Only in America

I may have mentioned that we are short-staffed at work. Another one bit the dust at noon (12:30 to be exact). Mid-morning, a fellow stocker came up and told me that Jane (not her real name) was quitting at 12:30. It’s not all that unusual for people to leave with no notice, or even in the middle of their shift. The unusual part was that she told us that ahead of time that she would be leaving part of the way through her shift.

I think she was actually trying to be nice, coming in an staying until the deli was as fully staffed as it gets these days. It reflected the reason she was leaving. She wasn’t unhappy with the work, her coworkers or her hours (which should have given us notice that she was somewhat unique).

She had to leave because of health insurance. Specifically, too much health insurance. Like a large percentage of the country, our company makes us sign up for healthcare in the fall with coverage to begin January 1. Jane (not her real name) needed insurance. She was going to compare what the company offered with what she could find on the online “marketplace”.

I love that name for the government enrollment site. It makes me think of a Persian bazaar. Although from the sounds of it, at the beginning it was more like a freeway at rush hour. When someone has lost a load of cooking oil on the road.

So Jane, being a good American, wanted to make sure she had insurance on January first. Having the same luck as many Americans, she was unable to get on the government website at first. Or for quite a while. It probably would have been easier to get insurance in Mongolia, as some of you know.

So Jane made what appeared to be a logical decision. She enrolled for the company coverage. Of course, her big mistake was using the word “logic” anywhere near the words “healthcare insurance”. The company insurance is expensive, for adequate coverage. I had it for awhile and am still here to talk about it, so how bad could it be?

The insurance contains the standard rule that open enrollment is the only time you can enroll without a reason. Guess that’s  why they call it “open” enrollment. The only time you can make changes is if you have a “life event”. Gotta love insurance talk. Life events include major changes: birth, death, change in other coverage.

Well, lo and behold, Jane finally got the government system to work for her. And the advertising was right! She did find better coverage at a lower cost. It’s hard to believe our government was even involved. So she signed up for the coverage. All she had to do was cancel her company coverage and life would be good. Assuming that having medical insurance is one of your goals in life..

Well, apparently the company does not include finding your own insurance as a “life event” change. Individual insurance does not impact your ability to have group insurance. Being covered as a part of the entire national population is not considered group coverage.  They told her that she could not cancel her coverage until the end of the year. No exceptions.

For whatever personal reasons, she had two options. She could carry the two coverages for eight months or quit. As you may recall, we are paid enough to put us somewhere in the far lower end of the 99%. Paying for two coverages was not an option. So you can guess the rest.

Needless to say, there was panic in the deli. One of the full-time employees is on vacation for the next ten days (and then is probably going to be promoted out of the store). So the rest of the morning was spent trying to figure out how next week would be staffed.

It was your normal situation. The group can’t do anything, so they stand around arguing about how awful it’s going to be. Which it will be. Since Fridays are busy to start with, it became the perfect storm of angst. Nothing like a small space filled with semi-hysterical people to make an enjoyable workspace.

At least the team leader had the day off. She is one of the most excitable people I have ever met. Unfortunately, it’s not a positive energy. She probably would have smoked herself into a coma.

We had three people they interviewed and liked. One of them did not pass the background check. Looking around at some of the people who did get hired, I can’t imagine what heinous act that person committed to get turned down.

We are waiting for the other two backgrounds checks to come back. Management is sure they will be starting soon. So whatever the other guy did is apparently heinous and rare. One of those people is supposed to join me stocking cheese. Yeah, sure.

I love working on the floor. Grumpy customers are rare and leave after a few minutes. Grumpy coworkers go on forever. We are all going to need our mental health benefits soon.


Just a Cold

Why do we say, “I just have a cold,” when someone asks why they can’t understand a word coming out of our mouths? Are we trying to separate it from the Dengue Fever going around the neighborhood? Are we ashamed that we don’t have something more impressive?

I have never met someone with a cold who was not totally miserable. (Some of them were that way before the virus, so they don’t really count.) But we have made it some type of badge of honor to go on as if nothing were wrong. As in, “I came to work today; it’s only a cold.” Well you look like something the dog dragged in from the dumpster, thanks for wanting to share it with me. They sit next to you, coughing and blowing their noses, not noticing that you’re about to gag. Honestly, nothing you do here is so important that you can’t miss a day or two.

Then you have places like my store. Without sick time (and with low wages), the average employee really can’t afford to stay home. It works out well for the company – turnover is so high that there really isn’t anyone else to do the job. Besides, the odds are that you are making the customers sick, not the other employees. So it’s kind of a win-win for the company. The odds of the customer figuring out it was an employee making them sick, rather than the toddler coughing all over everything, are pretty low. Usually people write it off to “something going around”.  I always picture little viruses dressed like spies in the cartoons.

So you can probably tell that I have been sick, and am pretty grouchy about the whole thing. It started with a sore throat. You need to understand that I live in Michigan. There is ‘something in the air’ here, and that something makes it impossible to breathe clearly for approximately half the year (the other half is extremely cold so you more worried about your nose falling off than working correctly). I’m not sure what sinuses are supposed to do, but it must have something to do with carrying around extra gunk your body doesn’t need. I know people who have gotten off the plane saying they felt fine when they left home, but are now sick. Generally, they have a miraculous recovery once they get home.

I remember reading somewhere that the government sent out scouts after the Civil War to find places for the expanding population to inhabit. The report came back from Michigan that it was dismal and swampy; basically unfit for human habitation. I’m guessing they came in early spring when the weather changes constantly and everyone looks and feels groggy. I would have liked to remind them that Washington, DC is built on a swamp. And they are the same people who had granted us statehood thirty-some years earlier.

I’m telling you all of this not to slam Michigan. It’s beautiful, I love it, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. But to explain why I could have a sore throat for a week and not really think anything of it. So I go to church and see a friend. He laughs and says something about my sinuses. I tell him that for once it’s not in my head, it’s in my throat (is that technically part of the head?). It’s been getting worse, and I think it may be infected. I make it through the service. (I bet God knows I didn’t actually understand anything that was going on). My friend tells me to go home and see a doctor if it really is an infection. I am happy to report that my friends are generally people with some common sense, not the sort who hear sore throat and immediately think diphtheria.

Of course, I don’t see a doctor. I always feel like I should be sicker before I go. By Tuesday, I feel a lot better. I knew it! I wasn’t sick enough to see a doctor! Unfortunately, on Wednesday I didn’t feel quite so well. By Friday, I could barely talk and felt like someone was shoving an ice pick in my ear. I broke down and called the doctor. Turns out whatever was in my throat had decided to move into my ears. They were both infected. I had no idea adults even got ear infections (kinda stupid when I realized that I still get skinned knees and other things that adults should be ‘beyond’).

One of the things that causes problems with ear infections is drastic change in temperature (something about a change in pressure – I think I should have paid more attention in Physics). Working in and out of a cheese cooler is not optimal. So I took a day off. But it wasn’t because I had a cold.