Saturday, May 12, 2012

From Non-Existent to Must-Have

A few month ago I started having serious wrist pain while using the mouse at work. Since hubby went through this a while ago, I decided to copy his 2-stage "battle-proven" solution: ergonomic mouse and local, alternative treatment to the wrist. The first stage went well. I ordered the mouse, started using it and it worked miracles. Apart from the minor nuisance of people walking into my office and talking about my "joystick", I was really impressed with the results.

The second stage was way more challenging as it involved contacting my doctor's office, the insurance company, dealing with paperwork, choosing a service provider, scheduling an appointment - much hated tasks. I'd really prefer someone else doing all this for me, but as my [fictional] personal assistant is on vacation in Hawaii, I procrastinated. The long, bureaucratic process was not without tragicomic turns. Communicating with insurance professionals is always a challenge for me as I don't understand what the hell are they talking about. I understand each word separately but cannot figure out, for the life of me, their combined "insurancese" meaning. Pour a useless website into the mix and the nightmare is compete.

To issue a letter of undertaking, the insurance rep wanted to know what type of alternative treatment I need. "Listen lady, all I know is that my wrist hurts, I don't know what treatments are available, what's the difference between them and which one is helpful for my problem. My common sense tells me a professional should examine my wrist and determine the treatment". Following her "we don't provide assessment" laconic answer, asked hubby what worked for him, called the rep back and told her: deep tissue massage. "It's true that the deep tissue massage is listed in the alternative treatments dropdown on our website, but in fact it belongs to a different category and you have to pay NIS 100 for that. How many sessions do you need?" I really had no idea, told her I expect to find that out during the first appointment.

At the alternative medicine center I chose from their website (according to closeness to my office), they made me fill in a lengthy form, 2 people examined me, asked lots of questions about additional problems I have and then came the verdict: the health level of my body is 60%. My spine is bent, my hormones are messed up, the fluids are not flowing in my body, and I'm going to die in 2 days, unless treated by them (OK, I made that last one up, but you got the picture). To solve all my [real and fictional] problems would take at least the 16 sessions covered by the insurance, but they'll be more than happy if I want more. "What about my wrist?", I inquired. "We don't sell treatments, but rather a holistic health approach".

Pushiness (of problems I didn't know I have) and aggressive salesmanship have the opposite effect on me. I never take decisions under pressure. Even more so if I'm told I'll miss the chance of my life. Told him I need to think about it. He was disappointed. I asked what kind of treatment I need ("chiropractic for the insurance, but I'll assess your situation at the beginning of each session and decide accordingly"), paid the NIS 100 and left. The thought that I might actually be sicker than I thought and the speed of getting from non-existent to must-have took a toll on my mood.

It's not that I don't believe in alternative medicine. For a person brought up on one medical approach (Western), one type of yogurt, and no idea that ice cream can be bought in a supermarket (as opposed to a confectionery), I really came a long way. I got acupuncture treatment and herbal medicine in the past and found them helpful to an extent. I am open to what alternative medicine has to offer (except homeopathy in which I don't believe at all), but skeptical at the same time. They say it helps the skeptics as well.

Truth is that I'm really feeling kind of lousy for the last few weeks. This happens from time to time until the coin drops that I need to take blood tests for my hypothyroidism. It's all part of a ritual: feeling bad, realizing the probable reason, taking the tests, getting out of range results, my doctor telling me everything is fine, no need to change anything, but my doctor friend telling me to increase the medicine dosage, me increasing the dosage and starting to feel better shortly after. This guy might be an aggressive salesman but a good chiropractor. I don't trust pushy people, but what if he can really help me break the ritual?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chain or Neighborhood?

International chains give you a feeling of consistency, of global citizenship. You can have the same coffee or hamburger whether you are in New York, London or New Delhi. But why? If you took the trouble to visit a remote place, why not enrich your experience and taste some local specialties?

Personally, I prefer neighborhood establishments to chains. They are usually smaller, more intimate, the staff knows the returning customers and they sometimes serve interesting house dishes. To my pleasant surprise, a new coffee shop opened in my neighborhood, which is really a big deal considering we don't have any shops at all, not even a simple grocery shop. We walked over to the cafe one evening and had a pleasant experience. The place is spacious, the service attentive, the dishes average.

A few days before, I met my Gvahim mentee (a nice French system analyst whom I'm trying to help finding a job) in a chain coffee shop. She arrived earlier and had coffee and cake. When I joined her at the table, no waiter asked me whether I want to order anything, although waiters were walking by our table back and forth. After a long while, I simply caught the attention of a waiter and ordered a decaf cappuccino. To my complaint about not being asked to order, he gave me the lousiest excuse I ever heard: "we didn't make eye contact".