The Other Side

The river was wider than anticipated.  Not deep.  I was never in any real danger of drowning, or at least I didn’t think so.  But I didn’t realize how far it was to the other side.  And now, with the shoreline within reach I can turn around and see, for the first time, how far I’ve come in the last year or so.

I wrote an essay this past August that included my death.  It wasn’t morbid or predictive.  The story was a fantasy that included aliens and robots and leaned heavily on The Truman Show and Brave New World.  My editors were not amused.  Not only did I not publish post, but I also stopped writing.  Death, not physical and certainly not mine specifically, but death, the end of things as I knew them to be, was a constant theme for me in 2022.  It has taken until now to understand that.

I was forced to confront major issues in 2022:

  • Was I prepared to be alone for days at a time?
  • Could I accept that insurers, in today’s environment, would dare to provide cable company levels of service and customer care?
  • Could I ignore our elected and appointed leaders and retain my faith in this country?

As I said, these were my issues.  Feel free to dismiss them if you’d like, but I now realize what a struggle they presented to me.  It was as if each added another foot or two of water to the depth of the river I was crossing.

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Jeff Bogart and I moved into an office on Chagrin Boulevard on October 13, 2000.  I teased him for years that the only reason I agreed to share space was so that I didn’t have to eat lunch alone.  Truth, my biggest motivation to having an office partner was so that I didn’t have to eat lunch alone.  We hung out through four locations and twenty-two years.  When we had time we would talk sports, politics, and music.  And because we were two separate businesses we could afford a full-time secretary.  Did we need a full-time secretary throughout the year?  Maybe, but it gave me one more person in the office.  It is a zoo here during Open Enrollment when I may have 7 or 8 clients in here per day, but during the rest of the year it can be very quiet.  Too quiet.

It has been about ten months and I am adjusting.  Ari, my part-time secretary, has already been exposed to more rock and roll history, presidential politics, and insurance than she ever wanted to know.  G-d knows what she’ll retain or how she’ll explain this gig after she’s moved on.  The new office has begun to feel like home.  That is important considering how many hours I spend here each day.

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Insurance companies are businesses.  Their first priority is to make money.  But there are two types of insurance companies.  MUTUAL companies are owned by their policyholders.  Technically they function for the benefit of the people who have purchased insurance policies from them.  STOCK companies are owned, and function for the benefit of, shareholders.  This does not mean that a mutual company will necessarily do a better job of providing customer service or paying a claim.  The health and life insurance portions of the insurance industry have been more client focused than, for example, your car insurance carrier.  I’ve been doing this 44 years and never had an experience like the one I detailed in my March 28th post, Exhausted.

The insurer, a company known more for its name than for the products it writes, left a permanent mark.  And though this insurer is far and away the worst I’ve ever dealt with, 2022 had other insurers choosing to disregard the needs of both the clients and the agents who serve them.  One company “forgot” to tell either the agents or the clients that it was no longer including Pediatric Dental in its individual health plans.  But that company has a history of communicating with us on a need to know basis, and oddly enough, we never need to know anything until we catch them.  Another company, one known for its internal chaos, had to be reminded that they can’t cancel a client just because they, the insurer, made a mistake.  It took 40 minutes on the phone today, but everything is OK now.  This is stupid shit.  Totally unnecessary.  It weighs on us, the agents that follow through and keep the insurers in check.  Alone it is just another day.  When you are waist high, these issues can seem like you are being pulled under.

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 It was July 6th, only a couple of days after the horrific Highland Park shooting, and rightwing media was trying desperately to spin the story.  The bodies had yet to be buried but the right was trying to find a way to portray the shooter, a troubled young man that should never have been able to purchase guns, as a transvestite since he disguised himself as a woman to escape from the scene of the crime.  I listened to one of my friends explain that the shooter had to be a liberal since Trump supporters all love this country and would never shoot up anything.  I can’t make that up.  And though political violence is not strictly a phenomenon of the extreme right, to deny it is a feature of today’s FOX / OAN / Bannon War Room mentality.

I was led to believe that we chose our leaders.  Gerrymandering has proven that our elected officials often choose us.  And that is why I have always had more faith in the Senate and, to a lesser degree, the president, than the U S House.  The whole state elects a Senator.  That faith can quickly be eroded by the likes of a Tommy Tuberville or Ron Johnson.  Ohio has had Senate leaders as well as guys who seemed to make Ohio better with their absence.

We are facing huge issues as a country.  Are our current crop of elected representatives up to the task?  I honestly don’t know.  It took 15 votes and some of the ruling party to nearly come to blows to elect Kevin McCarthy the Speaker of the House.  15 votes!  We were on vacation in Punta Cana wondering what kind of country settles on the likes of Kevin McCarthy for this important a position.  And the Republicans didn’t have a second choice!  My beach book was the January 6th Report.  I only got halfway through.  It was too depressing.

I want to believe.  I want to feel that the people we send to Congress will, eventually, focus on the good of our country.  Sure, they have to argue for awhile about drag queens and CRT, but I have to hope that our real concerns will be addressed.  I’ll be in Washington in a few weeks.  I’ll let you know what I see.

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 The river was wide, but I really do feel that I have reached the other side.  Little things like celebrating my birthday with friends and at Shul, playing racquetball again this past Sunday, and even baking a cherry pie helped me to find solid ground.  And if you find yourself wading across a river, I hope that you, too, will reach the other side soon.


Picture – With Snorkel Gear – David L Cunix