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London: There’s a Cafe in the Crypt? And a bar in the museum?

September 2, 2010

So Tiffany and Lindsey’s Great European Adventure started in London.  It was a whirlwind, we did so much.  I’ll just give a few highlights here:

St. Paul’s Cathedral

This was possibly the most beautiful church I have ever been in.  Architecture, statues, everything was stunning. And the view from the top was well worth the 500-some stairs it took to get there.  However, probably the most unique trait was below the main sanctuary.  There was a crypt, with hundreds of graves, as well as a cafe.  Yep, you can have your sandwich, then go look at where some dead people are buried. Not exactly my cup of tea (ha), but good for them.

Science Museum

Covered all kinds of fields, the history of medicine was particularly fascinating.  I love hands on exhibits, so the kids area was of great interest, however, all the children kept using the exhibits that I wanted to.  And then their parents would look at me strangely because I’m not a child, nor do I have one, and I would act like I didn’t really want to play with the exhibit. But I did. Fun is not just for children.  Luckily, there was a grown-ups only fun area: a bar. In a science museum. Does no one in Britain find these things as strange as I do?  It was also interesting to learn about things I had learned from a US persepctive.  The perspective also came into play at the British Museum, where the British chose the word “rescued” to describe the removal of statues from the Parthenon, while Greece might have a different choice word.

Neal’s Yard Dairy

If you love cheese, this place is like heaven. The smell walking in the door is enough to walk you over, but press onward, because the taste is totally worth it. We must have sampled 10 different cheeses before buying two and a loaf of bread for lunch. Delicious.

We were sad to leave London and its spectacular theatre, though less sad to leave the bathroom in our hostel which had two faucets, one with freezing water, and one with scalding. Your only option was to choose how to suffer, or have a friend hold both on while you pitifully splash from both. But it’s off to Brussels and Bruges.

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Act 3: She’s so hiiiiiiigh, high above me

August 7, 2010

Skip forward again, to spring of senior year. Charlie has grown, significantly, in fact.  As he grew it was harder to keep him hidden, much like an illegitimate child you keep in the attic.  I realized I probably needed to go to the doctor again, but it was senior year. Time was not something I had in abundance.  I finally stopped back by the health center, and the same doctor examines Charlie again.  “Well, what I would recommend is excising it,” the doctor said.  I’m immediately suspicious. “We would cut it open, remove the entire thing, and then leave some gauze in there for a couple days, then close it back up,” he explained, like it was the most natural thing in the world to walk around with a gaping wound. I was horrified at the prospect. He said I should go to a dermatologist to get it done.  “Yeah, ok,” I said. Fat chance, I thought.

Despite being the daughter of a doctor and a nurse, medical things have always made me fairly squeamish, and the thought of all that slicing and bleeding… I just couldn’t handle it.  I would get it taken care of, just… not right now. Besides, like I said, I was way too busy.  As the year wound up and I secured a temporary job for the summer, I figured out that I wouldn’t get to stay on my parents’ health insurance, and my temp job did not provide any coverage. I realized I did not really think this through. I made it through the summer, with the hopes of getting a full time job in the fall that would provide me with coverage. As you know, that failed, miserably.  I finally realized I had to just suck it up, and go to the doctor. I made an appointment with a dermatologist on my plan, but after examining Charlie and me, she became worried that it could be a hernia or a “soft fatty tumor” (Tumor! I knew it!).  She sent me to a surgeon.

After several frustrating weeks of trying to schedule an appointment, I got in to see the surgeon.  He takes a look, decides that there’s only a 2% chance it’s a hernia (doesn’t even mention tumor). Most likely it’s some sort of cyst. He tells me to schedule an appointment for surgery.  At this point I’m not even worried about surgery anymore, I just want to be rid of Charlie. He’s like a 40-year-old son who still lives in the basement and just won’t leave. Besides, the surgeon assured me it would be so simple. It would only take about half an hour, and the next day I would be able to exercise, swim, lift 500 pounds (despite not being able to lift 500 pounds pre-surgery, not sure how that works).

I scheduled my surgery, and my mom came up to accompany me and take care of me afterward.  They wheeled me into the operating room, and explained that first they would give me a drug to relax me, then a bunch of oxygen, then the anesthesia. As the anesthesiologist added the relaxant to my IV, he explained “This is a relative of valium, so you’ll just start to relax.” Well, it relaxed me so much I don’t even remember the oxygen or anesthesia.  I woke up and felt fine, and wasn’t really even in much pain.  Despite this, the nurse said I should take two vicodin. “Really?” I said.  After I had my wisdom teeth out I took half of a vicodin, and it had made me pretty happy. Even in my groggy state two whole pills seemed excessive. But she insisted, and I was in no state to refuse.

My mom drove me home and got me settled in bed. At this point, I am high. I am not in any pain, in fact, I feel really good. My mom left to pick up some dinner for us, and it is at this point that I decided it was a really good idea to call my old roommate. And my boss. And my pastor. Even better, I got voicemail for all three of them. If you know me at all, you know I can barely leave a coherent voicemail while totally sober and alert, so this resulted in each of them being left with a real gem of a message, in which I described myself as “all high and stuff.” Awesome. The next day at work my boss didn’t say anything, so I hoped the memory of the voicemail was just  hallucinogenic dream.  About ten minutes later my boss poked his head into my office with a huge grin on his face, holding his phone to his ear. “I’m really enjoying this voicemail from you,” he said, full of glee.  I hung my head and sighed. Luckily he has a good sense of humor.

Before the operation, the surgery center called and told me that with my insurance plan, I would have to pay 30% of the cost. “Alright,” I said.  “That will be $719,” the chipper receptionist informed me. My knees buckled and I almost dropped the phone. That’s ok, I thought, I have savings for things like this.  Then my dad told me the surgeon and anesthesiologist would probably also be sending me bills. No problem, I thought, if I don’t buy groceries this month I’ll probably lose some weight.

As I considered how expensive it was to be ill, I started to do a math problem in my head.  The doctor gave me a prescription for 30 vicodin. It cost me about $2. I used four of them.  If I sold the remaining pills to addicts in the park, how close would I get to paying for my surgery?  It was tempting, especially when I saw that I could get a refill of another 30 pills. Ultimately I realized that the ethical issues at work in the situation probably outweighed the benefit of some money, much like selling my eggs, despite all the facebook ads urging me to do so.  So I’ll just be paying for it myself, and saving the vicodin for me next red-eye flight.  The important thing is that, hundreds of dollars, four pills, three embarrassing voicemails and one surgery later, the Bump is finally gone.

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Act 2: Live Like You Are Dying

August 5, 2010

Rewind about 2 years.  Towards the end of sophomore year, I noticed a small bump, under the skin, where my leg met my hip.  “Cancer!” I gasped. I knew it. I knew it was a tumor.  I immediately thought of a host of other symptoms I was experiencing, and now, a bump.  Mystery bumps are never good. Never.  I knew this, thanks to a little website called WebMD.  I definitely frequent this website more than any human should, 99% of the time for a feature called The Symptom Checker.  I love the Symptom Checker, to an unhealthy degree (ha).  It’s a little figure of a person, and you click on the body part that is troubling you, and it asks you questions about the symptoms, what you’ve been doing beforehand, how it acts up, etc. and then gives you a list of potential conditions.  Every time I have used it, I have been able to diagnose myself with a rare, typically fatal, disease.  Really, it’s a miracle I’m still alive.

When I found The Bump, I immediately logged onto the Symptom Checker, and determined that I probably had ovarian cancer.  Well, I should probably go to the doctor, I thought with a heavy heart, give him the news and get whatever treatment can prolong what’s left of my time here on earth.

I went to the campus health center, ready to face my own mortality.  “Well, let’s take a look,” said the jovial doctor. Poor guy, I thought, trying to be cheerful when he knows I’m dying.  “Hmm, it looks like a fluid filled cyst here,” he said, poking and prodding away.  “We’ll do a blood test to make sure there’s no infection. Put a warm compress on it, and if it gets any worse come back.”

“What?” I sat up indignantly. “That’s it?  But, it’s, a Bump!” “Well, we can drain it,” the doctor said, “but they usually just fill back up.”  “Oh,” I said, a little less certain of my self diagnosis.  “But I’m also bloated and having stomach trouble!” I said. “Stop eating so much cheese,” the doctor said.  “I’ve seen you in the cafeteria, no one is able to properly digest that much.” “Oh, right,” I said sheepishly. “Less cheese?” I thought privately. “Please, that’s not even worth getting rid of real cancer, let alone fake.”

So I let The Bump be. We co-existed in a symbiotic relationship, like hippos and those birds that sit on them.  I let him live, and he kept me company.  I named him Charlie, talked to him on long car rides.  It was beautiful.

Then Charlie had to go and ruin everything.

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Act 1: I Dreamed a Dream of Health Insurance

August 4, 2010

(Read intro here: https://lindseychan.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/too-poor-to-die-an-epic-tale-in-three-acts/)

There are many pluses to having a hodge-podged medley of jobs as I do: I’m not sitting at one desk all day, and I get paid to blow bubbles and take naps. However, it’s not all unicorns and roses.  There are some downsides, one of the most irritating being the lack of benefits.  Full-time employees at my office job get great health insurance. It even used to be free, but now they pay a paltry $25 a month.  When my temp contract there last summer was running out, we were waiting on word regarding hiring me for the year.  My boss did get approval to do so, but only at 20 hours a week.  I panicked and began looking for part-time jobs that would also provide health insurance, the best options looking like Starbucks or CostPlus World Market (it really is the greatest store in the world).  However, when I looked at the human resources website for my office, I discovered I actually was eligible for health insurance. I would just have to pay half the premium.  I reasoned that it couldn’t be too much if the others only paid $25.

Ha.

I met with the benefits expert in HR to go over my glorious new life as one of the insured masses.  I had visions of teeth cleaning, mole checks, maybe even new glasses since my current pair had been acquired when I was 16, was no longer the correct prescription, gave me headaches and probably made me a hazard while driving.  I sat down with Kate, and she pulled out the giant benefits book.  I was practically drooling.  She explained that there were two basic plans, an HMO and a PPO. I was rocking in my chair with barely contained glee. Then she pulled out a rate sheet. “So, with either plan you would have to pay half of the premium each month, which is $265 with the HMO, or $432 with the PPO.”

$432. Four hundred and thirty two dollars. And not Canadian dollars, American dollars! That’s more than I paid in rent! I gawked at the sheet. “That’s half?!” I exclaimed in disbelief.  “And that doesn’t even include dental or vision!”  “These are pretty competitive rates,” Kate explained. I felt lightheaded. Kate recommended that since I was young and fairly healthy, I could probably find a plan on my own with lower premiums and a higher deductible. I nodded, left the office, and proceeded to have a panic attack on the stairs.  I couldn’t afford health insurance! How had this happened?! I was a good student! I was on the Dean’s list! Multiple semesters! I was in the Psi Chi Honor Society, dang nabbit!  I was near tears.

I called my parents with the bad news, and they were pretty shocked at the cost as well. And they work in health care!  They helped me search for an individual plan to purchase, and we found a pretty bare bones plan with low premiums.  I would probably pay most of my own health care costs out of pocket, but it would cover generic prescriptions, and would kick in after several thousands of dollars of my own money if I became deathly ill (which was looking like a pretty good option at this point).

Tomorrow, Act 2: Live Like You Are Dying

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Too Poor to Die: An Epic Tale in Three Acts

August 4, 2010

I have a story to tell, a story so grandiose in scope that it is too big for one blog post, nay, even two blog posts! (Mostly because I know most people’s attention doesn’t proceed past the first two paragraphs of anything I write).  No, this tragedy must unfold in three acts, each more dramatic and sorrowful than the last.  Behold: Too Poor to Die.

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Murder, She Purred

July 21, 2010

While I love kids, I fully admit that part of the reason I babysit so much is for money.  It actually makes up a good chunk of my income.  There are some months where I make more babysitting than I do at one of my (several) traditional office jobs.  I’ll pick up other odd jobs here and there where I can, doing prom hair, cooking, and, on a few occasions, house-sitting.

Is there a better job than housesitting?  Someone is paying you to live in their house.  That is the opposite of how it usually works!  Of course, there are usually a few tasks that come with the housesitting, and the house I’ve been at is no exception.  In fact, there are three big tasks, and their names are

Blackie

Abbey

And Scooter (aka my nemesis)

Now let’s get one thing clear right now: I am a dog person. I already knew that.  Dogs are sweet and loyal, they comfort you when you’re sad, and they think you are just the best.  A dog looks at you like you are Father Christmas, scattering bacon from one hand and slow moving squirrels from the other. You are world champion of everything. A cat doesn’t look at you like you’re a loser, because generally they don’t even bother to look at you, unless you are getting them food, in which case they look at you only so they can locate your leg and shred it like parmesan if you don’t move fast enough.

Still, while I would always choose a dog over a cat, I generally thought cats and I were okay.  Like if we happened to be in a living situation together, we would get along.

Now I am not so sure that’s true.

This family had three cats, and an elaborate schedule and list of rules to go along with them.  Blackie and Abbey were allowed to go outside, but had to be in before dark, or if I was leaving for more than three hours.  Scooter was not allowed outside, so naturally he wanted to be out more than the other two combined and made several escape attempts. Scooter also required wet food 2-3 times a day for his sensitive digestion, but Blackie would try to eat it, so it had to be given to him while Blackie was outside. In addition, they needed the usual: change the water in two bowls once a day, keep two bowls full of dry food, change the litter box, etc.

The family had explained that the cats liked to sleep on the bed in the room I was staying in, but if I wanted to I could shut them out in the living room.  I thought “Oh, that’s kind of cute and cozy to have the cats sleeping on the bed with me.  I’ll let them stay in.”  See, I imagined it much like napping with a baby (which is the best way to nap, by the way, they fall asleep on your chest and it’s like this black hole of sleep that sucks you in). But sleeping with cats is nothing like that.

To start with, they like to move around a lot, and since there are three of them, they somehow managed to stagger their shifts so that one of them was always up and moving around while the others were asleep.  Still, I managed to ignore them and drift into a light sleep. However, as soon as one of them would jump onto the bed or move in my general direction, I would jolt awake, heart pounding.  Why the extreme reaction, you ask?  Let me explain, though it’s only going to confirm your suspicion that I am completely unhinged.  See, as I drifted in and out of consciousness, I did not have a firm grasp on reality (this is about to become very apparent).  So when I would startle awake, my first thought was “The cat is going to kill me.”

I told you. Bonkers.

I thought the cat was going to kill me.  Specifically, I was convinced that it was going to come over, lie down on my face, and smother me. And this would not be an accident. There was malicious intent there.  I thought the cat was going to murder me.  I am dead serious. Any of them, all of them, maybe they would tag team it, just whoever was moving at the time.  I wasn’t really concerned with the details (or rationality, apparently).  And every time I would wake up with this thought, in a terrified stupor, I would realize after a few moments that this was probably not going to happen, and I would shake it off and drift back to sleep, only to have the same thing happen again at the changing of the guards. Over and over. For two and half hours. Finally, at 2 am, my nerves shot, I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up, dragged the three cat beds into the living room, and booted the cats out one by one.

The next morning, as I fixed my breakfast, I pondered the previous night’s events and my imagined escape from assassination by feline. “Crazy,” I laughed to myself. “Cat murder. That is just ridiculous.”  I looked at Scooter. He blinked at me.

I slept soundly that night with both doors shut tight.

UPDATE:

So I now shut the cats out at night, but the past two nights Blackie and Scooter have fallen asleep on the bed while I’m reading or blogging.  They’re really cute, the clean each other off and snuggle up with their paws on each other (they’re brothers), so I feel bad waking them up but I know they’ll just wake up later and annoy me.  Well, after night #1, I came out to the kitchen in the morning to find this:

You can’t get the full effect here, so let me explain: my loaf of bread was knocked off the counter, onto the floor, and mauled.  The bag was all shredded at one end, with little puncture wounds all over.  Just being playful cats, you say? Exhibit B:

That night, as I was sitting on the bed, the cats were traipsing about the house, when all of a sudden, Scooter, out of nowhere, bolts up onto the bed, sprints across at full speed, mauling me in the process. I was bleeding!  That’s not playful, that’s evil. I rest my case.

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Going to the Mattresses

July 6, 2010

On occasion, the family I nanny for asks if I’m available to babysit.  It’s not often, I think they figure by the weekend I am fleeing the premises as soon as possible, but every now and then, if other sitters aren’t available they’ll call on me like the mayor of Gotham calls on Batman: desperate and with nowhere else to turn.  Despite my crazed ranting, I do enjoy those kids a lot, so I will usually babysit if I’m free.  On this particular night, they had a “Cougar and Manther” theme party to attend.  Oh, it’s exactly what it sounds like.  The mom’s outfit had a lot of animal print, while the man had an unbuttoned shirt, fedora, and more bling than his wife.  I showed my parents a picture of them heading to the party and told them these were the people I nannied for.  I may not have explained they were going to a theme party.

But I digress. The parents dressed up in all their sleazy glory, and headed off.  Shortly after dinner, James was invited out to a movie with the neighbor, leaving me with just the little girls.  When I told Molly it was just us having a girls’ night, and she could pick what movie she wanted to watch all by herself, she was very excited. After selecting “Ratatouille,” we got dinner ready.  Their mom had left tortellini for me to cook, however, I am used to cooking pasta for one, which usually involves a small pot.  Proving once and for all that I was not a physics major, I did not really take into account that an entire package might be different, so after boiling water in the smallest pot in the cabinet, I poured the whole bag into the pot.  The result was that water, with pasta floating on top, was exactly level with the edge of the pot.  This led to me skimming water off the top with a cup and flinging it into the sink, a la a sailor on the Titanic.  But I did finally get it cooked.  Of course when it came to actually eating it, it was the usual battle with Molly.

She stared at me across the table, a small amount of pasta eaten, and a good deal more still in the bowl.  “You can’t just eat popcorn if you don’t have dinner,” I explained.  Molly was silent and unmoved. It was a standoff.  “Ok,” I said, “how about you just eat five more?”  Molly pondered this offer, then pulled the TV remote over. “One, two, three, four, five,” she counted on the buttons. “So that’s five? I would like to do one, two, three,” she threw back. I’m sorry, I thought, what is this, a mafia negotiation?  I felt like I should write a number on a slip of paper and slide it back across the table to her (this plan was of course encumbered by the fact that she can’t read).  I decided that a little bartering was worth her eating some dinner, and we threw the following offers back and forth. I think I had an unfair advantage, being as I know how to count.

Me: “Five.”

Lucie: “Three.”

Me: “Four.”

Lucie: “Five.”

Me: “…okay…”

Lucie: “No, four.”

Me: “Deal!”

After dinner, Molly decided that instead of using the money her mother left to go get ice cream, she just wanted to make popcorn.  This despite my talking loudly to no one about how delicious ice cream is.  I just didn’t want her to miss out. Obviously.

So we sat down to watch the movie, or rather, I sat down and attempted to catch snatches of the movie when Molly paused for breath while talking nonstop.  At one point, she turned back to me, and asked, “Lindsey, does God have butter?”…I wasn’t sure how to answer at first. “Uh, well, if God eats food like we do, then yes, I supposed he has butter,” I stumbled out, cringing at the theological implications of any answer to such a question.  She turned back to the movie and was actually silent for longer than 5 seconds, then turned back again and said “Yeah, I bet you’re right, God probably has healthy food.” Well sure, ever since he went on Weight Watchers, he’s been on a real health kick.

All in all, girls’ night was quite a success.  I put Molly to bed, and as I turned to close the door she said “Lindsey? I love you.” I smiled. “I love you too Molly.”  “I used to hate you, but I don’t anymore,” she assured me.  I’ll take that offer, I thought as I closed the door.