Nibbling Ducks vs. Human Beings

Kage Baker always declined to deal with bureaucracy. She spent many, many years being Customer Service for an insurance company, and she said she had therefore dealt with enough evil in her time.

She never anticipated needing to deal with a bureaucracy again. By the time she did need to, she was too sick to manage. She honestly regretted that the task therefore fell to me, but she also knew full well I was the better one of us to handle it. I was healthy, I was much meaner, I always did better fighting for a cause. Kage was a little too reasonable for real berserker rage. Though had it been me instead of her in that situation, she’d have summoned the necessary ferocity. She had to leap to my defense a few important times in our lives, and it was always awesome.

I keep her image in the forefront of my mind these days, when faced with clerkly stupidity. I think it must be working, because fewer and fewer people are willing to meet my eyes. I think Kage is sometimes staring out of them, wreathed in righteous flame.

Medi-Cal continues to nibble viciously at me, throwing up yet more unneeded complications to my life. Today , though, I won the battle: not the war, but an important battle. The war is progressing as it should at this point, but I had to go see a woman about not cancelling my claim. Quite unrelated to the argument over which kind of Medi-Cal I have, this was because the end of the year is fast approaching. Apparently when it does, the default position all Medi-Cal claims is to be cancelled – which I have at least managed to convince them not to do.

I had a small amount of difficulty getting into the office, when the 5 platinum stents in my chest set off the metal detector. Once assured I could not remove them there in the lobby (No, I am quite sure, Mr. Security Guard), I was allowed to pass. I am honestly not sure if he was afraid I could whip them out like Wolverine’s adamantium claws, or if he just though that maybe metal stents should not be carried indoors. But he was happy enough when he realized I couldn’t reach them.

I spent the rest of my appointment explaining to Ms. Armine Pogosian that No, my family did not charge me rent to live with them – though that took some doing; she just could not comprehend that I live in their house as a member of the family. I guess she doesn’t have any pets. Or maybe any family. Ms. Pogosian apparently thinks Kimberly is a mental case, though, for letting me stay in the house rent-free, and I had to sign an affadavit stating solemnly that I did not pay her.

It also took a while to explain to her how the payment system works for a self-employed writer; i.e. rarely and little.  She finally grasped that I was, essentially, selling something which I made from scratch and for which there is an erratic market. That was, as they say, close enough an explanation for government work.

When Kage was in her final illness, she claimed she could never explain how she earned her living to a government clerk. Turns out she was right. As usual. I should have remembered that.

The entire process was complicated by the fact that we could barely understand one another. And I learned today that you won’t get a good reaction – or a translator – if you request translation aid because you speak English. I even tried writing out my narrative – you know, like a writer – causing poor Ms. Pogosian to cry out in distress, “No! No! No write stories!”

Some people just don’t like modern writing.

Finally, though, we reached an exhausted accord. I think it was helped when she got a phone call from her son-in-law, assuring her that her grandson was feeling better. “Your family?” I asked. She nodded. I tapped my application. “This is my family.” She understood that in context.

She also understood one word in the section where I described recent changes to my health status. That word was “cancer”. She actually looked stricken, staring at me, and finally asked: “What part?”


She understood that word, too. And in just a few more minutes, she told me my benefits would continue another year and I could go. She sort of patted the air in the direction of my hand, but couldn’t quite bring herself to broach regulations and offer me comfort.

It was all right. We actually reached an understanding there, something beyond the forms and check-boxes and rules. At least for a moment, as I left, Armine Pogosian and I saw one another as human beings.

I sang Adeste Fidelis all the way home. And really felt it.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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4 Responses to Nibbling Ducks vs. Human Beings

  1. You are righteous. And I had a hunch that it would be essential to talk to someone who understands what the word “cancer” means.

    Hurrah for seeing one another as human beings!


  2. Widdershins says:

    One more tiny cog has discovered blood in her veins, not 100100101111010100011101010110’s . Bravo!


  3. Margaret says:

    Yay! See Our Heroine leap bureaucrats AND language barriers with a single bound! More power to your leap!


  4. PJ says:

    Thank the Universe for human beings of the humane variety!


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