Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bad Business, Bad Science, and Bad, Bad Teachers

Got a medical doohickey in the mail yesterday, from my insurance company.

That would be Carefirst, if anyone's wondering.

The practical upshot?  They say that NONE of the bill for my gynecology appointment last week is covered because my doctor is "not a plan provider."

Oh, for hell's sake.

Yes, she is.  She is, because I FOUND her through Carefirst's "Find a Provider" link.  She is because they've covered her in the past, her office says they take my insurance, AND I checked the "Find a Provider" page moments before I made the appointment, just to be sure she's still a "plan provider."

And when I got the bill?

I checked again.  Yeah, she's still there.  Yeah, I screen-shot it.

These people, I swear.  I can only assume that someone, somewhere mistyped something.  Or maybe, as hubby says, it's like throwing feces at the wall hoping some will stick--maybe the insurance company sends these letters out, knowing at least a few folks will crumple and cry and pay the bill themselves.

Speaking of paying the bill myself, almost EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS for a simple PAP SMEAR?  Are you SERIOUS?

Remember the "oncological gynecologist" who refused to see me because a letter from the Federal Government promising payment for my medical care wasn't enough for him?  The guy with the fancy car and the deep-sea fishing outfit and the pictures on his Facebook profile of him at the idiot Teabagger convergence in DC?  The first price he threw out for a consultation was 300 bucks.  When I balked, he said, "Well, insurance will only pay 150, so I'll settle for that."

It appears that's how medical professionals get around HMOs and PPOs reduced payments--they double-charge, knowing they'll only get half of it.


Anyway, so that's tomorrow's fun time--hassling with Carefirst.  The last time I had to hassle with them (over a follow-up mammogram), they screwed me hard.  See, the place that performed the initial mammogram was an "approved facility" and they covered it in full.  But the required follow-up at the SAME facility?  Sorry, "not a plan preferred provider."

And before anyone chimes in with something stupid like, "Welcome to 'Obamacare,'" know I've been dealing with crap like this for the past 16 years.  Insurance companies are money-grubbing vampires, period.  Never known one that wouldn't screw you at any opportunity.  If you ask me, insurance companies are predatory dinosaurs, and they need to go the way of the dodo.


As you know, I run (inherited, really) a Facebook group dedicated to high school classmates who've died.  I scrounge around for obits and other snips and post them for everyone.  Occasionally, an obit for an old teacher or administrator comes across my desk (or an old teacher posts to the group).  It's always fascinating, seeing how certain teachers were revered by some, and despised by others.

Take Mr. Q, for instance.

Oh, talk about a guy who is held up as the epitome of science teaching!  A man revered for his wit, his humor (he was an amateur stand-up comic!), his deep caring for his students.  So many people absolutely adored this guy, had nothing but love and respect for him.

And then there were the kids like me.

Mr. Q despised me, and he made no secret of it.  Perhaps because he was a staunch Mormon who couldn't stand the stench of cigarettes on me.  Perhaps because he sensed in me another funny person--often, it's the clowns who can't stand the competition from fellow funny folk.  Whatever it was, this man was on me often and hard.  He never passed up an opportunity to poke at me, to hold me up as a point of ridicule, to corner me in front of the class and embarrass me with my lack of knowledge.

No, it's not me being hyper-sensitive.  Other kids in class used to ask me what I'd done to make him take after me like that.  I had no answer--as far as I knew, I'd done nothing.

It all came to a head one early morning in Anatomy.  Mr. Q had said something about hormones, and I leaned over and whispered a rather rank joke to my friend sitting next to me.  I was sixteen, what can I say?  Mr. Q was on me like stink on poop.  He demanded I come up before the class and share whatever it was I'd had to say.  Now, right off the bat, that's crappy teaching--teaching through bullying and ridicule and public shaming isn't teaching at all.  It's something meaner.  I very politely demurred;  Mr. Q became loudly and unpleasantly insistent.  I stood up and said, "Mr. Q, it was a vulgar joke and it's totally inappropriate.  I am sorry if I was disruptive."

Yes, at sixteen I already knew how to kiss behind.

He sneered, I swear--he bared his teeth and told me that, unless I wanted to rack up a suspension, I'd do as I was told and share with the class.  I again tried to sway him, even asked if I could just head to the office without "sharing."  He was adamant--I was to share with the class.

And so I did.  The class was impressed.  Mr. Q?

Not so much.

He took me by the arm and dragged me from the class, threw me into the hall, shouting about what a filthy animal I was and how I was never to set foot in his classroom again.

That's the Mr. Q *I* remember.

And Mr. A, our illustrious drama teacher/football coach?  His few star students remember him as being amazing, wonderful, an artiste!  The rest of us?  Remember a mean, self-aggrandizing bastard who would turn beet red when angry and hurl insults like candy from a parade float.  Make no mistake--yes, he engaged in a lot of scatter-shot generalizations (and chair throwing, yardstick tossing, and swearing) when enraged (which was pretty frequently), but the more deadly insults?  He was a crack shot.  For instance, he knew that crowing about my best friend's new braces would silence her (and it did--she spent the rest of the class period crying silently, and never came back).  He knew that referring to me as the "tubby, dense contingent" would get the desired effect, and it did--I walked out, and I never came back.

The little drama pets thought this abusiveness was indicative of a passionate soul, a man who cared so deeply for his "art" that he sometimes let his feelings get the best of him.

Hmmm.  Like a child abuser lets his fists get away from him, I suppose?  Whatever the "motivation," his tantruming and vicious pokes brought about the desired outcome--he had a dedicated flock of groupies, and everyone else was too afraid to cross him.  What a guy, huh?

And then our choir teacher, Mrs. Y.  I loved choir, I did.  And I had a lovely voice.  I couldn't read music, but I was a lethal quick study when it came to learning new songs, and I was GOOD.  My second year, Mrs. Y asked me to try out for Concert Choir--the "big kids" choir.  I said to her that I didn't think my grades were good enough.  She brushed that aside, said that this was about singing.  I was surprised, I admit--this woman had never made any real secret of her dislike for me (and any kid like me--the smokers, the back-parking lot dregs).  But she insisted I try out, and I admit, I was psyched.  I wanted to be in Concert Choir, I loved the idea.  I loved to sing.

I chose this as my piece (the soprano portion, that is):

Mrs. Y made me audition in front of the entire class.  She made me sing the entire piece.  And then she told me that, though my voice was lovely and I'd done a fine job with the piece, I wasn't really "Concert Choir material."  My grades, my personal proclivities--there was nothing about me that proclaimed "grade-A."  So sorry, but it's about more than just singing, you know!  Smile.

Again, she did this to me in front of an audience of forty other kids.  And she did this after I had tried to beg off because of my grades, because of her dislike for me.

There were a number of teachers like this.  Mr. Z, who was described in his obit as a wonderfully kind and upstanding church man who loved his family and always did right.  Hmm.  What the "girls like me" remember is a guy who touched too much and always had something a little dirty to say to us.  Miss F, who made kids like me feel stupid, small, and unworthy of her attention, who never smiled at us except when holding us up for ridicule.

It wasn't until recently, when discussing this with a friend who loved these teachers, that it became clear.  It was the non-Mormon kids.  The kids who weren't part of the predominant faith, the kids who weren't maybe the younger siblings of superstars or the children of fellow educators.  And don't think they didn't know--they'd ask, "What Ward are you in?"  It was blatant, and no one questioned it.

Not all the teachers were like this.  Mr. O and Coach D were terrific guys--Coach D was maybe not all that on the history teaching front, but he was actually open to learn things and would look things up if asked a question he didn't have an answer to.  And Mr. O?  Loved anyone and everyone who paid attention and took part, whether they shared his super-liberal ideas or not.  And Mr. CE?  Oh, what a superbly kind and funny  man, both on the driving range and in his history class.

Anyway, my point?  That sometimes it's hard to sit back quietly and watch people contorting themselves in their attempts to outdo each other on the praise front for these teachers who were not just careless with, they were actively mean to certain "types" of kids.  Like Mrs. U, who refused to let me into AP English because, as she put it, I just wasn't a good "fit."  She actually said that my test scores were "almost certainly a fluke."  Again, she said this TO MY FACE.  In front of people!

When she asked me to join AP English the following year, using my most recent test scores as the reason, I took the suspension.

What suspension?

The one that came down when I told her to shove her damnable AP course up her ass.

No, not the smartest way to handle it, but you know what?

It felt good.

There's a chain of furniture stores in the Western United States.  Hubby and I have an account with them, even though we now live 2,300 or so miles away from the location we frequented.  Our living room furniture, our lovely Bombay chest, our little mini-fridge all came from them.

So did the giant armoire.

The bombay chest was amazing, of course, but the armoire was a WIN.  See, it was marked down from just shy of a grand to 299.  Discontinued item, you know.  It was touted as entirely hardwood.  Not veneers, not crappy wood-grain wallpaper, but hardwood.  So I SNAPPED it up, They delivered it, set it up (it was fully put together save the top half had to be placed on the bottom and secured.  It weighed a TON, and the bottom, which wasn't wrapped, was gorgeous.  

The top?

Well, I didn't get to see that until after they left (and they left at a run) because it was wrapped in that opaque foam stuff.  We unwrapped it, and it was a disaster.

A disaster.

The doors were the plantation-type slatted wood, and the slats were covered with this gawdawful woodgrain wallpaper stuff, which was horribly warped and bubbled.  Oh, I was SO upset!  Much like something you'd expect out of a box at Walmart.  We dashed outside, but the truck was already gone.  I had already screen-shot and printed the order forms and such, so I called the furniture store to complain.  I spent ten minutes on hold.  And when someone finally deigned to speak to me?

I was told that the armoire was sold "as is," with no returns or refunds.  I KNEW this wasn't true, because I had printed out all the pertinent paperwork and screenshots (just in case there was a problem with the order).  I said, "That's not anywhere on the website, nowhere on the product page or the order form."  I was told I was mistaken.  I should "check that again."

I did, and there it was, bright red--"THIS ITEM IS SOLD 'AS IS.'  NO RETURNS OR REFUNDS."

I said, "That was NOT THERE, I have the original screen shots."  I was told that it was there before the item was delivered, and that's all that matters.  I checked the stated delivery time on the website.

20 minutes later than it had actually been.  

In other words, they delivered, realized it was damaged, called headquarters, who jumped in, changed the product listing to include the "as is" admonition, and then fudged the delivery time.  

I know, it sounds complicated, but there's no other explanation.  I didn't miss the bright red type, my screen shots didn't magically miss just that information.  It was not there in the hours before delivery.  They delivered a damaged, discontinued item, then fudged the information to prevent me from returning it.

Someday, I'll have the cash to have new slats made for it.  Real hardwood slats without bubbly wallpaper.  Until then?  

I keep the doors open so you can't see the warped, bubbly slats.  Because the rest of it IS solid hardwood, and it's very nice.


Speaking of bad business practices, let me harken back to my first utility company.  Now, it's quite possible you've never seen the above logo.  It's from a company once called "Mountain Fuel Supply Company."  They're someone else now, but back in the early 80s, they were the suppliers of natural gas in Northern Utah.  I was reminded of them yesterday when my boy told me a story of how someone kept getting letters telling them that packages couldn't be shipped because their address didn't exist.  

Something much like that happened to me in the fall/winter of 1983.  See, I tried to have my heat/natural gas turned on, only to receive letter after letter telling me that Mountain Fuel couldn't turn on my heat because my ADDRESS DIDN'T EXIST.  

Yes, that's right, they MAILED me letters to an address they told me DIDN'T EXIST.  And, magically, they ARRIVED!

When I headed down to their office (no small feat--I had no car, there was no reliable mass transit in my area, and it I was working full-time), they told me it was something I would have to work out . . . somehow.  I said, "But you KNOW the address exists!  You sent me MAIL at that address!"  The response?

"Ma'am, what mail gets where isn't up to us--that's a USPS issue."

It took SIX WEEKS for them to get my heat turned on.  This was in Northern Utah in November and December.  Ever have to wash your hair in ice cold water, leaving your scalp muscles so spasmed your head hurts for hours?  Ever have to boil pan after pan of water to take a bath?  Ever have to sit with your feet in the oven, trying to warm up enough to be able to sleep?

I have.  Thanks, Mountain Fuel!


A quick note on people who vomit up new-age, "raw for beauty," woo trash online.  Don't spray your stupid garbage across people's walls and newsfeeds, then cry "Google it!"

No, here's an idea--YOU Google it BEFORE you spray it!  You're like the slob who tosses garbage out the car window, then, when someone says, "Whoa!  That's crap!" you say, "Pick it up, then!"  

NO!  It's YOUR trash, YOU PICK IT UP!  If you're going to throw out idiotic, utterly woo, incredibly misleading and inaccurate crap, YOU do the research BEFORE you do it!  Come on, be a force for smart for a change, huh?  If the claims are extraordinary (the average person has THIRTY POUNDS OF TOXINS IN THEIR BODIES and LEMONS can DETOXIFY), the EVIDENCE also needs to be extraordinary.  Come on, kids--it's called SCIENCE!  USE it!


And that's it for today, I think.  The back yard is pulling together really nicely.  Not much cash to work with, but I did get a couple of pretty phlox plants (one pink, one bluish) to add a little color.  Plus my daffodils and tulips are up.  Sad that I'm not seeing any evidence of my iron crosses or crocosmia.  I'll be sad if they don't come back.  On the bright side, my azaleas all seem alive, and they're about to blossom.  And the stinky Callery Pear?  Not so stinky this year.  

And still no Cicadas.  Yay!

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