Monthly Archives: January 2012

Looking for a job sucks

A bit of cardboard

Maybe I should start wearing one of these signs around town

I could come up with a more eloquent synopsis for my current predicament – jobless and back in the parental home after nearly 20 years, with two kids. But it’s what it is and it does kind of suck. So we are one month into the new year, and I thought I should update everyone about my current FRUITLESS JOB SEARCH so far. (Yes, in my mind I see these words in caps – I need to give them extra emphasis.)

To recap, I am looking for a job so that our family (which includes the English Husband) could move to the United States on a permanent basis. Otherwise I will go back to London by spring/early summer, where my husband actually has a job that supports our little unit, but which is 6000 miles away from my own parents, who I miss often. I have felt this homesickness more acutely since having children of my own.

I think I have said this before but I feel like my existence in the United States is hanging by the thinnest of threads. If I’m honest, sometimes I don’t even know what I’m doing here after so many years abroad. It’s so difficult to move to a new country without a job and a means to support yourself. Add children into the equation and this difficulty is magnified many times over. You’re not just trying to scale a mountain; it actually feels more like scaling the mountain without equipment and shoes.

I’ve not yet given up entirely. I am still staring at the computer, trawling numerous job websites, until all the job descriptions start to sound the same and the screen starts to blur. I’ve at least got better at deciphering some of the cumbersome lingo that employers use. Looking for a communications specialist who is an expert at corporate-wide engagement and adept at administering technical platforms? What you want is someone who can get people excited about the place where they work and can use a load of different things – the internet, blogs, email and social media – to do it. I could go on…

I did have one short job interview over Christmas for a job in Portland. I got pretty excited about this – I love the idea of this city – but I didn’t get past the phone stage. I still console myself with the knowledge that I did have one offer back in November. It didn’t work out, but at least someone was willing to table an offer. This is a huge psychological boost because I have concluded that looking for a job in the current market is probably one of the most soul-destroying, confidence-depleting tasks you can do. No matter how many times people tell you not to take all the numerous, anonymous rejections personally, well, you kind of do. Or maybe I just don’t have the thick skin of an elephant.

A digression on top cities

Despite the fact that the economy is still as shaky as an alcoholic before his first drink in the morning, investment in London is booming. I read the summary of a report (released by Jones Lang LaSalle) about direct commercial real estate investment in the world’s top cities. London gets the no. 1 spot out of 30 cities with investment of $43bn  (2010 to 2011, Q3). California has three cities in the top 30: Los Angeles (#11 with $10bn), San Francisco (#13 with $8bn) and San Diego, where I currently reside, in the 25th spot with $5bn worth of investments. Tokyo and New York took the #2 and #3 spots with investments of $32bn and $27bn respectively. Manchester came 30th with $4bn. In summary, only 30 cities account for 50 percent of the real estate investment volumes worldwide from 2008-2011. The top five – London, Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong and Paris – have the biggest share of this by far at 25 percent.

Interestingly, the top ten fastest-growing large cities in the world are all Chinese. (Click the link above to see the report in full – it’s kind of interesting if you scrawl through it; there are lots of graphs!)

Chinese aircraft

Why not book your flight today?

My very simplified, and probably naive, conclusion is this: If you have money (and lots of it), invest it in London and China. You probably can’t go too far wrong. If you’re looking for a job, like me, head to Asia and learn Mandarin.

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Alan Shearer, football player and American mystery

Beer glass

The one and only

This is one for my British readers (probably the few male ones) or any European football fans out there.

My brother’s two loves – football and beer – collided at a promotional event for Newcastle. I’m not talking about the English city but the ale. He got to sample some free food and drink beer, which is really what most men want when you get down to the nitty-gritty of things. I wasn’t there, so I’m afraid I can’t elaborate much – my brother is a man of few words.

As a bit of clever marketing, the people running the event gave out some Newcastle Brown Ale beer glasses, and they offered to have them engraved. My brother – who thought he was being clever too – wanted to get his glass engraved with the name of one of England’s most famous strikers, Alan Shearer, who was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

But the surname proved to be as foreign to the American engravers as pumpkin pie is to most Brits.

Beer glass

Um, not quite but good try

I don’t think Alan Shearer would approve of the end result. My brother, who claims he spelled the name out for his American compatriots, wasn’t too pleased either – but at least the night will remain memorable, even if it’s not for the right reasons.

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The big business of kids’ parties

Outside Kid Ventures

Before the real fun begins

You know you are creeping towards middle age when you get a thrill of excitement that someone other than you has emptied the dishwasher. Another sign of middle-age encroachment – you start to do a great deal of your socializing at children’s activities: birthday parties, swimming lessons, dance lessons, after-school sports and school fundraising events. Your diary gets cluttered with things that have less to do with you and more to do with your children; you spend an inordinate amount of time ferrying people around. The lazy Saturday afternoons you used to spend shopping and meeting friends for lunch suddenly become fraught with making cupcakes for parties and finding presents for other people’s children. I’m not quite at the Advanced Stage of Losing Control of My Own Diary, but I sense it’s only a few years off.

My mother, the kids and I are headed to a place called Kid Ventures for a child’s birthday party. Since learning about this party through my mother (who has a lot more friends than I do), I have been stuck on one detail: the time. It starts at 5.30pm on a Sunday. Do these old family friends not know that it’s happy hour/cocktail hour, flop-around-the-house hour? I’m assuming we are at the wrong place when I drive up to what appears to be the headquarters of a multinational corporation. There are huge fountains that dwarf the children, surrounded by a massive circular concrete wall that they wouldn’t be able to climb without rope; perfectly manicured plants are artistically lit up. I see a flash of light glinting off huge floor-to-ceiling windows.

Kid Ventures

Like the British high street but a lot cleaner

Inside it’s palatial in an industrial sort of way. Looking at it with my London eyes, I quickly calculate how many flats could fit in this place. I think it could be three. Whoever owns this place is surely a millionaire many times over by now, because they have caught on to what every parent already knows – birthday parties and kids’ themed indoor play areas are big business. When I was a child my birthday parties consisted of a store-bought cake and a handful of friends. Today it’s a crazy, competitive experience that puts pressure on parents to outdo each other. Let’s remember that Catherine and Pippa Middleton’s mother made her family’s fortune from what boils down to party bags.

Tonight’s party guests can play with a gigantic pirate ship, a huge castle with a slide, and an entire town, including a saloon, a jail, a fire station, a theatre/disco, a supermarket (organic, of course), a baby room and a schoolhouse. It’s an entire high street and they have it all to themselves because it has been hired privately for this party. Each themed room has different toys to play with, which are matched to the theme. The kids disappear in the space of one second. The next time I see the Chatterbox she is wearing a mermaid costume; her playmate is dressed as a nurse.Pirate ship

The people at Kid Ventures not only cater to kids, they cater to parents. There is a cafe with a menu consisting of brewed coffee ($1.75; fancier options will cost $3.25), gourmet sandwiches and salads ($8.50), pastries ($2.50) and a child’s lunch plate ($5). While the kids run themselves ragged, the parents can relax with friends or just stare off into space. I’m familiar with this concept – in London I used to visit something similar, but it was all on a much smaller scale and, frankly, much dirtier. I think this place must get disinfected by an army of cleaners because it is spotless. You could probably eat off the gleaming bathroom floor.

The nursery

Can my kids sleep here?

What does tonight’s party cost? I’m guessing they got the basic two-hour private party at a whopping $385. The ‘extravaganza’ party is $5 shy of $500, while the ‘platinum’ party is $795. For that money I’m guessing the kids might actually receive watches and jewelry. I would not pay these prices, but I know people who would. As we leave, the kids are handed their party bags. It wouldn’t be a party without them.

The next day I wonder how I can muscle into the kiddie party business. I don’t need a job working for someone else, I need a fantastic business idea that will exploit parents. Oh, and I need a lot of capital.

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British pubs and hipster bars

Craft and Commerce

Yes, there is writing on the sofas/benches. I have no idea what it said but I suspect it wasn't meant to be read

I fled London in a bit of a rush a few months ago and since then I have missed a few things: my friends (which are top of the list); walking out of the house and actually getting somewhere; local, independently owned coffee shops; a range of cheap but good cheese that isn’t obscenely orange in color; the wide-open spaces of the city’s parks; my local Londis supermarket (a two-minute walk) and its fresh bread in the mornings; and pubs.

The local London boozer is hard to emulate in the bright San Diego sunshine, but there are places that have tried. Last night I went to one of them. Let me preface this by saying that my nights out are not quite what they used to be. It’s hard to get really excited about going out when know you have a 20-mile drive ahead of you, most of it on the freeway. It kind of takes some of the fun out of the experience, because how much drinking are you really going to do? There’s no question of letting go and staying ’til closing time if the mood takes you.

Pimms Cup

Cheers - a Pimms without fruit or mint

Nevertheless, at 7.30pm on Friday night, I find myself in the Princess Pub and Grille in Little Italy (a small neighborhood in downtown SD). It serves traditional pub food: bangers and mash, fish and chips, jacket potatoes, a sausage roll with Branston pickle and a number of fried foods that don’t really appeal unless you are looking to raise your cholesterol to dangerous levels. While most pubs in London are trying to offer more sophisticated food choices a la the ‘Modern British’ trend, the Princess Pub seems to be stuck in 1995 and proud of it. There’s a lot of dark wood, some exposed brick and neon drinking signs; the latter doesn’t remind me of pubs at all, more like the inside of some newer West End bars. The walls are covered with posters of Princess Diana and the Beatles, while plaques of famous London landmarks and tube stops are tacked up at random. There’s also a disproportionate amount of restaurant-type seating, with cutlery wrapped up in paper napkins and beer coasters.

I order a lager and my friend orders a ‘Pimms Cup’. She’s never had Pimms and lemonade before, but I tell her that it’s meant to have, at the very least, cucumber and mint. But when the drink arrives, it only has a huge wedge of lemon perched on the glass rim. There is no fruit, mint or anything else. This is the kind of Pimms you get on a sticky summer night, at midnight, after the bar has run out of everything and you’re being served by a surly bartender who looks like he’d rather shoot you than cut up an orange. She seems to like it, though. Despite the gas fire behind us, this place doesn’t have the warmth of the pub or the casual drinking environment that the best pubs have grown almost organically. After less than an hour we are both checking the time.

An American bar

Craft and Commerce, two streets away, is a totally different experience. Earlier that night we had tried to get a table at this bar and failed. We put our names down and they told us that they’d text us when a table came free. Just over an hour later we get the text and find our harassed host, who is holding some sort of tablet (the clipboard is very last century); she tells us to wait for someone called Sophie.

I have my reservations about Craft and Commerce, which was named one of America’s best bars by some sort of magazine, so I’m told. I went here on New Year’s Eve for a drink and they told me point-blank that they didn’t serve vodka. I can’t remember their exact reasons, but I think it had something to do with making ‘craft cocktails’ with strong, discernible flavors. Vodka, being a peasant drink made from potatoes, perhaps doesn’t fit it into their trendy image. Honestly, though, what kind of bar refuses to serve vodka? It’s like going to a hamburger joint and being told that they don’t serve french fries.

Zebra head

A zebra head and bookshelves adorn Craft and Commerce's eccentric interior

When I look at the menu I find out that you can’t get ketchup, but they do serve mayonnaise. Is this meant to give the bar – which is already beautiful – an added bit of mystique? I’m not sure, but it’s vaguely annoying and indiscriminate. Since I know that most of you are reading this from England and probably will never end up here, I won’t dwell too much on the food but it was much better than what you’d get at your run-of-the-mill pub. The cocktails are even better. Forget about getting a watery gin and tonic. I order something called a ‘British Firing Squad’, to keep with my British theme. Not entirely sure why it’s called this, but maybe a few of these will have the effect of a bullet to the head. If you want to try to make it, it’s 2 oz Plymouth gin, 3/4 oz grenadine, 3/4 oz fresh lime and 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters. It comes out looking a bit pink, but it’s well balanced and not sickly-sweet. I only order one – the freeway beckons. When our bill arrives it comes in a small notebook, full of people’s random scribbles, including drawings of a woman’s naked body and someone’s interpretation of a penis.

The bill

Our bill comes in a notebook with some racy drawings

Would I go back? Yes is the short answer. Maybe one of you would like to come with me. But I’d like to go there when I don’t have to drive and I can sample a few of the $10 cocktails without worrying about getting back on the freeway. Have I mentioned how much I hate driving everywhere? Probably have.

My search for a traditional pub continues.

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The joys of motherhood

Bedtime

The Raging Bull's playpen/bed - I'd want to escape from it too

Ah, the joys of motherhood; these joys are more unpredictable than the joys of sex, which seem to follow more of a patten. My toddler (who will be three in July) has taken to getting undressed at unforeseen intervals throughout the day, a habit – I firmly believe – she learned from her father. I suddenly find her naked one morning while watching cartoons in bed; over the weekend, I find her half dressed in a department store while I had my head turned for 30 seconds (she’s that fast). Today, it was just before dinner. She had mumbled something about ‘bum bum’, which is our code words for nappy change. I was busy in the kitchen and forgot about checking her diaper. Ten minutes later she comes up to me, stark naked, and holding her diaper in her hands. I won’t go into graphic detail about what was inside, but it was solid and rather large.

Cue mild panic. I turn to my five-year-old and quiz her about the incident like a reporter at the scene of a crime. Did you see the diaper fall on the floor? Did you see anything drop out or roll around? Do you remember if the Raging Bull used her hands to pick anything up? Did she touch anything else? She mostly shrugged at me and gave me conflicting answers. Asking the Raging Bull is totally pointless. Instead, I grab her and head straight to the bathroom to wash her hands with the vigor of a surgeon scrubbing up.

On beauty sleep or the lack of it

Less amusing was the sleepless night we all endured two nights ago. For unexplained reasons, the Bull woke up at 3am and refused to go back to sleep. I walked up and down to her tiny room a number of times, to smooth sheets, hand her toys, turn on the light, give her a kiss. Nothing would keep her quiet. Finally, after what felt like a black hole of time, but was really only about an hour, I give up and decide to take her to bed with me. Having read parenting manuals that left me scarred at my first child’s birth, I know this is tantamount to being held a ‘Hostage to Fortune’. I give in now and it will be twice as hard to break her out of the habit if she does it again. I don’t care, though, because desperation has taken over. This is not a time for lofty principles – I’m ready to do a deal with the two-year-old terrorist.

I wake up the Chatterbox, who now sleeps with me. I drag her to my mother’s bedroom, feeling guilty that I have woken her up on a school night. Guilt is a constant companion in my mothering duties. I take the Bull out of the playpen she has been sleeping in for 6 months and take her to my bed, where she whispers to me, ‘Thank you, Mummy.’ I don’t know whether she is old enough to manipulate me, but I’m ready to forgive almost anything.

Just as I think I might get some sleep, I hear what I think is crying. I wonder if it could be some residual noise in my ear or maybe I’m starting to hallucinate. But no, it’s the Chatterbox wailing for me. I get up and walk to my mother’s room, where she is moaning about getting into bed with me. I try not to look at the bedside clock, which I now regard as a mortal enemy. When I finally return to my own bed, the Bull kicks me for another hour; her energy never fails to surprise me.

This late-night/early morning horror story is familiar to most parents. A national sleep project in Australia reports that a new baby typically results in 400 to 750 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year. Interestingly, it also says that one of the best predictors of insomnia in later life is the development of bad habits from having sleep disturbed by small children. I can relate to this last fact. When the Raging Bull was still an infant, I remember waking up in the middle of the night, long after I had stopped breastfeeding at this hour. Often, there was no reason to wake up, but it’s like my body clock had been programmed. For several weeks I would wake up and not be able to get back to sleep. The more it happened the more I felt like it would happen again. I was stuck in a cycle. I have no idea how I managed to break out of it.

As a mother, you need to be a bit of an optimist. I hope this episode is just a one-off and not a recurring pattern. When the Chatterbox shows me her schoolwork today, she has a small storybook that is meant to teach her about the short ‘a’ sound. ‘Nat takes a nap,’ she reads haltingly. ‘Mummy, that’s like you,’ she announces. ‘You like to take naps.’ I seriously hope this isn’t one of her abiding memories of me.

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A Mexican Morrissey

Jose Maldonado

The Mexican Morrissey - an international playboy?

It’s a surreal moment. I’m sitting on a grotty stool in the toilet of a live music venue in downtown San Diego. A girl with long black hair is standing next to me waiting for a cubicle. She is visibly emotional. ‘Does everyone here love the Smiths as much as I do?’ she asks plaintively, with adoration shining in her eyes. I fidget on my stool for two reasons – my reserve is holding me back from screaming ‘yes’, and I am desperate for the bathroom. In the next two minutes I find out that this ardent fan is only 21 years old and had once seen Morrissey, vocalist of English 80s alternative rock band the Smiths, at a concert in Las Vegas. Tonight is the next best thing: a Smiths tribute band called the Sweet and Tender Hooligans, fronted by a Jose Maldonado, a Mexican-American who works as a Los Angeles County lifeguard by day. Yes, you read that right.

I’m not a massive fan of cover bands. They remind me of shabby, badly lit auditoriums and maybe wedding receptions. But when a cousin told me about tonight’s gig, I couldn’t resist seeing the Mexican Morrissey for myself. I was skeptical, though, and I was sincerely praying that this cover band wouldn’t sully my teenage memories. When I was a misunderstood (or so I thought) and bored teenager growing up in the suburbs of San Diego, I thought Morrissey’s lyrics were speaking directly to me. He captured the angst of anyone who has ever felt like they didn’t belong.

l-r: Brother's girlfriend, me, the brother and the cousin

Warming ourselves up in the bar of the Casbah

We’re having a drink in one of the venue’s smaller and less crowded bars when I first hear the familiar music starting up in another room. We rush over to the main bar in time to see Jose Maldonado strutting around the stage in a shiny red shirt, navy suit jacket and jeans. He’s singing the opening chords of Bigmouth Strikes Again. My brother and I look at each other, doubt clouding our expressions. We’re cynics at the best of times. A friend of ours says scornfully, ‘This cost $20?’ But the longer I hear Maldonado, the more I can’t help smiling.

The lead singer of the Sweet and Tender Hooligans is undoubtedly swarthier than Morrissey, but he has perfected the pompadour hair and he has nailed some of the Mancunian’s expressions and movements. Sometimes the similarity is eerie. Most surprising is that he has captured Morrissey’s unusual voice. He may not be the real thing, but he is not a bad facsimile. The 150-odd people gathered at the Casbah tonight are appreciative, and they clap enthusiastically. I spot the 21-year-old from the toilet in the crowd, filming Maldonado with her phone. She is enraptured and tries to reach out and touch him with her fingertips.

The Mexican connection

In California, it’s a pretty-well known fact that Morrissey has a huge Mexican following, with the epicenter in east Los Angeles. The two seem to be totally at odds with each other. How could a white boy from Northern England appeal to immigrants living on the gritty streets of an urban metropolis such as east LA? I didn’t really know, but an interview with Maldonado gives some insight. Responding to a question about it, he says: ‘We knew Morrissey grew up in Northern England from Irish parents. That experience, I’m told, is not unlike the experience growing up Mexican-American. Both of those cultures are similar— the Catholic upbringing, the love for boxing and soccer, the close-knit families, the working-class parents. Going to public school and feeling like an outsider because you’re not quite with the cool kids because you’re from someplace else. So even though he doesn’t necessarily sing about those things, somehow we relate to that guy who had a similar upbringing to what we did.’

A bit of research also reveals that Morrissey’s lyrics are not unlike Mexican ranchero songs, which talk about having your dreams destroyed by others, often in death. Morrissey’s large Mexican fan base has grown and has become the subject of several documentaries. A 2005 feature in the Guardian talks about the singer/songwriter’s resurgence of popularity in the unlikeliest of places.A fan

A light that never goes out

Halfway through the show, Maldonado takes his shirt off. He is smaller and more pale than I thought he would be. In what is a trademark Morrissey flourish, he grabs some gladiolas and puts them in his back pocket. Even though this could descend into parody, I feel like he pulls it off. The only slightly annoying thing is that Maldonado tends to talk quite a bit between songs and makes repeated references to his fans.

After an hour and a half, I sense that the show is coming to a close. I wander the thinned-out crowd looking for my cousin, who I lost at the very beginning of the set. I spot her at the front, singing and dancing to the songs. Suddenly she is pulled up on stage, where she is hugged and touched by the lead singer. She later tells me that he grabbed her head and whispered in her ear, ‘Don’t go anywhere, please.’ I think she made a lasting impression. Drum kit

The final song is one of my favorites, There is a light that never goes out. I look at my friends, who are swaying to the song and mumbling the lyrics. My brother’s girlfriend leans over and beams: ‘I love this song so much.’ I spot a burly Mexican-looking guy mouthing the words to himself. In a twist to the original, the Mexican Morrissey sings some of the final refrain, taken from the title of the song, in Spanish. It’s strange to watch someone like Maldonado imitate an artist you have admired half your life. My brother compared it to incest. I am not as uncomfortable with it as he is. The only sad note is that it left me wanting more. Not necessarily more of the Sweet and Tender Hooligans. I don’t know if I would see them again, because I’m not sure what I would get out of another show. It left me wanting to see the Smiths in a small club in Manchester. I was humming Everyday is like Sunday today in the shower when my five-year-old overheard me. ‘Mommy, why are you doing that?’ she asked. (I’m not much of a singer normally.) I didn’t know how to explain it to her, so I just laughed and told her I was humming for no reason.

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The indignity of healthcare, part 2

Health clinic

The outside of the clinic - you can't see the bars on the windows from this angle

One of my first posts when I started this blog was about trying to find subsidized healthcare in the United States. Without a job I was very worried that I would become one of those Americans who has to pay for full healthcare out of their own pocket or who simply chance it and hope for the best. According to a 2002 census report, 15% of Americans had no health insurance for the whole of that year, a total of 43 million people. The proportion of uninsured children was 11 percent of all US children (8.5m people) in 2002. These numbers are likely to have risen in the ensuing years.

Before boarding the plane to start a new life here, and for weeks afterwards, I had visions of being in a car crash that would leave me bankrupt for the rest of my life. I couldn’t envision my injuries, but I could envision the medical bills piling up.

I was finally approved for a healthcare plan in late December – subsidized by the state of California – and the coverage started on January 1. Less than two weeks later, the Chatterbox gets a minor illness and I get to put my new plan to the test. Monday morning: the first thing I realize is that I don’t know what I’m covered for and I don’t have a clue who my doctor is. This is an uncomfortable feeling and one that makes me realize how precarious my existence is in the United States. I don’t know how the system works and I feel like I’m blindly groping for the light switch. I may have been born in this country, but I have never had to worry about my own healthcare because I was always covered by my parents’ insurance plan. Now that I am responsible for someone else, I am slightly panicked about how to get the best care I can afford. These are not problems I encountered with the NHS – and I was very thankful for that.

Getting an appointment

I call up one number listed on a form and then another. I’m eventually told that the Chatterbox has been registered with a clinic 20 miles away. Back in December I filled out some forms choosing a local doctor, but for some reason they did not honor this. Not that surprising, really. I call up the clinic and it takes ages to get through. Then I’m told the computer system has crashed and they can’t see what appointments they have that day. Then I’m told I’ll be put through to reception. Then the phone gets disconnected. Then I call again.

‘Come now,’ says a woman on the phone.

‘This minute?’ I ask.

‘Yes, now, before it gets too busy.’

I grab the kids, throw them into the car and head in what I believe is the right direction – and I am bad with directions. It takes me half an hour to find the place. It’s not a good first impression. What can I say? It’s a depressed area with a lot of squat dilapidated houses, surrounded by liquor stores and fast-food restaurants with neon signs. Beat-up cars rumble down a busy street. The only cheery thing around here is the sunshine. Outside the entrance there are cracked plastic seats – I can’t tell if they have been cracked by the sun or overuse. Things don’t get better inside. It’s dark and dingy, with seating arranged around a semicircle. There is a television with no sound in one corner, and a vending machine dispensing unhealthy snacks. I fill out yet more forms that make me feel like a non-person: questions about insurance, about liability, about social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, etc.

I sit outside on the plastic chairs that face a parking lot, because everyone inside is hacking. I imagine tentacles of illness in the air, germs smeared all over the old furniture. Nothing looks like it ever gets cleaned. An older man with a terrible cough walks outside and spits in the dust. I pray this won’t take long. It does, of course. We are finally ushered inside and the nurse tells us to take a seat while we wait for the doctor. We are in a tight hallway with one ancient green plastic chair. Not even the kids want to sit on it. Instead, I lean against the wall and wait.

And the bill is…

There is nothing seriously wrong with the Chatterbox, which is a relief. I was imagining an infection because of her nasty cough and the fever she has had for two days – but I’m told her chest is clear. I am prescribed an antibiotic as precaution (is this necessary?) and a nasal spray.

I still don’t know what, if anything, I will be charged for this visit; but when I go to the pharmacy to fill the prescription I am told that I don’t need to pay a thing for the medicine. I was imagining at least $20. My mother begins whispering in my ear about why this country is bankrupt. She is half joking, but I don’t listen. I want to pay my way; this is just a blip while I try to get on my feet. Should I feel guilty? I don’t know. I’m not going to seek welfare or go on food stamps, but if I got slapped with a huge medical bill, I know it would be a struggle to pay it. Yet I feel a stab of shame when I hand over my plastic insurance card, for people on low incomes, to the pharmacist.

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