Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When your dentist hands you an estimate for $10,110.00.

I can't believe how this dental problem of mine has exploded like a blood sausage in the past few weeks.

Just one month ago, I went to the dentist to simply have my teeth cleaned and have an old filling replaced.  Okay, fine.  Then during my cleaning I was told I needed to have 2 large cavities filled.  Then I was told I have not 2 but 3 large cavities which would result in 3 crowns.  Then I was told I have a total of 14 cavities, 1 of which would require a root canal and 2 of which were so bad my teeth need to be pulled.

I've been trying to come up with a funny caption for the above photo, but I got nothin'.  All I can say is that I've been making lots of phone calls and going to lots of appointments getting second and third opinions on this, comparing prices and discount plans and insurance plans from various places, and talking with these dentists about how this state of affairs might have possibly occurred.  The consensus seems to be that I must've had these cavities for 2 years but my braces hid them on x-rays, so my former dentists couldn't detect them and treat them when they were small and manageable.  So every few months for the past 2 years I was explicitly told by licensed professionals that my teeth were healthy and that I had no cavities--when in reality I had a cavity on almost every tooth!  Can you believe that shit?  And braces didn't even straighten my teeth out that much, so that was a huge waste.   

You can imagine my opinion of Western medicine right now.  And how much I'm kicking myself for ever getting braces.  I had zero cavities when I got them, and only a handful of small fillings.  I went the first 28 years of my life with only 7 small cavities, and then from ages 28-30 I acquired 14 additional cavities, some of them extremely severe...?  That doesn't even seem possible, like it defies the laws of physics.  My diet didn't really change during that time, and when I mentioned a few posts ago how I wasn't taking as meticulous care of my teeth the past couple months, I meant that there were some days were I was a little lazy about using mouthwash and dental picks.  It's not like I stopped brushing my teeth, for heaven's sake.  You know how some people have such poor oral hygiene that their teeth look all sticky and fuzzy and rough-textured?  That was NEVER me!  My teeth are always smooth and glossy and white.  I just don't get it.  Something must've happened to my enamel.  Maybe I have a calcium deficiency or something?

Ugh.  Getting braces was one of the worst decisions EVER.  I've made a lot of shitty decisions in my life, but the three worst ones were getting married, joining the military, and getting braces.  These events seem like life improvements, right?  Except they completely fucked up my emotional and physical well-being, the damage from which took--or will take--years to undo.  
Man alive.  Well, I guess I was overdue for an expensive health crisis anyway.  I haven't had one in nearly 10 years, and it happens to everyone at least a couple times in their lives.  And I should probably be thankful that this crisis is in my mouth and not in some other embarrassing place.  But...fuck!  When this dental work is all completed, I will have a grand total of 18 fillings and 3 crowns!  Fortunately I found a nice dental school in town that will do everything for $5000 instead of $10,000.  Gosh, only $5000?  Such a savings.  So combined with the cost of braces, in the past three years I will have spent a grand total of $11,000 on my teeth, all because I originally just wanted them to look a little straighter in photographs.

God, I seriously need a caretaker.  A minder.  A handler to come make sound decisions for me, to come tell me which life choices are good and which are bad.  Someone to lead me around and give me directions, to tell me where to go and what to do, and when it's safe to come out of my kennel.  Because when I'm left to wander around by myself, I wreck my teeth and move to cities I hate and plunge into careers that aren't right for me at all.  I smear food on the walls and jump all over the furniture and gnaw on priceless works of art.  I need a John Barbary to my Mr. Peepers:  

And to boot, the timing of this massive medical bill perfectly coincides with the fact that I am unemployed and looking for a job.  I haven't heard anything from the 14 places I've applied so far, and I know I'm supposed to be calling them and reminding them that I exist and hounding them to hire me.  The idea of that makes me cringe though, mostly because I don't really want any of the jobs I applied for.  I only applied because they were the only positions that I was remotely qualified for.  Do you know how difficult it is to write a cover letter for a job you don't want?  No?  Well, it is like a buffalo giving birth.  It is like shitting razor blades.  Cover letters are supposed to be flowery, verbose declarations about how much you're going to contribute to the company's bottom line, how there's no other company you'd rather work for, and how your experience and education make you and only you absolutely perfect for the position.  On top of that, the letter is also supposed to be "jazzy" and full of "spunk" and "personality" to set you apart from the other 70,000 ideal candidates vying for that same position.  I don't know about you, but I find it discouraging to write cover letters when I not only don't want the job but have no substantial experience in anything.

Anything, that is, but retail and customer service, which I did on and off between the ages of 15 and 25.  Last week I decided that maybe I should just suck it up and return to those roots.  I saw a well-paying call center position posted by a staffing agency, so I went and registered with them.  The staffing guy looked at my resume and told me that since I haven't worked in a call center since 2008, that it's not recent enough to count as experience, and that they would try to find something that I'm qualified to do.


I'm not qualified to do an entry-level job that any monkey could do because I haven't worked in a call center in 4 years, even though I'd been doing customer service since Bill Clinton was president and before the Lewinsky scandal even broke??  What nonsense!  I mean, I never wanted to go back to working retail, but somehow I doubt that suddenly I'm not qualified to fall back on it as a last resort.  Am I seriously not fit to punch numbers into a cash register and answer a telephone?  

I then inquired if the agency ever received requests for editors, copywriters, or technical writers.  Staffing Guy replied, "Sometimes, but those jobs are becoming obsolete, since everything is automated now."  Oh, is that a fact?  Since when are instruction manuals, newsletters, press releases, and advertisements writing and editing themselves?  I'd certainly like to know which software is capable of that.

What the hell.    

That's the thing about "entry-level" postings, too.  Every time I look at job ads and specifically go to the "entry-level" category, they all require someone with "at least" 3-7 years of experience.  Um, I'm pretty sure the term "entry-level" means you don't have to have experience.  Still, what do I see there but shit like, "This is an entry-level position.  Five years prior experience in scheduling appointments in a podiatrist's office is required."  Or "Bachelor's degree and 5 years experience working in a car rental office a must; pay is $7.65/hr" or "Three years prior experience in HR environment required."  I'm assuming this is because they don't want to take a few minutes to show any new employee what procedures, however simple, are specific to that office.  Maybe they want someone who can step in and pick up exactly where the former employee left off.  Okay fine, but don't list all that shit under "entry-level" then.  

Overall, the whole game of looking for a respectable job is a bunch of BS, in my opinion.  I don't know how or why anyone goes along with it.  Well, for the money, duh.  I'm sure it's how they afford their cars and their houses and their pets, children, iPods/iPads/iPhones, flat screen TVs, video game systems, newer-model computers/laptops, and expensive hobbies like golfing and skiing.

The idea of working in any hierarchical or overly-structured environment chafes my soul.  Dilbert chafes my soul.  Even though I've worked in such places before, when I think about my future, I certainly don't see myself there.  I mean, I like the aesthetics of business clothes--the clean lines, calm colors, and emanation of importance--but the rest of the professional world just raises my hackles.  The very sight of a water cooler makes me want to run away screaming with my arms waving over my head dramatically.

 Mr. Peepers thinks the water cooler is a predator.

And that is how college spoiled me.  It opened my mind to a world where critical thinking and creativity were rewarded, where I was free to be kind of a weirdo and it wasn't seen as threatening, and where I first met successful people who had ethics and weren't obsessed with profit and personal gain.  But in the business world, the only thing that matters is profit and personal gain.  And unless you're a top-level executive, you have to follow a script and adhere to a very specific set of instructions, with no deviation or creativity allowed, because those instructions have been deemed the most efficient way to maximize profits.  Your reason for being at the company is to contribute to the shareholder's stock portfolio, not to contribute to the good of society or make the world a better or more colorful place.  If you want to be creative or think critically or stray from the script, either for comic relief or for a higher good, you'd better bet your ass you're going to get written up several times and eventually fired.     

How anyone can write a sincere cover letter begging to be a pawn in this system blows my mind.  Mind = blown.

By the way, did you know that, according to the Arizona Republic, Phoenix is one of the worst metro areas for unemployed people?  And according to Consumer Reports, it's also the 8th most dangerous city for pedestrians, and one of the cities with the worst drivers.  Considering that I'm harassed by people in cars nearly every time I step outside my house and recently had a baseball thrown at my head by one of them, I can't say I'm surprised.  Phoenix is also the only place where I've ever been regularly accosted by Jehovah's Witnesses while waiting at various bus stops.  Plus it's hot and miserable, anti-environment, anti-education, and anti-women's rights.  Jesus, I hate it here so fucking much.  After I have my teeth fixed, I'm saving up and plotting my escape

In other news, I accidentally walked into the men's bathroom at the library the other day.  I just breezed right on in there, thinking, "Wow, this bathroom is filthy."  And then I saw a line of urinals, and then a youngish man standing at one of the urinals. I stopped in my tracks, and he looked over his shoulder at me and said, "Whoa.  Excuse me.  Heh."

Of course I ran out of there mortified, but it made me laugh, too.  I really needed a good giggle at that point.  During these past 9 months that I've been in grad school, I've found myself laughing only once or twice a week, which is nowhere near enough for me to maintain equilibrium.  I'm normally a goofball, a clown, and my default mood is normally set to silly, but since moving here I've just been sad most of the time.  Recently I tried asking myself what I like to do for fun, and I...couldn't...really remember.  I had to think about it for a couple days before I could come up with an answer.  No joke. 

My life didn't used to be so dumb, but it is now.  But, as Carmen The Therapist once reminded me, being alive is difficult for any organism.  That kind of makes me want to be a hedonist, you know?  If life on Earth has always been a struggle, always will be a struggle, always has been unfair and always will be unfair, then there's not much you can do about it in the grand scheme of things, because that's just the nature of life on this planet, this sphere of competition for limited resources.  If people who run around trying to force the world to be more fair usually just makes things worse, then why not just accept the fact that life sucks, and that dwelling on it or thinking about it too much isn't going to help, and get over it and focus your attention on something else?  Focus instead on numbing yourself and others with fun.  With amusement and merriment.  I don't know.  I have this train of thought and it makes sense to me, but it also makes me feel vaguely irresponsible. 

I think maybe that's why entertainers are some of the most handsomely-paid people in developed countries, even though it seems like teachers, nurses, policemen, firefighters and other do-gooders should be.  Maybe most people are so depressed about everything that they try to be distracted as much as possible.  That's what entertainers do--they distract us from reality, and sometimes being distracted feels really good, even better than learning something new, being nursed back to health, or being rescued from a burning building.  Or having 18 fillings and 3 root canals.