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Cracking the Nickname Code, It’s Ludicrous

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet)

Honey. Sugar Pie. Dork. Nicknames. That substitute moniker is sometimes assigned to people, places, or things instead of their given name. The habit of nicknaming people has been around for centuries, and those nicknames are popularly used. A nickname is acquired at any age, and often there is no code to crack. Some people get nicknames in childhood and retain them for life. Others eagerly shed them when they become adults.

My mother’s nickname for me was Lo. When I was in high school my best friend called me Retsie. Don’t ask, because I don’t know how my friend came up with that, but it was unique.

Do you have a nickname? What’s yours?

I’ve compiled a list of nicknames of some of my family members and friends. Some of them I easily recall. Others were reluctantly shared with me with the promise that I would not reveal their identity.  We have:  Andre, Bay-Bay, Big Bro, Boot, Bootsey, Buddy, Butch, Chico, Cookie, Crutches, Froggy, Jo-Jo, June Bug, Kip, Kippy, Little Bro, Min-gin, Moose, Nita, Peanut, Pickles, Po boy,  Pooche, Rai Rye, Sain, Skeet, Skip, Toot, and Whimpey. Initials as nicknames are also popular. AJ, CJ, DJ, JD, JJ, JR and RJ immediately come to mind. Raise your hand if you recognize your nickname. Don’t be shy; no one can see you through the screen.

Nicknames are so commonly used that sometimes a person’s given name is unknown. Even family members who have for a lifetime heard a relative called by a nickname might not know the person’s first name. For instance, when my son was born, I named him Kyle. I didn’t know until days later when my mother said to me, “You know that’s your cousin’s name.” “Which cousin?” I asked. “Your cousin, Kip’s name, is Kyle.” Who knew? I surely didn’t because throughout my life I had only know him as Kip.  One day, I was discussing my name blunder with Kip’s mother, my Aunt Ida. “I just liked the name,” I told her. “So do I,” she said before telling me that she was thrilled that I had chosen that name.

Nicknames are often given to denote familiarity, kindness, or to show affection. Take “Boo” for instance. It is usually a term of endearment that signifies love. It is also one of the most common nicknames bestowed on anyone from a loving companion, to a dear child, to a BFF (best friend forever).

Sometimes nicknames substitute for traditional titles. Like grandmother. I know people whose grandchildren call them, Nana, Ditt, Gram, Grammy, and G-Mom. I’ve always preferred the standard “grandma” but grew used to my grands when they were toddlers calling me GeGe (pronounce as if you were saying GoGo, only substitute the o with an e). Occasionally, one of them still refers to me as GeGe. And I love it!

Many people are stuck with nicknames given by family, friends, or frenemies. Some people are fond of their nicknames. Other’s detest them. One of my childhood playmates was nicknamed Weegee (pronounced like Ouija Board). Her family and all of the neighbors called her that. Although she answered to it, I always felt that she didn’t like the handle. I never did learn her real name.

Colors are popular nicknames. Most of us have known people whose nicknames are Black, Blue, Red, Rose, Pink, and Whitey.

Famous and infamous people have strange and sometimes embarrassing nicknames. Caryn Elaine Johnson has an interesting story about how she flatulently gained the nickname, Whoopi. The man we call Tiger Wood’s birth name is Eldrick Tont Woods. And who doesn’t refer to Jennifer Lynn Lopez as J.Lo? Many Baby Boomers remember comedians John Elroy Sanford as Redd Foxx, Loretta Mary Aiken was Moms Mabley, and Durham, North Carolina native Dewey Markham whose fans affectionately remember him as Pigmeat Markham. Perhaps most prominent among this group of well-known people was the man whose birth name was Malcolm Little. He had several nicknames over his lifetime:  Red, Detroit Redd, El-Shabazz, El-Hajj Malik , but he was widely known as Malcolm X.

Back in the day, Al Capone’s moniker was ‘Scarface.’ Mobster Benny Siegel was called ‘Bugsy.’

Even presidents are not spared nicknames. Some of his activities as a young man, a circuit lawyer, and eventually president of the U.S. earned Abraham Lincoln the nickname Honest Abe. Richard Nixon, infamous for Watergate, carried Tricky Dick to his grave. Beloved President Barack Obama was bestowed the name Barry O’Bomber by his high school basketball teammates. I am prudently self-censoring the nicknames for the current president.

By the way, Ludicrous is the nickname and stage name of the rapper/actor whose real name is Christopher Brian Bridges.

Whether you hold on to and cherish a nickname or shed it, remember William Claude Dukenfied aka W.C. Fields said, “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

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Blame Your Doctor’s Time Crunch on Insurance Companies

Do you spend more of your doctor’s appointment time in the waiting room instead of the exam room? Blame the insurance companies and insurance reimbursement. Insurance reimbursement is the payment that your doctor, hospital, or other health service providers receive for providing you with a medical service. The insurers’ service comes with restrictions, and many tend to pay health service providers only enough for 15-minute appointments.

In addition to imposing time limits on patient visits, insurance providers are increasingly refusing to cover prescribed treatments for numerous patients, including those with chronic illnesses, even though many cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs. While astute patients know that their doctor is not solely to blame when necessary treatment is denied, less informed patients may be unaware that insurance companies are sometimes instrumental in limiting access to care. Both patients and their health care providers are at the mercy of the insurers.

A few years ago, I asked my Ophthalmologist for a prescription so that I could buy an additional pair of reading glasses. I had purchased a pair a few months earlier, but no longer had that prescription. She said that she couldn’t write it because my insurance would not approve another pair of glasses so soon after my previous purchase. I said that I – not the insurance company – would pay for the glasses myself, (just as I did with the original pair). She said that it didn’t matter; she still could not write another prescription so soon. What kind of jacked-up rule is that? I thought. It made no sense to me, but I didn’t press the matter. Insurance companies certainly have an arm lock on medical service professionals.

The days of private practices where doctors have the authority to make autonomous decisions for their patients without interference from insurers are becoming a thing of the past.

The shift from the time needed – for an exam and treatment – to 15-minute sessions occurred as a result of changes in how insurance companies and the government pay physicians for medical care.

In 1992, Medicare decided to adopt the RVU (relative value unit) formula as a standard way to calculate doctor’s fees. Then in 2010 came the Affordable Care Act.  In conjunction with other significant changes, increasingly, doctors were required to document their patients’ information on a computer causing them to spend more time with their laptops than with their patients. I witnessed the angst this causes first-hand while visiting my primary care physician shortly after her manila folder files became digital. Dr. Kaye (name changed to protect her privacy) has been my doctor for 35 years.

The first few times, when she used a computer to check data pertinent to my history or previous visits I could see that she was agitated. On one occasion, she called her assistant in to help her. On my follow-up visit, she struggled to do it alone.

“I have to get used to documenting information this way,” she said, almost apologetically while I sat patiently in the chair beside her desk.

“Don’t like computers?” I asked curiously.

“Never used one until recently,” she replied. “So many changes in recent years. Okay, I’ve got your chart now. Let’s go over this.”

The time-limit/payment procedure is unknown to numerous patients who often don’t understand why they feel like they are being rushed through appointments and exams, whether they visit their primary doctor, hospitals, or clinics. Physicians feel the time crunch too as they hurry through appointments to see more patients. Some perform additional tests and procedures to make up for flat or declining reimbursements. In addition to time restraints, other factors tied to regulations instituted a few years ago, takes a toll on the doctor/patient relationship, and is forcing many physicians to give up their solo practice and join group practices.

I’ve had personal experience with this also. Two doctors’ who I’ve been with for nearly half of my life have abandoned their private practices and joined a group facility. Two years ago, my eye doctor gave up her solo practice, and then last year my primary care physician, Dr. Kaye, did the same thing.

I’ve had the same primary care physician for 38 years. When I began visiting her she was the sole doctor in her privately owned practice. She rarely seemed hurried and took time to thoroughly answer any questions I might ask. Sometimes during my exam, we even chatted briefly about non-health related issues like how my then infant twin grandsons were doing – learning to crawl or being potty-trained – or how her daughter was progressing with her singing career.

Then, a few years ago, things changed. I noticed that although she willingly answered any questions, our unnecessary dialog had practically stopped. She was still the smiling, personable person that she has always been, but she often seemed to be rushing. It wasn’t long before her assistant, who takes blood and handles other incidentals, was notably absent, and we patients were sent elsewhere for lab work.

One day I mentioned that her waiting room was more crowded than it normally is and asked Dr. Kaye if she was seeing more patients than usual. Without going into lengthy details, she said that insurance company policies and restrictions were causing doctors’ to change some of their previous methods of operation.

According to studies, more doctors who, like Dr. Kaye, once had private practices, are joining group practice facilities where two or more physicians all provide medical care within the same facility. Doctors working in a group practice experience the advantage of shorter work hours, more flexibility in scheduling, and increased financial security. The larger number of physicians and increased patient base makes it easier for doctors to manage financial risks than private practices. Group facilities also usually have the resources to better manage the administrative tasks associated with running a practice. The disadvantage is that group practices tend to be more bureaucratic. Doctors have less independence, lack of the ability to develop close, personal relationships with their patients and staff, and often require a consensus on business decisions; while the private practitioner has autonomy and the advantage of more personal freedom to develop his or her practice as they would like.

According to the American College of Physicians, “Solo practices are often at substantial financial risk due to the costs of doing business (such as hiring staff and maintaining malpractice coverage)… [There is also] the small patient base, shifting patient allegiances because of insurance issues, and lost income caused by illness or vacation.”

Occasionally, when am in the waiting room, I get into a conversation with another patient who, like me, followed our doctors from private practice to a group facility or hospital. There seems to be a consensus that most “transplanted patients” are dissatisfied with the new arrangement. The wait time is often much longer than before, and the personal attention and the quality of care have changed.

Most frustrating are the times when I’ve called to make an appointment or ask my doctor a question, and the phone goes unanswered even though I make the call during the doctor’s regular business hours. The next worse thing to the unanswered phone is the voice mail that requires callers to navigate an agitating phone tree that asks that we press what seems like 101 buttons only to ultimately be told to (1) leave a message. (My experience has been that the call never gets returned and I wonder if anyone even bothers to check the messages) or (2) that the voice mailbox is full.

Studies show that the number of physicians who own private practices is dwindling, mainly due to transformational changes, and group facilities that are actively looking to purchase the remaining practices.

In a July 2015 report, Accenture predicted that a growing number of U.S. doctors would leave private practice for group or hospital employment by the end of 2016.

Family physician Dr. Linda Girgis explains it this way, “As self-employed doctors, we are not only responsible for all the patients in our practice, we are also responsible for the business. Tax laws and accounting principles are foreign languages to many doctors. And new regulations are aimed at decimating those remaining at the reins of their own medical practice.”

This fantastic video will reveal, in a nutshell, how some doctors feel about insurance restrictions and what they are doing about it.

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Bullets and Bibles

It was early afternoon, a few days ago. I was sitting at the computer in my home office near the window that faces a quiet intersection in our usually serene neighborhood. As I often do during a lull in creative thought, I lean back in my chair, fold my arms behind my head, clasp my fingers together, and thank God for all of my blessings. Suddenly all hell broke loose outside. The silence was shattered by a barrage of what sounded like loud gunshots at least a dozen, maybe two.

Immediately, I did what any cognizant city-dweller would do. I leaped headlong out of my chair onto the carpeted floor. And then it happened again. More shots rang out, only not as many. Unlike the initial volley, this round sounded muffled.

I lay there for a few minutes waiting to hear a blood-curdling scream or at least frantic cries for help. Nothing. As I slowly pushed myself to my knees, the humorist in me had a comedic moment. I thought about the television commercial that shows an elderly person prone on the floor crying, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”

Fortunately, I could get up, but before I stood, I crawled over to the open window and listened intently. Cars sounded like they were passing along the street at normal speed, not burning rubber speeding away. Some youngsters were laughing across the street near the Charter school. It seemed safe to peek through the Venetian blinds so I did so, all the while praying that a bullet would not crash through the window and shoot me in the eye. As far as I could see – down the street, across the street near the community garden, everything looked normal. People, apparently unshaken by the temporary disturbance, were walking along going about their business. The police precinct is at the end of the block. I figured if those were bullets that I had heard flying, there would have been cops and police cars with flashing lights all over the place.

Later that day, I mentioned the incident to a neighbor who told me that she had just walked outside heading to her car when she heard the first volley and saw smoke coming from the side of the building. “I hauled it back inside as fast as I could.” She said. We concluded that the incident was caused by some wisecrackers, probably school kids who thought it would be fun to set off fireworks and scare the bejeebers out of folks in our sedate neighborhood.

The fear of having to dodge bullets is one of the perils of living in the city; the suburbs are not exempt either. Sadly, many people everywhere don’t feel completely safe anywhere. We live in a state of trepidation.

Facts have shown that it is as easy to be struck by a bullet when you are inside your home as when you are outside. How often do we hear news reports about a bullet crashing through the wall or window of someone’s home and striking an unsuspecting person inside like 12-year-old Badr Elwaseem who was shot and killed while watching TV or the 21-year-old woman whose head was grazed by a bullet that crash into her home while she was sleeping in bed?

Inside schools. At the mall. In church. In today’s violent and chaotic society all sites are fair game for callous persons with weapons. It doesn’t matter where you are when danger arrives, and that reality is emotionally draining.

*           *           *

When you are retired, you know that you have entered into the final chapter of your life. (Don’t let that statement rattle you. It’s true. Accept it. I do.) Every morning when I awake to see a new day, I thank God. As I revealed earlier, I give thanks for all things – big and small – all the time. For every breath that I take. I give thanks.

Some people keep what is called a gratitude journal. Psychology researchers assert the advantage of maintaining a gratitude journal. Their studies indicate that there are psychological and physical health benefits that come from the simple act of writing down the things for which we are grateful; even simple things like being in good health or having a comfortable bed to sleep in at night instead of on a park bench or cold concrete sidewalk. When I can sit down at my computer and write out a blog post within an hour, instead of a stressing over it for days with several rewrites, I say “Thank you, God.”

A growing anti-religious bias makes some people feel like criminals for saying the word, God. Some of you reading this post probably cringed every time you saw the word on this page. I don’t regularly write my appreciation in my journal, but whether I write it or say it in my mind expressing gratitude has become as normal for me as breathing.

As I’ve often said, I don’t support organized religion, but I believe in God, and I express gratitude continuously. Today I thank that Higher Power for the realization that what I heard outside my home the other day were not gunshots. Not that time anyway.

Good and evil. God and guns. Bullets and bibles. Those are the facts of life.

 

 

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Things Nobody Told You About Food Delivery Services

I knew it! I would have sworn on a stack of courtroom Bibles that when people order food for delivery, the drivers sometimes tamper with the food. Even if they do nothing more than peek inside the container, that’s a no-no.

Some recent media outlets and a report broadcast this morning on HLN’s Weekend Express confirmed what I have long suspected and did not need a study by US Foods to reveal. That one in four food delivery drivers, 28 percent, admit to tasting or even taking a bite out of the food before delivering it to the unsuspecting purchaser.

Do you order from a food delivery app? I used a food delivery service only once. That was a couple of years ago. After the driver of UBER eats took an unusually long time to deliver my food, I contacted the eatery from which the food was purchased and learned that the driver had left there 30 minutes earlier. I knew this place well enough to know that it should have taken the driver no more than 15-20 minutes to drive to my home. Shortly after I hung up from talking with the counter clerk, the UBER eats driver called to say that he had gotten lost and would arrive shortly. Really? I thought. (Wide-eye roll.)

I was watching from my window and could see his car when it pulled into the lot. The driver didn’t see me when I first walked outside to retrieve my food. He was too busy talking and laughing with the female passenger seated beside him. Both of them were smoking cigarettes. As soon as he saw me approaching, he hurriedly climbed out of the car and greeted me as did the stench of cigarette smoke following him. He flashed a huge phony smile, opened the rear door, and took out my food that was browned-bagged and sitting on the back seat alongside two others. He handed it to me. Through tight-lips, I mumbled, “Thanks.” Then I tucked the tip folded in my hand, that he would have received, into the pocket of my jeans.

“Never again,” I promised myself as I walked back inside.

I immediately lifted the lid on the Styrofoam container and began inspecting my meal to try and determine if it had been tampered with; of course, I had no way of knowing for sure. What I noticed when lifting the container out of the bag is that the bag reeked of cigarette smoke.

That is the only time I have used a food delivery service. Since my one unpleasant experience with UBER eats, I don’t feel comfortable having ready-to-eat meals delivered. I admit that I periodically order Chinese food from a neighborhood carry out that I have frequented for years. My food is always delivered by one of the employees. Usually, it’s the same friendly older man who has been there for some time.

If you use food delivery apps and have never thought about it before, ask yourself, how would you know if your delivery driver snacked on a few fries or had a sip of your drink on the way to your home? Most likely, you wouldn’t.

NPR.org reports that “When asked if they minded if their driver snagged a few fries, the average customer response was an 8.4 out of 10; one represented ‘no big deal,’ and ten signified ‘absolutely unacceptable.’” As I see it, tasting aside, even opening the container is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE!

As restaurant business owners are beginning to understand the problems involved with food delivery, the foodservice industry is working to address these concerns by developing tamper-evident packaging for to-go meals. Some businesses seal takeout containers with a peel-off sticker over the lid or an adhesive that will tear the bag holding the container when opened. Some containers have plastic seals that have to be broken to remove the food and cannot be replaced or resealed once that seal is broken. Tamper-evident does not necessarily mean tamper-proof, but I suppose anything is better than nothing.

In our busy world, everyone is looking for ways to save time and energy. Not having to come home after a busy workday and prepare dinner is certainly one way of doing that. Surely, anytime you don’t feel like cooking, a nice hot pizza delivered to your door is too tempting to refuse. Food delivery is convenient, and it is probably here to stay, but we all know human nature and the nature of some unscrupulous humans is fouler then rotting meat. People must understand the risks and realize that their food could be minus a few bites when it arrives. And if you are inclined to bless your meal, pray that the culprit had clean hands and no disease transmittable through saliva.

 

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Minding Manners

When I was a child, my mother taught me that whenever anyone gave me a gift, it was imperative to thank the person for it. If the gift was a face-to-face delivery, a heartfelt thank you might suffice. But if someone took the time to mail me a gift, the least I could do would be to write them a note or send a card expressing my gratitude. I do that to this day.    

I taught that practice of expressing gratitude to my children. And I’ve noticed that many – although not all – people I know who are in my age group were also taught that courtesy while growing up or learned it after they were grown. But from Generation X, the Millennials, Gen Z and on down the line, the courtesy of expressing gratitude in return for a gift, service, or favor is vanishing faster than landline phones.

Are people just out-and-out thoughtless or do they take it for granted that courtesy requires no reciprocal action?

Surely, I am not the only one who remembers that, years ago, if you sent someone a birthday card, a wedding or baby shower present, or even a sympathy card, especially if the card contained a monetary gift, we’d usually receive a thank you card in return. It was rare not to hear anything from the recipient, and frankly, it was considered downright rude. Today count yourself lucky if someone acknowledges having received your gift without you having to ask them if they got it. As I see it, the lack of good manners is just another sign of deteriorating behavior in a society that becomes more uncivil every day.

Lest you make the wrong assumption, I don’t give gifts merely for someone to thank me in return. I do it because either I like the person or want to do something nice for them to recognize a special occasion. But I dislike feeling that my kindness is taken for granted. An acknowledgment is not only the right thing to do, its common courtesy. Unfortunately, I must agree with Whoopi’s implication that we are veering away from a do-right society.

Granted, things get lost in the mail, and packages get stolen off of people’s front porch. But if you live close enough for me to bring an envelope to your home, give it to one of your family members, or slip it beneath your door, then that destroys the “lost mail” defense. And if you do nothing more than holler across the street when you see me, “Hey, I got it!” or give me a thumbs up signal, I might consider that action a bit uncouth, but no acknowledgment is undeniably rude.

The practice of saying thank you is so deep-rooted in me that – you can bank on this – if I receive a gift from someone and do not thank them, then I am either incapacitated or dead.

It’s embarrassing to me to call someone to ask if they received a gift I sent. That’s almost as bad as lending someone something and after months of waiting to have to ask for it back. I can easily overlook giving away a couple of eggs or a cup of sugar, insignificant things like that. Most likely, I’ll say, “Keep it.” But when it comes to lending a household item, let’s say a punch bowl, a hammer, even a book (especially a book) I want it back. It was a loan, not a gift. Judge Judy would attest to that. And wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be?” But that’s another subject for another day.

Several months ago, I sent a sympathy card containing a check to a long-time neighbor after I learned that her mother had recently died. She didn’t phone or send a thank you note. I’ve seen her in passing at least three times since then and has she ever said thank you? Can a paper doll walk a runway?

We are all busy, so being too busy to say thank you is a lousy excuse, and I’m sure that by now you realize that thoughtless thanklessness of people is one of my peeves. Whether someone holds a door for you or shows kindness in some other way, the least you can do is say thank you. Expressing gratitude is more than just a social nicety it shows civility and reassures others that their gesture was appreciated. That being said – I appreciate you taking the time to read my rant and patronize this blog. Thank you!

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