Friday, April 30, 2010

A Sense of Modicum and Decorum Out of Whack

I just got the hospital bill for the splinter in my foot I blogged about a couple of posts ago. A few bills short of $2,000, and they didn't even get it out. You would think there would be some sense of professional shame attached to the issuing of such a bill, but there wasn't. To recap, I stepped on something while digging in the garden a couple of weekends ago, and, unable to get it out myself, I went to the emergency room of Concord Hospital, where a female doctor on duty went to work, first injecting the bottom of my foot with some anesthetic. After about a half an hour of labor with knives and other apparatus and more injections of anesthetic, she pronounced the splinter unfindable. Another doctor, a higher up, was called in and he took a look, probed with his fingers around the wound, and said there was nothing else to be done and advised me to "soak your foot in soapy water and take these antibiotics." I hobbled home, worse off then when I'd arrived. I assume that this advice was the part of the bill itemized under "professional services" - $800. I understand the economics of health care are out of control, but more fundamentally, can I say the word ripoff and get some nods of agreement out there in the virtual world?
Obviously, the fact that the insurance company picks up the tab for all but $50 worth of this mockery of a sham, to paraphrase Woody Allen, is the crux of the problem. If I had to pay it all myself, I can easily assure you there would be some pain coming back at somebody in the administration of said hospital. But, indulge me in some larger ramblings about what this all means.
We've gotten way too greedy, people!!! This is like Wall Street, where Goldman Sachs used to be a respectable company helping clients handle their investments before falling prey to the machinations and money lusts of traders like Fabrice Tourre, or like a whole nation of Tea Partiers out there who don't want to pay taxes but don't mind going to war in different parts of of the planet to secure their comfortable existences and "way of life." We talk about this bubble, or that bubble, and assume they come and go and eventually we settle into some economic semblance of reality, but really, we all live in the bubble of expectations called the American dream where everyone gets rich and if you don't there's some flaw in your character. I blame it on the Puritans. We are a nation of pigs suffering under the delusion that it's healthy to be so. Our sense of modicum and decorum is all out of whack. With these trials of the Goldman Sachs people, I will admit, I am asking myself: Is this where we get out the pitchforks?
To those wondering, the splinter did come out on its own about ten days later, after my wife went on line and discovered the home remedy of soaking in hot water, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. One afternoon I pushed and out it popped, almost a quarter inch of pine. I wonder if I could sell it on Ebay.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Tragic Nature of Spring

It's spring and there's lots to do fixing up the place. We had nine lambs, three died. You don't associate spring with tragedy in the popular imagination, but it's there just like the daffodils along the road. Two were born so weak to Bully's daughter, she tends to shy away from the feeding troughs with the grain. This year she had twins for the first time. But they couldn't stand despite her best coaxing. They walked around on their forelegs bleating for a day or two and finally succumbed. In the past we've bottle fed and run around in emergency mode. But this year, for some reason fatalism took over. This year death won an easy battle in the spring, a gimme in essence, but we have nine beautiful lambs and they frisk and play, they really do, skipping and jumping with the seasonal exuberance, the joy of being alive that puts us older ones to looking on with envy and thinking we could keep up, if only.
Went down to Boston for my nephew Nic's graduation party. He had the college kids over to his mother and stepfather's apartment in Cambridge, a beautiful place, but that's the subject of some other post. It was nice and intergenerational. Argued with my sis over whether the French were right to ban burkas on Muslim women in public places. That's the kind of family gatherings we have, a combination of high minded civic concern and ornery, alcohol infused in your face argumentation. The college kids were looking on and laughing, so in a sense we had the seasonal advantage on that night. Nothing like a little wine and the verbosity loosens up like a New England river in flood stage. Nic, the graduate, is taking a bicycle trip down the West coast, from Vancouver to San Diego. I advised him to keep going, spend some time in Baja, some unstructured end of the road time. He's figuring out where to go, what to do. It's a crucial, under-estimated time of life, post college, no fixed plans, no fixed abode. His girlfriend wants to get married. She's great, we all love her. She made a raspberry trifle for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago that stole the show. But is he ready for married? Is the timing right, and has he spent enough time at the feeding trough of his youth, because if he hasn't, then he could be spending the rest of his days on his knees, not quite getting to the udder. That would be a tragedy of a false spring.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Personal Rant Against Misfortune

This is a personal rant. I'm tired of going after the big issues of the day. Yeah, it makes me feel better, but what good does it do? I'm not kidding myself. I worked as a reporter for ten years and the world went on after I quit. All of this is like the waves hitting at rocks. Like quantum physics, inexplicable, thought transference through some undiscovered medium, hoping that some current of thought will be picked up and like magic impact multitudes. Like prayer, this blogging depends on faith and discipline and ultimately its effect on anything but the mind of the perpetrator is on shaky ground.
Okay, I stepped on something in the garden while digging potato beds last weekend. I got a splinter in my foot which resisted my best effort with needle and tweezer. Saturday night I went to the emergency room. The doctor laid me stomach down on the bed and injected painkiller into the sole of my foot. That was the most painful thing I'd experienced since root canals. Then she proceeded to slice away, trying to get at the troublesome object lodged at the base of the punture wound. When the nurse came in and commented on the amount of blood getting on the floor, I knew it was trouble. I bit the pillow a couple of times with the painkiller and the knife slicing away. They never found the splinter, left me sitting on the bed with paper towels to stanch the bleeding, then sent me home with a prescription for antibiotics, saying I would probably get an infection. I resisted for a few day, but the swelling and limping didn't go away. I've been on the pills for a couple of days now and it's getting better, thank you, but oh so slowly.
The world sucks when you are infirm. I can't think what it could be like to be truly incapacitated. There was a girl two days ago I had to escort from class to the front office and back again while I was on hall duty. Her name is Brittany and she has twisted legs, all out of whack, and crutches that she carries supported at the wrists that she uses like an insect's feelers while she lurches unsteadily on the legs that look like they were bent on a rack. She was sweet and game even though I walked her down the stairs by mistake instead of taking the elevator. She told me every day coming to school is like going to the place with fire and pointed with her crutch at the ground. I know most teenagers feel that way, and her bright uplifted face told everything you wanted to know about heart, but what a struggle every day. And for us relatively able people, a splinter in the foot blackens everything until it clears up. That's how fragile well being can be.
Tomorrow I am going to a memorial service for the wife of a man who teaches at our school. She died recently, and he's been bearing up well. The support of colleagues and friends has been lightening his load. I would have to quit. It wouldn't be enough for me. Maybe I am bipolar in that regard: when I am well I am reaching for the stars, and setbacks send me plunging through the black hole. Maybe not, maybe I'm over those days. But look at what a splinter did. A tear in the heart would put me in the breakdown lane.