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Losing It In the New Millennium
July 16, 2001


My mother often warned I'd loose my head if it wasn't attached. The New Millennium has ushered in a great fulfillment of her prophesy: one that involves Palm Pilots, Kaiser, UNUM and Trek bicycles.

While mom didn't attach a deadline to her Prophesy of Great Loss, I've read enough into it to determine that it apparently was timed to break loose with the coming of the Third Thousand Years Since The Church Started Numbering Them, earlier in this year of 2001. That's the only rational explanation for the sudden and accelerating losses going on around here.

It started with the stock market debacle over the winter, when lots of casual investors lost much of their wealth, and many dot commers lost their jobs. Of course, I never got around to buying any stocks until everything hit bottom, and I'm still working, so that's not really where it started with me. During that same period, I managed to simply Lose It in the more abstract and idiomatic sense.

The first blow was general forgetfulness and idea loss. Now that I have the prematurely worn body of a 40 year old stunt man, I'm developing the mind of a 80 year old mercury taster. I've developed a new routine where I say "wallet, phone, keys, Palm Pilot" before leaving the house, just to make sure I've got everything. The Palm is the important thing to remember, as it retains most of my fact based, collective intelligence: phone numbers, medical appointments and my best friends' first names.

I started out life rather smart. Management types realized I could be used as fuel to propel their Corporate Organization Machines, specifically as a General Director of All Technology That Is Not Creative or Interesting. Four years later I'm feeling rather burnt out. It doesn't help that I am also awfully intense and driven. In fact, looking at my past managers, it becomes clear that I had a large hand in burning myself out; they were all just "facilitators" (which is a word I rank alongside "paradigm" and "utilize" as wholly annoying. I apologize for using it.)

But my mind was only the first thing to go. While on a trip five months ago, a second major loss came from my wildly speculative investment in a Wells Fargo High Risk Checking Account, also known as Regular Joe Checking. Wells Fargo liquidated my life savings and handed the proceeds to a stranger in a state I have never visited.

After three months of wrangling with various unprofessional tellers ("it's not our fault fraudulent activity occurred on your account!" ...Um, actually it is because you handed someone all my money without checking their signature...), phone bankers ("thank you for using phone banking. The fee will be deducted from your already overdrawn account, with additional fees for being overdrawn because we gave all your money away. This leaves a negative balance below the minimum balance, which incurs an additional fee...") and fraud specialists (who spelled my name wrong three times in correspondence; it is not a difficult name to spell), Wells Fargo finally credited the fraud amount back to my account.

They notified me in a letter I received a couple days after the same person took the entire amount again, plus the minimum balance I'd deposited to cover all the fees they were charging me. The business is still in progress, but I managed to find a helpful person in the fraud department who knew what she was doing and promised to help out. This has tied up all my money for four months now.

The third major loss occurred over something I didn't yet have. After my assembly of doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and the Social Health System of the Republic of France consulted together and granted me a glorious four weeks of short term disability related to my herniated disc, along with lots of drugs, my company took me off payroll and helped me enter a claim from the State of California, and UNUM Providence, their private disability insurance company.

The State quickly sent me a check for four weeks of Zen Subsistence. This does not pay rent in San Francisco unless you are homeless, and is the reason my company pays UNUM to cover the difference of the State's official minimalism and 66% of my salary. UNUM, in a brilliant stroke of Bureaucratic Claim Management, denied me all but five days of paid disability, based on a lack of records, ICD 9 codes and various problems with forms submitted by my HMO.

It seems that Kaiser Permanente, which handles most of my health care, was not able to correctly fill out the forms to sufficiently provoke a claim rep into opening the gates of the UNUM treasury and cutting me a check for two thirds of my salary while I was off work on disability.

Kaiser charges its members per request and per page for their own medical records, so I attempted to trick Catherine Nemata (665 North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Glendale California, 91203), my UNUM Customer Care Representative
, into obtaining the documents she needed from Kaiser so she could ascertain my medical condition and make the bureaucratically correct, LA-Suburb-Based Call Center Diagnosis that my Primary Care Provider, Kaiser's Physical Therapy Group, my private chiropractor and the Social Health System of the Republic of France were all so woefully unable to do using old fashioned finger poking, visual examination, and such "medical" tom foolery as MRI and those Buck Rogers X-Ray machines, which, incidentally, do not in themselves even offer the possibility of issuing the required ICD 9 codes on the proper forms.

UNUM not only doesn't return phone calls or mail, but is also at a loss on how to contact relatively obscure health based organizations like the so-called "Kaiser Permanente of California". Four months after the original claim, Catherine Nemata finally left me a message saying she requested my records twice in that time period--that was twice in four months--and hasn't heard anything yet. Kaiser, meanwhile, has no record of any requests at all from UNUM. Any lawyers out there who want to sue two fat, profitable companies with me? Let's dig into the trenches together and fight the bureaucratic menace: Via La Little Guy!

Loss number four was my black Trek mountain bike. It has some sentimental value stemming from the fact that it suffered car scrapes underneath me as I was hurled through an intersection by inattentive drivers on two separate occasions, two months apart; once at 17th and Shotwell, another time at 6th and Judah. Before you beat me with your baton over being a reckless City biker, let me assure you that I was a low risk, mild mannered bike commuter. I don't ride much any more because I am now permanently Kaisered.

Full Disclosure: I was once pulled over by a police car in a heavy downpour in the Deep Mission, probably along 22nd Street, which has four way stop signs on every block. I was trying to avoid the traffic along 17th, which is an official bike lane, but also a traffic thoroughfare and the site of my previous Rockem Sockem near Shotwell. Because there were no cars around and it was raining so hard, I wasn't making fully complete stops at each intersection. The officer took control of the situation and acted to prevent further damage from my abuse of the civil safety code by threatening to take my bike away and make me walk home in the rain. Fortunately, I was able to use my highly polished groveling skills to get my bike back for the wet, three mile ride back to Page Street.

His gracious pardon allowed me to retain bike number two for another couple years; my first bike had been stolen years earlier when I first came to town. After it was stolen, a con man welcomed me to the City, and particularly the seedy area between the Civic Center and Powell Station, by mugging me behind the old Mint while purportedly helping me to recover it from "the thieves".

Anyway, bike number two disappeared from our company garage under circumstances that made it appear to be an inside job. The Case of the Missing Bike was solved using, quite possibly, the first productive use of email directed to the Whole Company Email List. It turns out that one of my coworkers thought the bike belonged to another employee who just left the company. So now bike number two is in some car locked up in some garage in Chicago. There are three sets of keys and a plane ticket involved in recovering it. So sorry, I can't ride today as my bike is in Illinois.

There have been other significant losses. My always positive, strong willed friend Diana Lee finally succumbed to cancer last week. Thinking about her inner strength despite her painful circumstance keeps me going when I get really depressed. Ed Azuma, another friend, lost his back but gained my chiropractor. My roommate Tat, who laughed at, and later loathed my stories about him, lost his car to thieves, but since it was at a shop getting worked on, he got a big settlement and ended up with a better car. We lost a roommate, then Lost A Roommate, but ended up with a new one, although he is never around. Where are you Askia?

All in all, things are going well enough. I have a lot left to lose, even if the year isn't over yet. Earlier today, our company controller emailed me to say I have 40 hours of vacation that hadn't been credited yet, meaning I will be off on another trip shortly. So stay tuned, send me email and hang in there--we only have six months until this New Millennium wears out its newness.

More on Millennium, Madness, Crashing and Bikes:
Millennium Cookbook : Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine
The Best of Dot Com Humor
Hollywood Stunt Performers
Lewis Carroll: The Complete Illustrated Set
Mountain Bike Like a Champion
Mountain Bike! Northern California
No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking

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