What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Firewalls. I’m perfectly well aware of the need for network security. Keeping China out of our computer system is a worthy goal. That being said, it feels like there should be some kind of reasonable middle ground that would not also block me from accessing large swaths of the interwebs that I need to do my actual job. For the country that put a man on the moon using a ship with less computing horsepower than a TI graphing calculator, it really doesn’t feel like it should be that much of a stretch.

2. Risk mitigation. Hawaii is a beautiful part of the world. I was lucky early in my career to have everyone pay for me to spend a fair amount of time out there. After reading all the news reports of homes being destroyed and residents being left penniless because their property wasn’t insured, all I can do is shake my head and wonder what the fuck they were thinking. It’s very clear from the first time you fly into the airport on the Big Island that you are treading on the upper reaches of a volcano – one that you know is active because it’s been spewing lava into the ocean for a couple of decades now. Building or buying a house sitting on top of an active volcano and then opting not to hedge your bet, feels awfully foolish. When I lived deep in the heart of the New Madrid Seismic Zone the likelihood of the house falling down on my head was small, but the severity if it did happen was catastrophic. You can bet your last puka bead that I threw down the extra scratch to tack on an earthquake rider to my policy. I’m not saying I don’t feel bad for the people who gabled and lost, but living in paradise doesn’t negate the need cover your own ass.

3. Death to America. I don’t agree with every policy position set out by the Trump Administration. Not by a long shot. However, when the religio-extremists governing Iran are sending their people into the streets to chant “death to America,” I’ve always thought there’s a good chance we’re doing something right.

New drugs…

One of the many exciting parts of my recent run of days off was a visit with my frighteningly Teutonic primary care doctor. I actually like the guy – Not just because he’s instrumental in keeping me alive despite my best efforts to the contrary, but also because he’s not a pushover. I’ve had docs in the past who were probably a bit too willing to give way in the face of a strong personality. This guy, well, he’s not a pushover. Even when I’m blatantly ignoring his advice, I appreciate his frank and direct approach.

This most recent visit resulted in a few tweaks to the daily chemical cocktail that’s doing its best to keep me from dropping dead. Although I’m feeling fine, we added a fairly new drug to the mix because some of the underlying numbers were starting to creep off target. Yeah, it’s another hundred bucks a month out of pocket, but when weighed against the previously mentioned dropping dead option, I suppose it’s really a bargain.

As a responsible drug user, I try to be at least minimally informed about what I’m swallowing down with my morning coffee. Reading the list of potential side effects checked off most of the usual unpleasant check boxes: May cause runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, irritability, back pain, joint or muscle pain, nausea, stomach pain, or diarrhea. Basically what the helpful information packet told me is that the side effects are a subset of conditions I already expect to experience on a regular basis. Super.

Better living through chemistry, indeed.

Magnetic…

From the time I got my license in June 1994 until October 2011, the only accidental damage I ever had to a vehicle was the occasional cracked windshield. Admittedly, the Jeep’s flat glass seemed to have an unnatural attraction to rocks kicked up at highway speed, but still that was just the cost of doing business. Since October 2011, the tide has turned. I can’t unnamedseem to go six months without the telltale screech of rending sheet metal. A parking meter jumped out and tagged my left turn signal, a crease appeared in my rear bumper shortly thereafter for reason or reasons unknown, an old man in an F-150 faked me out with his turn signal and cost me a new front end, and today I’ve got a softball sized dent on the left bedside from an unfortunate run in with the grill and hood of a Chevy.

Big Red is a trooper, though. Dents, dings, a new front end and she just keeps doing her thing. Now we’re off tomorrow morning to the body shop for the latest repair estimate. Given the relatively recent completion of my new front end, I’m trying to keep this one off the books at the insurance company. Unfortunately I can already hear my credit card screaming in protest. 2013 was basically punctuated by one headache after another. It’s becoming more obvious by the day that 2014 isn’t going to offer much in the way of relief, but just more of the same.

I love my Tundra, but she’s a rolling accident magnet… and if she wasn’t so damned close to being paid off, I’d think hard about trading her in on something that might not have so much bad mojo attached.

What Annoys Jeff this Week? (The Centennial Edition)

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the 100th installment of What Annoys Jeff this Week. With nearly two years of weekly annoyances under my belt, the only thing I can say from the writer’s perspective is that despite living in a universe that seems personally intent on agitating the shit out of me, I always look forward to Thursdays. They’re the day I get to compact many of the small issues into one great big ball of pissed off and launch it out into the world. It may not be classy, but it’s cathartic.

I thought about working up something special for this auspicious occasion, but decided quickly that the best tribute would be letting it out the same way I do every Thursday – a simple list and brief description of the week’s three most pressing annoyances.

1. Technology. Honestly, I don’t know who I would be if I weren’t wrapped in the warm electromagnetic cocoon of modern technology. That’s also the problem. In a week that’s been a near constant battle with my laptop, with my wireless router, and my internet provider just to stay connected, I wonder if perhaps I’ve put a bit too much reliance on the network. Yeah, that’s really not so much a question as a statement of fact. Still, I’m pretty sure what I’m really looking for is a system that works flawlessly all the time and not a way to disengage myself from it… because the only thing more annoying than having every bite of universal data at your fingertips is not having it when you want it. Stupid double edged sword.

2. Insurance. I got a notice this week that my prescription drug plan cost is going up about $40 a month. The cost of my general insurance plan is jumping this year too, but that’s not what annoys me, really. After all, the insurance premiums and out of pocket costs are basically just the price I pay to avoid being dead. As far as I’m concerned, not being dead is basically worth every penny I need to pay. Quite frankly, I don’t want healthcare in the country to be “average”. I want to nation’s best hospitals and corporations to dump money hand over fist into developing innovative treatments and medical equipment. Like it or not, 300+ million people can’t all get the best care on the planet, but over time the ideas they pioneer at the best hospitals can develop into common practice across the country. That’s good for everyone. Until then, if I want to drive myself eyeball deep into debt to get treatment at Hopkins, Sloan-Kettering, or the Mayo Clinic, that’s my decision because at least for now I’m the one paying the bill. When someone else foots the bill and tries to be all things to all people, we inevitably end up with a mediocre “standard level of service,” and I like being alive entirely too much to let any government entity of company decide what treatment checks off the box that says “good enough.”

3. Chicks. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but love for you ladies out there. You’re soft and curvy and smell nice. I love the way you walk and the way you talk… but after 35 years I still have no ability to understand the way you think. Although I am an accomplished man with many skills and talents, the ability to read minds is one that, thus far, I haven’t mastered. I’ll keep working on it, but in the meantime I’d consider it a personal favor if you could just go ahead and tell me what’s on your mind rather than letting me speculate wildly on my own. Trust me, left to my own devices my mind can conjure notions that are generously described as “bleak.” And that tends to be a situation other than good for everyone involved.

So that’s the good kind of damage?

The body shop I’m using comes highly recommended from several sources. Even the internet says they do good work and as we all know, the internet never lies. Now that they’ve had a chance to give the truck the once over, they’ve arrived at the strangely specific repair estimate of $7.968.00. I don’t know, it just feels like that would have been an appropriate time to just round up and announce it would be about eight grand. Lower than eight and I’d have been happily surprised, higher then eight and they covered themselves by making it an “about” statement. But rounding to the nearest dollar just seems like overkill.

I almost enjoyed talking to the guy, but that could have had more to do with the memo I was trying hard not to write than anything interesting he was saying. That was until he threw in that I had “the good kind of damage.” Say what? I’m pretty sure there’s nothing about an $7,968 repair bill for a crunched in front end that I’d consider “good damage.” I’m pretty sure he ment that the damage was largely cosmetic and didn’t foul up the drivetrain or frame, still, not what I think of as good damage. Then again, if I were about to get a $7,500 check from my insurance company, maybe I’d think it was good damage too.

Left turn, Clyde…

To help give a little insight into how I spent most of the day yesterday, I wanted to provide a public service announcement to all the drivers out there. In most vehicles these days there’s a toggle switch on the steering column that controls the left and right turn signals that alert drivers around you to your intended course of action. For instance, when you’re in the turn lane with you blinker flashing, the rest of us assume that you are actually going to go ahead and turn in the direction indicated by your flashing signal. Well over 99% of the time, that’s exactly what happens. It happens with such regularity that it’s one of those things that the driving public just assumes to be true. They assume it to be true right up until the moment when it’s not true and they find themselves pummeled by a face full of airbag. You see, fellow drivers, when you signal one intention and then do something else, bad things tend to happen to everyone involved.

In case anyone is wondering, I’m fine. The dogs are fine. The Tundra, however, is distinctly not fine. We’ll find out just how not fine it is next week when the insurance adjuster and body shop get a look at it. In the meantime, I’ll go ahead and write that check for the deductible so we can get on with getting Big Red back on the road. Nothing like doing $20,000 of damage to two vehicles because the asshat in the turning lane is perplexed by the concept of a turn signal. Meh. It’s safe for everyone to assume I’ve gone from the thankful not to be hurt stage to the throughly annoyed because my truck is torn up stage of the process.

Despite being throughly annoyed, I do have a few shout outs. Special thanks to the Maryland State Police for a professional and rapid response. Of course it helps that we were less than 500 yards from their parking lot. To my dad, thanks for the loaner car. I’ll do my best not to get fooled by anyone else’s signal while I’m driving your ride. Mom, thanks for not freaking out too badly when I called to give you a heads up. She doesn’t think this is a blog/Facebook-appropriate topic, so don’t give her too much crap about me posting about it ok? Thanks. And finally props to my evil stepmother – thanks for driving over and hauling me and the dogs halfway across the state yesterday.

So that’s the short version of my Saturday. It’s safe to say this is not the relaxing and restful three day weekend I was anticipating.

Freebies…

Some offices give away swag. You know, coffee mugs and key chains, lanyards and stress balls. Not us. We give away free flu shots. Which is great and all since it’s saving me a $20 copay and visit to the doctor’s office. I also know that there’s an ulterior motive for employers giving free flu shots. A $20 shot is a hell of a lot cheaper than the lost productive time of an employee who goes down for a week with the flu. Plenty of those private sector types go with the “play hurt” philosophy, but government employees tend to have banked a lot of sick leave and aren’t at all shy about using it. That translates into an employee who could easily be out for a week or more if they get a good case of it.

Regardless of the reasons behind it (unless it’s actually a plot to sap and impurify my precious bodily fluid), it’s actually a perk or working around here that I appreciate. As much as I enjoy time off, I’ll take a pass when it involves spending most of it in bed or in the can. Now we’ll wait for a day or two and hope that the shot itself doesn’t make me sick as a dog.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.