Sunday, December 14, 2008

Planes, trains and paperwork

If you’ve never seen the movie (I think it’s from the 1980s or early 1990s) called Planes, Trains and Automobiles, you really should see it. It’s been a long time since I watched it, so to be honest I can’t give you the sex or dirty language rundown – all I remember is how funny it was. And now, I feel like I’m living the paperwork version of that movie.

It seems as though with insurance companies and the government, the shortest distance between point A and point B usually involves going to points C, F, Z somewhere along the way. I’m so high strung these days that the resulting stress usually causes me to make matters worse by throwing in a few detours of my own.

The paperwork for my long term disability insurance is finally submitted. It was reviewed (and filled out) by the appropriate medical gurus and some other members of my personal brain trust.

But while they were reviewing it, my printer has stopped working. I can’t find the trouble, but I think I might have caused it while trying to change the ink recently. Now it won’t print. The form was quite long and I wanted it in the mail right away. Every day it wasn’t on its way is a day I’m not being paid anything.

I also needed to photocopy some medical records etc.

So, I decided to go to the library to print out the forms and do my photocopying. I figured I didn’t want to waste even another day getting this in the mail. The library is four miles from my house. The weather was beautiful and I decided to walk. It’s a long walk but I’ve made it in the past – and hey – it isn’t like I’m at work all day.

I got about a half a mile until my coughing became so bad that I was having a hard time recovering and catching my breath.

I gave in to the cough and called a cab.

When I arrived at the library a very nice, well meaning (as Karen would say ‘helpful moron’) most likely in her 70s rushed to assist me. She proudly told me that the library had a room with assistive equipment and that I was welcome to use it. In fact, I think she really wanted me to use it. I don’t think it’s every day that someone comes into the library to justify the existence of the speech technology and the CCTV.

I have indeed used this room in the past and am grateful it is there. It’s wonderful to have a CCTV at the library when you’re doing a research project. But, I was only printing a form – a task I was confident I could complete in less time than it would take to locate the key for this room.
Finally she relented and I sat down at a regular terminal only to discover that now one needs a library card to log in.

Once upon a time I had a library card. Our library actually has a fairly extensive large print section that I loved. But after paying several fines for late books (returned late because of that four-mile hike) I decided it just wasn’t worth it.

I had to sign up for a guest account.

Then I discovered that for this entire bank of probably at least 40 computers – just about every single one in use – there was only one printer. You have to log out, go over to the “print terminal” pay for your printouts and then stand in line.

It took an hour to print the form.

In the meantime the attorney who is so graciously helping me with my SSDI forms e-mailed saying that she needed to know my gross income for the last three years.

Simple right?

Oh no – not exactly.

Probably partly because of vision, and partly because I was flustered I could not find what she needed. I have my tax forms and W-2’s, but I’ve also run a side business and paid taxes on that too – and that was on a schedule C.

While at the library I had a brilliant idea. I’d just call H&R Block and ask them to look it up for me.

Another little old lady answered the phone. In a very slow voice she told me that as much as she’d like to help, they weren’t allowed to give out such info over the phone. I’d have to come by in person with a photo ID.


I decided to take a cab from the library to the tax place. The tax place is only a mile from home. Maybe I could walk from there, and besides, Michaels is in the same strip mall. What better for my nerves than a trip to Michaels. An HPS friend recently sent me a gift card, and I’m running out of paint.

After a cab wait, I arrived at the tax place where I had to wait 45 minutes for someone to help me.

No matter – I didn’t have an appointment and I was able to talk to another HPS’er while I waited about some medical problems her daughter is having.

When the nice little old lady returned with the information I requested, it wasn’t right. I looked at the numbers and I knew I had made more money than that.

“This is the adjusted gross income” she said.

“Yes, but I need the actual gross income,” I answered.

“This is the gross.” she said.

“No, it’s the adjusted gross – I need the number it was adjusted from.” I calmly replied.

We went in circles for 20 minutes. She didn’t get it. I gave up somewhat irritated knowing full well that if I managed to get someone on the phone that knew what they were doing, I’d once again have to get to this place in person to get the answer.

By now I’m in serious need of Michaels therapy.

I walked through the electronic doors and the smell of cinnamon scented pine cones in a large bin hit me right away. Ahhhh….that’s better.

I walked up and down each aisle smelling that craft store smell and looking at all the wonderful creative projects and tools.

Almost all of the Christmas crafts were sold out, but what was left was marked down 70 percent. I gathered up my paints and managed to find some other goodies.

Knowing I needed to get onto the post office, I headed for the checkout line.

On the way my mobile phone rang. It was the dermatologist with the results of my skin biopsy.

“You’ve managed to contract a very rare bacterium,” she began. Yep, leave it to me never to contract anything run-of-the-mill. Has to be rare and freaky or I just don’t get it – grin.

“It’s a bacterium that you usually only pick up in a hospital,” she explained.

“Please tell me it isn’t MSRA!” I answered. MSRA would be a definite complication to my NIH visits. It can be an exempting factor for things etc. It just wouldn’t be good.

“No, it’s not MSRA,” she said, and then just as she was about to tell me what it was, my phone died.

It was starting to get dark and the ice and snow that had melted during the day was now frozen. As I walked out of the store there was a lot of black ice in the parking lot. Maybe not such a good idea to be walking in this a mile home.

I went to Borders (had a gift card there too) and called a cab. I ordered a latte at the café and sat down to wait.

It took two and a half hours to get the cab!
The doctor’s office had been shut for hours by the time I got home, as had the post office (the goal being to get the forms in the mail.)

I knew I needed to work on HPS business but I just couldn’t cope. I spent the rest of night watching movies on Netflix and painting.

Funny thing was the next day I found the tax info on my own in minutes. I don’t know why I couldn’t figure it out the day before.

(More on the skin biopsy later.)

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