22 December, 2015

Uncanny Valley Blues

This is just a vent with no political or artistic import. Here I sit, watching my boss's dad Richard wait on the phone with Covered California, the Obamacare organization. For the last few years Richard has occupied the thankless position of being my unpaid, uncredited support worker in matters of bureaucracy. I can't manage them myself due to difficulties using phones, approaching long chains of tasks, and regulating emotions (i.e. when under a lot of stress I usually zone out and can't do much).

Medi-Cal (Medicaid in California) has decided to occupy themselves this holiday season by mailing me some forms and demanding that I complete them in a week or else. Now, I certainly am unable to do this--they're requesting tons of things that would each individually be something I could only do on the best of all possible days. I guess Richard could theoretically do it if it was an emergency, but it wouldn't be very realistic for him either since he has plenty of things to manage aside from tracking down copies of every insurance check I've mailed in the past year.

But aside from the general obnoxiousness, there's the small detail that I am not on Medi-Cal, nor have I applied for it. I exceed the maximum income limit, and I never seriously considered applying for it even when I made less money. Well, I thought about the disabled workers program, but then an Autistic friend applied for it and was denied for not having an intellectual disability, which is pretty much like telling someone they're not blind because they can hear. After that happened to her, I wasn't going to bother. That was years ago.

But for some reason I'm hearing from Medi-Cal because they want to evaluate me, even though I make too much money and they already have that information without me, i.e. Richard, doing any of this busywork they've assigned. After Richard sits on the phone with them forever, we find out that they sent me all these forms because I said I was disabled when signing up for insurance.

Let's review: according to the ADA, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that limits a major life activity. Check. My disability is also on the list of disabilities that can qualify you for disability if you cannot work, the working disabled program if you can, a disability bus fare, and so on. I've been diagnosed with autism twice and I have the paperwork. I'm not applying for any of these things, though, like I said, since I am not eligible for most of them and when it comes to other ones, like free bus fare, it would be a lot of work to pour into something that I might not get. But. I am, objectively, disabled.

A few years ago I used to get upset about the fact that I'm unlikely to ever qualify for any services for my disability. I'd get upset because of the practicalities--I have to recruit other people to unofficially help me, which is difficult for many reasons, not least because of aspects of my disability--but mostly because it was extremely overwhelming and distressing to feel like the reality of my life was being dismissed. I stopped talking and writing about this not because the situation or my feelings improved, but because I realized it was not helpful to dwell on something that made me so upset. Besides, I'm really lucky to have so many helpful people in my life, and that's what I should focus on.

And when it comes to Medi-Cal, I do not want it because I don't need it. I hadn't been at all surprised when the Covered California website said I wasn't eligible. That was the end of it. But apparently, a disabled person who isn't eligible for Medi-Cal isn't even allowed to exist and to just answer yes on a form that asks if I am disabled, just as I enter other information about myself like my gender and race. Instead, I have to be badgered with tasks I cannot even do for having the gumption to identify as disabled when the healthcare system doesn't consider me to be so.

20 December, 2015

Moving the furniture

I'm 27 years old, "living independently," and just unable to cope with my 2 favorite diners closing in the span of 1 month. Manor Coffee Shop closed in November and I thought, at least Lucky Penny is still around. Then I happened to read online that LP was closing, but I just told myself it couldn't be true even though the article was from May.

Tonight I'm at LP and I can kind of see that everyone is talking about LP closing, and I want to ignore it and pretend I don't hear it. This is actually kind of embarrassing, that I can't bring myself to make it real by asking Nancy, the waitress, about it. It feels infinitely sad, like I am moving or graduating from college. It just has seen me through a lot of bad times.

It's not a nice restaurant but that has never been my jam.

It's a big place where one section is always closed, except for a few people eating there who I think are employees or their family members. There is a counter. There are copious green, run-down booths, almost always mostly empty when I go for breakfast or dinner. It is full right at lunchtime, but even then it's not packed.

It looks out onto Masonic and Geary through big tall windows. It's a very nice view, especially the underpass. It's one of the closest things in San Francisco to the Connecticut and New York state diners I grew up with, which are often in the middle of a highway. There are lots of nice diners (Manor Coffee Shop among them) that are just in regular buildings in the middle of small quiet streets. But there is something magically transitional about a diner with a parking lot that looks out onto streaming traffic; the sense that it's a space in the middle of a journey.

Autistic people are famously attracted to trains, and anecdotally, I sometimes think we're attracted to diners as well. I'm probably wrong, but I can't help associating both things with the big tug-of-war at the center of my mind. I love short visits to strange places, impulses, fleeting impressions; sleeping on somebody's floor; listening to a stranger's totally unrelatable life story and pretending I understand. But my memory and my processing speed just aren't good enough for me to be able to function in that kind of life. If things aren't exactly where and how I expect, I can't do much.

Trains and diners provide a happy medium where you can watch the world go by while ensconced in a comfortable booth. You get to stay passive and do pretty much the same thing, while people and places rush over you without making the demands that they do when you've actually committed to them. The menu offers lots of possibilities, but laid out and laminated.

This year, I guess, I'll be forced to make good on my plan of getting to know some new diners and visiting them nervously until they don't make me nervous anymore.

Some contenders: Tennessee Grill and Bashful Bull Too, both on Taraval Street; and Hamburger Haven, on Clement. But even though San Francisco doesn't seem like the place for a lot of diners, there are actually tons more options, which is just the kind of freedom I don't like.


Woman: When did your father's father die?
Man: James? In 1955. It's funny because I was just thinking about this in the shower today.
Woman: I was thinking about it while we were watching the movie. Because I was thinking about your grandma.

They both have interestingly powerful voices. It's hard to explain it exactly--every phrase just sounds kind of forcefully thrusted, like they're being sarcastic ("because I was THINKING about your GRANDMA"). Can't see woman's face so for some reason was assuming they're just friends, not married, because I'm imagining she's younger than him--she has brown hair and man has white hair. Imagining they are friends who spend a lot of time together because they keep talking about where they will go to eat after Lucky Penny closes. Where's open all the time and always empty and there's always parking, they ask each other.

"I guess it's just progress," she says. "Which I have trouble with. It's like Curly's, how Curly's is nicer now but you had feelings about how it was when it wasn't nice, even though you know that it's nicer now, it just makes you feel sad."