving exactly zero time and energy to dig out the paper statements from the credit union and figure out exactly what those auto-pays are and track down the creditors and change the auto-pays to my personal account. So not only do I not know for sure that the latest nuisance demand for payment to BigScoots is real, neither do I know exactly which creditors need to have new auto-payments set up.

Speaking of the meanwhile….I’ve got to wrestle with the income tax data for WonderAccountant. That  took up the better part of two afternoons last week. Mind-numbing, grinding, booooooorrring ditz, hour after hour after hour of it. For the life of me, I do NOT understand how accountants can stand it

To frost all those cookies, last week I again had to traipse up to Young Dr. Kildare’s office and beg his staff to give me a password to their accursed portal. Been there, done that…and promptly lost the damn thing.

The accursed peripheral neuropathy is flaring, and it’s driving me crazy. He only just found out about that, because we haven’t had time to go over all my endless series of effing ailments since he arrived in my precincts. I had to drive up there AGAIN and get them to give me another new password, because I promptly lost the one their gal made for me, and then finally we made a new appointment.

He thinks the dizziness is caused by allergies…apparently it didn’t occur to him that peripheral neuropathy can also take the form of vestibular neuropathy, an affliction of the nerves in the inner ear that can also cause vertigo. To his credit, though, he referred me to a neurologist. Haven’t had a chance yet to call and make an appointment with that guy…and I have a very bad feeling that I don’t wanna, because whatever treatment they inflict on you is likely to be worse than the ailment.

YDK has theorized, though, that the endless spin stems from congestion in the eustachian tubes. And that actually make sense. The air here in lovely uptown Arizona has been just ungodly bad, with days when the haze obscured houses a block away, and the hills to the south have been submerged in a blanket of dirty air. Most of the time my parents and I lived in lovely Southern California, the air was always like that. And I was sick all the time. This was in the early 1960s, before air pollution laws kicked in — SoCal enjoyed phenomenal smog In fact, all the time I lived there, I didn’t even know there are mountains behind the LA basin. Never saw them once, in all the time we dwelt in lovely Long Beach.

Tellingly, a light breeze has come up and this morning you could see the North Mountains….a-n-n-n-d this morning I could breathe. This morning the world was only gently revolving around my head. So chances are YDK’s guess is right — especially when you consider that 1 aspirin and 1 Sudafed will do the trick pretty well.

At any rate, one more distraction, that.

In the meantime, the other day I hired a guy from Barbecue Doc — a backyard grill-cleaning enterprise — to come shovel the grease and crud out of my barbecue. He was the first of two workmen that day: in the morning we had a guy come over to repair and lubricate the garage door.

The barbecue dude, who came over in the afternoon, stole my my credit-card wallet off the patio table, where (after paying him) I’d set it down  between the time we inspected his (highly excellent!) work and the time I showed him out the door.

The upshot has been (and apparently will be, into the foreseeable future and then some) an amazing series of hassles. I’ve been running from pillar to post ever since I discovered all my ID, all my credit cards, all my whatnot was GONE.

Spent an entire day running from pillar to post and back again. All the way out to darkest Maryvale, a low-end suburb (the term we’re groping for is “dangerous slum”) on the west side, there to stand in line for 40 minutes to apply for a new driver’s license. Get up to the front of the line — which moves fairly fast, since they’ve got about two dozen windows open — explain the predicament, and the clerk kindly arranges for a new license to be sent to the Funny Farm. While I’m watching her work, I remark that her tattoos — full-color works of art decorate her arms — are really cool. (No, I’m not what you’d call a tattoo lady, but this was really out of the ordinary and the finished project actually was beautifully decorative.) She, sounding a little tickled, says “Oh, thank you.”

When she finishes taking my picture and filling out all the paperwork and generating a temporary license, she pushes the thing across the counter quietly and says g’bye. Got it? SHE DIDN’T CHARGE ME THE $25 RENEWAL FEE.

Yeah. Be nice: it pays off. 😀

Canceled both AMEX cards — corporate and personal. Arranged (I sincerely hope) for a new personal card to be sent my way; decide to opt the separate account for “business,” since I’ve decided to fold the business. If I get some little project from a former client, it’ll be easy enough to flag income from that for WonderAccountant, but I don’t expect to be making enough money to make it worth any elaborate apparatus to divide out bidness and personal income/expenses.

Meanwhile, because YDK’s staff insists that you show a Social Security card when you check in (is that even legal?), BBQ Dude ripped that off, too. Y’don’t s’ppose this is WHY the SS Administration emits a warning, when they send you the card, NOT to carry it around in your purse or wallet?

I figured I was going to have to trudge up to the SS office in Paradise Valley and sit there for the usual four hours to get in to see a live human being to beg for a new card. But…lo! Believe it or not, you actually can order a new Social Security card online!

If this works, it’ll be some kind of a miracle. The proverbial ointment fly is that to make the online form work you must have a current driver’s license. And of course BBQ Boy ripped off my license, too. So I’ll have to wait until the replacement gets here to do virtual battle with the Social Security bureaucrats.

Fortunately, I do have a photocopy of the SS card. Which brings us to the Aesopian moral of this tale: Keep a list of all the cards in your wallet, AND keep a photocopy of each one.

Can’t wait to see what new headaches and fiascos this latest gambit causes. Pool Dude, who has been around the block more than once, says that identity thieves who know what they’re doing always make a small, preliminary debit from your checking account — small enough that, with any luck, it won’t be noticed. If it goes through, then they head off to the nearest Harley-Davidson dealership to buy themselves a new hog. Or some such.

A-a-a-n-d…damned if he ain’t right. A day later, up popped a debit for $2.17!

The theft has been reported to the credit union and they’re raising the barricades. But it means that for the next few months, I’ll have to check my online accounts virtually every day, and flag every fake debit. Actually, they may be able to change the account number and issue a new card with a new number, which will foil our boy. Or whoever he sells the card to.

In theory BBQ Boy’s gambit wouldn’t be that big a deal, if it hadn’t come on top of the health-care hassle and the headaches entailed in closing the business account and the 2022 tax calculations hassle and the PITA auto-pays hassle and…JAYZUS am I tired of this stuff!

Interestingly, you can’t report a credit card fraud or theft to the Phoenix Police Department. At least not over the phone. They have two numbers for the Great Unwashed to call: “emergency” and “non-emergency.” When you dial the latter, first you get a blabathon, and then you get a high-pitched, LOUD, eardrum-shattering squeal SKWEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! blasted into your ear. No, it’s not some kind of fluke: it happens every time you dial the non-emergency number.

What are they tryin’ to say to us?

To further frost the cookies (you didn’t imagine we’d run out of frosting, did you?), the roll of (expensive!!) dog food I bought for Ruby proved to be slimey-spoiled when I cut into this morning. Normally one of these things lasts her about ten days. But this one: less than 20 seconds: I had to throw it directly in the garbage.

Fortunately I have a few cans of dog food to act as backups.

But this is the second time it’s happened. First time, I schlepped the stuff back to AJ’s and they replaced it, gratis. But this time…y’know…I’ve got quite enough to do, thank you, without having to drive way to Hell and gone down to Central and Camelback to return the stuff. Again.

So, I believe that will be the last time we patronize that maker of overpriced dog food.

Fortunately, deep in the freezer reside the makin’s for DIY dog food, which I know Ruby will love. So tomorrow (or maybe this afternoon, if I manage to get off my duff) we’ll be concocting a week’s worth of chicken dog food for Her Ladyship. And so it will be henceforth.

And all that ain’t the half of it…

For Nothing Happening…

…an awful lot has been going on!

By and large “awful” is the operative term. As in “whatever can go wrong WILL go wrong…”

The past few days the smog here has been SO thick that it rivals the filthy air we had when I was [not] enjoying high school in California’s lovely Long Beach (known by one of my ex-boyfriends as “the armpit of the West Coast”). What a dump that place was! And by God, Phoenix works hard to outpace the place in the Department of Bad Air. By mid-day yesterday, a gaze three blocks down a neighborhood street felt like you were peering through fog. South Mountain was blurry through the haze.  North Mountain and Shaw Butte — I could walk to Shaw Butte from the Funny Farm — were greyed out.

The smog and the crime and the lower-rung cultural life were the reasons I was very glad when my mother wrangled me into the University of Arizona at the end of my high-school junior year, so that my father could retire early and they could move us  to Arizona, where at least the air was clean.

“Was” is the operative term. Nowadays, the air here is, most of the time, Southern California redux. Which is another way of saying “so filthy you can’t see through it and breathing it makes you sick.”

And this new gray-brown incarnation of Arizona’s formerly blue skies has done exactly that: made me good and sick. Again. My ears are so clogged I can barely hear. My nose is so stuffed I have to squirt toxic fluids up there to inhale and exhale. I’m gulping a pile of effin’ pills every goddamn day, just to breathe and to be able to sorta think clearly.

“Sorta” is the operative term. My brain — quite possibly because it’s pickled in toxic chemicals — has about quit functioning. I couldn’t remember my name if it weren’t written down on my driver’s license. Which of course requires me to remember where the driver’s license is, a very iffy proposition.

Yesterday, on Young Dr. Kildare’s advice (he’s b-a-a-c-k! Hooorayyy!), I bought a bottle of Flonase nose squirt, which he claims lacks the kickback effect of nose squirts that work, such as Afrin. (If you haven’t been fortunate enough to have to stick a bottle up your schnozz and squirt decongestant in there, Afrin does indeed clear your head quickly and effectively…but then it irritates the membranes so you get a fierce kickback that clogs you up as bad as or worse than you were clogged to start with. He says Flonase doesn’t do that.

He also wants me to drop a Claritin every few hours.

So I picked up a bottle of Flonase on the way from his office to the credit union (ohhh gawd! more of the tale attaches to that!), and yes! Yes indeedies, it does work. While there, I grabbed a packet of Claritin, too.

This morning I woke up with a pretty clear head, but after I’d been running around the ranch for an hour feeding and wringing out the dog, feeding myself, reading the gnus, and banging around, the sinuses needed attention again. So it was off to the bedroom to snab the Flonase off the nightstand, where…where…noooooo….I had NOT set it down there last night.

Dayum!

  • Not in the drawer.
  • Not knocked on the floor, into the trash, or under the bed.
  • Not in either bathroom.
  • Not in the medicine cabinets.
  • Not in the hall closet where an entire shelf is dedicated to hordes of pill bottles, cough medicines, prescription creams, on and freakin’ on…
  • Not in my office.
  • Not in the kitchen daily-pill cabinet.
  • Not on the kitchen counters.
  • Not on the dining-room table.
  • Not on the table next to my favorite easy chair.
  • Not under the table or the chair or the ottoman.
  • Not in the car.
  • Not in the garage.
  • Not in the storage bedroom.
  • Not in any of the trash cans.
  • Not…fukkk! I give up!!!!!

😡😡😡😡

So now at this point I figure I’ll have to schlep out and buy more Flonase, which ain’t cheap (paid 16 bucks for it at the Walgreen’s.).

😡😡😡😡

So, so happy to reconnect with the beloved Young Dr. Kildare. So, so wish he would hire competent office help.

When I showed up for our first appointment, the receptionist demanded that I pony up my Medicare card.

Huh?: That’s never happened before!

“You must want my Medigap card,” say I, forking that over beneath the plastic barrier.

“No, I need your Medicare card.”

No you don’t, I refrain from saying. “I don’t carry it around with me. In fact, the material that comes with it tells you NOT to carry it in your wallet, because if it’s lost or stolen, you’re going to have to wade through a giant pile of bureaucratic hassle and grief.”

“We have to have your Medicare card.”

Now, in the 10 years since I got this ticket to bureaucratarama, no doctor’s office has EVER asked for my Medicare card. But I can’t get past this chickadee, so I leave without seeing YDK.

When I get home, I look for it and…can’t find it.

Ohhhhhh sheeee-ut!

After tossing my office once, I give up and resign myself to the fact that now I’ll have at least one and probably two or three four-hour waits up at the Social Security office trying to see a representative and get a new card.

Eventually, I do find the Medicare card in an obscure file folder, make a new appointment, and traipse back over to YDK’s.

In more quotidian gnus, we’re told the cops pledge to clean up the crime in the corridor west of the I-17, which makes it dangerous to drive between North Central and points west, and which efficiently feeds burglars, rapists, and purse-snatchers into our neighborhood. With the big, once-amazing but now out-dated shopping mall there closed down, that entire area is shooting downhill on a skateboard.

Well,  notes one of the locals on the neighborhood Facebook page…that new policing project is nice, but…but…what about the strip to the east of the flickkin’ freeway, which feeds the ‘Hood with hordes of criminal types? What about the bums imported up here on the accursed lightrail, which anyone can ride for free because there are no turnstiles to keep freeloaders off the damned trains? The end of the accursed light-rail line is right at the north border of the ‘Hood, so all the lovelies who jump onto it for free are discharged to sight-see through the local attractions. The panhandlers and the oleander-sleepers and the molesters of thee-year-olds in their backyards ride up to the end of the line, where they’re made to get off…and from there end up infesting our neighborhood.

Speaking of the which, on the way home from YDK’s office and waypoints, I turn into the ‘Hood and what do I see but yet another cop helicopter hovering over our little corner of Paradise.

No. Make that right over my house!

Holy sh!t!

Is their perp in my yard? (AGAIN?) Or, better yet, in my house?

Holy sh!t!!!!! My little dog!

Has the jerk broken in and, in an effort to get in or get out, let her escape through the door? If he left a gate open as well, she’s headed for Timbuktu! Assuming the bastard hasn’t stolen her for dog-fighting bait or kicked her senseless or shot her….

Naturally, I don’t have a pistol in the car. WHY do I keep doing that?

Cop glides off as I pull up to the driveway. Park the car in the garage. The door into the house is still locked. Dammit, I don’t even have a functional knife in the garage.

Get into the house.

Kitchen door is closed.

Call the dog.

No dog.

Grab a kitchen knife.

Call the dog.

No dog.

Head down the hallway toward the back of the house.

Front door out to the courtyard is closed. That’s nice: either he has good manners or he neither came in nor went out that way.

Call the dog.

No dog.

Check the hall coat closet please dear God don’t let some dude be hiding in here!

God obliges.

Call the dog some more. Head toward the back bathroom, where Her Majesty’s resting chamber resides. Grip that knife tighter.

One more favor, Your Godship: could you also kindly arrange for him not to be hiding in one of the bedrooms?

“Ruby!” Whistle the elaborate dog-calling tune. “Ruby-Doo!! Come, dog!”

click click click click click…
Little dog toenails on tile

Out she emerges from her nest.

Whew!

Speaking some more of the nostrums Young Dr. Kildare foisted upon me: Claritin is spectacularly expensive. Walgreen’s wants $20 for a package of 30 pills — a package in which each pill is sealed invincibly and annoyingly into a sheet of plastic and tinfoil.

Hm. The active ingredient of Claritin is loratidine. Amazon is selling THREE HUNDRED pills of the stuff for $10, and delivering them practically instantaneously. They’re already here as we scribble, and guess what: one pill of the cheap stuff works just fine. In fact, maybe even better than the overpriced stuff. Most Amazon reviewers say the knock-off works just as well as the brand-name; a few complain that it’s not as good. For ten bucks, I’ll take a chance on it.

On the way home from Costco, which is on the eastern and southern fringe of an upper-middle-class White ghetto called Moon Valley, I happened to cruise through a neighborhood that I’d never visited. It’s right up against the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, only on the eastern side instead of the southern side, where Sunnyslope blights the landscape. I actually thought I would be going through a part of dankest Sunnyslope on this particular excursion — a workaround after I made a wrong turn on my normal route — but apparently…not.

Most of Sunnyslope is beleaguered working-class — tidy, small homes: older, cheaply built, but OK for people who have no choice but to dodge bullets every night; or biker-gang dominated slum; or dire barrio the likes of which you see in northern Sonora along the train tracks, poverty that most Americans can’t imagine. But this area was not like that at all. The houses were very much like the little castles here in the’Hood. In fact, I came across a street or two that looked like they probably were constructed by our builder. The place was well maintained. Pretty free of blight. Nice view of South Mountain way across the smoggy city, from a slightly elevated plateau just beside North Mountain. Interestingly, the neighborhood up there must be regarded as not-quite-Darkest-Sunnyslope. Just one house is for sale in the area: Construction is similar to mine but it’s only about 1,000 square feet: significantly smaller than the Funny Farm.

Housing prices here in Phoenix are hovering in the outer layers of the stratosphere. I paid $100,000 for my first house in the ‘Hood — same model as mine, but a block and a half closer to Conduit of Blight and a block closer to Gangbanger’s Way. Several years later, when SDXB and  I moved to get out of earshot of those colorful features, I paid $235,000 for my present house, a carbon-copy model; he paid much less than that for his (big time!) fixer-upper a block to the north of my place. More than one Realtor has told me that my house is now worth $550,000.

Can you imagine? For a little tract house less than a mile from a dire slum and two blocks from a bunch of crummy apartment buildings bordered by the noisy, (literally) bum-ridden light-rail train tracks!

For living on the “right” side of the tracks, you gain about $130,000: this little palace essentially clones mine — clearly the same model by the same builder, even has the same swimming pool in the same backyard surrounded by the same kind of block wall. For that thing, they want about $410,000. And apparently they haven’t been able to sell it: Zillow has dropped the price three times, to less than what they paid for it!

Interestingly, the little North Mountain neighborhood was crisply delineated from the direr parts of Sunnyslope by the southeastern flange of the mountain park. So, while the local burglars can easily access your home, at least you don’t have to look at them every day. Or drive through a dank slum to get home.

Anyhow, back to the crisis of the moment: no pills.

How can I count the ways that I don’t want to drive down to the relatively safe Walgreen’s — about five miles from here? The Walgreen’s in the Sprouts shopping center across Conduit of Blight from the ‘Hood has…well, recently they’ve done weird stuff to it. Maybe its franchise somehow changed hands? They’ve moved all the merchandise around, rearranged the shelving, and…as usual, the front door is graced with a gauntlet through which you would prefer not to run… This means I’ll have to drive further than I wish to drive after yesterday’s two hours of rubbing fenders with my Fellow Homicidal Drivers.

In comes an email from Bigscoots, the vendor that hosts Funny about Money, Plain & Simple Press, and the Copyeditor’s Desk’s business website. The auto-pay for the hosting bill failed to go through.

Yeah? Well, that would be because I closed the CE Desk’s bank account, because — HALLELUJAH BROTHERS AND SISTERS! — I’ve decided to get out of the technical editing biz.

Of course, by this time it’s too late to schlep across the city (AGAIN) to the credit union and figure out what to do about this new fiasco. It’ll have to wait until Monday. Between now and then, I’ll have to sift through the account’s statements and figure out what other auto-pays are in there. Not many, I think. I hope.

Bang around the house searching for the Flonase. Can’t find it. Drop a Claritin…and yes, it does help a bit. Whenever I finish scribbling here, I’ll…

a) Call up Amazon and order a BOTTLE. not a goddam plastic-and-cardboard packet of Claritin pills, and get its active ingredient in generic form ($9) instead of trademarked form ($36)

b) Study page on page of checking account statements and try to figure out how to move that Bigscoots auto-payment into personal checking

c) Communicate with Bigscoots to see if only one of my three blogs was autopaid or if all of them were. Figure out how to switch all three of them, if indeed all three were paid out of of the CE Desk account.

d) Pull out some more of my hair.

e) Give up and take the dog for a walk.

The Ineffable Impossibility of Covid-19 Vaccination…

Speaking of prepping, as we were yesterday, this morning I tried (again!) to make an appointment through the Arizona Department of Health Service’s web portal for covid vaccination. Here’s what happened:

I went all the way through DHS’s appointment calendar TO THE END OF JUNE — and even tried a few dates in July — and for every single search got a “no events open” reply. Either the system doesn’t work, or they are 100% booked through the beginning of July. And, presumably, beyond.

Each search requires 11 clicks-and-waits. Over and over and over. So to search through to the end of June requires 1,837 clicks-and-waits, only to be told “NO” about 30 days a month, for all hours of the days and nights.

If something comes up that you have to leave your computer and attend to something else, to return to the search you have to jump through the ENTIRE SERIES OF SIGN-UP HOOPS AGAIN. The system doesn’t remember anything more than a few slots of data, so you have to plod through that whole rigamarole again to restart your search, filling in dozens of slots and replying to irrelevant and intrusive questions.

How hard do you suppose it would be for DHS to post a calendar showing when the next available dates are? If such a thing exists, it’s not evident on their website.

By the end of June, the plague probably will be over. So presumably if you live that long, you won’t need a vaccination — that’s some comfort. I guess.

How hard, really, would it have been to simply fund dry ice containers for pharmacies in each ZIP code? Having been through pharmacy school, surely the employees at these sites would be clever enough to understand how to keep the vaccine frozen, and why. Yes, it would be expensive. But it couldn’t cost much more than funding a laughable, almost unnavigable website and paying legions of healthcare workers to staff centralized sites that are open 24/7.

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…