Monday, June 28, 2010

Hello, Dalai! (Richmond, VA)

"Our perceived enemy's ability to inflict harm on us is really quite limited. If someone challenges us and we can muster the inner discipline to resist retaliating, it is possible that, no matter what that person has done, those actions do not disturb us." -THE DALAI LAMA

Laura calls me back. I have a bad feeling about this. From my previous conversation with her (during which she repeated the same things over and over, and I ended up yelling at her), I realize that she is neither sympathetic to my situation nor interested in finding a way to help me. I do not trust Laura to have made my case. She claims to have spoken to the owner of the gym, who has insisted that I present proof of a change of address or hotel reservations for my entire trip in order to put my membership on hold.

"As I've told you," I respond, "I'll be on vacation. I won't be staying at hotels the whole time and I'm not changing my address. Do you want affidavits from the friends I'll be staying with?"

"I don't think that will work," Laura chirps.

I am glad not to be standing anywhere near Laura, because my inner bully is quickly rising to the surface; I try not to hiss.

"What if I bring in receipts from all the restaurants I eat in and dance lessons I take, all my movie ticket stubs, museum entry tickets, subway fares, and everything else I do while I'm gone; will THAT be sufficient to prove that I will be out of the country?"

"No, because you need to give us everything before you go, and the receipts would be after the fact," she chirps perkily.

I am quite certain that I am foaming at the mouth. "How about if I give you a copy of my plane ticket and reservations for hotels at the beginning and end of my trip?"

"I'll have to check with the owner," she perks chirpily.

I am most certainly foaming at the brain; however, I do my utmost to reply sweetly, perkily, and chirpily: "Okay. Please do that" -- while secretly calling upon evil spirits to haunt and torture Laura for the rest of her life and beyond. (I know that there are probably no evil spirits or that they won't be listening, but I can dream, can't I? Or, perhaps, Laura IS an evil spirit...?)

My mind is running wild with revenge fantasies, little ways I can take my frustrations out on Laura. The Dalai Lama would not approve.

I've actually already decided that I am not going to pay the $25.00 "Hold Fee" (equal to what I pay for my monthly membership), when I'll be returning two weeks into the next month's hold and will be refused entry to my zumba classes for the second half of August. I'm also convinced that Laura is going to come back to me with another negative response, anyway.

Two weeks pass. Laura has not called, and I will not confront her. My ire has subsided, my inner discipline restored. Hello, Dalai!

A Visit with Baby Doc (Richmond, VA)

I am miserable. I can't walk comfortably, which means I can't salsa or zumba. The ball of my foot is aching, so I find an orthopedist (orthopod?) who specializes in problems of the foot and ankle.

If you're like me, you never saw the TV show "Doogie Howser"(sp?), but you might be familiar with the premise (or perhaps I'm making it up): a 15-year-old is a brilliant medical practitioner.

Well, my foot doctor looks like that guy's younger brother.

Doogie, Jr. lopes into the examining room and, without niceties or preamble (such as: "Hello, how are you?" or "What brings you here today?"), asks: "How old are you?"

The response I want to give is: "How old are YOU?" but I refrain and tell him, instead, my age.

"Diabetes?" he asks.

I barely resist the urge to reply, "Cancer?"

My back is up. Of course, now that I'm in his office, my foot doesn't even hurt, but I'm upset about wasting my time and my co-payment on a young whippersnapper who lacks any discernible bedside -- or even roadside -- manner.

X-rays reveal no broken bones (even as a result of the stiletto-ing I received from somebody's heel a couple of months ago). Junior starts pressing different areas of my foot. When he jabs his finger so far into the top of my foot that I fear it will emerge through my very soul, I yelp.

"Your toe is swollen," he says.

"And you're the one who swolled it!" I want to shout. I resist both making the accusation and using the incorrect verb conjugation. The ball of my foot doesn't hurt a bit; the toe throbs.

"You need a splint," he says. "If that doesn't work, come back next week for a cortisone shot."

I am not into needles and don't want them into me. "If the splint doesn't work, what are my alternatives?" I ask.

He picks up one of my shoes and bends it until it almost breaks in half. "You need a shoe with a stiff sole. Buy one from us or go through your closet."

Little Doogie has, obviously, never gone through my closet, and I don't have all year to search for a hard-soled shoe, so I ask to view his collection. He leaves, leaving me to ponder whether the styles will resemble running shoes or comfortable but hideous, old-lady shoes.

His assistant returns with something that you'd wear after a major skiing accident.

"This will not work for me in Mexico," I think. "What's another option?" I ask the mock doc when he returns.

"A metal plate you put in your shoe," he says. "If that doesn't work, come back next week for the cortisone shot."

Baby Doc's obviously stuck in an eager-to-inject mindset. I'm in escape mode.

I go straight-away to the pharmacy where Doctini said I'd find the splint. He wrote down the name of the item, but when I reach the store, I can't find the note.

"I'm looking for a something for my toe. A bindi splint? (Some kind of henna-painting device?) A Burundi splint? A banana splint?"

The guy behind the counter looks at me as if I were crazier than I am. Whatever it is that I want, he doesn't have it -- or a clue.

I approach another employee. She Googles and identifies what I'm searching for: a budin splint. We both scan the shelves and locate something by another name.

When I go out the next day, I wear the booty splint for about an hour. My digit is red, swollen, throbbing -- in such pain that I tear the thing off (the splint, not the toe) and ditch it. Wow! I feel better!

A little while later, the original pain returns. What am I to do?

The cortisone shot's a no-brainer; I'm not going to get it for my toe, either.

Forget about the metal plate. Trying to explain that it's not a weapon, as I am forced out of the boarding line on the way to my airplane to Mexico, is about as appealing as trying to get through Customs with a thousand condoms. (See my first blog entry.)

I'm going to try the rest-and-hope-for-the-best method. Hopefully, it'll work, and I'll dance my way through Mexico.

And if I'm still in pain when I get back to the States, I'm going to find a grown-up, mature, professional doctor who'll greet me before he suggests splints, metal plates, cortisone shots, or amputation. A nice "hello" and a smile always make me feel better...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Do You Follow Me? (Richmond, VA)

I don't have many (admitted) followers -- you 12 wonderful people know who you are -- on this blog (which I just typed as "flog"), and you guys (if you are even reading this) are not very vocal. What I mean to write is that you don't talk or write back much, if ever.

So, I'm feeling somewhat amazed that, although they don't list themselves as followers, I seem to have developed a somewhat dedicated group of Korean readers. They comment on virtually every entry I post, and although my Google translations of their reactions are at best, thought-provoking and perhaps even philosophical, and at worst, utterly nonsensical, I am pleased and proud to know that someones, somewhere out in cyberspace, are responding to my prose.

I mention this to my son and add that, for some mysterious reason, the Korean comments have disappeared -- leaving only my responses to them. He bursts the bubble of my disillusions. "Mom, that's just spam," he tells me, eyes rolling at my unbelievable naivete.

Now, what you need to know is that my son, as is true of others of his age and generation, as well as of most people alive today, is completely at ease with every possible form of technology, even those that are yet to be invented.

I, on the other hand, am an anachronism. I am still afraid of breaking my laptop or PC every time I turn them on. Computer languages, when I made the mistake of trying to study one (COBOL????) years ago, were Geek to me. To this day, "byte" conjures up a misspelled word referring to snacking or dental problems. "Bit" means little to me, whether or not it refers to computers. I don't understand the concepts behind the internet, the ether net, or how or if any network works.

If you think all this is strange and pathetic, I'm going to make my lack of knowledge and skills even more apparent by admitting the following: I've never learned how to use the DVD player or VCR; now I can't even remember how to operate the TV. (Excuse/rationalization: I'm rarely home and would rather read than watch television or movies when I am. Give me a good book or allow me to go to sleep.)

Given my total lack of technological savvy, I suspect that someone, perhaps the Head of Acquisitions for Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, will some day request and taxiderm my body -- after or before I die. He or she will, no doubt, post several signs around me in the exhibition, in which I will be posed, brow-furrowed, shoulders shrugging, elbows bent, arms ending in upturned palms. The signs will read: LAST PERSON ON EARTH TO NEVER GET TECHNOLOGY; DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO TEXT; STILL USES A CAMERA WITH FILM; NOT ON FACEBOOK; and ??????????.

Whether or not you visit my shell in the museum, please try to understand that I find the very idea of blogging incredibly intimidating, the thought of sharing my outermost thoughts (surely you don't believe that I would tell you everything when I might not even know you, whether or not you live in Korea) challenging, strange, and scary. If you're really out there, please let me know. Preferably, in English.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

On Hold (Richmond, VA)

Before taking off for Mexico, I've got to put my gym membership on hold for two months. I stop by the desk and ask if I can inform them right then and there. "No," I'm told. "You've got to call the number of (let's just call the company:) MotionSick. They handle that for us."

I spend half an hour on the phone the next day, waiting to speak to a MotionSick representative. When I finally do reach a human being, he informs me that I have to communicate directly with the gym. "They told me to call you," I tell him. "They gave me this little card with the company name and number on it yesterday."

"Well, they just changed their procedures and, as of today, we no longer handle holds."

I call the gym and am told to call "Laura" (let's call her that because that's her actual name), the general manager, who'll be back in a bit. I call her four times. The last time, I leave a detailed message: "I want to put my membership on hold for July and August," I say. I know that I have to do so a month in advance, so I'm adamant about the message reaching her, even if I don't.

Laura's message is on my answering machine when I arrive home. "Call me!" she chirps.

I call her. She's unavailable. I leave a message.

Laura returns my call.

"I'll be out of town for a month and a half," I tell her, "so I'd like to put my membership on hold for two months."

"We'll need to see proof of your new residence," she replies.

"I'm not moving to a new residence; I'm going on vacation," I tell her.

"We'll need proof of your hotel reservation," she says.

"I don't have any hotel reservations. I'm not even sure where I'll be when, but I'll be staying with friends and traveling around the country," I say. "I've been doing this every year since I joined the gym, and I've never been asked for anything like this before."

"It's a new policy. Plus you have to pay $25.00."

"What???? I've never heard of this and haven't received anything in writing about it. There was nothing in the contract I recently signed..."

"It's not in the contract and we didn't notify anyone."

"This is ridiculous!" I am shouting now.

My husband, overhearing my rising voice and growing frustration, is saying, "Tell them you're canceling your membership!"

"Well, we need proof of your being out of the country," Laura says.

"I don't have an address, but I can bring a copy of my electronic plane ticket," I suggest.

"We can't accept that. We need proof of where you're staying," she chirps.


I ask to speak to the gym's owner. She is not available. "I'll discuss this with her," Laura says. Just what I need!

I wait a day and don't hear anything, so I call (let's call her) Naomi (because that's her name). I want to request a meeting, but the person who answers the phone says that Naomi is unavailable. I can leave a message, she tells me, "or you can speak to Laura."

I'm still waiting for a call back.