Tuesday, May 04, 2010


For weeks I’ve been packing around a box 16”x5”x6”, trying to get rid of the thing. It’s part of a Lexmark program for recycling the toner cartridge from my business-grade, black-only printer which I had to agree to before I could buy the toner. It’s supposed to be mailed back automatically when I’ve exhausted the contents. The first one I got was accepted by the post office and went off with no cost and no prob.

This second one can only be returned Fed Ex. I asked around town to see who repped Fed Ex in town. Nobody. The closest Fed Ex office is in Great Falls. But I thought I’d solved the problem when I flagged down the Fed Ex truck and tried to give her the box. She wouldn’t take it. She’s the wrong kind of Fed Ex or she had to have papers filled out which I didn’t have or something. She was very sorry. I said at least I didn’t have to work for Fed Ex and stormed off.

Now I’ve got a third box that’s supposed to go back UPS. By opening the box I had to agree to send the empty cartridge back. I think UPS will go better, since the driver and I are sort of history co-conspirators: he’s Metis. But now I’m thinking I’ll just drive that empty cartridge down to Great Falls, not to the Fed Ex dock but to the cartridge refilling business. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve made a good faith effort and they’re the ones who didn’t.

Last week on payday I hustled to the Osco in Cut Bank to get more strips for my blood glucose monitor. They said it would cost $75 (something about deductible or co-pay or something else inscrutable). So I gulped and wrote a check. (My income is $1,000 a month.) But they didn’t have them on hand, so could they mail them? This is very common in local pharmacies: the parent companies allow very few meds to be kept on hand but deliver them daily from some central point. (If there is no blizzard in progress.)

Strips are not meds. Strips are like toner: the printer or monitor costs very little or even is given away free, but then the strips or toner cost an arm and a leg. One only needs a prescription for strips for Medicare reimbursement. But I agreed. What choice did I have? I’d already tried to switch my strips over to Pamida so it would be with my other meds so I only had to visit one town instead of two. (Cut Bank is thirty miles straight north, Shelby is thirty miles east and north, Conrad is thirty miles east and south. Great Falls is eighty miles.) No one would let me switch strips over. Janet, the pharmacist at Pamida whom I know from working at the local nursing home as ward clerk, tried but the economics wouldn’t work out.

When I get home and tried to decide what to drop out of my budget to compensate for the $75, I get a phone call from Osco in Cut Bank. My glucose monitor is so old (though it still works fine and I confirmed that with my doctor’s test) that the strips are no longer made. Then there was a lot of mumbo-jumbo about free, Medicare, etc. They told me years ago that only one strip a day (about a dollar a day) was paid for by Medicare, unless I were on insulin, which I’m not. They also require me to keep a log of every strip I use. I already keep a log for myself, but it’s in a little book and I don’t want to tear out pages to give them nor do I appreciate having to copy all the numbers onto a second piece of paper. They offered me a blood glucose monitor that would plug into the computer and make a print out. The only way they would reimburse me for the check I wrote was if I arrived in person and received cash.

I thought this over and decided to jump ship. I drove to Cut Bank, got my cash, took it to Pamida and Janet at Pamida sold me a new tiny glucose monitor which cost $19.95 straight over the counter and $36 if subsidized. Huh? The strips, again, are expensive but still less than the ones from Osco. I cleared $20 besides eventually saving gas by one-stop shopping. Now I’m facing the task of learning how to operate this little gizmo. The directions are on a sheet of paper like a road map of the state of Montana.

Yesterday I was in Great Falls, going store-to-store for the things I can’t buy closer, like pillowslip fabric, big heavy-duty 3-ring binders, 5”x8” file cards, hazelnut bread and high-grade cat food. (I forgot my box.) I wore my Big R gimme hat and went to Big R for industrial strength ant poison. The chicks were in so I spent some time peering into the watering troughs under heat lamps where they bustled around. They, in turn, stretched their necks to focus their round black eyes on me.

My reward for these expeditions has been to stop at Barnes & Noble, buy a Western art mag, and read it while indulging in a skinny latte at their faux Starbucks. As I went in, terrible sounds were coming from coffeeshop area. I could not have a skinny latte. The monster boiler would not make steam properly. The noise was not coming from it. The two young people were taking up the slack in the customers by moving major furniture around to do a literally ground-level cleaning. The espresso machine has been busted for a month -- I couldn’t have a skinny latte last time either. The clerks looked sheepish and apologetic. I cautioned them that a malfunctioning espresso machine can explode. They said good, then they’d be rid of the damn thing. (I added the swearing. They can have pierced eyebrows now but not swear.) Next time I'll go to Hastings.

What’s at the bottom of all this is corporations: some pencil-head with no pencil sitting in a cubicle somewhere back east looking at a photo of his or her dog because he or she has no family. Number-crunching has determined that restricting information and service, lack of repairs, and shelf-availability will increase profits by x%.

Yeah? Well, then this chick is going elsewhere. If I can find where that is. I'm looking.

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