Little Things

Sometimes, it’s the littlest things that can make or break your day.  Right now, it’s 9:23am.  I should be at the infusion lab getting the last of my four iron infusions.  But I’m not because my blood count was normal last week!  I still have to take off work next Wednesday for a test which will involve an IV, but at least I’m not getting an IV once a week for 5 weeks straight 🙂 I also had to call Chase this morning to un-enroll in the sneaky payment protection plan they automatically enroll you in.  I was expecting a fight, but I didn’t have to wait on hold at all, the rep wasn’t pushy, and the whole thing was finished in less than 3 minutes (he even gave me a credit for the $0.49 which I was just going to write off).  So far, it’s turning out to be a pretty good Friday.

Add to all this the fact that the weather’s great, Mad Men started last Sunday, Game of Thrones starts this Sunday, The Borgias starts next Sunday, and the Rangers’ hockey season is still far from over, and I’m a pretty happy person right now. Of course, I haven’t gone to work yet today.  See me when I get off at 7 and we’ll see how cheery my mood is then 😉

All about customer service….

Changes abound at work, and they’re even more drastic than the frequent schedule changes.  See, AAA is uber-focused on customer service surveys (MSI in company lingo). We reps always get assigned the overall score, regardless of whether the shop or appr or someone who wasn’t us screwed up.  This month, my team received 7 surveys from the few hundred claims we’ve in Texas taken since the beginning of January.  3 were 9s and 10s, 3 were 6-8 (which count the same as zero in AAA’s eyes), and 1 was 1-5.  Since 6-8 are weighted the same as the 1-5, our overall score was pretty pathetic.  So upper management has decided to punish us by taking us off Texas claims and putting us on catastrophe duty (hail, storm, and other mind-numbing claims) for at least a couple of weeks.  Our manager is fearing for her job and we’re all trying to figure out what the deal is.

The thing with MSI is that it’s completely random, which can be good and bad.  Good because random sampling is what you want if your goal is to gather unbiased evidence.  Bad if you have a minimal number of surveys (say…seven out of 300+ claims) because there’s a high probability that the results might be skewed one way or the other.  Last month we were on top in Texas.  This month we’re on the bottom.  But rather than looking at that and realizing that having so few MSI surveys makes the results almost meaningless, management has gone with the knee-jerk reaction of changing the entire direction of our unit and threatening to replace our manager (at least, that’s what we gather from how she was acting). Next month it’s entirely possible that we’ll be on top again.  So are they going to change our direction every month based on single digit surveys?  I know I’m not “experienced” in career terms, but that just seems stupid and counterproductive.

Shelley is also trying to strike fear into us by saying that it could come down to our jobs.  I, for one, am not scared.  I’m good at what I do and I know upper management knows it, so I’m fairly confident that if they did shut down our unit I’d be offered another position.  And a little personal accountability for some of the others would not be a bad thing. Also, California AAA’s weekend team took 5 years to get it right, so I don’t think it’s the type of organization to just completely shut down an entire unit after less than a year.

There’s nothing to do now but wait and see how things play out.  For completely selfish reasons I would like the current structure and management to remain through at least November because of my planned vacations and grad school applications. Though, Shelley does need to learn how to manage people a little better.  At the end of our meeting on Wednesday when she dropped the bomb about all the changes, she handed each of us a folder with the survey(s) we’d personally received so we could see “how we contributed or didn’t contribute.”  I’ve gotten one survey all year.  It was an 8.  Based on that, I’m not contributing.  B.S.

Booked!

In contrast to my prior post, here’s some happy news: I’m booked for my Japan trip!  I’m leaving STL on November 1st and coming back on November 14th.  I’ll be hitting Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara.  Still deciding how many days to spend in each, but I’m thinking the majority of my time will be split between Tokyo and Kyoto with a day trip to Nara and a day or two in Osaka.  I can’t wait! Now I have motivation to take up Japanese again (it’s been on hiatus for about a month).  Oh, and the fact that the plane ticket was only $1240 round-trip makes it that much sweeter 🙂

Nothing for granted

I like to think I’m someone who doesn’t take good health for granted. I eat right and workout to make sure I’m in as close to top form as I can get without committing to an Olympic-level routine.  But I’ve never been sick sick before.  Well, that all changed on March 5th.  I’d been feeling a bit off for a couple months; stairs would send my heart racing and workouts I used to be able to complete with no issues suddenly became incredibly difficult.  I wrote it off, thinking that I’d simply over-worked myself.  I didn’t stop working out, but I cut down on the intensity a little.  But….it didn’t get better.

Then on the 5th around 11am, I could have sworn I was having a stoke.  Spots in front of my eyes, right hand half-way numb, and no ability to concentrate.  I tell you what, the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced was spending 10 minutes trying to write a two sentence email and literally not being able to string the words together.  The whole episode lasted about an hour, but it freaked me out enough that I went straight to Urgent Care.  The doctor said he thought I’d had a “migraine equivalent episode with a neurological event” and he recommended I follow up with a GP and neurologist and get an MRI.  I followed up the next day, the quack neurologist told me it was just a migraine and nothing was wrong and sent me home, and I had to call the GP and convince her that she at least needed to do a blood test if they wouldn’t do an MRI.  She reluctantly agreed.  Good thing.

My blood was drawn on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon I got a call from the GP telling me I needed to go to the hospital for a blood transfusion ASAP.  Turns out I was critically anemic – my haemoglobin was 6.4 (it’s supposed to be between 11.5 – 15). Long story short, my parents met me at the hospital, I stayed overnight, had two blood transfusions, an iron transfusion, and a couple dozen tests run and was let go the next day with a haemoglobin count of 8.4.  I was all ready to go to work, but my parents nixed that plan and made me go home with them for the rest of the weekend….  Now I have a weekly iron transfusion until the end of March.  Still no idea what caused it.  In September my haemoglobin was around 13, so it was a rather sudden drop from a medical point of view.  I don’t know what my count is now, but I tell you what, I feel 10 times better now than I did before.

The point of the story is that you should never take good health for granted. I have overall good health and youth on my side (apparently most people with a count of 6.4 can’t get out of bed, I was exercising 30+ minutes a day up until the day I went into the hospital – which was down from my 45-60 min norm), but I’ll never again ignore it when my body tells me something’s wrong.  I’m still much, much luckier than most of the people in the hospital.  The infusion center (where I had my iron infusion yesterday –after being stuck 3 times for an IV) was full of cancer patients.  Anemia is certainly more manageable and treatable than cancer, but for someone who’s always been in near-perfect health, it can seem just as scary.

Catching Up

I can’t believe enough things have actually happened in the past couple of weeks for me to write a “catching up” blog!  But don’t get too excited EK, it’s nothing juicy (unlike what your blog would be like if you actually updated it, hint hint).

1.  Emily came down on the 25th to get together for my birthday.  We had a blast, but I also found out that she and her bf Zach are looking to move in together!  That happened a bit fast….  Okay, yes, they’ve technically been together for over 2 years, but she was in France for 9 months of it and since they graduated last May they’ve lived in different states.  Kudos to them if it works, but it’s definitely a big step.  One of them has to get a full time job first, though, so who knows how long it’ll be before it actually happens.

2.  Natalie and I went to the symphony on Saturday to listen to The Firebird Suite (orchestra nerds never change), but it turned out that the Firebird was only the second half of the concert – there were two other concertos during the first half. The first one was very pleasant.  The second featured an opera singer singing in French while accompanied by dissonant music of cringe-inducing proportions.  She was very talented….but I’m not an opera person. Let’s just leave it at that.  The actual Firebird was good, if a struggle to stay awake through because I’m old and it was past my bedtime 😉

3.  I’ve rediscovered smoothies.  Instant.  Happiness.

4.  I have to have blood work done tomorrow which means that after the hot chocolate I’m about to drink, no food or drink until after 9am tomorrow morning.  Considering that I usually eat breakfast around 5:40ish, I think I’m going to die.  Hope my body lets me sleep in….and I pity whoever has to interact with me in the morning…..

5.  My parents have a new cat (don’t know if I’ve mentioned that before).  She’s light orange and white, very timid, 2 years old, small in height, and sausage-like in appearance.  Poor thing spent a year in a cage at the shelter, so it’s not her fault she resembles a wiener dog more than a cat, but it is quite humorous.

6.  Both of my managers are now going to be off on Thursday and Friday, which basically means that we relief adjusters have no direct contacts and no one to go to when things go wrong.  It was ….. interesting last week.  Hopefully it won’t always be that way.  Speaking of work, we got our bonus and raise numbers.  I’m happy with the first, but the second is pathetic.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to get any raise at all, but it’s very demotivating.  She is dangling the promise of a putting in for a promotion for me in July (though it may not process until September), so that’s something, I suppose.  We’ll see if she can deliver.  Not to be pompous, but I kind of deserve it since I’m only a Claims Rep I and she has me blatantly picking up the slack for some Claims Rep IIs (far beyond my normal relief adjusting duties).

7.  The family birthdays continue next week.  We’re having an extended family party for the brothers on Sunday (lucky me gets to go home and cook for it since Mom has to work until 4ish), and Tuesday we’re going to IHOP for brother Tyler’s birthday.  Bring on more unhealthy food.  I love the first two weeks in March 🙂

Celebrate

I don’t do birthday parties. At least, not for myself.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t completely take advantage of my birthday to eat lots of food I would normally consider off-limits.  The best part is when you can stretch this food party out over many days, not just your birthday, while using very logical justifications for doing so.  My binge this year included The Cheesecake Factory the Friday before my birthday (Greek Salad + Sausage & Ricotta Flatbread + Hershey’s Chocolate Cheesecake = Heaven), Panera with Emily the next day, cake at work the day before AND the day of (hey, there was one piece left the next morning, and it’s an unwritten rule that it’s completely acceptable to eat cake for breakfast on your birthday), Noodles & Co with Natalie on Saturday, and popcorn, Alfonsos Pizza (accompanied by garlic bread, fonzo bits, and antipasta salad), and frozen custard with the family on Sunday to mark my and my brother’s birthdays.  Overall, not a bad haul this year 🙂