Here’s how much stress I’m under. I bought a ball pit and filled it with golden retriever puppies, and it didn’t help. It didn’t help.
Check this out. Saint Anthony is suing us.
“Saint Anthony?” you ask. “Saint Anthony of Padua? The patron saint of the poor and sick? That Saint Anthony?”
Yes. That Saint Anthony.
Well, his namesake hospital is anyway.
Yes, a hospital proclaiming to the world through name and oversized lobby statue that it provides succor to the destitute, is suing our ass because they had to provide succor to us when we were destitute.
On a completely unrelated note and apropos of absolutely nothing: to my friends in the green and pleasant land that is Great Britain: can we borrow your NHS? Our market-based healthcare system here in the U.S. seems to be broken. We’ll return it when we’re done. Ta.
Here’s the really condensed version:
NewWifey(tm) got really sick in 2016, so we brought her to our local hospital (St. Anthony’s). This has been our hospital since 1999.
They took our insurance information, then recommended a really expensive test. They told us our insurance would cover the majority of it.
A week later they sent us a letter (not a bill) that said, “Hey we forgot to mention – we don’t participate with your insurance company any more. You’re on the hook for the whole thing.” They wanted a 5-figure sum.
When we expressed how dismayed we were, and how the amount they wanted to wring from us was more than we, our cars, my Le Creuset collection, and all of my Playstation-2 games were worth combined, St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the poor and suffering, said, “Bless you my child, go in peace. Be well, and worry not.”
I’m just kidding.
They turned us over to a collection agency.
They hadn’t even sent us a bill, and they turned us over to a collection agency. On the strength of our merely questioning the amount we owed they assumed we weren’t going to pay, so they decided to save the stamp and go right for the sharks.
We got calls, we got letters, we got ulcers. And we got it for a good two years.
(Pleas to our insurance company to honor what (we thought) was in our contract went nowhere, btw. As you knew it would.)
Then… a lull. For almost a year we heard nothing. I told NewWifey(tm), “I think we outlasted them.” We were home free, finally.
Out of the blue, right around my birthday this past January, we got a letter from a hospital lawyer. St. Anthony of Padua apparently keeps a stable of them on retainer. I guess God’s not licensed to practice in this state.
The letter cordially invited us to appear in Sussex County Superior Court this coming March. “Bring your checkbook” it said.
Shit got real.
At first we thought we could represent ourselves in this matter (“pro se“). Surely any judge worth his gavel would see the injustice of it all and not only dismiss the case against us but also award us punitive damages to the tune of “WOO HOO!“, and clap the entire administrative staff of St. Anthony’s in irons for a week to let the villagers pelt them with cabbages. Seems fair, right?
On the other hand, if for some reason the judge was not quite as enlightened as we imagined…are Debtor’s Prisons still a Thing?
We decided to lawyer up.
Only problem was, “lawyering up”, we quickly found out, meant ponying up. Like, possibly as much as the hospital was demanding. Which left us to imagine the following scenario: we lose the case and now owe the hospital the 5-figure sum plus lawyer fees, AND have to pay our own lawyer a similar amount.
I’ll ask again: are Debtor’s Prisons still a Thing?
We didn’t know what to do.
Deus Ex Juris Doctorem!
There’s a girl I work with whom I’ve known for quite a while. Years ago I was the traffic reporter on her radio show, and when she was fired I stepped in and was instrumental in getting her hired with us. I was one of the few people from our work who were invited to her new baby’s birthday party last year. We’ve gotten drunk off our asses together on more than one occasion.
And now she’s a lawyer.
Unbeknownst to me, she’d been going to law school at night and recently passed the bar. She never told any of us because…I don’t know, frankly. Maybe she was too drunk to remember. Maybe she was just modest. Perhaps – and most likely – she was worried we’d all start hitting her up for money if we knew she had a real job. Whatever. The point is, she now has a degree and her own practice.
So when she heard me sobbing in my studio, then heard my story, she said “I got this.”
And that’s when we lawyered up.
She’s giving us the “Friends and Family” rate btw, not charging us for things like phone consults, email consults, boxes of tissues for when I start sobbing again, etc. I might only have to sell half my Le Creusets.
So that’s where it stands now. She’s taken over our case, already firing off letters to the saintly hospital’s lawyers telling them to Bring It, Bitch. She’s also expanded the case to include our insurance company, and another party whom she thinks deserves to hang also. She’s also counter-suing so we can get her fee back, plus damages. (She was less enthusiastic about my demand for stockade and cabbage retribution, though.)
I like this girl.
But I’m also still terrified. It’s nice that she’s projecting an air of confidence when talking about the case with us, but…I’m still terrified. If despite everything we still lose, we lose everything. No matter how good the odds are, ANY chance we could lose is terrifying. I haven’t been sleeping well.
I also haven’t been writing much. Or doing anything fun, for that matter. I’ve neglected correspondence (Jar of Porter – I’m sorry! I haven’t forgotten your veg!) I’m almost paralyzed by fear, unable to imagine anything but worst case scenarios of the worst case scenario sort. Most of my after work hours since we got that letter have been spent sitting in a chair, dully staring at whatever NewWifey(tm) has on the tube and eating tub after tub of ice cream. Even my porn consumption has dropped to a mere few hours a week.
I did start writing the opening paragraphs of an entry right after Valentine’s Day, hoping it would distract me. Uh-uh. I got halfway through and just couldn’t bring myself to continue. Risible hurts. It was a pretty funny story though, so I may just finish it sometime down the line when this mess is finally resolved (assuming we don’t lose the case and they take my keyboard). I’ll post the half I did manage to write, down below.
I was at least able to bring myself to carry on one tradition here at DangerHouse which I always look forward to: redecorating.
Every year at this time NewWifey(tm) goes away for 2 or 3 weeks on a business trip. And every year I redecorate at least one room of the house while she’s gone and send her pictures of my handiwork. A couple of years ago I set up our 15 foot long outdoor hammock in the living room and –
This year I decided I missed Christmas, so I dragged the tree and all the decorations back down from the attic, and on the first day of March I sent her:
It’s still up. She’s not due home til Thursday. I can’t wait til she opens her presents!
Ok, I’m gonna go drink to forget again. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. No lawyer jokes til I get back, ok?
Oh and if you’re the praying type, please send up a prayer for St. Anthony of Padua to intercede on our behalf, will you? I understand he’s the go-to guy in these situations. Thanks.
Ok, here’s the Valentine’s Day 1/2 story:
When I was young I was almost beaten to death by nuns.
I’m looking at that sentence now, thinking ‘I bet people are gonna take that as hyperbole, or a euphemism, or some other impressive looking word I use all the time but don’t really know the meaning of.’
But no. When I was a kid I was almost beaten to death by nuns.
My parents, believing a rigorous Catholic school education would result in a smarter son, enrolled me at Our Lady of the Valley RC School as soon as I managed to graduate kindergarten.
I lasted just over 4 years.
All the teachers there, nun and lay person alike, subscribed to the “spare the rod, spoil the child” method of education. But the nuns embraced it with particular zeal. It was almost admirable really, the dedication these “Brides of Christ” had for the commission of their duties. Any miscreant forgetting his homework, running in the hall, or even coughing without permission, would immediately find himself nursing a new welt or weal somewhere on his body.
Being a rather animated child I was targeted more often than most.
Many mornings I cried over breakfast, begging my mother not to make me go to school again. But my mom, good Italian Catholic that she was, had popped out 5 kids in 5 years and was too exhausted and dispirited to care. If one of them was dealing with some minor issue like torture, well, she needed saving too. So off I went, every morning.
My dad? My dad was working 30 hour days to support 5 kids in 5 years (but thanks to the Pope he at least didn’t have to waste money on condoms), so I’m not sure he even had time to learn our names, let alone our travails.
True story: in the third grade I developed a bleeding ulcer.
At first my parents didn’t recognize it as an ulcer. But once I started vomiting blood on a fairly regular basis they began to have their suspicions. They finally took me to a doctor.
Once diagnosed, my parents sent a note to the school asking that I not be put under any undue stress for a while. But this seemed only to spur the nuns to greater depths of sadism. One memorable incident, which I’ve recounted here previously, saw me vomit up a gutload of bright red fluid all over my kiddie desk after a nun threatened to kill us all over some infraction. Rather than do the obvious when one sees an 8 year old covered in blood (for future reference: send him to the nurse’s office) the Good Sister had me clean up the mess on my hands and knees while she stood over and berated me for not being man enough to control a simple medical condition.
I’m thinking forced sexual abstinence may cause unintended side effects in some people, y’know? Gotta let off steam somehow….
Finally, a month into 4th Grade, my parents yanked me out of that 10th Circle of Hell and sent me to – gasp! – the local, secular, public school. My dad, a Jesuit with a minor degree in theology, took over the religious portion of my education, nights and weekends.
Meanwhile, over at the secular School Of Iniquity, I immediately became smarter, happier, and less prone to anemia.
Shocker: I also became, eventually, an atheist.
(Perhaps oddly, the turning away happened later, in college, over theological misgivings. Not over being tortured by penguins.)
Fast forward to today….
NewWifey(tm) is not an atheist. She’s a Methodist. She knows the rituals of the Methodist service and can sing all the songs, even if she only goes to church on Christmas and Easter. But anything deeper and it’s kind of a crap shoot. In typical Modern Religious fashion she’s more than a little fuzzy on the particulars. She’s sure we have a soul for instance, and there’s a heaven and hell, and you shouldn’t kill other people or steal their SUV’s. But pre-marital sex? Divorce and re-marriage? Coveting thy neighbor’s Manolo Blahniks? Cooking a lamb in the milk of its mother? (Deut. 14:21) Wellllllllllll.…….God didn’t really mean that stuff, did He? He’ll let things like that slide as long as she’s overall good, right?
Right. She’s going to Heaven.
And that’s why our marriage works. She’s happy to delude herself, and I’m happy when she’s happy.
So what does this have to do with me not getting laid this Valentine’s Day, you ask?
It’s because of Saint Hedwig of Silesia.
Here’s the thing. I may be an atheist now, but I was raised by Jesuits. For about 20 years, until my apostasy, regardless of which school I was in, my parents endeavored to hammer as much theological academia into me as possible. I read the Bible, I read books about the Bible, I read apologias of prominent theologians, I read biographies of the saints, and in a nutshell, you wanted me on your team for Bible Trivia Night.
When I was young especially, the stories of the saints really grabbed me. A martyr has his head cut off, then his headless body picks it up and carries it to his grave! A girl gets swallowed whole by a dragon (!) and cuts her way out with the cross she always carries! Some guy who lived on only communion wafers and water is suddenly able to bi-locate (be in two places at once)! One of the founding saints of Ireland (Brigit) turns the water in her bathtub into beer! (I wanna marry Brigit. I could save thousands of dollars a year just right there.)