Sunday, June 3, 2018

Quality Of Life

I had to do CPR on my toilet this morning. The poor thing almost died. A few hard hammer blows and a lot of serious chest pumping got it going again. No mouth-to-mouth. I like my toilet, but I don't love it.

I guess that I've been eating too many prunes or something. We get to that certain age, it's true, and if we want to continue having bowel movements on a regular basis we need an entirely new strategy to attack the problem. Every aspect of this issue is unpleasant, from the special diet to the toilet challenges, but all of it pales to insignificance very quickly in the scheme of things. If the rest of the day is comfortable, interesting, somewhat entertaining, and occasionally wonderful, then it was a great day. Another day above ground! Another day without the need for medical intervention! Another day that I could afford! It was a wonderful day. Your quality of life that day was very good.

The doctors present a much greater danger to our happiness than the toilets. The doctors may give us terrible news, or, in the alternative, they may have no idea what is going on. On the money side, no one in America has embraced the concept of “fiat money” as much as the doctors have. What is that angiogram worth? How much you got? The range for that one is between $10,000, as charged to Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and $150,000, charged at the high end to private patients. (California prices, 2018.) That's fiat money at its most mischievous. It's hard to pay bills like that, and it's hard to plan in an environment like that. Worrying about your medical security is a quality of life issue.

Doctors have other tricks up their sleeves. They will often cause us grievous pain and suffering, for our own good, of course, and they will do it with that studied nonchalance that they probably learn in medical school. I woke up in the hospital one time about thirty years ago after a full-on abdominal surgery, and the scene was just terrible. Even the Demerol didn't cheer me up. After about an hour, the surgeon came in to see if I was going to live. He looked up from my chart and smiled. “How are you doing?” he said casually.

I made a face and screamed at him. “How am I fucking doing? What a question! I got an eight inch long Frankenstein zipper here; I got three tubes hanging out of me; I can't fucking move around; they won't give me a drink of water; how does it look like I'm doing?” Now I would smile and thank the doctor, but in those days I still had quite a bad temper.

By now the doctor was laughing. Partly because I was being ridiculous, and partly, God bless him, because if I already had the energy to curse him out like that, I was obviously strong enough to recover nicely. “You sound like you're doing great! And boy, did you run us a merry chase! It took us twenty minutes just to find your appendix!” In an issue of first medical impression, my appendix was as far from the usual place for such a thing as it could be, tucked up in a remote corner of my abdominal cavity behind my left hip-bone. But all's well that ends well, and I'm not complaining. Any good result is a wonderful thing. That was a bad case of a burst appendix, and even rich people frequently die from that, even to this day.

At least in those days I met the legal definition of “poor” for purposes of government assistance. The great State of California picked up the entire bill, for which I am eternally grateful. Our quality of life in those days was higher than now, because our governments, federal, state, and local, were more helpful. Now I pay as I go. I have a small policy of, what's that euphemism? Junk insurance, and I pay the rest of the bills myself. Living in Thailand makes this a sustainable proposition, unless the whole thing goes simultaneously kablooie someday. Then it will be Starship Troopers time: “Rico! You know what to do!”

I'd be even worse off in America, even with the Medicare. It's an interesting thing, Medicare. It sounds great, but it's really a lot like Three Card Monte. When you examine it closely, there's no Queen there at all. It only works well for people who meet the legal definition of “poor,” and they get about the same care that they would get even if they were too young for Medicare. Things like the old Medicaid, and the program that helped me so much with the burst appendix, MediCal, are shadows of their former selves, aren't they? Every level of government in the United States has gotten out of the helping-people business. Because . . . there's no money! Not since we stopped taxing rich people, anyway. Stop bothering us about money! We're milking the working class as hard and fast as we can!

So here we are with our prunes and our prescriptions, waiting for the really bad medical news, trying to make ends meet in a world where the king's ransom of our youth now only buys you a car and a few years of living expenses. Remember when $30,000 would buy you a nice house in New York or Los Angeles, and a Pontiac Firebird for the garage? These days it will buy you a car and a few nice lunches. Remember grandma and grandpa living comfortably in Florida in the house that they bought cheap and with Social Security paying all of their bills? Okay, get ready, place your hands on your knees, brace yourself, and let's share a huge laugh at that idea! That's some boffo stuff right there! And all of that was possible not so long ago. Hell, that was only 1970. I was married already, and that was still the financial reality for working class America. We all had more security and a better quality of life.

As much as people have the gall to complain about Baby Boomers, we have been the victims of a vicious bait-and-switch scam. We played by the rules, and now we're getting the fire-hose. As for you subsequent children out there, it's only gotten worse for you, and I am totally sympathetic. I'd hate to be thirty-five years old right now and planning for retirement. You'd have to be Mandrake the fucking Magician.

It's all about the quality of life, though. We've all got beautiful big screen TVs and Netflix; we've all got nice computers with Facebook and YouTube. We are surrounded by terrible dangers, but many of them are speculative. Maybe we'll get lucky! If we have built for ourselves, like the third Little Pig, a brick-house of happiness, we may just make it through okay with a good quality of life.

For those among us who lacked the foresight to build with bricks, or the others upon whom only bad luck will fall, it's the wolves for you I'm afraid. Or maybe for us, because my own house isn't all that strong. And in our new rough-and-tumble Trumpian culture, while the wolves are tearing people apart with their teeth, few others will care or even notice. Fake News! America is the greatest country on earth, and we take care of our own! If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

I'll take some of what those people are smoking, please. The Trump fans cheerfully accept any awful thing that happens and they believe any damn thing with a smile. Must be some strong weed.

P.S. I will care, dear reader, if you are overtaken by bad luck, and I will care about it whether your planning was weak or strong, whether your house is made from straw, wooden boards, or bricks. You are among the precious few who take the time to read my little offerings, and I love you. We need to stick together! It's a jungle out there.

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