Archive for August, 2015

Consumerism

August 27, 2015

I wanted to pick up on something I said in my last post.  I mentioned that by reducing (through the “people as puppies” framing) my getting caught up in emotional reaction, I am freer to pursue problem-solving in the situation.  And I did (I am referring to the internet/phone service failure situation we recently had).

I am not sure what phone/internet service providers are required by law or regulation to do in the situation I had, but they are refunding me for 5 days of service and sending me a new back-up battery at no charge.  They also said there is no charge for the service call, as it was their equipment that was the problem.

What I couldn’t get them to do was to come out sooner, because, as I indicated in the previous post, they don’t see such repairs as urgent anymore, they seem to assume the customer will make do with a smartphone.

When I shared this experience with others, I was told that it’s a political problem — the state government handed the company a fair amount of carte blanche, which has left customers/citizens without adequate landline protections when equipment failures occur.  The back-up batteries were supposed to bridge that gap, but they don’t.

People as puppies

August 26, 2015

I was watching the PBS NewsHour last night on TV.  I couldn’t stream, because the box in the basement from the internet/phone service provider did not survive a neighborhood power outage and recovery, so I was watching the NewsHour on a TV screen (cum antenna) and it looked different.

(Side note:  apparently there is no longer a feeling of urgency to restore landline telephone connections, I guess because we are all presumed to have fully charged cell phones with sufficient minutes to use instead.  I was less surprised they would be pokey about restoring internet capability, but nowadays the two services are often bound together in the hardware, I think, through the same cable — no more copper wire for phones.  I see this is as a big vulnerability in the system.  They treated it as a routine service call in scheduling the appointment, did not seem concerned that I had no landline to access 911 if necessary from Saturday through Wednesday.)

At one point in the NewsHour opening there’s a horse, and I am thinking, “Boy, I am glad to see that horse among all those pictures of people!”  And I thought about why, and what came to me is that I love animals, and while I can and do love people, it’s easier for me to connect with the essence of the animal because there is much less nonsense to distract me from that essence and I don’t find myself tempted towards resentment and such with animals in the way I do with humans (on account of their behavior).  I accept a puppy’s limitations far more easily than a person’s, and while those limitations, to be sure, are different, I realized that there’s no real reason I can’t say to myself, “Oh, that person is just reflecting the limitations I know full well they have, expecting them to behave otherwise is on me, they are just being their usual ‘puppy’ self.”  Then I am free to problem-solve, if necessary, but I don’t get so bogged down with emotional reaction.

So I was glad to see an animal on screen, it made me relax and remember how easy it is to relate to an animal’s core and how at our cores we are actually not the petty difficult selves we may dress ourselves up as.  It gave me a sense of a way out from feeling I have no good way of relating to people behaving in ways I find difficult.

I made someone laugh as I was trying to explain this way of thinking about people as puppies earlier this evening, when I used customer service stonewalling as an example:  “Oh, that customer service rep is just being their usual [company name]-animal self, that’s just what they do, that’s how they behave.”  I repeated the sentence using the names of the other companies I have been struggling with lately.  As I said, the person I was telling this to laughed, I think at the phrasing that turned the companies into animal species.

I suspect I have written something in this vein before, so re-discovering it last night as if it’s something new indicates to me that I haven’t yet incorporated this point of view into my usual way of interacting.  I am sure I will have ample future opportunities to try implementing this approach again.

I am serious, though, about trying to use how I relate to animals as a template for how I might relate to human beings whose behavior I find difficult.  I think it’s a major challenge in my life to figure out ways of dealing with my disappointment and frustration (and sometimes hurt) with how many of my fellow human beings behave.  I am glad to have the template from how I relate to animals, just as I am glad to have a connection to the spiritual world to help me dilute the intensity of my human reactions — when I get a sense of how some people don’t seem to have these “escapes” from the emotional storminess, I wonder how they live with such an internally tumultuous environment.

Ain’t capitalism grand

August 17, 2015

So patients are supposed to be able to receive annual check-ups from their primary care physicians without paying a co-pay.  This has been presented as a relatively recent benefit in a developing health care system moving towards more enlightenment and lower costs.  I think this benefit comes under “preventive care.”  Under Medicare such an appointment is called an annual Wellness Visit, under private insurance, it is labeled something like an annual physical.

But if the patient has a condition or a potential condition for which they are being monitored, the doctor’s office bills it as a Wellness Visit and a Sick Visit, a physical and a routine medical visit.  For the second billing code there is a co-pay.  The “free physical” benefit has disappeared and become bait for having the patient come in for an appointment for which they owe a co-pay.

Capitalism found a way around and through an attempt to shift costs away from the patient.  A check-up is now only for completely well patients, patients with no medical issues.  The definition of a physical seems to have narrowed in order to re-balance the payment scheme back to where it had been before patients were given the free physical benefit.

The wisdom of Peaches

August 16, 2015

“Peaches” is capitalized in the title to this post because it refers to the nickname of a person who lived next door to me while we were growing up.  I referred to her in a news comment I made on the PBS NewsHour website, regarding the announced arrangements between HBO and Sesame Street.  She’s the person who told me that my family’s TV didn’t [receive the signal for] the Flintstones.  She wanted to discuss an episode she had recently seen, I hadn’t seen it, and my explanation that I just didn’t watch the show was not accepted.

I want to note that we were little kids at the time, I want to say 4 or 5 years old, we were washing our hands in my family’s upstairs bathroom sink at the time.  Part of why, I think, I remember the conversation so clearly was that I really puzzled over what she had said, because I considered that maybe she knew something I didn’t know, because her father worked for NBC.

This was in the 1960s, so Peaches’ explanation was factually incorrect.  My point in my news comment was what was then charmingly wrong might now actually be unfortunately true.

This post isn’t about Peaches’ remark being somehow prescient, though.

Thinking about the Flintstones remark reminded me of something else Peaches had once corrected me about.

We had been coloring, and I think we were using something other than our usual, and inexpensive, crayons.  It could have been cray-pas — I want to say it was magic markers, but I’m not sure they were common yet for kids to have.  As Peaches was using one of the colors to fill in the background to her picture, I mentioned something about not wasting the stick or marker, and Peaches replied, “It’s not wasting it unless you throw the picture out.”

I don’t think anyone in my family ever would have said that, and I really liked not only the specific idea but also the revelation that there were different points of view and that different families might subscribe to different perspectives.

(This sense of different family traditions was reinforced by the fact that her dad had a different method for teaching kids to tie shoes from what my family was using to try to teach me.  I had a terrible time trying to learn how to tie my shoes.  Mr. N. was so kindly, with his twinkly eyes.  He told me to make two rabbit ears out of the laces and then tie them together.  I didn’t know before that that was method for tying shoes, let alone a legitimate one.  I did know that my dad always tucked his shoelace bows into the side of his shoes and that my mother didn’t, so I was aware of some differences in technique, but both my parents used the loop, wrap around, and pull through method, which required some dexterity I apparently didn’t yet have.)

I liked the idea that one might actually use resources in the present and not just practice frugality, so long as one actually used them and did not just remove them from circulation without some sort of return on the use.  Having the right to enjoy something I think was an issue in our house, on account of the Holocaust, and frugality was also an issue, probably also on account of the Holocaust, as well as on account of having had to start over in this country as a result of it, and probably also on account of the general effect on my parents’ generation of the Depression.

I think Peaches’ remark also indicated to me that I as an individual might have a right to use a resource and not save it for someone else, which, again, I don’t think was an idea circulating in the air in my family’s home as I took it in.  And yet Peaches’ sense of the rules did not dispense with the idea of waste entirely, it just changed how it was conceptualized.  So I didn’t have to feel obliged to toss out her idea on the grounds it was a product of completely undisciplined thinking.

There used to be a popular book about how we learn all we need to know in kindergarten.  I’m not sure I’d go that far, but we do learn a lot as young children.  I grew up with my family of origin, was exposed to the customs of other people’s families, and I suspect that being presented with differences between the two was helpful, not just because it gave me more resources from which to draw in life but because it showed me how contingent our ideas may be.  I think as a result I see it as a goal to try not to be too doctrinaire in general.  That may explain, in part, my eclectic approach to religion and spiritual matters, as well as to other more mundane matters.

Invisibility

August 1, 2015

I generally have a negative reaction when I am treated in a way that makes me feel I am invisible to other people.  This happens regularly at the deli counter, when I answer to my number being called or to a “Who’s next?” and get passed over nonetheless.  It happened at a meeting about a week ago, when the chairperson kept flinging his arm across my face as he called on other people.

I mentioned my invisibility problem to Gita yesterday, after she had told me that she thought a recent positive change in me was the result of my finally having been heard — I said that that was interesting idea in light of my having felt so invisible at this meeting so recently, and she recounted for me a teaching of Patanjali that frames being treated as invisible as a positive benefit from certain attainments from spiritual development.  This made me feel loads better about feeling as if I am being treated as invisible, regardless of whether my invisibility stems from that — at least invisibility can be seen as a positive thing (I think she used the word “fruit”), rather than as a putdown or dismissal.

The positive change, by the way, I am thrilled with — it feels like something shifted, and my energy level and outlook feel much more like my usual ones.  While I can see what I contributed to this happening, the “having been heard” part of the transaction I had no control over — someone else had to hear me.  I think I had been waiting for four years for this.

Red feathered bird with black featherless head

August 1, 2015

There’s a bird that’s been in my backyard of late.  It’s really bright red on the body — looks like a cardinal — but its head is completely black and looks featherless from what I can see — I am reminded in some ways of a very small and very red-bodied vulture.  Don’t know what to make of him, but he seems to be doing okay, finding stuff to eat on my patio, flying around with things in his mouth.

On the subject of interesting wildlife observations:  I saw a very small rabbit chasing s grackle and then later calmly munching clover while a bunch of grackles pecked nearby on the lawn.  Weeks ago I saw what I think was this same small rabbit being chased by a very frenetic chipmunk, who I think lives in the back retaining wall — I wondered if he (?) was being territorial.