News Archive

(3807) Week of Sept. 19, 2007

Palmetto Middle project to improve cemeteries
Grant helps buy fire equipment
$15 million in funding needed for countywide radio system
Thieves strike area businesses
Library fines waived for food
Benefit pageant planned
Standpipe Festival road race Oct. 6
Seems to Me . . .Just leave a message

Palmetto Middle project to improve cemeteries

Approximately 275 Palmetto Middle School 7th grade students and their teachers are participating in an ongoing  project in which they will visit and help preserve historic cemetery sites in the area, and in the process, create a new sense of community pride.

The school is participating in a community service project entitled “Marking the Past,”which involves repair and renovation of local cemeteries and at the same time learning about the people in the cemeteries and their place in South Carolina history, according to Palmetto Middle School Assistant Principal Ivan Kershner.

Following a presentation about the project made Friday at the school, the group walked from the school to the Williamston Cemetery to begin the project.

Mayor Phillip Clardy spoke to the group about the history of the cemetery and offered some interesting facts about particular grave sites.

The students overtook the cemetery as they participated in a scavenger hunt to learn more about those interred in the cemetery.

The scavenger hunt included searching for markers that diplay different levels of wealth in the community, recording information included on tombstones and what it tells about a deceased person, and the shape of tombstones and layout of the cemetery.

Though not officially part of the scavenger hunt, a highlight for many included finding an infamous grave marker mentioned by Mayor Clardy, on which a horse’s head appears.

Greg Gallagher, Program Administrator for the Milken Festival for Youth (MFFY) program which funded the grant, said the project incorporates environment and service to the community and history.

“The project includes a study of the people that are in the cemetery, including how many, who they are, and then they write about it,” Gallagher said. He said it will give them an idea about what it takes to keep up a cemetery “and gives them a sense of owning this cemetery.”

One goal of the project is to instill a sense of pride in the community through service. “We hope to plant the seed for community service and that they do it throughout their lives.”

The students will work area cemeteries including the Williamston Cemetery, New Prospect Cemetery and Big Creek Cemetery and possibly the Pelzer Cemetery. They will visit a cemetery in Charleston.

The project is one of 22 across the nation funded by a grant from the Milken Festival for Youth (MFFY) program. Seventh Grade Teacher Teresa Cox wrote the grant for the project which was eligible to be submitted because Ivan Kershner, a Palmetto Middle School teacher, recipient of the prestigious $25,000 Milken Educator Award in 1995.

Cox said the cemeteries “needed some attention, and with 7th graders being naturally interested in cemeteries, thought they would enjoy the project and they can see a difference right away.”

In addition to the scavenger hunt, they also picked up limbs and trash. Future visits to the cemeteries are planned on the last Friday of each month and will include a half day or more of general cleaning, removing old mulch, adding plastic and new mulch, painting rusted fencing, planting flowers, mapping grave sites and recording names, according to Kristen Gunter, who helped Cox coordinate the project.

As part of the project, headstones will be replaced and cleaned or repaired.The students will incorporate academics as they learn about the persons interred and their place in South Carolina’s history. 

Competition for the grants, which are open to award-winning Milken Educators and Milken Scholars, is highly competitive. For two decades, Milken Festival for Youth has provided students with hands-on opportunities to make volunteer contributions in their local communities. The organization is based in Santa Monica, California.

“The landscape of America changes for the better through every act of good citizenship. The Milken Festival for Youth program seeks out innovative projects that address pressing local needs,” said Gallagher. “And, while the students are creating positive changes in their communities, they gain an understanding of the valuable contributions they each can make. It is the ultimate win-win!”

Grant helps buy fire equipment

By Stan Welch

The Piedmont Public Service Commission met Monday night, with a bare quorum present. 

Both Commission Chairman Ed Poore and Fire Chief Tracy Wallace expressed their appreciation for a $15,000 grant obtained by Representative Dan Cooper and Senator Billy O’Dell for use in obtaining some fire equipment. The funds came from the state competitive grant pool.

“People need to realize that every dollar we get from grants is one less dollar we have to get from local taxes,” said Chairman Poore. “We appreciate the help our representatives give us in getting access to such funding.”

Chief Wallace agreed, saying “The Senator and Rep. Cooper have always gone to bat for us. Rusty Burns has been very helpful in guiding us towards the funds that are available, but the Senator and Mr. Cooper really come through for us. They have been especially helpful in finding funds for our sewer needs.”

In other business, chairman of the fire department  committee Al McAbee reported that the department had responded to 43 calls. He also reported that eight volunteer firemen have completed the training and passed the tests for driver/engineer certification. “That means they are authorized to do everything that our paid firemen do. This is a very good accomplishment for our department.”

The issue of whether to repair the floor of the little gym in the Community Building came up again. Building Committee Chairman Frankie Garrett said he had not gotten an estimate on the work in recent weeks. “We have to have a PARD grant to be able to afford to fix it, anyway. There didn’t seem to be much sense in getting a bid for six months down the road. No contractor wants to be held to a bid for that long.”

McAbee agreed, but explained that an estimate is needed in order to apply for a grant. “We have to apply for a specific amount. We can’t just say we want to fix the gym, and we’ll let you know what it costs.” Chairman Poore, Chief Wallace, and Garrett agreed to go together to inspect the floor before the next meeting. Garrett also reported that a work order had been placed in both Anderson and Greenville’s DOT offices to have the grass cut on Hwy. 20.

Chairman Poore reported that the department’s expenses last month exceeded their revenues by almost $33,000. “That sounds worse than it is. We knew going in that this time of the year, the funds come from the county a lot slower than they go out of the account. That’s just the way things are, and we expect that during the summer months.”

Chief Wallace announced that the department will conduct their annual training burn at the Anderson County training tower on October 20 &21. “We will set fires in that concrete block tower and train our men in various techniques. We’ll enter in different ways and just get training we can’t get without that facility.”

He added that National Fire Prevention Week is October 7-13 this year.

$15 million in funding needed for countywide radio system

By Stan Welch

At Tuesday’s County Council meeting, the storm waters ran, a resolution to decline campaign contributions from those with a  business relationship with the county was voted down, and the new government center in Powdersville was named after State Representative Dan Cooper.

In addition, a full court press by those promoting the 800 Mhz radio system gained some ground, but ran into the problem of how to raise the $8.5 million still needed to build the system. The County has already spent $3.5 million in grant funds on the system, and has reportedly received an additional $3 million recently, cutting the cost of the system from the original $15 million to the remaining $8.5 million. County Administrator Joey Preston cautioned that the $3 million recently obtained has yet to make it to Anderson County. “The lobbyists we use have gotten an additional three million that was sent to South Carolina, but we need to get it all the way to Anderson, or the cost of this system could go back up,” said Preston.

Councilwoman Gracie Floyd was concerned with a deadline for building the system. According to one of the various experts present to push for the system’s approval, the deadline for having the system in use is May of 2009, with an estimated construction time of eighteen months, which makes December the deadline to obtain funding. “I am in favor of this, but I am scared to death that we won’t make this deadline.”

Capt. Matt Singleton, of the Emergency Services Division, stressed that the issue is very time sensitive. “If we do not meet the deadline, the FCC will release our reserved frequencies and it will be a first come first served process. Other agencies or the state could grab those up and we would be left out.”

Emergency Services Director Taylor Jones, during a video presentation on the need for the system, told Council that the current radio systems in use by the various first responders across the county provide only 40-60% coverage. According to Jones, the new system would provide 95% coverage.

Chairman Waldrep asked why cell phone towers couldn’t be linked to provide the type of coverage needed. When Singleton explained that the 800 Mhz system required much taller towers, Waldrep responded by saying that he could call all the way to New York on his cell phone. He also caused some consternation when he asked the Motorola representative if there were any competitors who could provide the system components. 

Motorola provides much of the communications service across the state, and is deeply involved in the statewide system that is being constructed. “The county will save a great deal of money by being a part of the statewide system,” said Jones. “Otherwise, we would have to produce the entire infrastructure ourselves. That would cost far more.”

After considerable discussion, the matter of funding again surfaced. Preston said the goal was to pay the cost over several years, hopefully without raising taxes. He added that the staff would have a funding proposal for Council’s consideration within sixty days. Councilman Ron Wilson made a motion, which was passed unanimously, to have that proposal available within 30 days. If a bonding ordinance is needed to approve funding, three readings of that ordinance would push the matter very close to the reported deadline.

The discussion and third reading of the storm water ordinance, which establishes a new department to administer that program, became so convoluted and confusing that the Council finally had to take a brief recess to regroup and finish dealing with the issue, at least for now.

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson raised the issue of the qualifications of the employees and director of the new department, saying that council had the right to know what the qualifications were. Preston had previously provided her with a set of qualifications for both the field inspectors and the department head, requirements which included significant levels of education, training and experience. She said that the current certified storm water inspectors had completed a one day course held at Clemson University.

Preston refused to identify the person who will head the new department, saying that he would make that announcement on Wednesday.  “The person who has been hired only notified their employer today, so we will make that announcement tomorrow.”

Following a rather contentious discussion, during which Preston said that it was his responsibility to assure that employees weren’t being harassed, Wilson did secure assurances from Preston that the department head is not a current employee of the County.

That seemed to ease Wilson’s concerns, which arose from rumors that the same employee who was present with Preston at Cater’s Lake in 2006, would in fact be named department head. That employee was recently certified through Clemson University as a storm water and sedimentation control inspector.

 The ordinance, following some strengthening of language, eventually received third reading approval, with the Council reserving the right to review and approve the field manual once it is completed.

In other business, Chairman Waldrep established a water task force to “try and get a better handle on the water problems. Water is such an essential need and service.”

The task force will include Council members Cindy Wilson, Gracie Floyd, Larry Greer, and Michael Thompson. The issue arose recently when Floyd and Greer both raised concerns about safe drinking water in parts of their districts.

Four Council members constitutes a quorum of Council, but county attorney Tom Martin started that the quorum would not be able to act as a Council because Freedom of Information Act requirements for public notice and publishing of the agenda would not have been met . “The Committee could not function as a Council under those circumstances, so having four members on the committee is not illegal,” said Martin.

 The rift between Councilman Ron Wilson and Councilwoman Cindy Wilson continued to widen, as Mr. Wilson took Ms. Wilson to task in a public meeting for the second time in recent weeks. He continued the theme he raised at a recent joint meeting of the County Council’s planning committee and the Planning Commission. At that meeting, he had challenged Ms. Wilson for asking several questions about the enforcement, or lack of it, of regulations concerning storm water issues. He asked Ms. Wilson when she was going to stop harping on things that had already happened.

 Tuesday night, at the Council meeting, following Ms. Wilson’s challenge of Preston’s claim of client/attorney privilege for legal expenses which were paid under accounts identified as professional services and management consulting, Mr. Wilson  again chastised her for her insistent questions. “I hesitate to go down this road, but I’m going to. I have defended Cindy in the past. She asks great questions, but she always takes a little dig at whoever she’s asking at the end.” Wilson referred to the planning meeting as well. He then said, “I came on the council with one viewpoint. It was the only one I had heard. But after nine months on Council, I have changed some of my viewpoints. I think she associates everything too closely with her issues with the administrator.”

Wilson went on to say that Ms. Wilson was not interested in answers to her questions, but only in asking more questions. “I will no longer second her motions, and look forward to continuing to speak out against her behavior. She must be part of the body and work in the process.”

Ms. Wilson responded by saying that she has even had a department head file a complaint against her with SLED on behalf of a local developer. “This is what I have to endure, but I must do my duty as a Councilmember. I deeply regret that my esteemed colleague from District 6 has chosen to put this into the forum of personality, but there are still questions to be asked, and they require answers.”

Preston responds to “Catergate” affidavit with one of his own

“Absolute falsehood” Preston claims

By Stan Welch

More than a year after the events that have come to be known in local circles as “Catergate,” Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston has responded to charges by a private citizen that he and a female county employee were engaged in sexual activity in a public location.

Preston has provided a sworn affidavit challenging the earlier claims of Amanda Feltman, who was present at Cater’s Lake on March 10, 2006, when the Anderson City Police responded to a call for service. According to Anderson City Police records, both Preston and a female county employee named Kelly Nichols, were together in the park. So were Feltman and her husband, Michael.

Both Feltmans would later provide SLED with written statements concerning what they saw that evening. Those statements were released as public record after Solicitor Chrissy Adams declined to press any charges in the case.

As part of the investigation, Preston provided a statement dated December 3, 2005 in which he said that Michael Feltman had approached him and tried to sell him a copy of a deposition Preston had given in a previous unrelated case. He said that Feltman warned him that his father in law was watching everything Preston did. Feltman later confirmed to his family and to a reporter that he did in fact meet with Preston.

Several issues were investigated according to the SLED files, which The Journal obtained under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. One investigation centered on the issue of threatening letters being sent to Preston and other county officials, as well as allegations of stalking of Preston.

Another issue SLED investigated was whether or not Councilwoman Cindy Wilson had abused her powers in seeking a review of a local developer’s compliance with storm water permit conditions.

But it was the investigation of the actual events at Cater’s Lake that evening that led the Feltmans to provide written statements to a local radio host, Rick Driver, who interviewed the couple on the air just days after the incident. Their claims that Preston and Nichols were involved in inappropriate behavior were answered at a County Council meeting by Chief Deputy Tim Busha who outlined a sting operation that placed Preston and Nichols at the lake that night. Busha further explained that the sting was part of a larger investigation to determine who had been sending Preston harassing and threatening letters.

The controversy over the events and the explanations offered by law enforcement has once again surfaced, fueled by Amanda Feltman’s affidavit, dated July 17 of this year, in which she provides more details about the intimate nature of the alleged activity by Preston and Nichols. The affidavit is more graphic in describing the alleged behavior than her previous statements, either written or verbal.

It is that affidavit that Preston referred and responded to in his own affidavit, dated September 12. A copy of that affidavit was hand delivered to WAIM-AM radio host Rick Driver last Thursday by County Councilman Bill McAbee. McAbee, a member of the Council’s personnel committee, said that the affidavit had been provided to the committee by Preston.

The Council is the only body with the responsibility and authority for review of Preston’s performance and behavior, under Home Rule and the Council/Administrator form of government.

Driver had earlier provided  Council Chairman Bob Waldrep with a copy of Feltman’s July affidavit. Waldrep apparently turned the matter over to the committee, which includes Councilmen Ron Wilson and Larry Greer, with Wilson serving as chair.

Preston, in his affidavit, accuses Feltman of changing her story and lying in order to harm him and his family. He pointed out that Michael Feltman’s statement was materially different in its claims.

He further states that her latest statement “differs significantly from her previous statement to SLED . . .”. He says that her latest statement was “clearly made after the fact at the suggestion for the sole purpose of slandering me.” The affidavit does not say whose suggestion it was for Feltman to produce another affidavit for that purpose.

Preston’s affidavit goes on to call Feltman’s claims an absolute falsehood, but adds “I consider any additional publication of Ms. Feltman’s false and defamatory statement by anyone who has read this affidavit as intentional and reckless slander as I have now sworn it is false.”

It is not known whether the personnel committee has met with Preston or Nichols or any other witnesses. Protections afforded certain personnel issues means the committee can act in secret and may not have to announce any actions it takes or doesn’t take. The only indication of the status of any investigation which they may be conducting came at the last Council meeting, on Sept. 4, when Councilman Greer responded to public comments by saying that he had not seen the Feltman affidavit, and that there had been no meeting of the personnel committee.

Thieves strike area businesses

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated thefts from several area businesses recently. Among incidents investigated were:

BELTON

Sept. 15 – D.L. Barton responded to 909 Broadway School Rd. where William Schmidt reported the attempted theft of an air conditioning unit from the location. The cables and wires had been cut and the unit moved about five feet off the slab.

Sept. 16 - J.T. Foster was on patrol when he saw a white Ford truck with no license tag light. He ran the tag and learned that there was an active bench warrant for the registered owner, James Rutledge, WM, 32, 6’, 200 pounds, blk/grn of 404 Roger Bolt Rd. While writing the driver a warning for the tail light, reports state Foster saw him moving frantically in his truck. Foster then saw a bag of crystal material on the ground under the driver’s side of the truck. He subsequently found a large hole in the floorboard of the truck. The substance tested to be methamphetamine. Foster was arrested on the bench warrant and transported to ACDC, to await service with a warrant for trafficking in methamphetamine.

Sept. 16 – J.J.Jacobs observed a 1997 Cadillac with tag#134WZE traveling at a high rate of speed on Hwy. 29 N. The driver, Thomas Easterling, BM, of Woodruff, was found to be wanted for assault and battery. He was arrested and transported to a location on Hwy. 153 where Greenville deputies took him into custody.

PELZER

Sept. 16 – T.L. Chapman was dispatched to 118 Whitten Rd. where Christopher Shirley reported that his white 1994 Ford F-150 truck had been stolen. The truck, SC tag #657-GMA, was valued at $4000.

Sept. 16 – W.E. Gregory responded to the boat landing at the corner of Stevenson St. and Conner St., where a red 1984 Ford Ranger truck was found partly in the water at the bottom of the ramp. The owner, Crandall Lanphear, of Seneca, was contacted and made aware that his truck was missing.

PIEDMONT

Sept. 14 – Julie Marie Brown of Belton was charged with four counts of forgery. She presented a total of four checks, amounting to $670.97 to the Ingle’s Supermarket.

Sept 14 – K.W. Pearson was on patrol on River Rd. when he observed a black male trying to push a car out of the road. He asked the driver if he needed help and the driver said no. Pearson noticed the smell of alcohol, as well as the fact that the man was unsteady on his feet. The man became nervous and looked to be seeking an escape route. Pearson grabbed him by the back of the shirt and asked him to move to the rear of the vehicle. A struggle ensued and the man broke away and ran for the woods nearby. Pearson tackled him and subsequently tazed him several times before subduing him. After placing the subject, Deon Sloan, BM, 33, 5’6", 155 pounds, blk/brn, of 302 Premier St., in his cruiser. Pearson searched the area of the struggle and found a pill bottle containing crack cocaine, a cell phone, and $120 cash. He was also discovered to be wanted in Greenville County for failure to appear in court. He was arrested for possessing crack, resisting arrest and using force, and public disorderly conduct.

Sept. 14 – W.E. Gregory responded to 910 Old River Rd., where Brett Harnesberger reported the theft of two sets of aluminum rims with tires, and one set of racing rims without tires. Total value was $3000.

Sept. 14- T.L. Chapman was dispatched to Larry’s Body Shop at 1808 Highway 86, where Larry Leaphart reported that someone had stolen his 1988 white International rollback truck. The truck, with SC tag#P3055414, was valued at $20,000.

Sept. 15  -W.E. Gregory was dispatched to 901 Anderson St. where he found Andy Hamby, WM, 5’6", 150 pounds, grey hair, of 1322 Fire Tower Rd., sitting on a concrete block at the edge of the Little General store parking lot. Hamby was arrested for public disorderly conduct.

Sept. 16 – T.L. Chapman responded to 470 Bryant Rd. where Alice Stack reported that someone had broken into a vacant residence at that location and had stolen two kitchen cabinets valued at $300. They also tried to strip the copper from the house and did $700 worth of damage in the attempt.

Sept. 17 – J.J. Jacobs and S. Jolly were at the McDonald’s on Frontage Road when they saw Anthony Garrett, WM, 37, 6’, 170 pounds, brn/brn of Pelzer enter the restaurant. He was behaving in an agitated manner and they ran a  records check which indicated that he was wanted on a family court bench warrant. They informed him of the warrant and he attempted to walk away. He attempted to pull away and was wrestled to the ground where he reportedly continued to resist. He was sprayed with red pepper spray and handcuffed.

WILLIAMSTON

Sept. 14 – W.E. Gregory responded to 110 Terrapin Dr. where Ana Marie Martinez reported that someone had thrown a concrete block through the back window of her SUV, causing $250 in damage.

Library fines waived for food

The Anderson County Library System will sponsor “Fines for Food” beginning this week and running through Sunday, Sept. 30.

During those two weeks, patrons may return overdue books and materials borrowed from the Main Library or any branch library and have their fines waived in return for a donation of a can or box of non-perishable food or pet food.

Items dontated at the Lander Memorial Regional Branch, 925 Greenville Dr., in Williamston, or the Piedmont Branch at 1407 Hwy. 86, will be given to Operation Care and the Anderson County Animal Shelter for distribution.

Replacement costs for lost or damaged library items will not be waived. Donated items in glass jars or expired foot items will not be accepted, nor will homemade goods or food in dented, rusted, or damaged containers.

Patrons may bring their overdue materials and donations to the Circulaion Desk at any library in the system. Donations will also be accepted if no fines are due. For more information, contact Community Service Coordinator Marybeth Evans at (864)260-4500, ext. 107.

Benefit pageant planned

A benefit day is being planned Saturday, October 6, to help a local woman who has extensive medical bills associated with a rare disease that affects the arteries.

Proceeds from the Miss Sunshine Pageant and a Beach Music benefit that will follow will go to a fund for Kisha Hyde. 

Kisha is a 28 year old single mom who was diagnosed in Sept. 2006 with Takayasus Arteritis, a rare auto-immune disease that effects one

The Miss Sunshine Pageant will be held October 6 at 11 a.m. at the Williamston Municipal Center. Registration will be held at 10 a.m. on the day of the pageant.

Pageant categories are Baby Miss and Mr. (0-11 months), Wee Miss and Mr. (1-2 years), Tiny Miss and Mr. (3-4 years), Petite Miss and Mr. (5-6 years).

Also Junior Miss (7-9 years), Preteen Miss (10-12 years), Teen (13-16 years), and Miss (17-19 years).

Fees for the beauty pageant are $40 with optional categories including photogenic, $10; natural photogenic, $10; prettiest hair $5; prettiest smile $5; prettiest eyes $5; best dressed $5; and fun wear $10. Pageant and all 6 are $80.

Hot dog plates including chips and drinks will be available for $3.

Later that same day a benefit beach music and shag dance will be held from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Municipal Center Auditorium. The musical benefit will include The Royal Scotsmen Band, Kenny Brazeal and singing sisters Celeste Davenport and Larissa Whiteside.

Additional information on Kisha’s condition and the benefit on Oct. 6 will be published in the Sept. 26 issue of The Journal.

Standpipe Festival road race Oct. 6

Organizers of the Standpipe Festival road race and fun walk/run are now taking applications for the event which will be held in conjunction with the Standpipe Festival in Belton Oct. 6.

The run will include a 1 mile and certified 5k run.

Registration forms are available  from Renea Rowland, Nationwide Insurance at 713 Anderson St., Belton. Online registration is available at strictlyrunning.com.

Entry fee is $15 in advance or $20 on the day of the race.

The one mile fun run will begin at 8 a.m. The 5K open race will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Preregistration package pickup and registration will be held on the day of the festival, October 6 between 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Medals will go to all finishers in the one mile race and trophies will go to the top overall winners, male and female in the 5K and Fun Run/Walk. Also, first Masters male and female in 5K.

Then trophies to first three places in each age group, male and female.

Age groups will include 13 and under, 14-18, 19-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-69, and 70 and over.

Water will be available at approximately 1 and 2 miles of the 5K race. No strollers or pets will be allowed on the course. Restrooms will be available.

The course starts at the First Baptist Church, 105 Brown Avenue in front of the Belton Tennis Center, and will loop through downtown and residential areas. It is a moderately hilly, fast course.

The event is hosted by the Belton Area Partnership. For additional information contact Renea Rowland at 864-338-1600.

Seems to Me . . .Just leave a message

By Stan Welch

Almost every holy writing, every scripture, regardless of its origin or the religion that spawned it, includes signs that will tell that scripture’s followers when the end times are near. The Baghvad Gita, The Quran, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Torah – they all offer warning to their believers.

Perhaps the most famous and terrifying of these warnings appears in the Book of Revelation, with its signs of the Four Horsemen, and the battle of Armageddon. Earthquakes and fire and brimstone – all these and more will mark the end of the world as Christians expect it to occur.

I cannot claim to have read Revelation in its entirety, but nowhere in the parts I have read does there appear any mention of what I consider to be a certain sign of the Apocalypse. That is the inability of one human being to speak with another human being on the most advanced system for human communication ever devised.

I am talking about automated telephone systems, those heinous mazes of wire and cable and recorded voices, those cauldrons of  decisions to be made about which language the machine should speak in, because make no mistake: While you may hear a human voice, no human ear will hear your plea for help, your cry for human contact.

These systems are not new. Everyone knows the Japanese invented them to get even for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have encountered them before, as have all of you. But we sometimes block out the horrors of modern life, until we are suddenly confronted with them, and we cannot turn away.

I recently needed to reschedule a medical appointment. I could have just skipped it, but the medical establishment, which makes the IRS look like a namby pamby bunch of bureaucrats, simply bills you for the appointment anyway, then harasses you until you become sick from the stress, thereby playing right into their rubber glove clad hands. 

Naively, I called the number of the office where I had the appointment. Well, a disembodied recorded voice informed me that first, I had to answer a pregunda about whether I would like to speak to the disembodied Spanish voice or the disembodied English voice. I chose English, because I really hope the person who is in the room with me when I finally keep the appointment will speak that language. I do, and it would be a great comfort to me if my health care provider did too, even if it’s with a Pakistani accent.

Anyway, with that pregunda behind me, I was faced with the list of numbers to press in order to navigate this inhuman labyrinth. One for the doctor’s office (which I thought I had already called); two for the billing department (they got to that pretty darn quick, didn’t they?); three for the nurse (who supposedly can provide some level of health care until the doctor gets back from Spain) and four for appointments ( persistence is its own reward.)

By the way, you can also refill prescriptions at three in the morning if you can work your way through the system used by most pharmacies today, and if you aren’t too badly in need of the medication to function. At least you don’t have to answer any pregunda about dialect choices, since it is all done by touch tone. You know, I remember when being handicapped meant something more serious than still having a rotary dial telephone.

Anyway, I finally reached the desk of the appointment fairy at the doctor’s office. Or maybe they work in Islamabad, in one of those 340 cubicle boiler rooms. Wherever they work, I got a recording telling me that the appointment fairy was away from their desk, and I could leave a message. I’m a little ashamed of the message I left, and I will not repeat it here. But I’m pretty sure the appointment is cancelled.

I tried my best to listen as I wove my way through the telephonic confusion, to see if I could hear whether they had any provisions made for people who had had an aneurysm or a heart attack, or accidentally sat down on a chain saw. They did not, to the best of my recollection. I guess that’s what 911 is for.

As I finally hung up and sat, stooped and exhausted by my own little Armageddon, I was reminded of a time about twelve years ago, when I had gone in for a stress test following a little cardiac incident. I had been pulled from the tread mill and told to fill my prescription for nitroglycerine (an emergency heart medication) before driving home. That’s pretty scary stuff. I mean, a hundred years ago, nitroglycerine was used for blowing stumps out of the ground, and now, I’m supposed to eat it?

Anyway, the next day, I called the doctor’s office to get the results of the test, and was told that the doctor was making his rounds at the hospital, and would then be leaving for the weekend. This seemed rather nonchalant on his part, since he had just scared the bejeesus out of me the day before.

So I called the hospital and asked if the good doctor could be located. I was told in a haughty, but definitely human, voice that the doctor could not be bothered. I was invited to leave a message. I did so, asking that the owner of the haughty voice inform the doctor that my lawyer had fallen and couldn’t get up.

There was a long, deep pause, followed by “Oh, I believe that’s him coming in the door now.” 

Now that was a phone system. Seems to me we should go back to it.

 

 

 

 

 

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