Tuesday, May 24

Not Like It's Important or Anything

There are 2 types of food allergies; one usually manifests as "intestinal upset" (that's the polite description. The realistic one is more like "meconium mixed with snot in my kid's diaper") and is not life-threatening; the other manifests as hives, wheezing, tongue swelling, and/or other symptoms leading up to anaphylactic shock, which can be deadly. People with these types of allergies must carry an EpiPen which is a thingy of epinephrine (adrenaline) that self-injects and can stop the reaction.

My kid was diagnosed with the former type of allergy (less-serious, more-gross) when she was 11 weeks old and we've avoided those foods that make her sick. This weekend, however, she had an outbreak of hives after eating something, indicating that she now has at least one food that causes the more serious type of reaction.

We already have an appointment with her allergist, but not until late July (he's very good, thus very booked up!) I decided to call the pediatrician to see if they would prescribe an EpiPen to keep on hand until we could have a full workup with the allergist.

I should have known better than to go this route. Here is how the conversation went:

ME: "Hi. My daughter is a patient there. She has food allergies. The other day she had a serious reaction. I have an appointment with her allergist, but I can't get in to see him for 2 months. In the meantime I would like to know if her pediatrician can prescribe an EpiPen in case she has another serious reaction."

RECEPTIONIST: "Um, you want to schedule an appointment?"

ME: "No, I want to know IF they can prescribe an EpiPen, since I cannot see her allergist until July."

RECEPTIONIST: "Okay, an Ecky-what?"

ME: "EpiPen. It's an autoinjector of epinephrine."

RECEPTIONIST: "Okay, that's E-C-"

ME: "No. E-P-I-P-E-N."

RECEPTIONIST: "Okay, I'll have to take a message and have them call you back. Is she a patient here?"

*smacks forehead*

Then I called the allergist's office. I explained to THAT receptionist what had happened, and she took my name, Aurora's name, our phone number, AND the name and phone number of our local pharmacy. She said she would give the message to the allergist. Now it's a race . . . will the Clueless Peds office call back before the Adept Allergist calls to say my EpiPen is waiting at Safeway for me?

New Tires

Our car needed new tires, so Jared made an appointment with some place we'd never been before. (I'd tell you the name of it, but we could never figure it out. He found it through the NTB website store locator, but the sign on the actual building said Merchant Tires, and the posters/brochures inside sang the praises of Tire King.)

Our appointment was for 1:00 p.m. We arrived at 12:55 (I'd like to say we're always punctual, but in reality, it was a total fluke.) We spoke with Dean, who ascertained what tires we wanted, signed an estimate, etc., etc. By the time that was completed, it was 1:15. Dean told us it would take approximately an hour and a half.

Well, that was cutting it close-- we had plans to meet friends for "lunch" at 3:00-- but it would be okay. In the meantime, we had the stroller and diaper bag, and there were some stores nearby to wander . . . including a Dollar General, which happily stocked a new kind of pregnancy test I'd been seeking (www.PeeOnAStick.com). We wandered for an hour, before we finally walked back to the tire place and sat in their customer lounge.

La-dee-dah . . . another 45 minutes passed. Rora sat in her stroller, calmly eating Rice Chex and sipping her juice. Right. On Planet Not. In actuality, she sat in her stroller eating one Rice Chex (Check?) for every two she threw overboard before turning her sippy cup upside down and banging it on her stroller tray. When I finally released Her Highness from the Royal Restraints, she naturally gravitated toward the 2 Chex that had escaped my noticed and stepped on them, grinding Chex Dust into the dark blue carpet.

At this point, we were already late for lunch. I left Jared to chase Kid while I exited the building to inspect our car. It was up on a rack, in the same condition it had been 45 minutes earlier when we returned from roaming: 2 tires off completely, the other 2 the same old ones. A stack of 4 new tires sat on the ground underneath it.

A mechanic was filling out something on a clipboard nearby, and I asked him, "Any idea how much longer for this car?"

He looked at me with raised eyebrows. "Well after these tires go on, it still needs to be aligned, and there are 2 cars ahead of you." My eyes bugged out. "So, how much longer are we talking about? Like another hour?" "Oh, at LEAST," he replied.

I thanked him icily and stormed into the building, where an employee noticed my sour face and asked how he could help me. I explained that we were given an estimate of 1.5 hours, it had now been almost 2, and we were facing "at least another hour."

"Who told you an hour and a half?" he asked, as though that were a crazily low time frame. "Dean," I replied. "Well," he continued, "I'm sorry he told you that, but we're really busy, there are lots of cars ahead of you."

"Ah," I said, "but I had an appointment."

Time for HIS eyes to bug out. "An appointment?"

"Yeah, at one o'clock."

"Oh," he said. "I'll be right back." He walked away, with Kill Dean clearly written in his eyes.

Bottom line: Dean incorrectly marked/filed the paperwork, putting several walk-in cars ahead of us despite our appointment status. Our car had been neglected the entire time (save the removal of 2 tires.) They bumped us to the head of the crowd, but it still took another hour. We ended up meeting our friends for dinner at 5.

Naturally, the toddler who did not get a nap as a result of the extended tire expedition was incredibly well-behaved during dinner and definitely did not shriek, throw two meatballs, and toss her juice cup at a passer-by.

Saturday, May 14

Burger King: Our Way, After Awhile

Why are drive-thru order-takers so all-fired eager to cut me off and announce my total before I've even specified which soda flavor I want with my combo? It seems to me that the rate at which they take my order is inversely proportional to the rate at which my food is actually prepared.

At any rate, she got terribly hasty and hit the "Complete Order" button after I'd ordered only Jared's combo. When I said, "I'm not done yet," and gave her my order, she gave me a second total-- as in, "Your first total is $4-something and your second total is $5-something." When I pulled up to the window, she said "$4-something" by way of confirmation. I handed her my debit card and said, "That's for two orders." "Yeah, I know," she replied. She closed the window. A minute later, she opened the window again and asked, "Are you paying for both orders with the card?" That's what "That's for two orders" meant. Yes, I told her.

First she handed me one bag. I peeked inside, confirmed it was Jared's burger and onion rings, and handed it to him in the passenger seat. (He refuses to drive on weekends because of his loooong weekly commutes. I don't have a control fetish or anything ;) Then she handed me one drink. In the cupholder it went. Then she handed me another bag and disappeared. I peeked inside . . . the bunless burger looked correct (imagine that!) but she had given me a spoon with which to eat it. I waited for her to reappear. "Can I have a fork and knife to eat this with?" I asked. She rummaged and handed me a fork. "Um, and a knife?" I repeated. Here it came. Jared said, "And MY drink?" I turned to the window again, which was now closed. Waited to be noticed. "And my other drink?" I asked. There it came.

Since I can't drive and eat a bunless burger simultaneously, I parked so we could eat. First problem: my Diet Coke was tea. And not just tea, but sweet tea. Look, I'm from SoCal, folks. Sweet tea is a regional abomination. Jared had ordered tea, so I asked if we could switch-- except he didn't have my Diet Coke, he had a second tea. Since he had not expected sweet tea either, he took the drinks and began climbing out of the car to go exchange them for Diet Cokes. I lifted the lid off my burger bowl . . . and recoiled. "EWWWWWW!" Jared stopped in his tracks.

A big, long, thick, black hair was nestled among my lettuce. This was even worse than sweet tea.

"I'll go in," I sighed.

I juggled the burger bowl and the two drinks. When I came to the counter, the man who had helped the drive-thru girl hand us our food saw me. "Are you missing something?" he asked. I could see the irritation on his face. I announced loudly, for the benefit of maximum embarrassment and chagrin, "No, actually, I seem to have gotten extra hair on my burger."

The manager came over, examined the hair, poked at it (ew!) and went to rectify the situation. She did refund my money (both orders! :p) and replaced my drinks.

When I got to the car, I discovered my burger was also ketchupless.

I'll take what I can get.

Monday, May 9

Roach Patrol, Take Two

This morning Michael called. He wanted to make sure it was okay if the roach guy showed up in about five minutes "since you were not satisfied with his work last week." I said fine. He added, "He did spray last week, he just used a gel that's hard to see." I was thinking okay, YOUR maintenance guy said he didn't spray, but fine. Have him come back.

Roach guy came over, squirted some gel in my cabinet hinges . . . I asked if he were going to do the pantry. "Oh," he said, "no, we don't need to."

"Well, the notification flyer said we needed to clean out our pantry and bathroom closet completely."

He shook his head. "I shouldn't tell you this, but really, you can ignore that part."

Oh gee. I've had my entire kitchen pantry living in my dining room for 8 days with no reason! Thaaaaanks.

P.S. They successfully recaulked our tub on Friday. They used a different kind, and it has set beautifully. Which begs the question . . . Why wait until the 5th time to use it?!

Wednesday, May 4

My Kingdom For A Mortgage

Every now and then I remember why apartment living sucks. Now is one of those thens.

For about a year, our apartment has had a mold problem. It grows on our bathroom ceiling, our bedroom wall, and all of our window sills. And for about a year, I have been trying to get management/maintenance to take a peek and make sure it's not that toxic flesh-eating furniture-ruining death-causing kind of mold. Otherwise, I don't care, I can spray Tilex as well as anybody.

And, for about a year, every single one of my complaints has either fallen on deaf ears, or resulted in the token visit of a busy maintenance man, who invariably comes when I am not home and sprays my window sills and leaves. Not once have they ever so much as peeked at the walls or ceiling. And they often leave irate little notes informing me that sometimes, when it's cold outside and warm inside there is condensation that causes moisture that results in mold that I, too, can spray away. This has literally happened about 7 times. Last month when they came to inspect for lead-based paint, I mentioned it to the groundskeeper escorting the paint guy. Two days later, we came home to a note on the door informing us that our window sills had been sprayed again. Good fricking grief.

Finally, I went to the leasing office and explained, in person, that I do not give a rat's fuzzy rump about the sills, I am concerned about the WALLS AND CEILING. The rep assured me that they would immediately look into it.

The next day . . . yes, it's true. There was a note on the door informing us that our window sills had been sprayed again.

I was on the phone in an instant, fairly pissed off. (Cough cough.) I informed Michael of the above scenario. He gave me the routine about how all the important, competent employees were relatively new, and I couldn't hold them accountable for a year's worth of neglect. I also told him that in my opinion, they were not living up to the lease agreement, namely that the management would maintain a safe, healthy apartment building. He disagreed. We went through an entire song-and-dance of me being pissed and him being defensive. This lasted, according to my cordless phone's digital display, a bit over 32 minutes. It ended with him agreeing to come see the mold in person, with the head of maintenance, in a few days.

Second issue: we also received notice that our apartment would be sprayed for roaches on May 2 and please empty our entire kitchen pantry and bathroom linen closet. (At that time, we had not seen any roaches. In the next few days, we saw five. EW.)

May 2: my kitchen pantry looks like it barfed itself onto the dining room table and floor. The bathroom is ankle-high in cotton balls and Tampax and about six thousand generic variations on NyQuil. We are ready for the Great Roach Faceoff of 2005. The exterminator is due between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. (Don't you love those specific time slots they give you?)

9:30 a.m.: baby is down for a nap, I jump in the shower.

9:43 a.m.: I get out of the shower.

After getting dressed, I discovered a calling card on my kitchen counter from the roach dude. It had the company name and said "Your Pest Service Has Been Completed On _________." The blank is still blank. I check my front door-- it is unlocked. The guy obviously came and went while I was in the shower. I know he didn't come in the bathroom . . . and my daughter's high chair was still blocking the kitchen pantry door. A peek inside told me he hadn't touched it.

I called the office again, got voicemail, and nobody called me back. 2 hours later, I called again, and spoke with Michael (who, by this time, I'm sure, had decided I was his least favorite resident.) I explained the roach situation. Michael replied that the roach guy had said he successfully sprayed every apartment ("every apartment," by implication, meaning "mine.") I probably just couldn't tell, he said. I begged to differ. He didn't believe me, but replied that he planned to come see my apartment and inspect the mold anyway the following morning "before noon."

May 3: noon comes and goes. No Michael. No surprise. I call the office. "I told you I'd be there today or tomorrow," he says. Right. Jared gets sick of wading through mouthwash and tweezers to pee and replaces everything in the bathroom closet. Dining room still looks like canned goods drive.

May 4: Michael arrives at my door at 9:30 a.m. with the head of maintenance. I smile sweetly and tell Michael that this is NOT our first meeting. Despite his claims that I can't blame him for past lack of service, I spoke to him in person on January 7 about our mold. "Well, January seventh, I only started working here on the first, so you can't blame me for that," he says. Of course not. Michael is above reproach!

We continue. They inspect the mold with a little pronged electronic doodad. There is mold, there is moisture, but it's not the toxic killing kind. That's good. Except for the bathroom ceiling-- the little prongs collapse part of the ceiling and the moisture reading is 100%. The upstairs neighbor's shower must be leaking. They need to rip out part of our ceiling and replace it. Also, our tub needs recaulking. (Side note: you will believe, of course, when I tell you they have caulked our tub four times in the last 21 months? It keeps "melting," no matter HOW long we let the dumb thing sit-- taking showers at a friend's house. Bah.)

Head of maintenance says he will return this afternoon to do preliminary stuff (I pointed out that my husband needs to shower for work in the morning and we can't suddenly vacate our only shower for 24 hours without notice.)

Then they inspect the pantry. No, the roach man definitely did NOT spray. Roach man will return on Monday, Michael tells me. Seems at least genuinely ticked at roach man (ha ha-- get it? ticked? roach . . . ? oh fine.) They leave.

5:30 p.m., "this afternoon" arguably come and gone, neither hide nor hair of maintenance man. I call the office. Michael answers. Oh, he says, maintenance man will be there in the MORNING, not TODAY . . .

I have a headache. I'd tell Michael to go soak his head, but I can't offer him my shower. It's going to be recaulked soon.

FedEx: When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be There... Sometime In the Distant Future

Here, I shall simply reproduce the letter of complaint I wrote to FedEx. I never received a reply.

I would like to express my frustration and disappointment with FedEx. The online tracking function has been nearly useless.

My package was scanned exactly three times: once, on April 19 to confirm that FedEx had received the package, again on the morning of the 20th stating that the package was at the sorting/shipping facility . . . and then not again until after I had already missed the attempted home delivery on the 24th.

My confirmation e-mail from [company] stated that my package would be shipped via "FedEx Ground." Because the package was not adequately scanned for tracking purposes, I had no idea where it was or when it might arrive. Knowing that FedEx does not deliver on Saturday, I was away and left no signature or instructions.

When I returned home I found that "FedEx Home Delivery," NOT "FedEx Ground," had attempted to deliver the package, and that because they do not deliver on Mondays, I would have to wait until Tuesday. This several-day delay is very troubling to me. The package is extremely important to my work. I even called the 800# to ask if I could pick up the package myself at the warehouse, but was informed that the independent contractors who perform the "FedEx Home Delivery" do not return the packages to the warehouse between delivery attempts.

So, between FedEx's inept (practically nonexistent) tracking service and the incorrect information provided regarding FedEx Ground vs. FedEx Home Delivery, I am extremely unhappy. I will not be voluntarily using FedEx in the future.

Aetna: Free At Last

I haven't blogged in over a month; I assure you it's not for lack of material. My computer died. Maybe I'll blog about FedEx next. For now, Aetna.

It had been over 3 weeks since I had spoken with an Aetna rep, after the pulmonologist's billing administrator had appealed to me for my help in breaking through the Aetna stall tactics. I called to follow up.

First Val informed me that they were still waiting on the pulmy's notes and the notes from the hospital where the tests were performed. I replied that the pulmy's admin had sent them the notes over 3 weeks prior and they SHOULD indeed have them. She disagreed.

I asked if she was SURE the hospital hadn't forwarded notes along. She was. I asked if she was SURE Aetna was requesting the files for the correct person (remember, until a month ago, they'd been asking the pulmy for "Jared Clarke's" chart.) She was. I asked if this was not terribly strange that after 18 months EVERYONE was ignoring her requests for information. It was, she said, "But you can't blame us!"

Well, I can, but that's beside the point. I asked her to check on something for me (I don't even remember-- that's how ridiculous and tiring these conversations get) and she returned to the phone. "Oh," she said, "I found the information we needed from the hospital."

"You DID?" I exclaimed.

"Yes," she replied, "it was here in your file, but it wasn't put into the computer properly."

"What's the date on it?" I asked.


"May 14, 2004."

May 14, 2004?! I was making this phone call eleven months after they received this information, and after ELEVEN MONTHS they were still claiming they didn't have it, desperately needed it, and were holding my $800+ hostage. You know, back in February they told the billing administrator they had found some of this information in my file that had not been entered into the computer properly, but swore it would be resolved soon. Here it was, April, and it had NOT.

Fortunately Val seemed to realize that Aetna had not only dropped the ball, but let it bounce away into traffic, and didn't even have the decency to chase after it like a small child . . . and she promised to call the pulmy billing admin and have the information faxed over ASAP so that the claim could finally be submitted with all the proper information. I thanked her, disbelieved her, and hung up.

I immediately called my now-good friend, the billing admin. I had to wait on hold because she was on a call. When she answered me, she informed me that Val had beaten me to the punch! Val actually called! Val asked for the information to be faxed over, and the admin said, God bless her, "You mean the information I already sent you?"

Two days later there was a message on my machine from Val, informing me that ALL the required info was received (and, apparently, properly logged in the system) and that the claim would be submitted for approval. I will still believe it when I see it.