Why I’m Broke, or Modern Medicine: A Kick in the Pants.

Allow me just a bit of time to bitch.

Ever since my wallet and I parted with more than $300 just to have a wisdom tooth yanked out of my face in under 15 minutes, I’ve felt somewhat victimized by The Man. You know how it goes. I’m a “Young Professional” who took on student loan debt to study at a pretty great private university away from home rather than staying within my own state to study for free. Now somewhere around a fourth of my income goes to paying back student loans each month, so my expendable income is not what it should be. (If you’re thinking that I should’ve stayed in-state and used it as a springboard, shut up. We’re not going to get into my IQ, my qualifications, my desire to move, and the fact that I wouldn’t have this decent paying New York City job with a West Virginian education. Deal with it.) I made my choices, I prioritize when necessary, and I live within my means.

The lovely dentist that I went to two weeks ago does not accept most dental discount programs, and her practice does not allow for payment plans, so I rescheduled my dental appointment until after payday. It would make things tight regardless, but I figured it would be best to stop putting off addressing those cavities. You’re only born with one mouth, unless you’re a conjoined twin, but my twin is independent, so there you have it. I made a grown up decision. I’d go to the dentist of my own volition. I’d be proactive.

My body had other plans.

I woke up Tuesday morning with a vague stomachache. I assumed that it was just nerves from going alone to see one of my favorite artists ever, David Ford (check him out, I demand it), who I had interviewed over the phone some weeks before. I had a bit of that giddy schoolgirl feeling going on because he’d shared my review of his latest album (which is brilliant), and I wanted to introduce myself as said writer. Work ended, I moseyed on down to the show, and I managed to nab a seat at a table with his parents, as fate would have it. Mr. Ford put on a spectacular solo show with the promise of a completely different setlist and a backing band the following night. I decided to put off socializing after the show because my two Half and Halfs (Half and Halves? Whatever. Sweet tea vodka and lemonades) hadn’t settled very well on my stomach. I had time, right? I had another gig in me!

Wednesday was shit. I woke up feeling even worse but forced myself to go through the motions in the morning, preparing a cup of cinnamon tea to settle my stomach. Calling out from work would just make me feel worse and guilty to boot, and I might talk myself out of going to Manhattan to see the gig. This would not do. I took about two sips of tea and three drinks of water before the body rebelled. I don’t care what you want, I thought bitterly. I’ll buy breakfast on the way once you calm yourself. Of course, my train got all sorts of delayed because that happens every single time I want to get to Manhattan early. The only place with a short line was the cafe across the street. The yogurt parfaits looked so simple, so tempting with the base settling the acid in my stomach. I didn’t think about how sour stomachs and dairy don’t mix. I forked over five dollars because I am a crazy person, then brought my bounty to my desk, thus sealing my fate for the day.

Friends, this parfait was disgusting. The overly sweet yogurt was topped with granola that had appeared to just have blueberries, strawberries, and a kiwi that quickly made its way into the bin, I saw the monstrosity the green disc had covered. There were raisins and maraschino cherries in my granola. I like raisins in my granola when there aren’t other fresh berries involved. A dried grape feels like an insult. And maraschino cherries? Only acceptable when they are doused in alcohol. My stomach turned as I tried to consume my breakfast. About an hour later, I politely excused myself to throw it up in the bathroom, then stayed at work another hour to be sure I was sick. Why? Because I’m crazy. Crazy responsible. Crazy irresponsible. Then I booked it home for hours of watching MasterChef, eating only Triscuits, playing fetch with my kitten, and having a fever. I tried to snap a photo of the thermometer hitting 100.8, but apparently when you have a fever, the device blinks and beeps like a smoke detector, so use your imagination.

So I missed the gig. One of my gigs of the year. I’m still gutted.

I then set my alarm for Thursday normally. I got up at 6:45 to shower and noticed a pain in my chest, a little to the right. My first thought was I’m having a heart attack, followed by I refuse. So I went to shower anyway to see if the pain would last. It did, but it didn’t lead to any further complications. Still, I called out sick from work and decided to go to a walk-in clinic in Williamsburg. I saw online that their hours were from 8 am on. At this time it was around 7:30, so I booked it out to be there when doors opened.

Friends, Thursday is the only day they open at 9.

If you’ve never been stranded in Billyburg, let me tell you that many of the hipster cliches are true. I wandered aimlessly to find a place to get some breakfast (Huzzah, returned appetite!), but since it wasn’t brunch, few places were open. I settled on a bagel shop where I could get tofu spread (natch), and when I heard “Chasing Cars” play, I had a momentary crisis since I was wearing a Snow Patrol shirt and wondered if that was weird. Then I nearly cried. Being sick makes me emotion. So does chest pain, apparently. Filled with bready and tofuy goodness, I went to the drugstore to get some Wisps to brush my teeth prior to the doctor. I tried to remember which pop star was in an ad for Wisps a long time ago. Mandy Moore I think? Near the cash register was a giant tower of Pabst Blue Ribbon to remind me that I was in hipster heaven. I nearly took a photo, but I didn’t want to encourage them.

So I went to the doctor. For $25! Insurance! So much better than not having insurance, looking at you dental community. After waiting an hour, I was in. The doctor was very amused to hear that I had once had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, because clearly the peak moment of my life was being paralyzed from the waist down for a week at the age of four. She checked my symptoms and then gave me a very profound medical opinion worth my $25: “I have no clue what’s wrong with you.” Thanks! Due to my chest pain, she sent me to get an x-ray to rule out pneumonia, but she prescribed Tamiflu just in case. “I think what you have is probably viral,” she said. “The prescription might be able to lessen the symptoms. You may get over it a day earlier, but you need rest.” With that, she sent me on a half hour walk to the x-ray clinic. In the pouring rain. Physical fitness!

By the time I got there, my chest was in agony, and an old Polish dude had hit on me, because that’s how you know when you’ve crossed from Williamsburg to Greenpoint. I got in pretty early, stripped down for my x-rays, and didn’t even mind when the technician told me that he had to reposition my “tresses.” I had to raise my arms over my head and hold very still, and even in my agony I thought, Thanks for making this pose easy, yoga! Boom, boom, two x-rays and I was done. I saw the technician adjust the contrast on my scan, and seeing inside your boob is surreal. I guess the rest of your body too, but man, my boob was too big to fit in the image. Awesome. (For the record, my x-ray was fine.)

Utterly trampled, I caught the train back to the same drugstore as before to pick up my prescription. The pharmacist just had to check my address. I told him, and he said that was incorrect. Apparently I lived in Cleveland. You know you’ve shunned medicine for a long time when your last known address to the medical community is your college dorm. We got that nonsense sorted out, and I handed over my insurance. I was feeling good since this was not the dentist.

Your total: $106. You saved $36!

What the fuck? This is for ten pills. That’s $10.60 a pill, or the rough equivalent of eating out for lunch and dinner every work day for a week in New York City. I swiped my debit card. It didn’t go into the system, so the taunting bastard made me swipe again. I signed (well, PIN numbered) away basically a day’s wages, then came out of the store with a tiny bag of tinier pills. The tower of PBR mocked me. In the land of cheap beer, high medical expenses won again. I couldn’t afford cheap beer, let alone drink it since it’d interact with my newfangled medication.

On the way back to the train, a woman balancing a binder on her head called out to me. (Fucking hipsters, I thought.) She was wearing a Greenpeace shirt. “You look like an Earth lover!” she cried.

I held up my prescriptions in supplication. “I just spent a lot on medicine and have no money!” I retorted, making my retreat.

“Well, I like your shirt. Snow Patrol’s a great band!” she said to my back. And that was the first and last time I’ve felt good since contracting this flu/viral infection/plague.

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