Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trips to the ER are fun, right?

Since so many wonderful friends and family have expressed concern, and since I’m finally recovered enough to use real words again, I thought I’d just do a lil write-up of my condition, what happened, and where I’m at now.

Seriously though, guys, thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. It really means a lot that so many were thinking of me.

It began as a sore throat.  Then it got really really RIDICULOUSLY painful. Having been an unusually frequent victim of strep throat as a child, I knew that this was no ordinary sore throat.  Friends and parents advised me to go to the doctor, but still I hesitated because, after all, strep throat comes with a raging fever.  And I was, thankfully, fever free. So it couldn’t be strep, right? A feverless strep throat couldn’t possibly exist, right?

Right, Aftan, you little fool. 

To be fair to myself, I did try to visit a doctor’s office. Unfortunately, no one would take me because I wasn’t an “existing client.” Now, I don’t want to turn this into a political rant, but you know the health care system is broken when doctors refuse to see extremely ill patients solely because the office has its administrative tighty-whitees in a twist.  What if I had cancer? Or an auto-immune disorder? You won’t take me because I’m not an existing client?  What, don’t have enough shelf-space for another folder? You require us to buy into expensive health insurance policy plans, and then you refuse to treat us anyway?? This is completely unacceptable.

Not only that, but such practices force us sickees to turn to the ER as a source of primary care. Trust me, that shouldn’t be their job! ER docs should be patching up bullet wounds and treating heart attacks, not diagnosing sore throats.  Clearly, something needs to change in our system. (Is Obamacare the way to change it? I’m not so sure…but we can go out for coffee and you can hear more of my political philosophies another time.)

My point is, I gradually realized that the ER had become my only recourse. Throat lozenges, hot tea, gargling with salt water, and a baggie full of Advil no longer cut it. I couldn’t control the drool slipping out of my mouth because it was much too painful to swallow. I couldn’t eat because even the mild Campbell’s chicken noodle soup somehow turned into liquid fire. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain.

Finally I got a good look at my throat, and literally took a step backward in shock. It looked like a Siberian tiger had tried to claw it’s way up my esophagus, leaving white striations to mark up the swollen redness. [Too much info? Sorry, guys, I’ll cool it.]

I think – I THINK – I have strep throat.

So I texted the Sis and asked her to take me to the ER.  I could have driven myself, but secretly I was hoping that they would dope me up so high on morphine that I wouldn’t be able to drive home. I mentally girded myself for a chaotic and bureaucratic night in the hospital. 

Actually, the ER was fairly straightforward. I waited for a while, yes, but not terribly long; I was in and out with a fistful of prescriptions within two hours, and the doctors were all very kind and answered my not always coherent questions.

[As a quick aside, to give the story some levity: one of the nurses came over at one point to take down some more information (or maybe just to talk to me, since I looked so miserable sitting on my stretcher in the corner and someone else had taken the same info a moment before)…this is how the conversation went from my point of view:

Nurse: Hi, I’m Mike and I’ll be your nurse. What’s your name?
Me: Hi Mike. Aftan.
Nurse: Pardon?
Me: Aftan. A-F-T-A-N. Yes, I know it’s unusual.
Nurse: Ummmm…

And this is how the conversation actually went:

Nurse: Hi, I’m Mike and I’ll be your nurse. What’s your complaint?
Me: Hi Mike. Aftan.
Nurse: Pardon?
Me: Aftan. A-F-T-A-N. Yes, I know it’s unusual.
Nurse: Ummmm…

No, “Aftan” is not some new disease. Just a name. A conclusion that we both eventually came to.]

No, the only real problem of the night came in actually finding the ER. The Georgetown hospital area is very confusingly laid out (at least it is at night to a poor lil sickee who’s never been there and has lost full use of her brain). Turns out we went to the waaaay wrong parking lot, and wandered around lost for a few minutes before discovering we needed to be there, not here.

We left the parking garage, sans parking stub because the little machine refused to spit one out for us when we drove in, and the guard told us that “that’ll be ten dollars, please.”

Please, we explained, we came to the wrong lot and have only been here ten minutes, we’re just looking for the Emergency Room.

“That’ll be ten dollars please.”

Really? You’re gonna charge $10 to the girl who’s begging for the Emergency Room? I was too sick and miserable to argue, so I wearily handed over my card and signed the damn slip. I’m keeping his pen, though, I thought to myself, nursing a small pocket of revenge. Customers steal my pens all the time at the liquor store and it drives me crazy.

The kicker, though? He wouldn’t raise the gate until I gave him the pen back. Since I had angrily stuffed it into my cavernous purse, several minutes elapsed before I could find it.  I would hope that he caught my germs, but I don’t wish this illness on anyone. Adult strep throat really bites. Or claws, as the case may be.

At the end of the night, I left the ER with my prescriptions, no morphine (shoot), and the Sis. A short summary of how I’m doing: I have strep throat (we’re pretty sure), I have powerful meds, and I have a couple days off to sleep and recover. Seriously, I just woke up from a three-hour nap, so hopefully that means I’m on the mend.

Again, thank you all for the well wishes. You rock.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The best Valentine’s Day ever. Note the heavy sarcasm.

As a young woman who’s been single all her life, Valentine’s Day usually comes and goes without too much concern from me. It’s just any ole regular day. With more candy.

This year, however, was different. Because The Sis brought our car with her when she moved out, I had to go to the DMV on Tuesday in order to get a parking permit.  I could have done this two, three, or even four weeks ago while we still had our temporary visitor permit, but I guess I procrastinated or something because suddenly we only had one day left on the temporary permit.  So I did my research, gathered all my relevant documents, and trekked out to the DMV on Valentine’s Day.  (But only after I went to the wrong location a day before.  Seriously, DMV website, could you be a little more specific?)

Here’s how I spent my Valentine’s Day:

Stood in long line at DMV. Talked to someone, stood in another line.

Talked to someone else. Found out the car, currently registered in my father’s name, must definitely definitely no-exceptions-allowed MUST be registered in my name. Even though I had documentation proving I was a legal driver under my father’s insurance.

Left DMV. Texted Sis that we needed to go to Plan B. Called Mom with update. Mom wonders if our Montana DMV can fax DC DMV a statement saying the registration is transferred, but that the official doc can’t get there in time due to bureaucratic red tape.

Return to DMV to ask about faxing. Stand in line again. Answer is “yes, in your situation.” Call Mom again. Leave DC DMV while Mom goes to MT DMV to transfer the car registration. Text Sis that I’m working on Plan C. Browse around in the nearby shops in order to kill time. Find stunning outfit I want to buy but I can’t because a) I’m a poor intern and Georgetown clothing is outrageously expensive, and b) the aftermath from the whole robbery thing is still not resolved.

Return to DC DMV. Stand in line. Get ticket stub to stand in another line. Pray to God that this all works out, because the DMV is about to close and today is the last day on my temporary permit and I really really don’t want to pay several hundred dollars in potential parking fines.

Mom calls. MT DMV needs my signature on some stuff. “Forge it,” I tell her. “I did,” she tells me. Then they gave her more documents, but only after she mentioned I was in DC, so now the game is up in Montana. MT DMV needs a signed and notarized power-of-attorney document saying that my mother can sign documents for me.

Have small heart attack due to disbelief. Ask why my father, a lawyer, can’t just forge a power-of-attorney document for me.

Leave DMV. Find bathroom stall. Cry.

Catch bus to my office. Print and fill out appropriate documents. Update my boss as to my situation. Try not to cry again. Berate myself for being so unprofessional.

Go to bank across the street. Sign and notarize power-of-attorney document. Withdraw some money. Nice teller lady offers to fax the doc for me, even though it’s against policy.

Fax machine won’t work. Go to FedEx and fax document there instead.

Call Sis. Tell her about the failure of Plan C, but that Plan D is the same as Plan C but can’t be implemented for a few days. Put together Plan E for the car in the meantime.

Go to work. Plan E fails, kinda. Put together Plan F.

Feel better once at work. Buy nice bottle of wine. Go home and drink half of it while watching trashy TV.

So, that was my Valentine’s Day. This holiday is meant for celebrating love and companionship, and I spent it standing in line, mumbling obscenities about the human race, and feeling sorry for myself.  Pretty pathetic.

Oh well. At least I had some nice wine, at least my friends at work perked me up, and at least *I think* we got it figured out. I think. In any case, there’s a FedEx package winging its way toward me with new car registration in my freaking name, new license plates, and a new insurance policy…because, ya know, nothing is ever simple.

As an aside, I am now an expert on registering vehicles in the District. So hit me up if you have questions.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Open letter: To the person who robbed me

Dear Thief,

I am not stupid. I know what a robber looks like, and I know what a casing for a robbery looks like. I've traveled to 10 countries in 8 months, and I know how to protect myself and my property. This ranges from observing and tracking my surroundings to being able to throw a few punches -- I took boxing lessons from a couple of hardened ex-Marines, so don't even try it.

I am not an easy target.

That said, I congratulate you on your method. Having some random guy paw through my coat and gloves (I don't keep valuables in my pockets, jackass) in order to distract me was clever: I was too busy confronting him to notice your greasy fingers slipping into my purse. By the way, you missed my cash, my iPod, my computer, and my computer cord. Actually, why didn't you snag the whole freaking wallet?

You only got two cards. Nice job, Thief.

However, you have further ruined one of my favorite coffeeshops. Caribou Coffee reminds me of home, with its rustic, warm atmosphere and wood paneling and stonework. The last time I went to this location, though, I was harassed by a homeless person and had to threaten to call the cops. This time, willing to give it another chance, all I wanted was some peace and quiet with my book and a cup of mango tea. Not only did you ruin that, but you ruined the coffeeshop. First time I go, I get harassed. Second time, I get robbed. Third time? There will be no third time.

Also, H&M? Really? You rob me and your first stop is a clothing store? (They must not have ID'd you, and trust me, I'll be speaking with them about that. The $1000+ you charged is totally their loss.) You must have really hot-footed it there -- you stole my cards, used them, I discovered the fraud and cancelled the cards all within the span of about three hours.

Quick word of advice -- next time you get twitchy fingers, target someone who's a little more flush. Don't know if you've heard, but I'm kind of a broke intern right now.

Also, don't target someone whose small-town bank knows her well and will bend over backward for her.

And finally: You better hope that I'm not as good of a researcher as I claim on my resume, because if I ever catch you then I will prosecute you to the full extent of the law. Which in DC is a fine of up to $5000 and 10 years in prison.

But I'll settle for just punching you in the face.

Pissed Off Ball of Rage formerly known as Aftan

Monday, February 6, 2012

My evil plan is working

I mentioned I have a part-time job, just something modest to sustain me during my internship. This job, while fun and pretty decent as far as part-time jobs go (more on this later), is eating up the rest of my life.

That’s one reason why I haven’t been writing. The other reason is far more exciting.

I’m slowly convincing my best friends to move to the District.

This idea sprouted sometime late senior year, when we were all talking about what to do with the rest of our lives. In between conversations about international volunteer work, journalism, IT, politics, psychology, and mid-wifery (for reals, we’re pretty awesome), we all voiced the same question, one we knew we could probably never answer in the affirmative. Guys, what if we all lived together in the same city, in the same house, somewhere down the road?

Aaah, college. Almost our entire four years, we had all lived together. We took for granted how blessed we were to share a cozy cottage (when I say “cozy”, I’m definitely not referencing the triple room, and when I say “share” I’m also not referring to the bats). Those evening dinners with Jeopardy! Those late nights with rum and spilled pizza and really bad movies.

Though I had only begun to consider moving to DC at that point, privately I thought it was the most acceptable “compromise-place” for all of us. We could all manage to do something field-related in DC. So as soon as I moved here, I took it upon myself to turn into “that annoying friend” – you know the one I mean. The one to whom something happened (“Poor Fluffy ran away!”), and now she must always preface conversations with that experience (“You know, when Fluffy ran away, I went through the same thing, so this totally relates…”)

Only my repetitive phrase involved moving to DC. You know Laynsy, there’s this job that combines IT with international relations…Hey Becks, you could do Spanish church work here, right? Court, there are lots of babies on my block, so clearly DC needs some good nannies… MirCat, public policy + international work = DC… Imma jussa sayin… Sis, we’re in the same field. Getcho butt out here.

Variations on a theme, people. I would apologize for being so annoying about it, except, well, MY FREAKING PLAN IS WORKING: LAYNSY AND THE SIS MOVED TO DC. Enter times of growth, exploration, laughter, and most importantly excessive immaturity sprinkled throughout our masquerade as real adults.

This is why I haven’t been writing. Oh, and the second-job thing. That too.

Be warned: consider my (not so) subtle brainwashing to continue.