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Copyright © 2005 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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rob the king is naked
september 1, 2005
Usually I read my e-mails in the morning, reply that evening. I like the daylight gap between reading and writing back, because it gives me time to consider what the sender has said.
About half the e-mails I receive are from people familiar with my writings, who contact me to say hello, talk about a particular story, essay, etc. they've enjoyed reading.
The other half are from people who aren't familiar with me as a writer, but are contacting me for one of several reasons.
The first group are webmasters who want me to exchange links with their site. The e-mail generally goes, "Our research shows that [such and such a page on SENTENCE] ranks high in search engine searches for [such and such a search term]. The site of theirs they want me to link to usually sells mattresses. (Seriously. I don't know what that's all about.) Those I don't even bother to print. Occasionally, I'll receive an e-mail from a writer just starting out, who has put up his or her own website, or a new publisher trying to get some notice, and those I'll almost always include in the Links section (though sadly, their websites, after a few months, often bubble under).
The second group are people who read something of mine on SENTENCE, were affected by it, and wanted to let me know. The three most common subjects they write about are the death of a cat, a loved one who has had a stroke, and how the hot water cure I suggest for fire ant bites really works (these latter e-mails usually have, GOD THANK YOU!!! in the subject line.) Over the years I've been writing SENTENCE, I've received a large number of e-mails on the death of a cat. Often, people tell me their cat just died, or has been diagnosed with an incurable disease, they did a search on Google, wound up on my site (I've written about the death of several of our cats), and wanted to share their own experience with me. Obviously, I treasure these e-mails, and appreciate the opportunity to help in some small way in sharing their sorrow. The same is true for people who write me after a spouse, parent, or lifetime companion has suffered a stroke. To me, this is one of the greatest powers of the Internet, strangers being able to share information, console each other, around the world.
The third group of people writing me read something I wrote in a Lately, found that the page shows up high in search engine results, and want me to revise or add to what I've written.
Here's a sampling from recent e-mails in this third group.
The first e-mail concerns my Lately on our cat Rudo, who died from kidney failure.
Some text from the e-mail has been edited to assure the anonymity of the writer (it's my personal policy to not identify people who e-mail me, unless they specifically state in their e-mail I can use their name).
I generally dislike changing past Lately columns, because they're meant to stand as my take on something at that moment in time. However, in this case the individual making the request was obviously an intelligent, caring person who felt letting others know about new treatments for CRF would help visitors to my site. The truth is, a lot of people whose cats have been diagnosed with CRF often wind up on my page about Rudo, so it made sense to include factual information on how CRF can be treated, to help others.
So I revised the page, adding the information in a postscript (which is how I change the few Latelys I have changed, leaving the original text unaltered.)
A second writer had something to say about several negative comments I made concerning a retail seafood market located in Dallas. We called the market three times to confirm they would have large lobsters available that Saturday, for a special dinner we had planned for that evening. Each time we were assured that would be no problem, they'd have them. When we got to the market, there were no large lobsters. A clerk told us we had to special order the lobsters to have them in-store. No one had mentioned that important fact the three times we called. No one apologized to us for the mix-up. The clerk was indifferent to our plight. Looking over our shoulders to wait on the next person. On the way out, we noticed the lobster tank they had for one-pound lobsters, and the water in the tank was absolutely filthy. You could barely see the lobsters inside.
I wrote a polite letter back, but turned down his offer of free fish. If indeed they have improved their customer service and lobster storage tanks that's good news, but the Lately is about our experience at their market at that point in time, and we did have a truly bad experience. So the column stands, unchanged. If you live in the Dallas area, the best place to buy seafood is Whole Foods or Central Market, although the quality of the seafood at Central Market has declined somewhat the past few years (if you own Central Market, please don't write me. Just buy fresher fish, like you used to). When Mary and I want really fresh seafood, we go to Whole Foods (plus Whole Foods identifies their source for each seafood, specifying whether it's farm-raised or wild).
The third e-mail is from someone who objected to my endorsement of the hot water treatment for poison ivy.
Here's my reply:
Finally, it's that time of year when I get a negative e-mail about my writings.
Here's the complete text:
The essay is located here.
Here's my reply:
As many of you who regularly read this column know, I recently lost my job. As part of my effort to find new employment, I signed up at Monster.com, a free service where you can place your resume on-line, and search through listings of available jobs in your profession.
A few days after I signed up at Monster, I received a phone call from a woman at Banker's Life and Casualty. She said they had reviewed my resume, and would like me to come in for a job screening.
Naïve me, I thought they had an opening in my area of expertise (self-funded health coverage law), since that was what my résumé was all about.
I got out my suit, Mary picked a tie. Drove over to Banker's for the "interview".
As it turned out, there were a dozen applicants. The other eleven knew absolutely nothing at all about self-funded health coverage law.
We were put in a classroom seating arrangement, after which a woman showed us a long DVD of Banker's Life and Casualty agents who were swept away with joy over how happy they were, trying to sell life and health insurance to retirees. The agents represented virtually every type. Male, female, gay, Caucasian, African-American, Latino, Asian, Native American. All they needed to show they were completely inclusive was a guy in a wheelchair (I don't know how they missed that).
On one wall of the classroom, they had a poster that supposedly represented how much someone could make selling insurance to seniors. The poster had thirteen rows. The first row read:
But the poster was like an eye chart. As you started looking down the rows, the annual incomes reduced, and the type got smaller and smaller. I couldn't read past the fifth row, even with my glasses on. It looked like it said, Something something something agent, $16,000 a year. And there were eight rows below that.
Does Banker's Life and Casualty have the right to try to get you to sell insurance door-to-door? Of course they do. But they need to be honest about what their "job screening" really is. When they contact you, they need to say exactly what type of job they're offering, rather than pretending they have an opening in the area in which you have experience. I wasted my time going to that screening, as did everyone else. After the DVD was finished, and the moderator asked if anyone were interested, all twelve of us got up and left.
So if you're out of work and get a call from them, my advice is ask a lot of questions before you go to a "screening".
Once your employment at a company is terminated, you not only lose your job, you lose your insurance.
In some ways, the loss of insurance is even more significant.
Most people who lose their job are eligible for unemployment compensation, which I'm receiving now. Even though it's often far, far less than what you earned while working (I'm receiving the top possible compensation, $386 a week), it's at least something.
But there's no provision for insurance coverage.
Under federal law in the United States, companies with health coverage plans have to offer continued healthcare coverage to terminated employees for a period of eighteen months (the law is called COBRA).
But the premiums for COBRA coverage are usually so expensive, no one can afford them (especially given the fact that people eligible for COBRA coverage no longer have an income).
While I was employed, I paid $304.31 per month for medical coverage for myself and Mary.
Once I lost my job, the cost for me to continue medical coverage for Mary and myself under COBRA was $972.63 per month, more than three times the cost.
Quite a difference.
Since Mary is covered under Medicare (because of her stroke, and subsequent qualification for Social Security disability), I started looking for medical insurance for myself.
The Internet was fairly useless.
No matter what search term I used, it only brought up sites that wanted me to pay a huge monthly premium for "discounted" coverage. With medical insurance, once you meet your deductible, you pay about twenty percent of the cost of a medical service, and the insurance pays the rest. Under discounted coverage, the provider of a medical coverage charges you a lower amount for the service performed, but you pay one hundred percent of the discounted amount. In other words, if you have insurance, and incur a $1,000 physician bill, you might end up paying $200. If you have discounted coverage, the physician bill might be reduced to $960, but you have to pay the full $960. Bad as that is, imagine if you're hospitalized, and your discounted bill is lowered from $40,000 to $36,000. Are you ready to pay $36,000 out of your own pocket? That's why insurance is much more valuable than coverage based on discounts. Sites that offer discounted coverage cannot call their coverage "insurance". If you look carefully around their sites, there'll usually be a statement to the effect, "This is not insurance".
Getting no help from the Internet, I decided to search for medical insurance the old-fashioned way, going through the yellow pages of the local phone directory, calling insurance agents.
I got hold of one independent agent, explained my situation.
He came back with three quotes for individual coverage for myself, ranging from $250 to $450 a month in premiums.
"To be honest with you, I'm really looking for something with a monthly premium of around $150."
He immediately came up with insurance coverage for a $180 a month premium.
My first thought, Why didn't he start with that coverage?
He agreed to send me some literature on the $180 a month plan.
While I was waiting for that literature, just for the hell of it I went to the site of the $180 insurer and found there was even cheaper coverage, at $85 a month, that offered even better benefits (they reimbursed at 80% of costs, rather than 75%).
I called the agent back, mentioned the $85 coverage.
"Oh. Well, yeah, that coverage is available too."
Agents work for commission, meaning the more they get you to spend, the more they make.
Good for them, not so good for you.
The most exciting new magazine right now, getting a lot of attention, is Red Scream, specializing in cutting-edge fiction. They've bought two stories of mine, "Daddy's Glad Hands" and "The Middle Leg", which will appear in upcoming issues.
Writers graduate through different benchmarks in their career. Getting your first story published in print, getting a novel published, being anthologized. Another benchmark is being translated. Lithuanian writer/journalist Jonas Skendelis asked permission to translate my essay "Space" into his native language, and is currently at work translating my essay "Dreams". To read his translation of "Space", please go here. The original text is located here.