Workarounds

The weather had been mild most of November and December, but as the year drew to a close, we did get a couple of winter storms. One of these fell the night before I had a haircut scheduled. Due to recent illness, I had not left the building on a daily basis. So while I was concerned about icy walking conditions, I was also suffering from a mild case of cabin fever. Besides, having to work on grip and balance on the sidewalk would allow my muscles some much needed work. So I kept my appointment and looked forward to the challenge.

The snow blew in all night and the next morning, every surface was blanketed. When my bus arrived, I noticed that, although the building front walk is covered, there were some traces of ice on the pavement. My cane slipped on the surface a couple of times. This made me wary of my balance, and I began taking shorter steps. Each time I stepped forward, I flexed the muscles of my plant leg to increase my stability. After a few steps, I was safely on the bus, speeding along to my destination.

When we got to the barbershop, the sidewalks were plowed, but all of the excess snow was pushed out into the curbside parking lanes. So rather than pulling up right next to the sidewalk, the bus had to park a couple of feet away. I had to debark, then stretch to get over the snow. The driver held my left elbow so I didn’t fall. It actually took two steps before I was safely on the sidewalk. I took two more steps and I was on the landing and ready to go in the front door.

It costs me far too much to go to the barbershop, but since the stroke, I can no longer shave my head myself. Before the stroke, I used to shave it every four days. This would be prohibitively expensive if I had to get it professionally done this often. So I go to the barber once every two weeks as a compromise.

It is very relaxing to have someone else do it. They shave it down with clippers. Then they use a hot, wet towel to open my pores and clean off the excess hair. After that, they use shaving cream and a straight razor to give me a very close shave. Once the hair is all shaved off, they treat my scalp with antiseptic to keep it from forming bumps. Finally they massage my shoulders. When they’re done, my head is shiny and I feel relaxed. The boost in well-being this pampering session gives me makes the high cost of the haircut worthwhile. I only wish I could have someone help me shave it every few days, then I would have it done professionally once a month.

I had been trying to sell my car for months. I needed the supplemental income, but I also was worried about how I would store it and have it driven often enough to keep it in good running order. Furthermore since it snows so often during Minnesota winters, the city tows cars quite often. At almost $300 per incident and an additional $75 per day, I worried about my ability to stay on top of things. So I was happy when I finally found a buyer. Since he was someone I knew and saw regularly, I felt even more at ease. He wanted to business on a handshake, but I felt that it was in the best interest of each of us to draw up a contract and have it notarized.

I wrote up the contract the night of the snowstorm. It stipulated the down payment and payment amounts and dates, as well as the full purchase amounts. I added language saying that the car would revert back to me if the payments weren’t satisfied by a date 2.5 months after the final payment was to be receiver, and I even added that I would transfer the title within 14 days of the final payment. I listed the date of the down payment and said that he would be responsible for all insurance, damages, and fees associated with the car from that date. Once I was satisfied that everything was in order, I emailed it to my friend who had been keeping the car. He could proofread and print it for me, then bring it over when he delivered my car.

I met the buyer the following day, right after I returned from the barbershop. Since we both bank at the same place, we went there to deposit the down payment. While there, we told them that we needed to see the notary public. The notary looked over the contract, asked for our IDs, then wrote everything down in her book. We each signed and dated the contract, then she made copies. I felt much better about the transaction now that it was official. I immediately wrote a check for a double rent payment. I wanted to use the rest of the money to get two months ahead of all of my bills by June. If I had to give up my car, I was going to do it in a way that would give me more peace of mind.

New Year’s Eve was the following Monday. Most of Decemberhad been uneventful, though the rest of the year had been one of tremendous change. The last day was the worst day of the year. To begin with, I called Ucare to set up my free taxi ride to my January 7th appointment. The person on the other end told me that my insurance was set to terminate at midnight, so there was no way she could schedule the ride. When she couldn’t tell me anything about my account, I had her transfer me to customer service.

When the customer services representative looked at my account, she told me that it was due to nonpayment. I asked her total up the payment Ucare had received for the year then figure out how many payments I owed. She arrived at six months. So I told her that I was in transitional care until the end of July. The team at Hennepin County Social Services had advised me that my Ucare plan was suspended during that period. Ergo my account should be current through January. She said that Hennepin County had not notified Ucare. So the billing had gone on for all twelve months. She would send an email to Hennepin County to ask them to clarify the billing for 2018.

I was upset. I wanted to go down to Hennepin County to speak with a team member in person. I had asked where I was with my billing three times in the last four months. On November 29th, I had confirmed that my insurance would end on November 30th. I had paid two months’ premium before I left the building. If there had been a billing error, there had been ample opportunity to detect it. Nevertheless, I had enough money in my bank account to pay for half a year’s worth of premium if they were adamant that I did owe it. I just had no way to make it down there that day. And Tuesday was a holiday. It would be at least two days before I could resolve this.

Luckily I had a trip to Planet Fitness scheduled. This would give me a much needed opportunity to
work out some pent-up energy. Before I began my workout, I had 30 minutes in the massage chair. After that, my head was clear. Then I worked out for over an hour. Because I had recently gotten over an illness, I didn’t try to lift a lot of weight. I focused on trying to get in a lot of reps and on raising my level of energy.

After an hour, I ended my workout. It was still 80 minutes before my ride was scheduled to arrive. With Metro Mobility, a rider can call for an earlier ride home if there is at least an hour before the return ride is scheduled to arrive. I gathered my things from my locker then hurried out to call for my ride home.

When I called Metro Mobility, I asked what time my ride was scheduled for. The scheduler told me that I had no ride scheduled. Knowing that I also had a trip to the grocery store planned, I asked her what other rides I had scheduled for the day. She told me that the only thing she saw was a ride home from the grocery store. There was no ride home from the gym. There was no ride to the grocery store. I angrily yelled, “I could tell she didn’t know what she was doing when she scheduled these! I told her not to touch my existing ride to the gym. Now how am I supposed to get from the gym to the grocery store?”

Since I was starting to get upset, she advised me, “Don’t get too worked up. I can have my supervisor listen to the call. We can fix it if we made the mistake.”

“I’m sorry. She started screwing with my gym ride when I had just called to add the ride to the grocery store. Now it’s all messed up!”

“Give me your number. I’ll have my supervisor pull the call and call you back.”

I gave her my number, then sat back and watched TV.

A few minutes later, I received a call from the supervisor. He told me that it was their mistake. He apologized because the person was inexperienced and told me that they could get my rides scheduled.

“Since we’ve had some time elapse, can you just schedule one ride – from the gym directly to the grocery store?”

“Okay, so just one ride instead of two?”

“Yeah. That way there’s no risk of me missing a connecting ride.”

“We can do that. No problem. Let me put you on hold for a few seconds.”

For a few seconds I worried that I might have told the scheduler the wrong rides, because she had caused me to repeat my desired rides so many times that perhaps I had eventually agreed to the wrong list of rides. But before long, the supervisor came back on the phone and told me that my ride to the grocery store would arrive in ten minutes. I thanked him profusely then went out front to await the bus.

The driver pulled up in an SUV. I was the only passenger, and I was getting a direct ride to my destination. He quickly got me to the grocery store, even though it had begun snowing again. The flakes were miniscule, but the wind was fierce. He walked me safely to the front door, then I was ready to shop on my own.

The store was full, as other shoppers were probably motivated by the fact that another winter storm was about to hit. They created constant obstacles for me, but I was now so active that moving to avoid them while continuing to shop was not a problem. I finished all of my shopping before 3:00. That was the time I’d originally been scheduled to leave for the store. My ride home was not scheduled to arrive until 4:45. I called Metro Mobility to see if I could get an early ride home.

“I would like to request an early ride home; I don’t need to wait until 4:45.”

“Your ride is at 3:00.”

“I know my ride * to* the grocery store was supposed to be at 3:00, but I’m already finished.”

“No. Your ride home is at 3:00.”

I couldn’t believe it. This now matched my schedule so perfectly that it relieved most of my anxiety. Calming down and thinking things through had allowed me to connect with workers who were insightful and proactive. The road home doesn’t have to be nearly as chaotic if you can communicate the types of help you need.

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