Readymade

As the weather finally warms up here in Central New England, I decided on Sunday to take advantage of sales and buy a pair of summer pants. Off to the mall I went, hoping for some good luck. I really don’t enjoy shopping for clothes much anymore. I’m particular, it’s difficult to find something that fits properly, and the mirror and neon lighting can be quite cruel. In addition, all the dressing and undressing can be quite tiring on my hands. But I had some free time, the sales looked good, and I was in the right mood to give it the old college try.

The first store I tried was a disappointment. None of the pants fit properly—either too baggy or too wrinkled. As a seamstress, I know how pants are supposed to fit without “smile lines” in the seat. I also look for quality fabric and workmanship. No luck. I did, however, find a nice summer sweater on markdown, so the visit wasn’t a total loss. (Never can have enough sweaters, year-round!)

So long as I’d made the trek, I decided to check out one more store. They, too, had a good sale on pants. This time, I found a pair that fit perfectly, right off the rack. Only one problem: I couldn’t zip up the zipper all the way. This wasn’t a matter of fit; it was a matter of workmanship. The pants had a left side invisible zipper with a small pull tab, and I could not grasp it firmly enough to pull it above the waistband seam. The seam was just a bit too bulky for the zipper to easily slide past. The pull tab hurt my fingers. And there was no sense in buying pants that I couldn’t fasten properly.

Fortunately, the same style was also available in several other fabrics, and a pair of navy blue pants not only fit, but also the same type of invisible zipper worked easily. So I bought them, happy with my find at a 30 percent discount.

As I drove home, I once again thought that I really need to finally figure out how to sew a basic pants pattern that fits and just use that for the future. I had tried this several years ago, but gotten discouraged with the results. Maybe this summer is the right time to try again. Sure would solve a lot of problems.

Meanwhile, I’m glad I found what I needed within an hour. And that I can zip the zipper.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

Image: Artificial Photography

On the Town

I did a lot of walking last week, through and beneath the streets of Manhattan. The first half of the trip was business, the second half, pleasure—spending time with my sister to celebrate our birthdays, which are three weeks apart. And celebrate, we did.

From dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where the waitstaff are all Broadway hopefuls who belt out show tunes, to a walking tour of SOHO, Little Italy and Chinatown; from a lovely stroll up the High Line to a gourmet dinner and an outstanding performance of To Kill a Mockingbird—we had a great time. The weather was beautiful, for the most part. Our hotel off Times Square was surprisingly quiet. We discovered an excellent diner for breakfast and another for some of the best apple strudel I’ve ever tasted. And we started brainstorming our next trip together.

I’m happy to report that my new sneakers worked out pretty well. My feet certainly got tired, but not as tired as they usually do, and without significant neuropathy. Also notable: as I schlepped through the subway, to and from commuter rail, New Yorkers helped to carry my carry-on up and down steep staircases. Without my ever having to ask. Angels are everywhere.

Along the way, I enjoyed wonderful art, on the street and at the Met. Here’s a sampling for your viewing pleasure:

Art Deco with words for our times at Rockefeller Center

Also seen at Rockefeller Center

In front of 30 Rock

Street art in SOHO

Artistic and delicious pastry at Ferrara in Little Italy

Statue of Chang Kai Shek in Chinatown

Street art across from the Whitney Museum entrance to the High Line

Gardening on the High Line

High Line mural

Art Deco murals and design at the Hotel Edison

The Beatle’s original instruments at the Met’s “Play It Loud” exhibit . . .

. . . and some very decorative guitars

Berlin artist Alicja Kwade’s “ParaPivot” rooftop installation at the Met . . .

. . . and a spectacular view of the NYC skyline beyond Central Park

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

 

‘Tis the Season

April showers (and we’ve had plenty) certainly bring May flowers in my neighborhood. White-blossomed cherry trees and cream-colored callery pears, fuchsia magnolias and pink weeping cherries, along with maples unfurling pale green and purple leaves, grace sidewalks and lawns. White and violet violets speckle lawns that grow lusher by the day. The air smells delightful. With all the rain of late, pollen is subdued, and I haven’t started sneezing, yet.

In keeping with the season, another sign of spring has emerged: I have an infected ulcer in my left thumb. This spiked suddenly last Monday. Fortunately, it’s responding to antibiotics, which seem to be a perennial part of my world at this time of year. A good thing, because I’m traveling this week to New York for a mix of business and pleasure.

As my thumb became irritated, I wondered if I’d aggravated it by typing. Then I realized that I never use it to type. I’ve adapted to so many finger injuries over the decades that I automatically compensate for fingers that can’t comfortably or effectively strike the keys. Which made me wonder: How many fingers am I actually using to touch-type?

This is a bit like asking a centipede how it walks. I really have to stop and notice what I’m doing automatically, which can lead to more typos. But the answer is this: I use my pinky and ring fingers on my left hand, and my thumb, ring finger and pinky on my right. And I can still type quickly enough so that my thoughts translate almost immediately to the computer screen. It helps, significantly, to use an Apple “chiclet” keyboard, which has nearly flat keys with an easy touch, and a minimal rise so it’s easy on my wrists.

When my hands fell apart with severe ulcers two years ago (also in the spring), I learned to use Dragon dictation software to write. It was certainly a big help and enabled me to keep writing. But dictation taps a different part of the brain than writing brain-to-hands, and I will keep typing, even with only five fingers, as long as I can, because it is simply faster and more intuitive.

And so, I am dashing off this entry before I leave on my travels. Looking forward to fresh adventures—and to seeing how the flowers have grow when I come home.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

If the Shoe Fits

Dear Reader: With this post, I’ve switched to a different blog distribution platform. You can still get to the entire post from your email—please just click on the Read More link and it will bring you to my blog’s website, with the full text. EH

I’ve been on a quest for good walking shoes for at least a month, now. With the weather warming and travel plans ahead, I want to be sure that I have a reliable, comfortable pair that will minimize my feet issues, even as I am coming to accept that no pair exists that will make walking fully pain-free.

This is always a challenge. The biggest stumbling block is that you can’t walk outside in shoes that you’re trying out at home without committing to buying them. (I know of one clear exception, Allbirds, which gives you a 30 day trial of walking anywhere—if the shoes don’t work out, you send them back and they are donated to people who are homeless. Zappos has also accepted returned shoes I’ve lightly worn once outside, but I don’t want to take unfair advantage of that option.) So how to really know if the shoes will be comfortable on pavement or uneven terrain, which are always the big challenges?

My strategy now is to wear a pair I’ve bought around the house for a few days. Usually, if there’s a major fit issue, I’ll know right away. If there are other structural issues, I’ll know in a day. If the shoes are still comfortable after a couple of days, I’ll take the plunge and wear them outside.

But, first, they have to meet a number of criteria. The fat pads on my feet have thinned so much from scleroderma that I have to set a high bar:

  • Is there plenty of room in the toe box? No pinching?
  • Are they lightweight so as not to aggravate my joints?
  • Is the shoe made of materials that breathe, to avoid trapping perspiration and triggering Raynaud’s or causing skin breakdown?
  • Does my foot feel balanced, with pressure evenly distributed over the entire sole?
  • Does walking in the shoes adversely affect my knees, back or hips?
  • Is there sufficient arch support?
  • Is there a removable foot bed, so I can use my own orthotics or a good ready-made alternative?
  • Is there enough shock-absorbency, so the shoe doesn’t tire my feet or trigger the neuropathy in my right foot?
  • Can I walk without noticing the shoes? Do they fade into the background?

Then there is the question of style. I refuse to wear shoes that look like boats. Fortunately, now that so many of us baby boomers are aging, and many of us have buying power, there are a lot more alternatives for comfortable shoes that are at least somewhat attractive, even if heels are out of the question (and bad for your feet, anyway) and daintier styles lack necessary support. When I first began having these issues several decades ago, the choices were much slimmer. Now there are options, even for my particular taste.

If the shoes pass all of the above tests, then it’s time to risk a test drive around the block. None of this is foolproof. I’ve tested shoes outside, thought I had a winner, only to discover after repeated wear that they don’t work out in the long run. This has happened more times than I would like.

Which brings me to my latest acquisition, a pair of Abeo sneakers that I found at The Walking Company. I’m on first-name basis with the sales clerk, at this point. She knows my issues and really tries to help me find the right shoe. I landed on this pair after several rounds of other shoes that didn’t work out. Then I went back and upgraded the removable insoles. That combination seems to be on target.

My walk around the block on Monday in lovely sunshine was an A-. Pretty good, all things considered. While there is no pair that will make walking painless or tireless, these sneakers give me hope that I’ll be able to sustain longer walks—balanced with thoughtful pacing and rests. Staying active is simply too important to give in to all the obstacles that this disease throws in my path.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

Perchance to Dream

I’ve been having some trouble falling asleep, lately. I go through these bouts from time to time, when I’m trying to do too much and my mind is overstimulated, or when I’ve sat up at my computer too late, or when I watch too much news. Some of the solutions are obvious (plan in evening down time! no computer after 9 o’clock! don’t OD on the latest political crisis!). But I’ve also decided to use regular guided meditation in the morning to help me calm my thoughts.

I subscribe to Headspace, which is a great app with many guided meditation series to help with various issues. When I was dealing with my horrific ulcers the summer before last and the surgical aftermath, the series on pain management was a real boon. This time, I’m meditating my way through the sleep series, which includes both practical advice for good “sleep hygiene” as well as a mind-calming meditation to be done in the morning that helps you sleep better at night.

I was skeptical of how this would work, but lo and behold, after about ten morning sessions, I started to fall asleep more readily. I am less intimidated by the prospect of needing to fall asleep, which is the insomniac’s hamster wheel, and more able to relax. (Of course, now that I’m writing this down, who knows what will happen tonight?)

In any case, the meditation has an added benefit. Monday morning it was cold here, a drop from the mid-60s on Sunday to a wind-chilling mid-30s (welcome to New England). When I started my meditation, however, I didn’t have on any socks, because I’m ready for spring and didn’t feel like it. Of course, that meant my feet were ice cold. I wondered if meditating would improve my circulation. Sure enough, by the end of my ten minutes of visualizing a warm glow filling my body from bottom to top, my toes were actually a little pink. Not toasty, but not freezing, either.

Years ago, I had read how meditation could help Raynaud’s. I once even tried some biofeedback practice to see if it would make a difference, but didn’t have the patience to follow through consistently. Here was yet another reminder that the mind truly does influence the body. And ten minutes of calm in the morning certainly beats that nagging voice in my head urging me to start thinking-planning-doing.

I don’t expect my sleep issues to disappear, but at least it feels more manageable at present. And my toes are happier, too.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

Image: Cris Saur

Countdown

As of next Monday, I will be officially on Medicare. Getting there has been long anticipated. But the process has not been easy, as anyone who has gone through it can attest. The plans are complicated, the rules byzantine, the language seemingly designed to confuse (though more likely just written in so many layers that getting to the basic facts is like going on an archeological dig).

To figure this out, Al and I went twice to see a SHINE counselor here in Massachusetts (Serving the Health Information Needs of Everyone—who thinks up these acronyms?) to sort through all the options. I knew from the get-go to avoid Medicare Advantage plans, since these can significantly restrict physician choice through narrow networks. Living with a chronic disease like scleroderma, that was a non-starter for me. We knew we wanted to get a Medicare supplemental plan to cover what Medicare Parts A and B do not. And I needed to be certain that all my expert specialists would be included in the plan.

Fortunately, the best plan we were interested in, offered by Massachusetts Blue Cross/Blue Shield, does cover all of my wonderful physicians. I made sure to check with them as well as with the BC/BS customer service rep. The premium costs about $200 per month, but the plan has no deductible, no copays, and excellent in-patient and skilled nursing coverage. Any provider or hospital that accepts Medicare is covered. Given how much I spent on copays, alone, with employer health insurance coverage, that will be a savings. So that is one load off my mind (at least, unless the plan changes at some point).

The bigger issue has been wading through Part D coverage options for my meds. Learning what’s involved with these plans has been a huge shock. I certainly had read about issues for drug costs for seniors and knew something, in general, about the “donut hole” problem (which I won’t even try to explain here). But I was stunned when I realized how much I would be paying for some of my medications: one Tier 5, and four Tier 4s (or two Tier 4s and two Tier 3s, depending on the plan).

Even with the excellent help of staff at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), which offers a free service to state residents to sort through all the Part D plans, I learned that we would be paying about $10,000 annually. And that includes falling into the catastrophic coverage category. This prompted me to bring up the issue to both my Boston Medical rheumatologist and cardiologist. So we are now reevaluating my meds and alternatives. We’ve come up with a new plan that will cost about $,4,500 annually—certainly an improvement, but still three times our out-of-pocket expenses under our prior insurance.

One could argue that this is appropriate. Shouldn’t we all be making cost-conscious consumer decisions for our health care? Problem is, the cost of my Tier 5 medication is exorbitant. It’s been covered by a patent for years, and is going off patent later this year. As a result (I learned from the Part D Medicare web interface), its negotiated monthly cost, which forms the basis of what is paid by the patient and Part D, has increased more than 100 percent in the past few years, from around $5,000 up to more than $11,000. That’s monthly. The drug isn’t costing more to make. The pharmaceutical company is milking the patent  before it expires and a generic becomes available—which could still be costly. As my cardiologist noted, if they find another, slightly modified application, the patent could still be renewed. This is common practice.

One way or another, we’ll make it work. But it is high time that the high cost of drugs in this country, especially for seniors who cannot afford them, should be regulated. All it takes is one look at a Canadian drug website to know that what we’re paying is ridiculous.

For more than a year, Al and I have been paying a hefty COBRA premium to retain our excellent health insurance, which I really need or we’d go bankrupt. We’ve been waiting and waiting until my 65th birthday to drop that expense for a much more reasonable monthly premium (Al switches over in July). But it’s still not clear to me, given the drug situation, how much we will save. And this makes me angry.

There are other countries on this planet that make comprehensive health care available for all of their citizens. Let’s get past all the scare mongering, clarify and understand the true costs, and seriously consider universal health care here in the U.S. What we have now is just a confusing, inequitable mess.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

Image: SpaceX

Chew on This

Last week was one of those weeks when I burned up a lot of time going to, being at, and going home from medical appointments. Most were routine and anticipated, but one was not: a visit to my periodontist.

One of the rarer complications of scleroderma is resorption of tooth roots. As my periodontist has explained it to me, my body thinks some of my teeth are invaders and begins to attack the roots like PacMan (albeit much slower). I’ve lost four teeth to this phenomenon over the years. Two were lower rear molars that were simply extracted, and two others involved extractions and implants. My dentist has identified two other teeth that are endangered and has been monitoring them for years.

A couple of weeks ago, one of those teeth announced it was not happy, provoking unpredictable waves of sensitivity in my jaw that felt like a dull ache. I have no idea what caused it to spark. I was not pleased.

When I saw my dentist to get his opinion, he was quite candid. At some point in the not-too-distant future, I would need to go through the expensive process of another extraction, implant and crown. So I made a follow-up appointment with my periodontist to see what steps I needed to set in motion.

By the time I saw him last Wednesday, the tooth was calming down. He took a look and confirmed that my molar was, indeed, on the way out. But he also said that it was really up to me to determine when to take action. If the pain were tolerable or even reduced to background noise, I could leave it be until it inevitably got worse. I could also just have it extracted and skip the implant, but that didn’t make a lot of sense, given the fact that I don’t want to have any more issues chewing and swallowing than I already have (more complications from scleroderma and Sjogren’s Syndrome).

So, I decided to wait. Sure enough, a week later, the molar is relatively silent. I know I will undoubtedly have to deal with it over the summer, but at least I don’t need to jump.

This decision is made more complicated by the fact that I have to switch over to Medicare by the end of the month. All of the supplemental dental plans have a 12-month waiting period for the kinds of procedures involved—unless I stick with my current provider, in which case they might wave that waiting period, but I have yet to confirm.

Even with dental insurance, for which you pay a decent chunk of change, there is typically an annual benefit cap of about $1,000 or a little more. As my periodontist observed, I have to be really sure the premiums are worth it, given that what I’d receive is only about an eighth of what the process will cost. The net benefit is small.

While I’m fortunate to have the financial means to have options, the tradeoffs are infuriating. Why is dental insurance so lousy? Especially as you get older, keeping your teeth is as important to your overall health and well being as staying in shape. It’s not a vanity project. It’s about being able to eat comfortably and safely. It’s also about avoiding complications of infections and other serious dental health issues. But so many people cannot afford the care necessary to preserve their teeth that the simple act of smiling is a very visible marker of social class and economic disparities.

All of which is to say that as our nation wrestles with the question of whether and how to provide universal health care, we must make sure the conversation includes dental health care, as well. Our mouths aren’t separate from our bodies. We can’t just swallow the status quo.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

Image: Umanoide (And no, those aren’t my teeth.)

 

Women’s Imaging

Monday morning. I am at one of my least favorite medical appointments: my annual mammogram. I am relieved to get through the test in a matter of minutes (even as it feels much longer when clamped in that sadistic machine). What strikes me most about this year’s visit is the new surroundings for the clinic, which has been relocated into a large medical complex. It’s the signage that gets me—a separate section within Radiology dubbed “Women’s Imaging.”

Why do they have to use a euphemism for Mammography? Is someone afraid that women are too embarrassed to go to a waiting area clearly marked for what we all know is screening for breast cancer? Do they think our sensibilities are too delicate to deal with acknowledging one of the major risks to women’s health?

I find it ridiculous. And demeaning. Being an intelligent health care consumer means being aware and informed about the realities of your medical conditions, treatment options and risks. It does not mean pretending or denying or ignoring that women have some specific health risks that merit our proactive attention.

I have made a conscious choice to follow my doctor’s recommendation for an annual mammogram. My mother had a benign cyst removed from her breast when I was in grade school. I suffer the discomfort because I want to know the results, even as the value of mammograms has come into question in recent studies. In particular, there are serious questions about whether women are being over-treated for small tumors in breast ducts that show up on the scans, but that would not actually threaten health if left untreated. (You can read more about that here.)

Fortunately, so far, I have never had to contend with a suspicious finding. I hope I never have to make a choice about such a result, but if I did, I would consult all the research to make a fully informed decision about risks of cancer versus risks of treatments. And I would want my physicians to be informed and direct with me about options.

So, let’s take women’s health seriously. Spare us the euphemisms and respect us as adults who can handle whatever life throws at us.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

Image: Arisa Chattasa

A Question of Identity


According to a well-known poem, March is supposed to bring breezes, loud and shrill, to stir the dancing daffodil, but so far, this most unpredictable of months just brought us a foot of snow. All area schools were closed on Monday, including the Goethe Institut in Boston, where I have been taking German classes since the fall.

I was quite disappointed. I look forward to my Monday night class each week. Not only is our instructor great, but also my classmates are a fascinating group of adults, from many walks of life, with many different reasons to pursue this singular goal: learning to speak and read German.

My own desire was sparked by our European trip last summer to honor the memory of my great grandparents, who died in a concentration camp near Prague in 1943. Our visit to Terezín and the Stolpersteine ceremony commemorating them in Berlin impacted me deeply, in ways that I found very difficult to verbalize and am still sorting out, months later. Upon our return, I suddenly realized that I needed to learn their language, the language of my mother and her parents and all my German ancestors, to process what is still beyond words for me in English.

This has turned out to be a highlight of my week. I am no foreign language maven, and I am forcing some rusty synapses in my brain to start firing again. But I am loving the challenge. Doing my homework—Hausaufgaben—is fun, a meditation of sorts that completely clears my mind of all noise and worries. There is just the puzzle to solve: How do you say that? What does it mean? How do these words fit together? How does it differ from English? Why are the words arranged that way? And how is the way that Germans think and express themselvesthe way my mother as a child and her family thought and loved and argued and dreamedhow is that defined by and encapsulated in their native tongue, in a way that was passed down to me without my even realizing it?

So much of who we are is framed and molded by the words we use to interpret the world. My mother and her parents were formal people in many ways. So when I learned that, in German, you use the formal version of ‘you’—Sie— for addressing someone older, officials, and anyone you don’t know well until you’ve met them a few times, it suddenly all made perfect sense to me. That careful adherence to rules of social etiquette conveyed to me directly and indirectly by my mother was the way she learned to understand the world from her first spoken words. Such is the power of language.

When she was dying, 20 years ago this April, my mother reverted to German. Over and over, she murmured, nein, nein, nein—no, no, no. I will never know what she was referring to. I wondered if she had traveled back to her childhood, when she had to leave her homeland to escape the Nazis. So many years later, I wondered, had a part of her remained forever trapped in a time capsule.

The search for identity is a lifelong quest. We can become mired in tragedy, loss, trauma, a chronic disease that profoundly alters our whole way of being, and let that become the focus of how we define ourselves. But I’d rather keep pushing, discovering, learning more about the world within and without. I don’t know where this new passion will lead me, but the journey fascinates.

So, until next week, auf Wiedersehen.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

Image: Berlin graffiti seen last summer near Alexanderplatz

First Attempt

I’m turning 65 this April. The time has come to apply for Medicare. Especially after a recent scare—when our COBRA plan failed to contact our insurance that we’d renewed our coverage for 2019 and we had no active health insurance for about a week—I don’t want to take a chance on missing any deadlines.

Back in December, Al and I met with a benefits counselor at our local council on aging to find out next steps. Since I have not yet applied for Social Security benefits, and don’t intend to until I’m 70, I did not receive a Medicare card automatically in the mail in January. The counselor advised, if that happened, to apply for Medicare in March. However, I recently read an excellent article in the New York Times that explained the rules in greater detail and found that I could enroll up to three months in advance.

Especially given the threat of yet another government shutdown this coming weekend, I figured I should take care of it this week. So down I went to the local Social Security office on Monday morning to apply. Al had warned me to get there early. I thought I was doing pretty well, arriving around 10:15 (I am so NOT a morning person).

What a mistake. The first sign that I had totally misjudged the situation was the parking lot. Every space in the upper lot next to the office’s front doors was taken. As I looked for a parking spot below, I noticed a steady trickle of people walking to the upper lot, and just a few coming back down.

Even with those hints, I was not prepared for what I found when I stepped inside. The place looked like a crowded airport terminal, with bland, beige walls and rows of people packed into every black vinyl seat. They were all waiting patiently, as if they had been through this many times before, facing a large video screen that streamed information about Social Security benefits and what number was next. I asked the guard who checked my bag how to get a number, and he pointed me to two kiosks. When I typed in my SSN, I got a receipt. My number was 74. On the board, the number was 23.

Within a few minutes, I was lucky enough to secure a seat. I was surrounded by families with screaming kids, a lot of adults chatting with friends or partners, and an atmosphere of pure drudgery. There were three staff members seated at desks only visible beyond glass windows in the wall that separated us from them. I started reading the news on my phone.

At least, when you go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, there are usually a dozen staffers, and you can pretty quickly judge how long the wait will be by how often someone is called up to a window. Here, it quickly became obvious that numbers didn’t get called in sequence (we went from 24 to 27 to 4), and the wait between numbers was at least ten minutes. I did a little math in my head. At that rate, it would take me at least three and maybe four hours to have my turn.

Now, when you are in a waiting game like this, you have to decide early on whether you’re going to invest in sticking it out. Any longer than about 15 minutes, and you begin to feel you’ve invested so much time already, you might as well go the whole way. I left.

When I got home after running a couple of errands (so the time spent wasn’t a total waste), I went online to find out how to make an appointment for my next venture to Social Security. Lo and behold, I discovered that I could apply for Medicare benefits online. Of course. I hadn’t even thought to look in the first place. I guess that’s because I’m almost 65 and still think in terms of doing important business in person.

The whole process took about 15 minutes. I can check status of my application online through my Social Security account. I assume I filled everything out correctly. We shall see. At least I applied with enough time (I hope) to correct any errors. And if I do have to get back down to Social Security in person, I will make sure to force myself out of bed early, get there when the doors open—and bring a book.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com. Please view Privacy Policy here.

Image: Social Security Administration via Wiki Commons