Context controls meaning. Today the temp is hanging around zero fahrenheit and will go well below at night over the next week. Cold “snaps” of a few days are one thing, week-long sieges are another. Gradually the house becomes harder to heat, one becomes more reluctant to walk to the post office for the mail (2 blocks), and animals lose their energy reserves. And the cost of the heat rises.
This time the cold coincides with a bursitis or something of the sort in my right shoulder and arm. It has happened before. Painful, sleep-depriving, etc. So after a night of getting up to check the temp and drafts, getting up to take an aspirin or whatever, getting up because . . . oops, the cat just left to sleep somewhere peaceful.
At 7:30AM I finally reach resolution and slide into sleep. The phone rings at 8AM. A g.d. insurance “licensed agent.” Wants to "guide me through the maze." If he were a “salesman” he would be illegal. I have the phone number for turning him in. I’ve made a grid to analyze the various plans. With a black fibertip I eliminated his company. The “context” is that under those conditions NOTHING is acceptable.
Now that I’m up anyway, I’m reading every scrap of info and making phone calls, sorting into the cardboard catfood-case trays. But also doing a bit of internal reflection on my own dysfunctional assumptions. I forget that though the health issues in the media are almost always framed in terms of what will preserve life -- take this pill and you’ll live for two weeks longer than the average !! -- most meds are meant to address the possibly very long interval between a chronic problem developing and any actual death. This bursitis is probably here to stay and I’m only 75. How much is freedom from aching worth over the next ten or even twenty years?
I hear young people, poor people, rez people, ASSUMING that they will not live very long anyway. They are TOLD their lives will be short -- and shorter if they aren’t obedient. Lengthening what is already a miserable, painful and demeaning life is not motivation for compliance with med protocols. Comfort now, please. Our constant warnings that smoking will “shorten your life” flip over so that nonsmokers who die of lung cancer, like nondrinkers who die of cirrhosis, are ASSUMED to have secretly done this “bad thing” and therefore can be legitimately blamed for dying, while “we” are safe.
I’ve discovered that around here the social assumptions that interfere with financial help like Medicare are numerous:
1. The duty of a person is to save for their old age. Anyone who doesn’t save for old age is probably a bad employee, a job jumper, or incompetent. Or maybe they did a bad thing like going bankrupt, which means they are bad business persons. (Anyway, thinks the critic secretly, “They remind me that I’m really having a lousy life because I’m saving for old age -- what if I don’t live that long and it's all for nothing?”) A prosperous old age is an entitlement for good people so they can go on cruises or gamble in Vegas.
2. Any divorced woman is a) probably promiscuous and deserves what she gets; or b) must have gotten a big alimony settlement so she’s sitting pretty for life.
3. Anyone with a fancy education who comes from a big city is only coming to a small rural town in order to lord it over the rest of us and probably has resources beyond what we can imagine which they are hiding because they involve something shady.
Back to practicalities. I could go straight to insurer-provided mail-order prescriptions that would come in 90 day increments instead of fussing with a thirty-mile drive to a pharmacist every thirty days, but I would be depriving myself of Janet’s advice and she WILL dependably mail my meds. On the other hand, since Care Mark CVS drugstores own SilverScript, my insurance company, they will give me a 20% discount on over the counter meds at their stores. I never read that before. Since the truth is that I spend more on aspirin, acid-reducers, and famotidine, etc. than on prescriptions, this could be pretty nice. I should keep track of my OTC meds for a year and see what that’s worth. (Any of the shrewd consumers in Valier would have done this long ago.) But it feels like a bribe and, of course, I know that the idea is that once in the store I’ll blow money on trivia.
People here are extremely numerate. They can calculate on the back of an envelope what their barley profit will be, given last week’s rain. They can calculate interest on farm equipment in their heads. But they have very low emotional IQ’s. They don’t recognize abuse and if they do, they see it as legitimate enforcement of morality. They have no consciousness of humanities, read only trash, watch lurid television, believe nonsense, and hate change. To them male vs. female is sort of like Democrat vs. Republican -- both bifurcations self-serving and arrogant. This entire preceding paragraph is stereotypical and pejorative. Prove me wrong. I will be delighted. And it DOES affect governmental programs that are meant to be equally applied, fair and non-stigmatic.
As far as the assumptions of government, watch “West Wing.”
In the end, I called SilverScript to set up a payment program for what I owe. Of course, they want it to be an automatic deduction from my bank account but I don’t want to do this because it’s come to grief in the past. For instance, the bank will deduct the payment before it is due, so my balance comes up short and someone out there gets a rubber check. Which means a fine from the bank and a fine from the receiver of the check. Potentially $60 for a couple of dollars of overdraft. All our penalties are money. All our children will be bankrupt.
The bank used to call you up to tell you to come and fix it. Now the world is computer debits and credits without human dimension or intervention. The assumptions are built into the computers by people who live in cities where they have mail delivery to their address, cafes nearby, high incomes (they don’t say, as Montanans do, “good-paying jobs”) with status, black wardrobes and ten-foot-square apartments. They’ll call me back. (NOT. They'll stall until after Dec. 7 so I can't pull out.)
I’ll just stay with SilverScript, keep better records, pay more attention, address the real problem which is ME, suspended between suspicious paranoia and knowing that MOST (not ALL) of the people out there keyboarding along in carrels are NOT out to skin me alive. They are likely to live somewhere around here, where the phone answering businesses locate, where high school kids are taught to be obedient, clean and numerate. But entirely without humanities which might teach them relativism which is moral rot. Zero tolerance for being different. A steady snow of contempt.
It’s like a horse. Once a horse figures out they have all the power, you can only ride them if they care about you. And they care about who feeds them.