When I turned 25 my parent’s health insurance plan stopped covering me.
“Make sure you get health insurance,” my father advised, “I’ll send you a check to cover the first three months.”
“Of course. Thank you.” But I’d never been sick before. So when the check arrived in the mail I spent it on shoes, dresses, and my phone bill.
The thing is, I should’ve known better. At the time I was working as a temp for the tv show Trading Spaces. My job was to do their data entry. In order to win a free home makeover each applicant would send in three pictures of their home and an essay explaining why they needed the makeover. It was my job to scan these letters into a database. I was supposed to do this impersonally. In fact, I was instructed not to read any of these letters, simply scan and shred. But they were like gold. Each offered a window into someone else’s life. Naturally, I read every single one. And in so doing I discovered something I hadn’t known before: in America, if you don’t have health insurance, you’re totally screwed.
While the letters could’ve been about anyone and anything, almost every single one went as follows: My husband Mark and I purchased this home and planned to make repairs but after his lung cancer/ heart attack/ stroke all of our money goes to paying our hospital bills. Trading Spaces please save us.
When this temp job ended, my concerned father sent me another check for another month’s insurance. I’d told him I was with Blue Cross (your fingers) Blue Shield. Really, I used the money to buy a cute bracelet.
It was around this time that I got a jury summons in the mail. I was thrilled. I get a daily stipend! Unlike the other reluctant citizens, I insured my selection by answering each lawyer’s questions impartially. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was selected to be on a jury that deliberated, of all things, medical insurance fraud. And the trial, which dragged on for several weeks, was boring as shit. Shit being the operative word. After three weeks of sitting on a hard jury bench, something started to happen to my butt. To be frank, jury duty gave me hemorrhoids. I was 25, healthy, and completely unfamiliar with this anus related illness. Determined not to pay to go see a doctor, and hoping that whatever it was, would just go away, I decided to ignore the problem. This was a bad idea. It got worse, a lot worse. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom every ten seconds. Only when I got there, I couldn’t get anything to come out. As if this wasn’t bad enough, I was still on jury duty, which meant I had to raise my hand and request the judge’s permission every time I had to go. “Your honor, may I please go to the bathroom?”
“Again?” The judge would call a recess and the entire courtroom would wait while I sat on a toilet and prayed for poop. Ironically, whenever this happened the judge would use my official title, “Recess requested for Juror Number Two.”
By the second week of actively avoiding the issue, something horrible happened: while trying to use the bathroom during a recess, my hemorrhoid burst. I’d given myself an anal fissure (or as my brother and sister still like to refer to it, the fisherman that lives in Elna’s ass). In severe anal pain, I left the trial and took a cab to the nearest emergency room.
Laying on the hospital bed with my gown wide open and my bottom bare for all to see, a doctor, assisted by two nurses, began a colonoscopy. It was intended to diagnose the problem.
“This may feel a little uncomfortable,” he began. While nothing can prepare you for a camera being shoved up your ass, “a little uncomfortable” was an understatement. Just as the tube was inserted, my cell phone, which was in my purse on the other side of the room, started to ring. Da na na na na na na, my ring at the time was a Cindy Lauper song, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
Incapable of getting up to turn it off, my only option was to lie there and pretend it wasn’t happening. They just wanna, they just wan-na-a-a. The doctor continued to push the tube in, and the nurses avoided making eye contact with each other as we all listened to five full rings play out.
Oh girls, they wanna have fu-un. Regretfully uninsured, a $5000 hospital bill pending and a tube snaking its way up your anus, I thought, Yes, they certainly do.