31 August 2007

reason no. 247

why I cannot move back to the US: customer 'service' and the blood pressure. I no longer have any defenses when it comes to dealing with those underpaid, overworked, hassled and I'm sure otherwise lovely people one speaks to on the phone when calling, well, anywhere in the US. Leaving aside entirely the computers one has to 'talk to'. (there should be another verb for this) I tried to ring S at his fancy-shmancy corporate chain hotel in Chicago and got a computer-generated (female of course) voice that supposedly directed me to the guest directory but then didn't. Had to press 0 for the operator (always try 0, of course) and then finally (through a female human) got connected.

Today I dealt with our lovely insurance company here in the UK, which was sort of fine (they've messed something up, we need to renew, they sent a letter on the 22nd with a 'if you don't respond in 10 days you're no longer insured' notice that I received today, on the 31st). But my blood pressure was unbelievably high. I gathered all of the paperwork around me like some sort of stress barricade, set up my gunmen, ran reconnaissance through the depths of the records, put on my game face, and rang them. It was okay. But I could not do it in the US. I would retreat to my normal fetal, under-bed position in which I convinced myself that (a) we didn't really need a car or house and (b) even if we did, who needs insurance anyway? Better to retreat from the world than talk to someone who will be mean to you on the phone.

Perhaps I sound like a baby. I should just deal with this fallout of late capitalist life--because, hey, I'm not starving, and hey, the person/institution/company doesn't actually have my life in their hands. Or at least only in the abstract--in the accumulation of heart rate and uninsured lifestyle that many of my friends and family live in or have lived in for multiple months/years/on-going periods of their lives. So I guess I do think it's important.

One of the ways I do convince myself to pick up the phone (both here and in the US) is by reminding myself what a crap job the folks on the other end of the phone have, dealing with angry people who have just received anonymous letters that scare them shitless and then make them mad. And then I think how much time and love and space and thinking could be re-routed--time now spent on the phone to Social Security, Medicare, hospitals, HMOs, insurance companies, telephone companies, broadband services, credit report agencies.

How much art, music, genius inventions, great TV, smart solutions to seemingly intractable problems--how much have we lost of that to the barricades of paperwork, lists of anonymous-yet-named customer 'service' people (Ashley, Sandy, Carrie, Andrew), and blood pressure?

26 August 2007

no place like it

the A to Z is back on the shelf, the laundry is going, bags open on the floor--it can only mean that the London phase is over and I'm back in Swansea. very exciting and strange. the trip in numbers:

plays seen: 5
films seen: 2
exhibits seen: 3
museums: 6
libraries worked in: 3
hair cuts: 1
bikram sessions: 3
markets: 3
Hampstead Heath: 3
Regent's Park: 2
wagamama: 5
books purchased: 2 (I know! such restraint!)
books read: 1.25 (who has the time?)
days over 25C: 2

I feel like I was away for about 6 months overseas. Well, London is in another country they only speak the one language. what to do?

23 August 2007

Welcome to the Wellcome

Should have been researching here all along. they have things like, um, internet for free? Sure they have a fraction of the number of researchers of the BL across and down the street, but still. this is called civilisation. we need our wifi. and we need it gratis. vielen dank.

I heart medical research libraries.

08 August 2007

NHS, vol. 2

Turns out I have Plantar Fasciitis. Note to all runners out there: don't forget to stretch and update your shoes! (I did the latter, but have been remiss with the former.) This is good news in that I don't need to stay off my feet, but bad news if walking around London turns out to be excruciating.

I won't provide the detailed time line of my experience, as I did last time. But I have to make one small comment in regard to the health care 'debate' over at FFB. My wager is this: if every American could somehow have their own encounter with a national health system like the one here, then there would be national health insurance in the US within one election cycle.

No. 3's experience, by the way, perfectly mimics the one that R had about 5 years ago. They don't know what to do if you don't smoke, and getting through the bureaucracy is impossible.

In stark contrast, this morning I made one phone call at 8.35am, was on hold for less than 1 minute, made an appointment for 9am the same day, saw the doctor at 9.04, and then had an actual intelligent conversation with him. I left his office with (free) prescription in hand at 9.10.


we're off to London tomorrow for a few weeks, which will be lovely. we are staying near the BT tower, going to the BL for research, sure to see the BM show on Japanese consumer aesthetics (shiny! smooth!), and generally doing things that involve two-letter acronyms starting with B. I don't think we'll be doing BY (Bikram Yoga) because it's insanely expensive. but it does have the acronym. hm. dilemma.

fronesis bruised his foot while running on a beach barefoot the other day, and thus cannot walk. this is a problem not only for London but for *life* which I suppose is a good sign about our lives right now (we commute on foot) but not so good in terms of immediate plans for the London. we are off to procure crutches today so that other bits of his body--arms, armpits, shoulders--will hurt as well. good plan? don't know.

much jealousy re: iPhone, and how unfair it is that Apple didn't merely send us one for free given that we have single-handedly (or four-handedly, as there are two of us with two hands each) converted about 2.2 million people from PC to Apple. Okay more like 15. But still. And we want a new iMac too, since we're wishing.

more from the big city.