Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bad Credit Cards

A member of an Argentine soccer team fell while roller staking, wrenching his ankle.  A doctor from their travel insurer in Buenos Aires determined that he needed an orthopedist but that this could wait until office hours the following day. However, the doctor wanted someone to examine him that evening, so my phone rang.

The team was staying in Long Beach, 35 miles away, but the rush-hour had passed, and the agency did not object to the extra fee. This was International Assistance. I’ve made 896 of its visits, but after an ownership change, it became extremely slow to pay. Losing patience, I insisted it give me a credit card number, so I could pay myself. This is always a critical request, because some agencies refuse and disappear from my radar. But International Assistance agreed.

As soon as I hung up, I remembered that IA’s current credit card had expired in August. When I called back, the dispatcher put me on hold to consult her superior. After a few minutes, she returned with a new number.

I phoned the credit card company and entered my identification and the credit card number only to hear the computer declare: “Do not honor! Do not honor!” I phoned IA again, awaited the consultation, and received another card. “Do not honor!” intoned the computer a second time.

“Invalid credit card number” I heard on my third attempt. This turned out to be my mistake; in my increasing frustration, I made an error entering her third number. After correcting it, I heard the satisfying: “Approved” following by a confirmation number. Insurance agencies often give me bad credit cards. I suspect their business is as competitive as mine, so many are in perilous financial condition.

My patient was reclining on a couch, an ice pack on his ankle, his teammates gathered around. The ankle was massively swollen, and he was in pain. Waiting would not have caused permanent harm, but people with painful injuries deserve quick attention.

Fortunately, IA is an agency that takes my advice even when it costs money, so his companions took him to an emergency room to deal with fractures of both leg bones. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Adventures in Parking

In parts of Los Angeles, especially downtown and the Sunset Strip, street parking is impossible. I dislike turning my car over to an attendant because it can take fifteen minutes to retrieve it from the parking garage. Also, although it’s irrational, I’m willing to pay $15 for a movie or book but not for twenty minutes of parking. I try to leave my car near the entrance, a small area where only VIPs are permitted. When the attendant doesn’t recognize me (“Welcome to the Biltmore; are you checking in?...”), I do not accept the voucher he holds out, explaining “I’m the hotel doctor visiting a sick guest. They let me park.” This sometimes works, but if he insists, I take it. Sometimes the hotel will validate, but it’s unpredictable.

Searching for a spot on the street, I follow the position of the sun as closely as a sailor because I must park in shade. I keep extra supplies in the car, and an hour in blazing sun will melt my pills and ruin batteries. I don’t mind walking a few blocks if I find free street parking (and I know all the secret places), but since I wear a suit and tie, hot weather discourages this. Rain does the same because carrying an umbrella is awkward in addition to my doctor bag and clipboard.

One advantage of wee-hour calls is that parking restrictions vanish and valets grow somnolent or disappear entirely. I’ve never felt in danger, but downtown parking remains problematic because homeless men invariably rush up and offer to watch my car.

My most upsetting parking experience occurred during a visit to the Ramada in Culver City at 4 a.m. I left my car at the deserted entrance, cared for the guest, and returned to find a parking ticket on my windshield. The hotel’s driveway was private property, so ticketing a car requires phoning the police. Looking around the lobby I noticed a security officer looking innocently away. There was nothing to be done.