Coffee heat rising

Running around COBRA’s barn again

Just realized I didn’t write a post this morning and then, whilst frolicking with bureaucrats, didn’t get to it this afternoon, either.

Another fine exercise in jumping through hoops and tearing around the Maypole today.

Not having heard anything more from the COBRA administrators over the past 15 days, despite having been told that a notice and a statement would be sent out, I called again to inquire.

Today’s bureaucrat harked back to the original claim that I needed to have sent them money a month BEFORE I was laid off my job. I explained that Arizona State University’s Human Resources people said that I was not supposed to send money while I was still employed there. She said well, then I wasn’t covered.

So I’ve now spent the last month without any health coverage at all, if you believe this one’s version.

She wants me to present myself in person on Monday—when I’ll be teaching until 2:00 in the afternoon about 25 miles from their office—with a check for $334 in hand. This, she says, will cover me through February.

Of course, that doesn’t make any sense, because the one who told me I’d been approved for the ARRAS discount said my premiums would be $185. Two times $185 is $370. So… who knows what this is about.

Entertaining, isn’t it?

First ASU’s HR people told me I would be not qualified for the ARRAS discount because my last day of work was December 31. Then the Arizona Department of Administration, which administers COBRA, told me I would be qualified for the ARRAS discount because my last day of work was December 31. I sent an application and was told I was approved.

Next, ADOA said I should send a chunk of money to the state no later than the first week in December. Then ASU’s HR department told me this demand was incomprehensible, that I most certainly did not need to send money for COBRA while I was still employed by ASU, and that COBRA would send me a statement after I was terminated, saying how much and when to pay.

In mid-January, ADOA informed me that I was not terminated and as far as they could tell I was still employed by ASU. Then ASU told me I most certainly was terminated and ADOA did not know what they were talking about. Then ADOA told me I was not terminated and was still a state employee.

After I spoke with my ex-husband’s former law partner, who is now Arizona State University’s general counsel, I was told the mess was cleaned up. At that point, I was informed that I had actually been canned not on December 31 but on January 10, but nevertheless because the Obama Administration had extended the ARRAS discount into February, I still would be able to get  coverage I could sort of pay for.

On January 14, I spoke to one Connie at ADOA, who said I did not have to send a check but that I would receive a letter telling me of my eligibility and letting me know where and when to send a premium payment. And by the way, no, I did not need to make a COBRA payment a month before my job ended. That was 15 days ago. No such communication has appeared.

Now I am told I need to pony up $334.04, which is supposed to cover me “through February.” Three hundred and thirty-four dollars is slightly more than twice the earned income I have received this month.

So, this afternoon I called the Feds.

There I learned that while COBRA is indeed a federal law, the federal government’s regulatory oversight is limited to private employers. If you work for a state university or government office, you’re on your own! I asked the woman who shared this gem with me if she thought I should call a lawyer. She said not yet…it’ll be another week or so before they’re actually in violation of the law. She recommended going back to HR (hah! words from a lady who’s never had to deal with ASU’s HR department!) and nagging some more.

I am nagged out. On Monday I will trudge down to ADOA in person, hand over $334, and demand a receipt that states exactly what the money is for, and not only that, ask that they produce a policy or a contract describing what I get and when. After that, I give up. If I get in a car wreck or have a heart attack before Medicare kicks in, I guess I’ll just have to drain my savings to pay the bills and then declare bankruptcy.

Ain’t workin’ for the State of Arizona grand?

What a day!

Well, it’s almost tomorrow, so I’m gunna write this tonight (Wednesday), let it post tomorrow, and take a day off from scribbling to continue the various gardening projects.

Back from choir a little after 9, a cloud cover blown in on the nighttime air and a very light sprinkle starting to spit. Naturally, Cassie the Corgi was not wrung out after her 6:00 p.m. dinner, so grabbed an umbrella and the leash and set out for a late evening constitutional.

Driving home I’d seen some lightning off in the distant east but didn’t think much of it. The day was clear as a proverbial bell and I didn’t expect any rain would blow in. As we reached the apogee of our stroll the sprinkle began to come a little harder (Cassie hates rain!). We’re about as far as we usually get from the house when a big bolt of lightning C-R-A-A-C-K-s out of the sky with a clap of thunder bold enough to knock you off your feet! It was really close, certainly this side of the mountains a mile to the north.

Holy Mackerel! And there we are with a fine metal-ribbed umbrella in our paws!

We sprinted for the house, dog and human at a dead run (did you know you can run pretty well in Danskos?) and just reached the eaves over the front door as water began to pour out of the sky.

So that was a rousing end to another trying day.

Up at 3:00 a.m. worrying about the COBRA and money. If because of a bureaucratic screw-up my termination date goes into the system after December 31, am I going to lose out on the ARRAS discount? If so, then I can’t afford to buy ASU’s health insurance, and because of the ominous stress attack that landed me in the ER for a day because it so cleverly mimicked a heart attack, there’s no chance I can buy insurance on the private market. Though I have enough cash in my checking account, even after sending my excess savings off to the financial dudes for 2009 and 2010 Roth contributions, that money is earmarked for me to live on, not for some insurance company to rip off. If I spend it on $600 or $700 premiums over the next five months, there won’t be enough for me to live on without drawing down several thousand dollars from the IRA, exactly what we’re trying to avoid in an effort to recover the losses of the past 18 months or so.

And speaking of retirement funds, what about the $500 from the Fidelity 403(b) that now is not going to show up this month, thanks to yet another screw-up on the part of my beloved former employer? When I sent that cash off to the Roth, I’d figured on getting the drawdown and using it to help fund my January/February budget. How the hell am I going to get by without that five hundred bucks?

And speaking of the enforced drawdown from the 403(b), the one mandated so that the state will cough up the $19,000 of unpaid sick leave (RASL) it owes me, if those idiots screwed up entering my termination date in the state’s system, that means the ornery RASL lady also thinks I’m still on the payroll. That means she’s not processing my RASL application. And that means an even longer delay in stumbling through that procedure. The longer it takes her to do that, the longer I’ll have to take a drawdown, and the longer it will be before I can move the 403(b) money over to my financial managers, who just now are doing a great deal better with the big IRA than Fidelity is with the 403(b) funds.

{moan!} Got up, wrote the post you may have read Wednesday, dorked around online for a while, wrote a list of things to do. Went back to bed just before dawn. Got up again around 8:30 or 9:00. Sat down at the desk and got back on the phone.

First I called the Department of Administration again, reaching a new CSR. Explained the story again. She opened the payroll system while she was on the phone and said I was still shown as employed at ASU.

I said HR Lady claimed there was a “delay in the payroll system” and she intended to get in touch with DOA on Thursday. That would be tomorrow.

DOA Lady said she didn’t know about that, but she repeated that the HR system shows me as not terminated. She then remarked that DOA has no direct contact with ASU’s HR department. “They never call us on the phone,” said she.

No. Of course not. Why am I not surprised?

Eventually, I called my former husband, a corporate lawyer, to ask what he thought I should do about this, if he could suggest any regulatory recourse, and if he could refer me to a labor lawyer.

He said he didn’t know much about that sort of thing, but he did give me the name of a guy in town, a man whose name I recognized as a fellow with a reputation as a heavy hitter. Then, on reflection, Ex-DH observed that the university’s present general counsel is one of his former law partners. He suggested I should get in touch with that gentleman, since the business with the COBRA is a federal issue that could pose a fairly serious problem for ASU.

I said I doubted if he would remember me. He said maybe not, but he certainly would remember Ex-DH. I should call, remind him that I’m Ex-DH’s former wife, and tell him what is going on. Given that it’s extremely unlikely I could get past the gatekeepers in the general counsel’s office, we agreed I should try e-mailing him.

Meanwhile, Ex-DH suggested, I should e-mail and snail-mail a history of this to someone at ASU and someone at ADOA, so as to get it in writing (again!) that I was supposed to be terminated as of December 31. He said that time is now an issue.

Oh, God.

So I spent about an hour boiling the story down into as brief a form as possible, without all the flourishes one finds in blog copy and without the expressions of distress, annoyance, and cajoling one emits around the HR functionaries. Then I spent another hour writing a short history of the COBRA fiasco. This I addressed to HR Lady and cc’ed to Dean Debby (former supervisor) and the college’s Business Office Manager, adding that I hoped to see the mess cleared up within 24 hours. This little tome took BOM’s name in vain, when, among other things, I reported that during the November retiree meeting we were asked to attend, we were told to ask our departmental BOM to submit a “retire employee” request through the manager self-service system, no later than the last pay period, and that BOM had accordingly done exactly that.

Time passed. I went up to Home Depot to buy some compost and manure, the better to cultiver mon jardin. Then I spent what little remained of the afternoon pruning the roses in back and digging the fresh dirt into the soil around them, weeding the vegetables, and giving them some of the smelly new dirt, too. Along about 5:00 I remembered that tonight was choir rehearsal and realized I’d better wash the eau de cow coprolite off before leaving the house. Raced to draw a bath and toss some dog food down. Checked the e-mail while I was running around: nary a word from General Counsel.

Suspicions confirmed: university lawyers are not friends to university peons, not even if the peons are ex-wives of ex-partners. But…

Comes 5:30 p.m., my hair is wet and the bathtub is draining and the dog is running around and I’m freezing, wrapped in a damp towel, because of course it’s darned cold in here with no heat on, the phone rings and there’s HR Lady!

She’s calling, she says brightly, to let me know that ADOA finally does have my termination in its system (isn’t that great!). She will, she says, send me written confirmation of this tomorrow, but she thought I’d like to know it tonight.


Well, say I, what about the $200 I was supposed to have paid to COBRA by December 8, while I actually was still very much on the payroll and was still paying into the state health insurance system? (That would be the payment you never heard of, the one you said I shouldn’t have had to pay anyway…)

She will try to find out about that and report the results tomorrow, too.

Huh. Imagine that.

I figure either Dean Debby or General Counsel lit a fire under HR, given that HR Lady said she wouldn’t even get to my little problem before tomorrow. It’ ll be interesting to see what happens next.

Do they have me as terminated on December 31? Or will they decide that I died departed today, January 13, since that would have been the date the late great exit was entered in their system?

Will they refuse to enroll me in COBRA until I pony up the 200 bucks they demanded last month, which I forgot about in the confusion and general anguish that went on over the past several weeks?  And if they demand that I pay that, will they also demand another couple hundred bucks for the January premium, bringing the total gouge to an unmanageable $400?

If so, where will I get the $400, since I had to pay $200 for the late great pool maintenance?

Thank God for choir. Rehearsal was challenging, as it involved a rather dramatic piece in Latin (oh, don’t we love DRAMA? 🙄 ) that I had never heard before. We got a new second alto, conveniently pushing the retired priest’s wife into the seat next to me. This lady has a good voice: she can carry a tune, she sings on key, and she sings loud enough to hear her. That’s all I need to fake success. So it was fairly easy for me to figure out the new music. And the mental workout went a long way toward taking my mind off the current spate of GDU hassle.

What a day. What a place.

Storm image: FIR002, Lightning strike, January 2007
Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License
Please note that this image is not in the public domain and must be used and acknowledged accordingly.

Trying to escape from flypaper

Getting quit of Arizona State University and the State of Arizona is like trying to pull yourself free of a giant sheet of heavy-duty, extra-sticky flypaper. Below, notes on this morning’s exchanges with a Fidelity 403(b) rep, a Department of Administration rep, and (god help me) another ASU Human Resources rep:

Called Fidelity to find out where the $500 payment is. Reached L— S—.

She said there are two funds, one with $159,000 and a smaller one. She asked which one I wanted to withdraw from. I said I had no idea, having been through several reps, all of whom said they would make this happen.

She said the smaller one is available for any drawdown from me. The larger one requires paperwork proving that I no longer work for the state university system and approval.

She said they did receive the 8-page form from ASU but it is in process at Fidelity. She will e-mail the person in that department and call me back to report what’s going on.

Meanwhile, I haven’t received a bill from COBRA. Called ADOA. Reached a woman who didn’t identify herself. She said

a) I was supposed to have sent a check to HITS (how appropriate!) and I have not. I looked in my notes and discovered I was supposed to have sent a $199.14 check and, in my endless confusion over this f***ing nightmare, failed to do so. But this would not matter, because…

b) ASU has not entered me in the HRIS system, and so as far as ADOA is concerned, I am still employed by ASU and still covered.

LS said I need to call HR again and do battle with them. I have to tell them to enter me in HRIS and then find out from them what date they show me terminated. Then I have to call ADOA back and tell them what the date is. Then they will figure out what to do about COBRA.

I called C— D— at HR. She said I am entered in HRIS as terminated. I said ADOA said I was not entered.

She was mystified about the COBRA prepayment due in December. I said that was what ADOA told me, and that I had failed to make the payment because I was overwhelmed by the paperwork and hoop-jumping, which has now accrued a two-inch thick binder of paperwork and notes. She said there is no such payment; that she couldn’t speak for ADOA but she knows the system, and they have to send me a bill for any amounts owed. I said what I told her was what they  told me. Twice.

CD said the termination went into the system on January 6, and it usually takes about 24 hours for it to register. She also said that because I wasn’t canned until the 31st, several days in to the first January pay period, I would have been covered by ASU’s regular plan until the 10th. I pointed out that today is January 12, and so presumably I now have no insurance coverage.

She said well, do I have any health issues? I said I need to go to the dentist. She asked if I have an appointment today.

I said, “Look. I have to get in my car and drive from one end of Hell to the other today. If I get in an accident and end up in the hospital without coverage, I will be bankrupted!”

She said COBRA has a six-month period in which you can enroll, so if I get hurt or sick in that period I can retroactively enroll.

She offered to call ADOA and tell them I was “termed” in their system six days ago and to find out what the story is with the COBRA. I said I will be running around the city all day—I’m now over an hour late in getting started and haven’t even had breakfast!—so she said she would find out what she can and leave word on my voicemail.

Will this horror show never stop????

Exit, Stage Left: Goodbye to Arizona State University

Today I went out to the Great Desert University—which (let it be known!) is in reality Arizona State University, the center of the canker upon the Sonoran Desert known as the City of Tempe—to wrap up my 26-year existence in that place. I locked the laptop the College bought for me into a file drawer; cleaned all my data off my terminal and the shared server; erased everything still lurking in Outlook’s e-mail, calendar, and tasks; locked my keys and my underlings’ keys into a desk drawer; gathered the few things remaining that belong to me; checked to be sure the main entry to our suite was locked; and walked away, shutting the door behind me. From there I hiked to my car, drove to the HR building, parked illegally (risking a ticket: yes! ASU employees, would-be employees, and soon-to-be-former employees have to pay to visit the university’s HR department!), walked inside, and delivered my RASL application to a young woman who was too busy talking with a coworker about her five-year-old’s birthday to break off long enough to look me directly in the eye.

Then I left, never (I sincerely hope) to return.

Can you imagine? T-day—termination day—is the day after tomorrow (and it’s 6:00 p.m. as I write this, so in terms of business days it’s actually one freaking day from now), and not once has anyone asked me where the five sets of keys to our office are, where the Dell laptop and the raft of peripherals we bought for it are, what has become of the god-only-knows-how-many flash drives we’ve purchased. Nary a soul has suggested a walk-through to inspect the tens of thousands of dollars worth of capital investment still sitting there in our offices. Not one word.

Think of it. And oh, my friend, if you live in Arizona and you are a taxpayer, do think of it.

Bemused, I’ve been silently waiting to see if anyone would have anything to say about all the loot we’ve been sitting on. But nothing. I’ve announced to one and all that I’m using up my vacation time, so as far as they know I’m not around and never will be around again. The underlings went out before me, my RA on the 15th and my associate editor yesterday. To all intents and purposes, the crew has abandoned ship.

So today I’d thought I would carry the laptop and the keys over to the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, since IT informed me that the hardware was not their department (uh huh) and since I have no intention of hiking to the Kampus Kops, halfway to Timbuktu (no place to park there, either!) and jumping through a half-dozen hoops to turn in the keys. But after some reflection, I thought why ask for trouble? Why bring myself and their administrative lapse to their attention by dumping the stuff on the student worker who passes for a receptionist over there?

If, I reasoned, the deans think the five desktop computers, the three printers, the high-end scanner, the five phones, and the assorted chairs, desks, tables, reference works, paper, pens, Scotch tape and staples are safe behind a locked door, surely the laptop and the keys will be just as safe. Why not?

So, instead of four traipses around the campus, I journeyed to only two destinations: my office and HR.

The elevator in my building has an odd, unpleasant smell. Normally I walk up the steps, but the wheeled suitcase I brought to drag the computer in and my books out was too heavy to haul up or down the concrete staircase. As I rolled the thing into the lift on the way out, a marvelous thought struck me: I will never have to ride this stinking elevator into this condemned building again!

No joke. I’ve spent the past six years working in a condemned building. When it showed signs of crumbling, the city said it had to be torn down, and the university evacuated the top two floors. But after the dust settled, the administration—whose leadership wished to invest not in another classroom building for the social sciences and the liberal arts but in astronomical salaries and extravagant structures for “star” faculty who teach no one and maintain some part of their tenure at more respectable institutions—these worthies quietly declared it un-condemned. The top floor is still cordoned off, but the rest of it was deemed good enough for the peons. It is, in short, a depressing wreck.

Arizona State University Main is one of the most plug-ugly excuses for a university campus on the planet. I’ve seen one campus that is uglier, and it is in Philadelphia. On the whole, I’d rather not be in Philadelphia. No thought of cohesion or thematic harmony was ever given to the jumble that is ASU, not by a one of any of the multitudes of architects called upon to design structures there. The newer buildings are eyesores. The Fulton Center, which houses the eyrie of our beloved president, Michael Crow: ludicrous, with its absurd and pointless glass flange, which we can only take to be someone’s idea of decorative humor. Give the thing wide berth during a high wind—in a stiff breeze panes of glass blow out and crash to the sidewalk below. The Coor Building, with its hilarious reflected WORD, evidently intended to give some sort of character to yet another glass cube: hideous! Looks like the Borg. The only buildings that are not blatantly ugly only just rise to the level of bland.

It’s a dreary, industrial campus in the middle of a tacky, grubby burg. Except for the faux-warehouse urban renewal effort downtown, the City of Tempe consists mostly of tired 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s bedroom tracts and cheaply built, run-down rentals. A six-lane bridge spewing smog and dirt over a eutrophic artificial “lake” counts as a scenic attraction; a lovely new railroad track a cause for celebration.

This garden spot next to the building that houses HR is pretty typical:

A couple blocks up the road, we have this bit of urban renewal:

Nothing like some fine orange facing to spiff up a concrete rabbit warren, eh? Click on the image to appreciate the actual color: true Hallowe’en orange. Love the way the gray parking lot blends with the architecture.

In a moment of ambitious entrpreneurship, the university’s administration decided to spend several millions of dollars to build a cloister for the students in the honors college. The idea was that honors students would live, attend classes, eat, exercise, and socialize within the nine-acre compound, effectively creating a small, exclusive campus-within-a-campus for the elite amid the tumult of the Great Unwashed. How would you like your kid to spend four years in this concrete bunker?

Nice view out those windows of one of ASU’s finest parking garages:

And the spectacle continues as we drive north toward grody south Scottsdale, one awe-inspiring scenic view after another:

Millions upon millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars went into building this astonishing landscape. Like the balloonish tent up there (yeah, that’s what it is: a tent), it stayed puffed up with hot air until the recession came along. Then, as the tent blew down in the first strong wind, so the whole mess has folded in upon itself. Hugely overextended, the university’s financial structure has collapsed, leaving students to cope with vast undergraduate classes overseen by underpaid, demoralized faculty and throwing thousands of support staff out of work. The way it operates is just about as lovely as the way it looks.

Beautiful sight, isn’t it?


The coop is flown!

I’m free.


I quit. I’m gone. Out the door, never to return. A bird that has flown the coop.

Last night, after I finally finished the latest iteration of the Index from the Black Lagoon, I mailed the damn thing off with an e-mail to our client editor letting him know I’m taking my 350 unused vacation hours, starting TODAY. That will carry me through to the end of the month, all the way to Canning Day.

And what a fine send-off that was! It was the worst episode of overwork I’ve been through since the days of La Morona, a.k.a. My Bartleby. Truly. I’ve been working from 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning deep into the evening, literally until I could not work any more, every day for the past four or five days. Those are eighteen-hour days. Most of that time was spent writing an index—truly a brain-numbing job—and undoing a screw-up of Herculean proportions in (naturally!) an essay that is long enough to stand as a monograph in its own right.

Yes, on top of the screwed-up index that had to be rebuilt almost from scratch, someone took it into his or her mind to set acres of direct quotation in italic. Why? Because it’s in Latin. We italicize foreign languages. Don’t we?

Well, no. Not always. Not in this case.

The flicking article occupies 148 typeset pages.

When our client editor saw the page proofs, he realized something looked odd but didn’t realize the author had it right in the first place: set roman. His response was to ask that we remove all the quotation marks.

After I had gone through 148 pages marking hundreds of deletions, I realized that couldn’t possibly be right: the guy was indicating direct quotes from primary sources. Belatedly, I drag out Chicago and find all that Latin material should have been set in roman type. That’s when, ever so much more belatedly, it occurs to  me to check the original MS, where I found that Author had it right, and someone on our end—probably the new editor in the sponsor’s office—changed it.

So now I had to go back through the 148 brain-boggling pages, STET all the quotes, and mark all the italic roman.

You can imagine how pleased our graphic designer was when I showed up at his door and dumped this mess on his desk. Ours was the third fiasco to enter his life that morning, and I presented myself at around 9:30. He grabbed the great wad of paper, waved it in the air, and demanded to know “Whose idea is it to publish a book as an article???!??”

Not  mine, of that you can be sure.

From there it was on to the index, 33 endless pages of entries and subentries parsing the most arcane subject matter you can imagine.

I really don’t enjoy indexing. This particular annual is difficult to index, because it not only is arcane, it’s dense. Every page has three or four entries, at least. By the time we reach the indexing stage, I’ve read the copy, which can be excruciatingly detailed, several times. And I Do. Not. Want. To. Read. It. Again. So I have to force myself to do this job, which under the best of circumstances takes about five to seven days.

Stupefied with short-termer’s syndrome, I plotted to foist about half the job onto my R.A. The book consists of discrete articles, and so I gave her several that did not overlap (so I thought) with the ones I kept for myself to work on. She wrote her entries; I wrote mine; then I merged the files.

Bad mistake.

First, the two chunks of copy in fact did have some overlapping content. In some cases, we described that content in different terms, so a subject was indexed in two places under two descriptive headings. And second, this young Ph.D. knows next to nothing about Renaissance and medieval history. This makes it difficult to recognize the names of major figures. Or, for that matter, some of the currents of thought and controversy that were BFDs then, but are lost and long forgotten today.

And finally, the aging editor forgets that young people conceive and map out research strategies differently from the way those of us who came up with hard copy do. They think in Boolean terms. A search is something that you do in Google or in a library database, not in an index or a drawer full of index cards. While there are some similarities, there are also some fundamental differences. And those differences are HUGE. The result: an index designed by a younger mind looks different and is different from one built by a survivor of the Cretaceous.

Ultimately, the only help for it was to throw out everything the kid did and start over. Basically, I ended up doing all the work I should’ve done in the first place, and then some. Quite a lot of some.

When I finally hit “Send” about 7:30 last night and realized it was the last thing I’ll ever have to do for GDU, it felt like a loud shrieking squeal had suddenly stopped.

You know how it feels when a migraine ends? Your head doesn’t hurt any more, but there’s a kind of residual echo of the pain? Like that.

My office is empty. Sometime between now and the 31st, I’ll have to go back to campus to return the College’s laptop and turn in the keys. Probably there’ll be one more frustrating runaround with HR. And that is it.

I hope never to have to set foot on the campus of the Great Desert University again.


Toby Hudson, Domestic Rock Pigeons in Flight, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0

Tempus fidgets

Time does fly, and with it our little concerns and mores. When I entered a link to one of this site’s “pages” in yesterday’s post and then had some trouble persuading the software not to link to the old URL, I happened to read over the contents of “The Poison Poppy.” Time adds a great deal of perspective: getting your bowels in an uproar over a $220-a-month pay cut seems pretty silly, compared to a 100 percent cut in pay!

These days I feel a lot calmer about the money situation (among other things). As a matter of fact, where next year’s financial pickle is concerned, I no longer care. If I end up living under the Seventh Avenue overpass, tant pis. I’ll be in good company.

For about three years there, I was in a constant state of uproar; during one of those years, I was in a chronic rage.

The whole flap over the destruction of my swimming pool, which took place shortly after I moved in to my present home, created a great deal of angst and downright fear, particularly after a judge would not let me, SDXB, or my lawyer leave his courtroom until after Mr. B*** was seen driving away from the parking lot. Having two barracuda lawyers urge me to sell my house and flee—and describe in exquisite detail what they imagined Mr. B*** to be capable of—was pretty bloody terrifying.

None of that hysteria died down until M’hijito proved, by installing a phalanx of infrared cameras, that the ensuing pool pump “vandalism” incidents were happening because the equipment was defective, not because Son-in-Law was hopping the fence once a month to fool with it. But overlapping that was the Great Desert University’s ballyhooed partnership with PeopleSoft, which led to five months of incorrect paychecks, missed retirement contributions, an attempt to void 200 hours of accrued vacation time and declare me ineligible for vacation, insane abuses of my staff members, wrong information (surely  not outright lies?) from HR, and a $220 de facto monthly pay cut. And this was superimposed over the slowly but steadily growing issues surrounding My Bartleby, the single most unholy personnel issue I have ever had to deal with—one that dragged out over four excruciating years.

Looking back on it, I realize how close to a breakdown I must have been. It’s no wonder I ended up in the hospital with stress. What is a wonder is that I survived at all.

Well, now that only two months remain in my tenure with the Great Desert University, I no longer feel an irrational hatred for the institution (it’s like hating rainfall or the moon in the sky). True, a trip to Tempe does evince a flinch reflex, and I do look forward to never having to enter that burg again.

In spite of the year of unemployment and enforced penury coming up, I feel comfortable about the future. Money happens, after all. Some things are better than a regular salary. Some things are worse than penury.