A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

I now twit, er... or tweet. Anyway, you can follow me on twitter @Aeon1202

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Dental Nightmare

I seem to have trouble finding and hanging onto a dentist. One will have scheduling problems, another drops my insurance, another never took my insurance in the first place. I go every six months, but lately it’s been to a different dentist every time. I jokingly call this my, “dental curse.”

Today, the curse reached critical mass.

In searching for my next new dentist I consulted both my dental insurance company (to see who would take their coverage) and then Yelp. I found a conjunction of taking my dental insurance and having many, many glowing and positive Yelp reviews in the form of Best Dental Care PC and Dr. Lucy. I called to make an appointment and spoke to a very friendly, helpful, and funny receptionist who walked me through the process of changing my insurance info over to them and filling out all my new patient paperwork ahead of time on their lovely website. I mentioned how good their Yelp reviews were and she said something a bit odd to the effect of, “I wish people wouldn’t rely on Yelp so much because anyone can put anything on there.” In retrospect, this probably should have been Red Flag Number 1. 

Regardless, an appointment was made.

Red Flag Number 1: When I first walked in the door today, I noticed that the name Dr. Lucy wasn’t on the front door, which was odd, because she was the dentist all the positive Yelp reviews were raving about. “Odd,” I thought, “where is Dr. Lucy?”

Red Flag Number 2: At the front desk, the extremely chatty and friendly receptionist told me that there was a problem with my dental insurance and that I hadn’t been switched over to them from my previous dentist. Puzzled, I pulled out my new insurance card (recently sent to me by my insurance company) that clearly listed their name on it. She explained it was still incorrect because they were NOT “Best Dental Care PC” as was listed on the card, but rather they were, “Best Dental Care.” She said that insurance companies kept mixing them up with the other practice. She also said that soon they’d be changing their practice name to something totally different anyway. Nonetheless, they would honor my appointment and do my cleaning for free despite the mix up, even though they probably wouldn’t get paid. However they warned me that any subsequent treatments I required would cost me out of pocket. “No problem,” I naively told them, “I almost never need any treatments.”

Red Flag Number 3: Back to the exam room I go and the extremely friendly, pretty and chatty hygienist begins taking x-rays. A lot of x-rays. Probably about 20 x-rays. She also took extensive photographs with a very small camera of the bottom of each and every one of my teeth. Please note: she did this PRIOR to doing my routine cleaning.

Red Flag Number 4: The handsome and charming dentist arrived to do my checkup, again, prior to the routine cleaning. Thinking back on it later I realized that I have never in all my years as a dental patient had a dentist do the exam before the cleaning. I’d never really thought about it before but it does make sense. After all, they don’t want to mistake a stain for a cavity or have to look at things through a film of tartar buildup. Also they're the dentist, they get to see the patient after the hygienist has already done all the gross work. This, however, didn’t sink in like the red flag it was until a few minutes later.

Like most people I do in fact brush my teeth before going to the dentist, but I can’t remove the past six months worth of coffee stains and tartar they way a dentist can with their tools. That's why I go see them every six months without exception.

He begins his exam and things rapidly go sideways. Really sideways, really fast. 

Immediately he identifies a cavity here, an occlusion here, cavity here, cavity there, occlusion here, here, and here. I honestly lost count. It sounded like he was saying I had somewhere in the neighborhood of five, maybe eight cavities? He also mentioned that each and every single previous filling I had in my mouth needed to be removed and replaced. All of them. Then he asked me if I’d like to straighten my teeth (I have cute little vampire looking fangs because my two front teeth tilt in slightly) and blamed the TMJ I’ve had since I had my wisdom teeth removed on “misalignment.” Then he told me I needed a night guard to prevent tooth grinding during sleep. Then he smiled charmingly, wished me a wonderful day, shook my hand, and went home for the night (I heard him say goodbye to the people at the front desk as he left).

At this point I have become pretty sure that I’m sitting in the chair of my very first bonafide dental scam artist and I am getting very afraid, but I’m too shy and accommodating to get up and run out. So with grave misgivings I let the hygienist do the cleaning. She is gentle and careful and does a decent job. This is the first, last, and only good part of this story.

After the cleaning, she begins to talk to me about all the dental work I need, and she pulls up the little camera pictures. Many of my teeth do, indeed, have faint brown lines on the bottom of them. They look, to my untrained eye, a lot like coffee stains (I must remind you now that these photos were taken BEFORE she cleaned anything, and I wish in retrospect that I’d thought to ask her to take the photos again now that the cleaning was done).

At that point I asked her if I could level with her person to person. She said yes. I said that I’d been seeing a dentist for a routine cleaning every six months since I was about eight years old. Between those cleanings I brushed twice (or three times) a day and flossed daily per the usual instructions. Last year, I even switched to a groovy high tech electronic spinny toothbrush that ensured I’d grow no unpleasant fuzz between cleanings. In all that time I’d had a very few cavities, most of them from when I was younger and slightly less careful with my teeth than I am now. However largely, what has happened my whole life is that every six months someone had cleaned my teeth, patted me on the head, complimented me on my good oral hygiene, and sent me on my way – including the person who’d done my last cleaning six months ago and somehow missed every single one of these problems.

I then paused, looked at her for a moment and asked, “do you see why in light of this I might want to get a second opinion at this point in time?”

I feel as though the words, “second opinion” may have set of some manner of emergency secondary protocol. She showed me the pictures again, and again pointed out the faint brown lines. I nodded and admitted that no, I don’t really know what I’m looking at (other than something that really looks like coffee stains) – which again reinforced my desire for a second opinion. She said she understood, gave me some toothpaste and ushered me to the front desk.

I can say in their defense that everyone was very, extremely NICE the entire time. Though toward the end when my suspicion started to show their niceness got sort of creepy – like in a Children of the Corn kind of way.

The lady at the front desk gave me one last spiel before I left. She pointed out that I have very cheap-o dental insurance. My dental insurance is, indeed, cheap – part of my problem with finding a dentist is that almost nobody takes it anymore. The lady at the front desk said that for years now, it’s possible that whoever is taking my cheap dental insurance has been ignoring all my problems (gasp!) because they know they won’t get paid for fixing them. She even had a personal story of a friend who was a hygienist and got yelled at by her terrible dentist boss for recommending a filling for a patient who desperately needed one, but the mean dentist wouldn’t get paid for fixing something so small, so he hollered at her and heroic friend got up and quit on the spot.

Queue me nodding and smiling, eyeing the door, nodding and smiling. I asked them if they would email me my x-rays and photographs. They said they would. We shall see.

Then I was back out in the parking lot. Confused, worried, a little angry, honestly feeling kind of violated, and pretty convinced I’d just met my very first professional scam artist with the word “doctor” in front of their name. I’d read stories like this; horror stories of people’s mouths getting drilled and filled all to pieces for tens of thousands of dollars, all for no reason whatsoever. I’d heard horror stories of such terrible betrayals of the trust that people put in their medical professionals, but never ever thought I’d get to see it, up close and personal, handsome and smiling and offering me their hand in friendship.

I’m literally revolted and creeped out that I let these people touch my teeth, my gums, and have my personal data. Although they said I wouldn’t be billed, I’ll be watching the mail very carefully in the coming weeks.

Also, I’d really like to know what they did with Dr. Lucy.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Coming Out Against MLM

I’ve made a conscious and personal decision not to support any MLM (multi-level-marketing) style businesses any longer. These used to be known as pyramid schemes, but the bad connotations associated with that name have caused the companies set up that way to spawn a new one.

You know the gist; person at the top of the pyramid creates a product (which may be good or bad) and instead of retailing it the traditional way they encourage people beneath them to become their consultants; marketing their product usually via social media to friends and family. Each person in the downward tiers of the pyramid filters money up to the top. The people standing at the very top of the pyramid can indeed make a great deal of money; but those outliers do so at the cost of every consultant that they convince to stand beneath them.

There is a constant string of consultants on the bottom tier signing up, spending a pant load of money (they usually cannot afford to waste) on startup costs and convention fees, then dropping out as their personal business founders and the vast wealth promised to everyone by the few folks standing at the top of the pyramid fails to materialize. Those consultants are the ones whom the company founders make most of their money from; and I am sick and tired of seeing good people who I like, love, and admire being victimized this way.

Some of these MLM companies sell decent products; even products I have purchased and appreciated over the years. Some of them are just snake oil – pure and simple; usually promising effortless weight loss and even going so far as to claim that essential oils draw the attention of protective angels and other such nonsense. Honestly, the product and its merit (or lack thereof) is not the point.

From a simple business standpoint MLM’s are not a good idea. In doing research about business and marketing I know that businesses pay market analysts a lot of money to accurately predict how to find the sweet spot where there is enough of their product out there for people to buy, but not too much that excesses of it are sitting unsold on shelves. MLM’s don’t take this into account at all, they skip this step entirely. All consultants are encouraged to sell as much as possible and acquire as many new consultants working beneath them in the pyramid as possible with no analysis whatsoever of when each consultant’s personal marketplace of friends and family has become over-saturated and exhausted. So unless consultants keep going out and making new groups of friends and family, their current supply, however interested they may be in the product, is going to run dry. This is why people may initially make some money as an MLM consultant only to see sales dry up over time.

I find the tactic of encouraging people to hard sell to friends and family to be dangerously damaging to relationships. Since most MLM consultants are busy, hardworking women who need to earn extra money for their families they primarily damage female friendships and the support systems that these women desperately need. I find this unconscionable and I will not support it.

Most infuriatingly, I dislike how some of these MLM’s try to appeal to people’s religious convictions; convincing them that their business practice is God’s will for their life and enhances God in some way. As I recall, Jesus had some fairly strong words about utilizing faith to forward commerce.

Allow me to be clear; it is not the consultants in these schemes that I am criticizing. It is them I am imploring to get out of these hurtful, futile business practices before they can further be taken advantage of. Cut your losses and get out now. I have stood by and watched so many good, hardworking, intelligent people be taken for a ride by these companies over the years that I cannot in good conscience stand by any longer without saying something.

MLM’s are bad. I would go so far as to say that the business model they follow is exploitative and evil. The only way to force the practice from the marketplace is to stop supporting it; both as a consultant and a consumer. So even if an MLM company is selling literally the best product ever invented; I will not purchase it any longer. I implore anyone reading this to do likewise.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

How I Got Trapped in a Bathroom at the YMCA

I swim laps for exercise. It’s a good workout, I love the water, and while I’m doing it nothing hurts – which at age 44 with an osteoarthritic hip (sexy, I know) it’s getting harder to find an activity where that’s the case.

I was a swim team member as a kid and I can recall swim-a-thons where we hit fifty, sixty, and seventy laps in a night, but it had been years since I had that kind of endurance so when I rejoined the Y a year ago I was only swimming thirty, ten of which I was using a kick board.

Since then I’d been creeping up on laps. I hit forty, even fifty, but never the elusive sixty that signals a mile. Swimming a mile and walking a mile are very different things as far as one’s body is concerned.

So Wednesday when my sister asked me if I wanted to go for a late swim with her, I said sure and headed over early. She’s a lot faster than me so if I was going to hit sixty laps in the same time she could I’d need about a twenty or thirty minute head start. When she arrived I was almost thirty laps in and feeling good.

An hour into my swim I did it – I hit sixty laps! Technically the end tally was either sixty-two or sixty-four, I stopped a few times mid lane to adjust my goggles so the lap counter on my smart watch malfunctioned a couple of times.

I was elated! Also, I desperately had to pee.

I quickly exited the lap pool and went into the poolside bathroom. It’s a single, spacious unisex just a few steps away from the hot tub.

Blessed relief.

Now, if you are female and wearing a one-piece swimsuit there are two ways you can approach a bathroom break. You can yank the leg of your suit to one side, thus stretching out the material and running the risk of flashing a butt-cheek later on, or you can pull the entire sodden contraption off and basically be naked. I had opted for the latter, as butt-cheek flashing wasn’t high on my YMCA to-do list.

My suit is a racer-back, with cross straps and is also, I must add, a size too small for me. I order suits a size smaller than my pants size because I want them to fit snug and firm with nothing flopping around.

As I stood I realized, to my abject horror, that in the minute I’d been sitting there my arms had gone limp as noodles, all strength completely drained away. Simultaneously, the soaked fabric of my swimsuit had turned into an impenetrable rolled knot of fabric, strangling my upper thighs.

I pulled, I tugged, I wrestled, using arms that felt about as strong as those of a wee newborn babe.

Eventually the terrible reality dawned on me and I stood there for a moment, dripping and horrified.

I was trapped. Naked. And unlike the last time I’d gotten into a predicament like this there would be no kindly, long-suffering stranger to rescue me.

Outside the door was the lap pool, with it’s fifteen-some-odd of my fellow male and female YMCA members (including my sister) blithely carrying on their workouts with no idea of my plight. There was also a good fifty feet of freezing hallway standing between me and the sanctuary of an appropriately naked locker room space.

They would not, I thought, appreciate a portly, pale flasher running by. Notwithstanding the fact that I could only toddle, not run, with the fabric of my suit knotted about my legs.

In desperation I took the suit off and rung it out, thinking perhaps if it were dryer and not rolled over itself this would be easier. Alas, that meant I now had to start the process all over from the beginning.

I shimmied, I yanked, I jumped and pulled in at the same time, using gravity and momentum to inch my sodden swimsuit up over my panicked body bit by excruciatingly tiny bit. All the while I was wondering if my sister was concerned about why I’d now been in here so long and exactly how long I would need to be missing before somebody came looking and thus revealed the mortifying truth.

Quietly, my workout tracker pointed out that my pulse had gone a bit high. Yes, no kidding, I silently responded to it – I AM TRAPPED NAKED IN A PUBLIC UNISEX BATHROOM, WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU EXPECT?

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the suit was at least up over all the necessary bits. Crooked, twisted, cutting off circulation to my left breast and right buttock, but blessedly, mercifully up.

I limped over to the end of my sister’s lane and waved to get her attention, telling her I was headed to the showers. I then disappeared into the relative solitude of the ladies locker room before she could do more than give me a puzzled look over why I’d been gone so long. Or looked so pink. And disheveled.

And that’s how I got temporarily trapped naked in a bathroom at the YMCA.