Archive for Lucinda

Finding Strength In The Extraordinary Ordinary

For more than ten years now, I have devoted the overwhelming majority of my work as a writer and activist to shining a light on the many heinous guises of misogyny, especially on the impact violence has on women’s lives, and also on efforts to stop that violence and to empower women. Now and again I have also tackled other topics, including environmental issues such as global warming and climate change because as we confront environmental disaster after environmental disaster at a rapidly snowballing speed, the need to address these issues as an integral part of my work feels urgently compelling, yet words more often than not painfully fail me.

What precisely can one say about ocean acidification, leaking methane from the thawing Arctic, seas that are rising faster than expected, the loss of ice in Greenland and Antarctica, (and those are just stories that have crossed my digital desk in the last week alone)?  And how precisely can one say what should be said about these overwhelming climactic disasters in a way that accurately portrays the proper measures of terror, and the tears that should be streaming down our faces as we see the result of our misguided dominion while offering  hope or perhaps vision?  On most days, I neither know or begin to feel adequate to that task.

Not being one to suffer writer’s block or despairing inertia quietly, I have floundered about trying to find inspiration and strength, a grounded path towards coherent expression.  I have buried myself in the words of Terry Tempest Williams and tackled a lengthy biography of Rachel Carson. I cheer Sandra Steingraber’s call to action about fracking and Bill McKibben’s relentless tar sands pushback and the solar-powered Thanksgiving in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

And mostly I have walked away from the computer and staggered out into the natural world, needing to take in huge gulps of (I hesitate to say fresh) air.  I have sat beside the Atlantic Ocean and watched the tides roll in and out, seagulls standing watch at the water’s edge.  I’ve walked along the Potomac, visited pueblos and mountains and craters in the Arizona desert and high country. And some days, I simply walk the streets of my suburban neighborhood.

The community in which I live is perhaps the embodiment of a sub-urban design train wreck–houses crammed in every available space, open spaces in the wrong places, dysfunctional streets where people live isolated lives.  But even in this embodiment of Malvina Reynolds’ little boxes on the hillside “all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same”, I have looked up at the trees, and found wonder and love and grounded strength in these branches of heart filling beauty.

And where words come sometimes only haltingly, I have taken to letting my camera portray the extraordinary that we all too often fail to see, let alone honor in the ordinary of our days.

The words will continue, we must talk about what has been, what is and what will be.  But we must also see the tree branches above, and feel the breezes from the sea, the hot desert sun and the path below our feet.

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Map Of Occupied DC For The Benefit Of The Media

If you’re just tuning in, there are two occupation movements happening in Washington, DC.  Occupy DC, which has been going on for over a week, is based at McPherson Square and Stop The Machine/October2011, which has been going on since last Thursday is based at Freedom Plaza.  But for love or money, as I pointed out yesterday and earlier today, the media still can’t figure out which is which.  Once again tonight, both the Washington Post and ABC7News were tangling it up in their Twitter feeds.  So in the interest of clarity, I am providing this handy dandy map:

Map of Occupied DC

 

Got it?  And while we’re pointing to Lamestream Media Fail, Yahoo posted a headline today referring to the pepper-spraying of protesters as a riot.  Really?  Sorry, no didn’t happen.  Minor altercation and right wing agitator yes, pepper spraying cops causing museum to be shut down yes.  Riot, no, despite the efforts of the agitator and that kind of ‘journalism’ is part of the problem.

Here are some screenshots of Mainstream Media #TwitterFail:

Looks like ABC finally figured it out.


 

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The Media’s Failed Look At What Is Happening On The Streets And A Personal Reflection

Occupation for Dummies

There has been no shortage of media confusion in DC this week regarding the OccupyDC and October2011 Stop The Machine actions. I got into a conversation yesterday with a reporter from a local television station who was interviewing people at OccupyDC, she seemed to genuinely want to understand the difference. I pointed out that it seemed like very few members of the Mainstream Media had bothered to check the websites for the two groups which would clarify quite a lot.

Isn’t this sort of like the opposite of the Tea Party, she wondered. I pointed out that these movements represented people who were out of work, had lost their homes, had no health insurance, and wanted an end to  militarism without end and the number of people impacted by those issues is a lot larger than the number of people who identify with the Tea Party.

But the most idiotic media confusion in DC this week has been who was where. It wasn’t so complicated–OccupyDC at McPherson Square, Stop The Machine at Freedom Plaza. Yet in Sunday morning’s Washington Post, with OccupyDC at McPherson for over a week and Stop The Machine in place since Thursday, the caption writer for this photo still got it wrong.

The WaPo caption erroneously reads, "A crowd gathers Thursday at Freedom Plaza for the first day of the OccupyDC rally..."

And the headline–hello? It isn’t the same as the one used online, but, “The common man”? Really? Which century is this? They also apparently didn’t look at the photo which rather clearly shows the common woman.

With this kind of media, no wonder many people are confused about what is happening in the streets.

The best way to understand the movement that is taking root everywhere is to go find out for yourself.  Yes, there is an Occupy near you.

Several people have said to me, oh it is just a bunch of kids.  No, it is not.  And it’s not just a bunch of hippie peaceniks either.  It ranges from toddlers who are there with their parents (there was a little area with toys and crayons at OccupyDC yesterday) to elders with plenty of folks in between.  I talked for a bit with a young man in an army uniform. It was very courageous for him to be there. He had been to Iraq once and was due to ship out again soon, but he said he wasn’t planning to re-deploy, what he had experienced on his first tour had made him realize that militarism was deeply flawed.  He looked sad and wise beyond his years.

And do not underestimate the numbers, it isn’t just a hundred here and a thousand there, it is far, far larger than that.

A crowd shot at Occupy Wall Street--that is A LOT of people

This isn’t about one issue, it is about the American people connecting all the issues and finally saying enough.  There are those who have criticized what is going on for not having a clear statement of purpose or intent.  What they miss is that people everywhere have decided to take back the commons, and that is intention enough.

There is more to say, much more, the time I have spent on the street this last week has been transformative.  I have re-connected with old friends, made new ones and for the first time in a long time felt genuine hope.  Don’t be afraid, come out and join us.

Addenda:  The amount of inaccurate reporting involving Occupy DC and Stop the Machine is becoming epic.  Today the Washington Post reports that OccupyDC may stay in Freedom Plaza past the time time they have a permit.  Sorry, wrong group.  Yahoo News is now calling the pepper-spraying of protesters at the Air and Space Museum on Saturday a riot and ABCNews7 tweeted this morning that at least one person planned to stay past the permit time in Freedom Plaza although the article they linked to actually says a number of people plan to stay.  And that is just today.  The amount of media stupid when it comes to reporting what has transpired over the last week plus in DC is to the point where it is hard to see it as anything but deliberate.

 

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Speaking About Health Insurance Sunday Sept. 18

This Sunday evening, September 18, I’ll be interviewed on A World Of Progress Radio in a segment devoted to health care issues. I’ll be talking about my experience trying to transfer an individual health insurance policy from one state to another and how the problems faced by individual policy holders with pre-existing conditions are not currently being addressed adequately by health care reform. This issue hits women particularly hard since they are less likely to be covered by an employer’s policy.

Other guests on the show include health insurance industry whistleblower Wendell Potter, Vanessa Beck of Healthcare Now and Mad As Hell Doctors.

The show will air at 7pm EDT. I’ll be interviewed beginning at 7:45.

To read more about my experience regarding this issue, please see my blog Pre-Existing Pundit.

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My New Health Insurance Blog

I’ve made several posts on Reclaiming Medusa regarding my experience of trying to move my health insurance from Kentucky to Maryland.  In order to make it easier to follow those posts, I started a new blog devoted to that issue only so that those posts don’t get lost between other subject matter on this blog.  The original posts on this blog have been cross-posted there and new posts have been added as well. The new blog is called Pre-Existing Pundit.  Please spread the word!

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Health Insurance–A Tale Of Two States (And A District)

Several days ago, I wrote about the ordeal I have been going through trying to move my health insurance from Kentucky to Maryland.  Because I had a health insurance policy with Anthem Blue Cross in Kentucky, the local Blue Cross was obligated to offer me what is called a guarantee issue conversion policy that does not require underwriting (a good thing since I have several pre-existing conditions that would otherwise make it difficult for me to obtain health insurance).

As I reported earlier, the Maryland conversion policy was almost no insurance at all so one of the options I wanted to explore was what kind of policy CareFirst (the Blue Cross company that serves the Washington, DC metro area, including the Virginia and Maryland suburbs) would offer me if I lived in the District instead of in Maryland. I asked CareFirst to send me the information and when it arrived it was a stunner.  We are talking about maybe a 15 mile difference in location and the same company.  But the policies were radically different, which CareFirst attributes to insurance laws which vary by location.

If you live in Maryland, there is a $250 deductible and  for most things, you pay 25%, the plan pays 75% up to a very unrealistic lifetime maximum of $250,000 (most plans have a $1,000,000 maximum or no limit).  There is no cap on out-of-pocket expenses.  Premium for a 55 year old woman? $443.22, less than my Kentucky policy but for a lot less coverage and substantial risk.

But hop on the Metro and move into the District and wowswers–the guaranteed conversion plan there has a $750 deductible, pays 80% instead of 75% and there is a $3500 cap on out of pocket expenses for an individual.  There was nothing that I saw about a lifetime maximum.  Sounds good so far, but there is a catch and it is a big one–the premium.  Are you sitting down? $1448.  Per month.  Aside from CEO’s of health insurance companies, not too many people can afford that.

For comparison’s sake, it is worth comparing these plans to the Federal Pre-existing Condition Pool, which incomprehensibly also varies from state to state.  In Maryland, the premium is as high as $354/month with a $1500 deductible and an out of pocket limit of $1500.

In the District of Columbia, the Federal Pre-existing Condition Pool is a bit more complicated with premiums as high as $436 and,

In addition to your monthly premium, you will pay other costs. In 2011, you will pay a $1,000 to $3,000 deductible, which varies by your plan option, for covered medical benefits (except for preventive services) before the plan starts to pay. A plan option may have a separate drug deductible. After you pay the deductible, you will pay a $25 copayment for doctor visits, $4 to $40 for most prescription drugs, and 20% of the costs of any other covered benefits you get. Your out-of-pocket costs cannot be more than $5,950 per year. These costs may be higher, if you go outside the plan’s network.

The kicker with the federal plans however is that in order to qualify,

  • You must be a citizen or national of the United States or lawfully present in the United States.
  • You must have been uninsured for at least the last six months before you apply.
  • You must have a pre-existing condition or have been denied coverage because of your health condition.

The first and third points seem reasonable, but requiring that you be without insurance for six months is absurd and causes unnecessary financial hardship and risk to public health.  When you have met the other two conditions, you should be immediately eligible.  There is no other country on earth that would require you to go without health insurance before you could qualify for it and that we, the richest country in the world should do so is beyond belief.

Fortunately for me, there is also a Maryland State pool where six months of state residency is required, but there is no requirement that you be uninsured before qualifying.

I am still trying to determine the best option for myself and will write more about that later. But as I was sorting through the possible scenarios, I wanted to point to the total absurdity that insurance plans should vary so drastically in one metropolitan area.  It is well past time for a federal single payer plan that makes health care expenses equitable, regardless of where you live or work or how healthy you are.

And finally, while Blue Cross guarantees you coverage if you move, that does not mean it will be adequate or affordable or even remotely like the coverage you had before you moved.  The result is that for people like me with pre-existing conditions, Blue Cross is effectively making it so you may have to go without coverage for 6 months because you can’t afford $1448 premiums (or if you live in a state like Maryland, have very minimal and inadequate insurance until you have lived here for six months)and then force you into one of the high risk pools.  Just because you moved.  But somehow I don’t think insurance CEO’s or the elected officials they’ve financed are losing sleep about this.

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Addenda:  Health insurance for all of us is under siege, whether you have an individual policy, obtain coverage through your company or have Medicare or are uninsured, etc.  Here is an important piece about what is happening to workers at Kaiser Permanente, which ironically is a health insurance provider.  The author compares what is happening there with what is happening at Verizon. She makes the point that we need to stand together, a point that should be true regardless of how you get coverage.  A lot less attention has been paid to those of us in the individual market than those who get coverage via employment or Medicare.  We need solidarity regardless of how we obtain health care coverage.

And addenda last–this story has gotten so absurd that I made it a whole new blog of its very own.  You can follow the continuing saga at Pre-Existing Pundit.

 

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Have An Individual Health Insurance Policy And Pre-Existing Conditions And You Want To Move? Good Luck With That.

I recently moved from Louisville, KY to the Washington, DC area.  When you move, a certain amount of hassle is to be expected with such things as phone and cable service, getting new license plates, etc.  In the end those tasks all got done.  Moving my health insurance however, not so much.

The following is the letter I am sending to the appropriate elected officials in Kentucky and Maryland as well as both states’ insurance regulatory agencies and Blue Cross Blue Shield as well as health insurance reform advocates.  It documents the infuriating, scary, time-consuming and unconscionable experience I have had trying to move from one state to another without losing adequate health insurance.  When I receive responses, I will post them as well.

Dear _________,

I recently moved from Louisville, Kentucky to the Washington, DC area to better facilitate my work as a political activist and writer.  For a long time, I was afraid to make this move because of the risk of losing my health insurance, an individual policy through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Due to several health problems, I was afraid I would not be able to obtain insurance elsewhere.  Yes, there are now high risk pools but the Federal pools require that you be uninsured for six months before you qualify and obviously that would be a substantial risk if you have a major illness or accident during that period.

Then I found out that Blue Cross has an arrangement called an intra-association transfer group conversion which means that the Blue Cross company wherever you live has to offer you an insurance plan that does not require going through underwriting although it may have less benefits and cost more.  Armed with that information, I wanted to find out what coverage might be available to me depending on if I lived in the District or in a suburb in Maryland or Virginia.  Even though I’m a writer with more than passable research skills, I could not get anyone at CareFirst, the Blue Cross company for the DC metro area to give me that information.  The Sales Department wouldn’t talk to me because they only handle policies that go through underwriting and Customer Service said they couldn’t give it to me until I actually transferred my policy.

After multiple conversations and a lot of hold time, I finally called my agent in Louisville, who had always been quite good about answering my questions.  She sent me information about an HMO plan that CareFirst offered in DC that had open enrollment, no underwriting and better benefits and lower cost than the policy I had in Kentucky. I was ecstatic and relieved that I could move without jeopardizing my healthcare or financial well-being. At no point did she tell me that this was only available in DC and not in the surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia or that the plan was not always open to new members.

After finding a house to rent in Rockville, MD, I was finally able to move.  When I transferred my insurance however, I got a major shock.  The policy my Anthem agent had told me about was only available in the District.  In Maryland, the policy offered me cost much more for a lot less coverage.  The terrifying part of the policy is that it has a $250,000 maximum benefit.  If you have a major disease or accident, that would be grossly inadequate. 

While this policy is completely different than my old policy and written by a different company, apparently it does not have to comply with the new healthcare rules on lifetime limits.  Getting a more comprehensive policy from CareFirst  will require underwriting and when I discussed this with a customer service representative at CareFirst, I was told that because of my health, I would be denied.  What I find incredible is that I’ve been repeatedly told that because each Blue Cross is a different company, they don’t have to offer the same coverage as my old Blue Cross company did but they still can get away with offering me a ridiculously low minimum because the policy is considered to be grandfathered, not a new policy.  It is outrageous that they can get away with this.

As I understand it, once I have lived in Maryland for six months, I will qualify for the Maryland state high risk pool as long as I apply for an underwritten policy and am denied or if the policy I’m offered is more expensive than what Maryland offers in the pool which would certainly be the case with the policy that CareFirst has given me. If however I were to have a catastrophic health event before that, once the CareFirst policy was used up, my medical care could bankrupt me.

What I find the most disturbing is that the misleading information that I was given by my Anthem agent has, at least in the short run, substantially raised my health care costs.  Had I known that while CareFirst administers Blue Cross plans in the entire DC area, the plans vary substantially, I would have made sure to take that into account before choosing exactly where to live.

It is appalling that, for people who buy their own insurance on the individual market at great expense (and this impacts women the most since they are less likely to work for companies that offer health insurance), insurance companies can decide whether you can move without jeopardizing your healthcare and financial well-being.  Given my health history, it would not surprise me at all if Anthem deliberately misled me about what would be available to me to get me off their policy.

After finding out that the group conversion policy offered by CareFirst in Maryland was seriously deficient, I spent a great deal of time on the phone trying to find out what my best course of action was.  Even though they would be involve huge cost, the options as I understand it include:

 

  1. Break the lease on the house I am renting and move into the District.  The fly in that ointment is that sometimes the Open Enrollment HMO that CareFirst offers there closes to new enrollment.  CareFirst is sending me information about the group conversion plan they offer in DC so I can compare that to the Maryland policy (information I was not able to get before I moved).  If it is better, I may consider doing this, although the expense would be huge.
  2. Apply for an underwritten policy and if rejected, which I’ve been told will likely happen, apply to the pool after I’ve lived here six months. It is however abhorrent that the simple act of moving effectively forces people into the high risk pool.  There is a lot of talk about the individual mandate that would require people to buy insurance.  Given the way insurance companies are treating people now should make it quite obvious that this is not going to be a good idea.
  3.  Maintain a residence in Kentucky with a second home in Maryland.  Had I know that I would not be given adequate insurance here, this would have been the best option even though it wasn’t really what I wanted to do and would be expensive.  Revisiting that route however would be a substantial hassle and expense at this point and given the double digit increases and continual decrease in coverage that I’ve gotten from Anthem over the years, there is no guarantee that this would be a good idea.
  4. Marry someone with great family health insurance benefits.
  5. Find a job with health care benefits even though I’ve been self-employed for almost 30 years.
  6. Move to another country.

I have not yet determined the best course of action; fully understanding the options takes a lot of time.  In a bizarre side note, when I called the Maryland high risk pool helpline, the woman I spoke to said that she saw that I had just spoken to someone else in her office a little while ago.  When I said that no, I had spoken to someone at CareFirst, she told me the office they worked for answered questions for both.  After asking her a few questions about the Maryland program I asked her something about the CareFirst policy.  She told me she couldn’t answer that while on the Maryland phone but if I called her at her CareFirst extension, then she could answer the question.  Given that CareFirst has de facto made it quite clear that they have no plans to sell me an adequate insurance policy, it would seem to me that there is a major conflict of interest here.

On a personal basis, I am angry and scared.  Because I work for myself and foot my own insurance bill, and because I have health problems should not be an excuse for being totally screwed because I want to move.  This would not happen if we had a single payer health plan.  It is immoral and unconscionable. When Congress was having their epic debate about health care reform, I wrote several times about the lack of attention to the problems faced by those on the individual market.  Despite all of my efforts, I am now mired in the impact of the neglect to address this issue.

I would appreciate any help you can give me in obtaining adequate, affordable insurance.

Sincerely,

Lucinda Marshall

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Former health care executive and Gov. Rick Scott (FL)

 

“The advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program estimates that “private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.”” http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/editorial/article_97afa329-42f8-5f12-adb0-97fa305c3e4b.html

(Former health care executive) “Gov. Rick Scott, a critic of the federal health care overhaul, is paying less than $400 a year for health insurance for himself and his wife.”
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/11/1005803/-Rick-Scott-Getting-Govt-Provided-Health-Insurance-For-Less-Than-$400-Per-Year

 

 

 

 

 

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Ode To The Rotary Phone (Written While On Hold Due To The Usual Unusually High Call Volume)

Relocating after living in the same place for 24 years is, to say the least, a major upheaval.  The packing and unpacking of a life is in parts exciting, sad, exhausting and surprising (“I was wondering where those snow boots had gone to”, uttered just this evening when I found them in a box labeled “wicker”).  I expected all this and I knew that the thing that was going to make me the most crazy was dealing with connecting new utilities and getting new phone and cable service.

That part of the process has surpassed my worst expectations. By my count, I have spent about 20 hours waiting and holding. Plenty of time to meditate on the the meaning of customer service and to write a blog about it (sweet revenge she said cradling the phone to her ear while she’s on hold).

As I sit here listening to muzak that should be considered a public nuisance, it occurs to me that the invention of the touchtone phone has had a significantly negative impact on our lives.  The beauty of the dial phone was that there was no way for a recording to tell you to dial one for more options, someone actually had to talk to you and ask you what you wanted.  And what with the cost of overseas calls back then, there was no chance of that person being at a call center in Bangalore.  No one asked for the last four digits of your “social” or threw trick questions at you like where you banked 10 years ago (information that is all too available in public records but which most of us have long since all but forgotten).

While I’m still on hold, I want to give a couple of special shoutouts.  First, kudos to the local sanitation department that actually had a “press one to speak to someone” option.  When I pressed the one button, someone actually took the call.  I almost hung up and did it again just to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

The worst service award goes to Verizon which gave me an 8 hour window for a service call and then showed up an hour after that.  All this to connect an old fashioned landline (not one of these new fangled digital phones that won’t survive an extended power outage yet is somehow supposed to be a huge improvement).  And at that, they screwed up and I had a phone that I could get calls on (I know this because it had not dawned on me to put the number on the Do Not Call list in advance and I got inundated with marketing calls within an hour of service being established.  But if I wanted to make a call?  Nope.  They had to come back the following day for that.

Second prize goes to Comcast.  After scheduling internet and cable installation, I realized I’d have to change the appointment day.  The phone number on the confirm letter didn’t work (I couldn’t make that up if I tried) so I decided to do it via the Live Chat option online.  Here is how the conversation should have gone:

Comcast:  How can we help you Ms. Marshall?
Me:  I’d like to change my service appointment.
Comcast:  Sure when would be a more convenient time?
Me:  Wednesday at 11.
Comcast:  Sure, no problem, see you then.

Suffice to say, my 45 minute conversation with Tricee didn’t quite go like that.  On the plus side, because it was online, I have the whole fricking transcript in all its absurdity which can be read below, but here is one of Tricee’s best utterances to peak your interest:

Tricee: I understand that you want to reschedule your service installation, Lucinda. No worries. As your Comcast service representative, I want you to know that issue resolution and your satisfaction are my top priorities for today. By the end or this chat we will be able to address your concern properly. Together, we can work this out, Lucinda.

You have to love her Rosie the Riveter-esque approach. Like Verizon, Comcast also missed their service window.  For this, the guy on the phone when I called to find out where the heck they were told me I would get free HBO for 3 months, but when the service tech hooked it up, no HBO.  I called again and was told there was no record of my being promised the HBO and that they never offered that.  But the next week I got a bill and apparently it was part of the package I got in the first place and now I’m getting HBO. Some deal offering me what I’d already paid for and then denying that they offered it.  They also told me they’d give me a router.  Yeah.  No.  Called about that and was told I’d have to pay for shipping and it would take a few weeks.  File that in the Another Hour On Hold Department.

Finally, there is a special place in hell for cell phone companies with their inexcusable return policies and 2-year contracts and the latest obscenity, tiered data plans (the best part of this is that phones can use up your data allowance without you knowing it, and you have no way to control it).  Before embarking on this move, I went to Verizon Wireless and replaced my older and sometimes erratic Blackberry with a new one, which of course got me stuck in another 2-year contract. All was well until 20 days later (6 days after the window to return it ran out) when it quit functioning and the battery heated up.  So I headed for the nearest Verizon store where I had to wait half an hour before anyone could help me (did I mention there wasn’t enough seating for all the people who were waiting?).

First they told me I could either upgrade or wait for a replacement via mail.  At that point I asked for a manager and told him I wasn’t upgrading a 20 day old phone and leaving me without a working cell phone until a new one arrived was not okay.  I think by that point I was looking a bit wild eyed, possibly even foaming at the mouth and the manager took the point and swapped it out.  Which is what should have happened at least 20 minutes sooner.  All told another hour and a half at Verizon.

I spent another hour getting the settings on Son of Blackberry tweaked and then last night apparently its bad genetic makeup kicked in and it started acting like its predecessor. This morning I spent yet another hour and a half at Verizon and am now learning to use an IPhone.

To their credit, the store personnel did the right thing, the manager told me he would waive the re-stocking fee (for a phone that mal-functioned after a week?  Really?) . But it shouldn’t be that complicated, and having to stand at a counter with numerous other customers where everyone is trying to talk louder than the next guy to be heard for a long period of time isn’t customer service, it is deliberately designed to wear customers down which is the same rationale behind press 27 numbers to be put on hold to speak to someone who speaks an indecipherable version of English who tells you that a solution to whatever it is you called about if you can even remember why you called by that time will cost you an arm and a leg or there is no solution and you are shit out of luck but is there anything else they can help you with and would you like to hear about today’s special and take a short survey.

Wait, what happened to the muzak?  They disconnected me?? I miss my rotary phone.

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Transcript of my Comcast Live Chat (redacting and emphasis mine):

user Lucinda has entered room

Lucinda: I want to change my installation appointment but your phone number doesn’t work.  Please call me Wednesday to see if we can schedule an appt. for this Friday instead of next Monday.

analyst Tricee has entered room

Tricee: Hello Lucinda, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Tricee. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Tricee: I understand how frustrating this might be, I apologize for the inconvenience. Rest assured I will do everything within my means to address your concern today, Lucinda.
Tricee:  How are you doing today, Lucinda?
Lucinda:  I just want to change my appointment time
Tricee:  I understand.
Tricee:  May I know for what service will be installed and on what date was it scheduled.
Lucinda: internet and cable on June 20
Tricee:  Thank you.
Tricee: I understand that you want to reschedule your service installation, Lucinda. No worries. As your Comcast service representative, I want you to know that issue resolution and your satisfaction are my top priorities for today. By the end or this chat we will be able to address your concern properly. Together, we can work this out, Lucinda.
Lucinda: Also can you give me a real phone number, 800-266-2278 keeps saying the call can’t be connected.
Tricee: Our Comcast hotline is 1-800 XFINITY – 1-800-934-6489, Lucinda.
Lucinda: Can you reschedule it for June 17?
Lucinda: Thank you for the phone number.
Tricee: We will check for the schedule, Lucinda.
Tricee: Thank you for providing your account information. Would you please verify the information I received is correct?  First name Lucinda  Last name Marshall  Phone Number XXXXXXXXXX (for the obvious reasons redacted by me)
Tricee: Your’e welcome.
Lucinda: correct
Tricee: Thank you.
Tricee: For security purposes, may I have the account holders name and the account number.
Lucinda: Lucinda Marshall, acct. ends in XXXX, I have no idea what the rest of it is, it isn’t in the email they sent me, this is for new service.
Tricee: Thank you. It’s alright.
Tricee: May I have your complete service address.
Lucinda: (Removed to protect my privacy)
Tricee: Thank you.
Tricee: I sincerely appreciate your effort for providing me with all the necessary information that I need, Lucinda. Please allow me 1-2 minutes to verify your account.
Tricee: Lucinda , while waiting, I’d also like to tell you that music lovers and enthusiasts can now enjoy original shows, interviews, music videos organized by genre, 16 video and forty six audio channels, create customized playlists and music channels. To access all these simply log-on to www.comcast.net/music. 
Lucinda: I am not interested in any sales pitches, just changing my appt. which should not be this complicated.
Lucinda: Or take this long.
Tricee: I understand, Lucinda.
Tricee: Thank you for patiently waiting, Lucinda. I have successfully pulled-up your account.
Tricee: Let me check if June 17, 2011 is available.
Lucinda: Thank you.
Tricee: Your’e welcome.
Lucinda: So is it available? (A ridiculously long pause happened here)
Lucinda: Hello?
Tricee: Sorry for the delay, Lucinda.
Tricee: I am still waiting for the dates to load. (It took everything I had not to ask if he, she or it was using Comcast internet)
Tricee: Great!
Tricee: All is set, Lucinda.
Lucinda:  Can they come in the morning?
Tricee: Your installation date is now on June 17, 2011.
Tricee:  Yes, that’s 8:00 – 11:00 AM.
Lucinda: Excellent, thank you very much, will you send me a confirmation email please.
Tricee: Before we finish up, Lucinda, I want to remind you that we have rescheduled your installation date. I have left a note on your account for the next representative that will assist you.
Tricee:  You are most welcome, Lucinda.
Tricee: By the way, Lucinda, can you do me a little favor? At the end of this chat there will be a short survey. I would appreciate it if you would spare a moment to complete it so we can continue to improve the service we provide you.
Lucinda: Please send me a confirmation email.
Tricee: Will do, Lucinda.
Tricee:I’m glad I was able to help you. Do you have any other questions or concerns I can help you with today, Lucinda? I will be more than happy to assist you further.
Lucinda: Sorry, this has taken too long, I have to go to bed.
Tricee: It’s alright, Lucinda.
Lucinda: Goodnight.
Tricee: Lucincda  , (sic) it is with gratitude to have you as my customer on this chat and I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given us today to resolve your issue. Thank you for choosing Comcast as your service provider and have a great day! Comcast appreciates your business and values you as a customer. Our goal is to provide you with excellent service. If you need further assistance, you can chat with one of our Customer Support Specialists 24 hour a day, 7 days a week at http://www.comcastsupport.com/chat.
Tricee: Please click the `Exit chat` button to properly close the chat and take the survey. Have a great day! Take care, Lucinda!

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At What Cost?

And so we finally got Bin Laden.  In the run-up to the President’s announcement as the news pundits could hardly find enough superlatives to fill the time, my only thought was “at what cost?”.

This war of retribution has cost us dearly, and by us I mean the global us.  In Afghanistan and Iraq the most, countries ruined, so many innocent lives lost.

Here in the U.S., not only did we lose those who died on September 11th, but so many who were sent to fight, dead and maimed too.  And in the process, we have all but bankrupted our country, social services decimated, education cut, children hungry, people without jobs or homes or healthcare.

How sad that this is how we define victory.

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Passings–Lessons From Two Lives Well Lived

In the course of the last two weeks, two very influential people in my life have passed away, one of my Mother’s closest friends and one of my Dad’s.  They were both in their 80′s and vibrant, active people right up until the end of their lives.  Over the many decades of knowing both of them, they were, each in their own way, people who embraced life to the fullest.

Naomi Wagner was a single mom in an era when divorced women faced a great deal more stigma than they do today. And somehow she seemed to always have a smile on her face, despite many personal difficulties.  When I too became a single mom, she was really the only one of my elders that I could look to as a roll model when I was exhausted and not sure how on earth I would manage.  She also knit the most gorgeous blankets, with an eye for color that was truly amazing.  And most of all, for me, she was my Mother’s dear friend.

Barry Blumberg was larger than life in oh so many ways, a powerhouse in the world of medical research and then some, with a Nobel Prize to prove it.  He was possibly the most enthusiastic, in love with life person I’ve ever known, not to mention warm, caring and hilariously funny. It is strange to read the rather lengthy obits written about him, so many accomplishments, but the thing that sticks in my head are the walks he led us on at Cape Cod so many years ago, the stories of his adventurous life and the long enduring friendship he had with my Dad.

———-

As I write this I am in Washington, DC where there is a strong likelihood that the government is about to shut down.  When you walk down the street, it is the only topic people are talking about for the simple reason that a rather significant percentage of the population in this town is employed by the federal government.  People don’t know if they will suddenly lose their paychecks, and unlike any state or city, DC’s municipal services are also at stake.  And why?  Because the GOP party of spoiled, selfish vindictive obstructionists are bound and determined to throw a hissy fit if they don’t get every last ridiculous thing they ask for. And while they bring the government and this city to a grinding halt, they will be among the few who still collect a paycheck.  Outrage is really not an adequate word.

Nor is it an adequate word for an energy policy where nuclear energy and coal are still touted as clean and safe in the face of irrefutable evidence that they are not or for our inability to truly address climate change.  It is also not an adequate word for our oily logic when we set up ‘no fly zones’ over Libya  but ignore the humanitarian tragedies in the Ivory Coast and Sudan.

And it is most certainly not an adequate word for the union busting Scott Walker or the too many to count attempts by the Republican Party to colonize women’s uteri.

———-

So why the juxtaposition of sharing memories about two people that I loved and admired with a rant about the myriad of dysfunctional events that permeate our existence?  Because the contrast is instructive.  Naomi and Barry were people who made things happen because it brought them great pleasure to love life and to live it to its fullest.  They each impacted my life in profound ways and those who today seem hell-bent on destruction and obstruction, motivated by hate and greed, would be well served to be instructed and inspired by these two wonderful, enabling people.

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