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[conventions|travel] The high cost of cancellation

As I mentioned yesterday, I am having issues with United Airlines. This first cropped up a while back, as discussed here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

This all goes back to my troubles trying to get to this year’s World Fantasy Convention in Brighton. (I have discussed some of this previously here on the blog.) Last summer, I tried to book plane tickets for me and Lisa Costello to fly there. The $700 per person UK arrival fees for a free mileage award ticket were impossible for us to meet. At the time, I checked out simply paying for a fare, and even the cheapest was far higher, because those $700 fees were embedded in any trans-Atlantic airfare to London.

Unnamed Benefactors stepped forward and offered to fund our airfare if we would pay our own on-the-ground expenses. I very gratefully said yes, and proceeded to arrange a low-cost European vacation for myself by couch surfing in London and Paris, spending money only on the Eurostar train to get between the cities. Except for the convention hotel itself, my only expenses otherwise were going to be food and incidentals, as my Unnamed Benefactors provided tickets for the two of us on United Airlines. Lisa was planning to fly out the day before the convention and join me.

Three days before my scheduled departure, Lisa’s father suffered a massive stroke. Other relatives stepped forward to respond with immediate help, but Lisa needed to fly to Maryland at the end of that week to help with the necessary but difficult lifestyle transitions now underway.

That meant (and still means) that Lisa was now juggling my life-ending terminal illness and the life-changing illness of one of her parents. I could not leave her alone with this. So with great reluctance, we cancelled our trip to Europe. We also severely truncated a post-trip engagement with my agent, and cancelled the visit of another friend who was due after Orycon, both of these to great regret.

The financial aspects of this situation have turned into a severe mess.

In order to cover the expenses incurred by my Unnamed Benefactors, I also sought a compassionate medical emergency refund from @UnitedAirlines, which states on their Web site that they provide such consideration. Unfortunately, since our tickets were purchased as nonrefundable airfares, United Airlines also does not offer any refund. Their response to me did not even acknowledge the nature of my request, simply stating that my tickets were nonrefundable, but that I did retain an airfare credit. Which isn’t even my money, as the Unnamed Benefactors paid for it. And it’s not like I’m going back to Europe anytime in the rest of my drastically foreshortened life.

At the same time, my Unnamed Benefactors wrote me asking me to pay them £1,295.90 (approx. USD 2,073), as we would not be attending WFC.

This absolutely floored me. If I had $2,073 to spend on airfare, I would have bought the damned tickets myself in the first place. What I thought had been an act of kindness and charity towards me turned into me being expected to pay $2,000 for the privilege of not attending WFC so I could help Lisa care for her stricken father.

The books do in fact balance somewhat. Were I to directly pay back my Unnamed Benefactors, I would get to keep the airfare credit, less change fees and penalties. But I don’t have $2,000 sitting in a travel budget to give them. If I did, I would have bought my own tickets in the first place. If United were going to refund the tickets, the whole business would just be a wash.

But after multiple rounds of discussion, United has flatly refused to refund the airfare. Apparently a sudden life-threatening illness on the part of my partner’s father does not constitute a medical emergency in their eyes. Which makes me wonder what the hell does? I’m pretty damned irritated about this, most especially about the amount of time I have already spent focusing on this issue. My life is running out of time — between the shocking and insensitive demand from my Unnamed Benefactors and United Airlines’ refusal to honor their own compassionate exemption policy, I have been expending significant amounts of that finite time and energy on things I should never have had to deal with.

All to no avail thus far.

I’m honestly not sure what to do here. Had I known the original offer of tickets to WFC required a complete payback in the event of cancellation, I almost certainly would not have accepted it. My own health is too precarious, quite frankly, which is why all plane tickets I buy and pay for these days are purchased with trip insurance. While I have enough money sitting in my bank account to pay back my Unnamed Benefactors, that’s not what it is for. And I cannot spend a United Airlines airfare credit to pay my bills or help Lisa help her parents. The budget isn’t there, especially to pay for a trip I am not even able to take.

I’m feeling very pushed around right now, and looking at a lot of expense well beyond anything planned or budgeted at a time when our expenses have skyrocketed due to both my own illness the problems in Lisa’s family. I’m also much more wary of accepting offers of assistance in the future, as I never foresaw hidden strings like this and do not know how to foresee them going forward.

There’s a strong temptation to tell my Unnamed Benefactors to take a hike, but that’s hardly ethical as I’m apparently inheriting the airfare credit regardless, given the intransigence of United Airlines. I’m tempted to hold a small fundraiser to pay this off, but that also hardly seems fair to people who might want to support me. If United Airlines honored their own compassionate refund policy, the problem would essentially not exist, but that road has now been closed.

This situation frustrates me immensely. At this extremely difficult time in my life, I am left with yet another large, unbudgeted expense for which I have nothing to show but trouble and a waste of my precious, waning days.

[cancer] Field notes from Cancerland, in a deep and dark December

Health metrics

I am tracking an increasing number of health metrics. I now measure my blood pressure every morning along with my weight, and just lately have begun tracking blood sugar as well. The blood pressure measurement is a function of monitoring medication side effects. The blood sugar tracking is because some of the studies I am interested in require a certain range, generally focused on me not being diabetic.

As it happens, I was diagnosed a few years ago as pre-diabetic. Given my current life expectancy, the issue of my potential diabetes has slipped quite low on our list of medical priorities. However, keeping my glucose both low and steady has a number of benefits besides keeping me in range for certain studies. The downside of this, of course, is some of the things I love most to eat (pizza, anyone?) are not conducive to managing blood sugar.

Lisa Costello follows a long term diet protocol focused on nominal-to-no intake of simple sugars and simple carbs. The easiest thing for me to do is eat off her menu, which would benefit both of us. I will have to be careful about feelings of deprivation, which are always the biggest threat to any diet plan I follow. On the other hand, my entire life is made of creeping deprivation these days. Why should this be any different?

Morning routine

My morning routine continues to evolve. Right now I wake up, cuddle with Lisa a bit, go relieve myself (without eating or drinking anything but a sip or two of tapwater), weigh myself, take my blood pressure, check my blood sugar, exercise for 30 minutes, mediate for 8 minutes (I am about to up that to 10 minutes), make and eat breakfast, then blog. I’m trying to sort out if I should re-order any of this activity. For example, would I be better off meditating before checking my blood pressure and blood sugar? All this takes quite a bit longer than my old, workaday morning routine, and I’m not quite accustomed to that, either. I rarely have morning time pressures any more, except for the occasional early appointment or scheduled phone call, but old habits die hard.

Continuing to pursue clinical trials

I have an intake appointment next week after my return from Omaha (one of two days, which as yet not confirmed) for a trial here in the Portland area outside of my treating hospital. There have been a number of phone calls and emails between me, Dad, two different entities at the National Institutes of Health, and my treating hospital about records transfer. Stuff is happening. What it means, and what happens next continues very unclear.

Visiting friends

Between Lisa’s family issues and my medical uncertainties, I’ve been staving off out-of-town friends who want to visit. Unfortunately for me, those medical uncertainties are probably the status quo for the rest of my short life. So Lisa and I are looking at calendars with an eye toward me scheduling people to see me again, except that any plans I make are subject to sudden change or cancellation. This is very frustrating, but as I said to [info]yourbob, this is also me being a dithering idiot, not a dick.

United Airlines

United Airlines has again turned down our request for a refund of the cancelled flights to the UK. I will post a more detailed commentary on this in the next day or so, but I’m very frustrated and more than a little appalled. What the hell is the point of having a compassionate refund policy for medical emergencies (which they nominally do) if a parent’s massive stroke doesn’t qualify as a medical emergency? It’s not like I’m ever going to have a chance to go back to Europe at this point, so a putative fare credit doesn’t do me any good.

Disability insurance

Speaking of frustrated, my disability insurance carrier has just taken $8,400 per year out of my pocket through an entirely legal scam protected by the ERISA statutes and associated case law. While the issue is something I might even prevail upon through appeals and legal action, I do not have the time in my life or resources to fight an organization with hundreds of attorneys on staff. Which is precisely what they count on, of course. Better to squash people like me now than open the door to thousands of similar claims. This is an issue which can ultimately only be addressed by Congress, but as the insurance industry has much better lobbyists and makes much larger campaign contributions than any individuals like me ever will, I’m pretty much screwed. As is everyone else ever in my position.

The worst part is, I can’t even fight this out publicly, as my carrier has completely legal unilateral authority to modify or suspend payments to me for any cause they care to establish. (Another ERISA scam.) This means that if I make trouble for them, all they have to do is suspend payments while they commence an audit of my claim and I am flat out of money.

It’s a criminally stupid system that absolutely privileges corporate capital and shareholders at the expense of consumers in need, and the game is so rigged that it’s impossible for an individual to fight. And this is a set of issues that I, like most Americans, was completely unaware of until I fell into the trap.

Welcome to the marvelous land of disability. Our society’s treatment of those in the worst sorts of need is criminally immoral. And I say this as one of the luckiest ones in my situation.

ETA: A couple of things I should have noted.

(1) I already have a very competent disability rights attorney advising me. That’s how I know what I do about ERISA and the appeals process. Their advice essentially boils down to, “Sucks to be disabled, doesn’t it?”

(2) The actual amount of money being taken from with force of law is rather higher than $8,400. The rest of it is being made up by “offsets” connected to SSDI benefits, etc., which serve no actuarial or financial purpose except to reduce my disability carrier’s liability exposure, and come at some significant cost to me in terms of tax consequences and so forth. Frankly, that’s legalized theft, too, but it only sets me back a few thousand dollars per year. The $8,400 is the amount of my dead loss due to their interpretation of their right of offset, for which I actually have no offset whatsoever

[personal] The weekend and me

Lisa Costello and I both continue a bit under the weather. She thinks we have the same bug, I am not so certain, though she’s probably right. I feel more or less okay in the morning, after a very slow start and a night of oversleeping. By afternoon I am fatigued, logey, mildly headachey, and feel as if I have a fever, though I am not hot. Lisa has much the same symptoms, except with rather stronger headaches.

If she wasn’t going through it with me, I would assume these symptoms signal the beginning of my terminal decline, as they’re pretty close to what I’ve been told to expect. Lisa’s had this for about ten days, I’ve had it for about three. So either a slow moving bug, or the hastening of my demise. Cheerful, eh?

We did have a very nice family-and-friends dinner yesterday afternoon. Lisa sat it out at home, due to how ill she was feeling, and I wound up leaving early for similar reasons. Team E— made smoked pork butt, Jersey Girl in Portland made two potato salads, mom made Moroccan sweet potato salad, while [info]tillyjane and AH combined forces for a green salad and some challah bread. Plus various desserts.

Also, [info]the_child came home last night from her East Coast adventures, but Lisa and I had zonked out by then, so I still haven’t hugged her hello and heard whatever stories she has to tell.

Laying low today, we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

[personal] Giving thanks

Today is Thanksgiving here in the United States. For the rest of you, I suppose it’s just Thursday. But whether it’s Thursday or Thanksgiving, this is as good a day as any for giving thanks.

I am thankful to my parents and my family for bringing me into this world and setting me on a path in life which has been more than satisfactory.

I am thankful for [info]the_child, who is the light of my life and the devilment of days, as it should be with children.

I am thankful for Lisa Costello for joining me in the last days of my life, and sharing love in a time which can be profoundly unloveable.

I am thankful for all the people who love me, and all the people I love. Friends, family, lovers, colleagues, the tribe here in Portland, Ken and John, my postal clerks, the guys at the Lamp and the whole team at Brooklyn Pharmacy — all you people who keep an eye out for me and check up on me and help me in ways ranging from tiny to life changing.

I am thankful for the publishing career I’ve had. I did not achieve even a fraction of my overweening ambitions, but I think if I had done so I’d be a smaller person than I am. One should always aspire to more. In any event, I have achieved so very much more than any rational hope would ever have dared, and for that I am very grateful to my mentors, my fellow writers, my agent and editors and publishers, my readers, critics and fans.

I am thankful for the life I still have, despite the terrible disease which haunts my body every day. I fully expect this to be the last Thanksgiving I ever celebrate, but it is also the sixth Thanksgiving since my cancer first came upon me. I am grateful to all the doctors, nurses, NPs, MAs, technicians, researchers, clinic staffers, and medically-inclined friends who have conspired to keep me alive even this long.

I am thankful to be here, and I am thankful you are here too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

[art|personal] Taking off the mask

A while back, the delightful Ellen Eades arranged for artist Beverly Toyu to create a life mask of me. This thing was done, and we arranged for some copies to be made. A while back, Lisa Costello went out to Beverly’s studio in the Oregon wine country to pick them up, as documented here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ].

Finally, we were able to pull the masks out and look at them carefully.

jay_heads

PB280001

PB280002

PB280004

PB280005

PB280006

PB280007

PB280009

These are pretty awesome. I love them. Hopefully their recipients will too. My special thanks to Ellen for both thinking of this in the first place, and then making it possible.

Art © 2013 Beverly Toyu.

Photos © 2013, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

[links] Link salad really doesn’t mind if you sit this one out

Heroines in an ancient film called the flame of the west — How it all looks lately from the point of view of Lisa Costello.

How I Thank God[info]theferrett on illness, faith and science.

The Strength of Wild Horses — A Kickstarter by Sandra Tayler. Check it out.

25 Everyday Things You Never Knew Had Names — I knew about half of these. (Via Lisa Costello.)

Bend’s First Fire Engine Will Be Home For Christmas — A little bit of Oregon history.

Moving Stars: The Shkadov Thruster

What scared H. P. Lovecraft — Charlie Stross is (as usual) clever and cool.

2D or Not 2D — Facial art. Wow. (Via [info]willyumtx.)

The Front of This House Is Sliding Onto the Street — I love public art. (Thanks to Lezli Robyn.)

Winners of the Dance Your PhD Competition Revealed — Hahah. (Via David Goldman.)

Solving the neural code conundrum: digital or analogue?Physicists have developed a technique that can tell which parts of the brain rely on analogue signals and which rely in digital signals.

Tracking Fecal TransplantsA long-term study confirms transplants of stool microbes from healthy donors can successfully clear recurrent Clostridium difficile infections.

Modern life ‘turning people off sex’ — Hmm.

Restaurants may seat guests according to looks. Surprise, surprise

Google Earth spies unreported fish traps, study reveals — Satellite surveillance from your armchair.

US Working Overtime Behind The Scenes To Kill UN Plan To Protect Online Privacy From Snooping — Because security, you commie. (Thanks to David Goldman.)

48% of U.S. Schoolchildren Live in Poverty — A rising tide lifts only yachts.

Pope Denounces Trickle-Down Economics ‘Which Has Never Been Confirmed By The Facts’ — Wow. That’s a big old ‘fuck you’ to the GOP-Church axis in America. A great smackdown to the smug Republican Jesus who dominates the public face of religion in America.

Slacktivist Fred Clark on (among other things) Senate politicsDistrict court nominations by white presidents filibustered in U.S. Senate in all of American history: 3. District court nominations by black presidents filibustered in U.S. Senate: 20. Senate filibusters of executive nominees by white presidents since World War II: 20. Senate filibusters of executive nominees by black presidents since World War II: 54 From the department of painfully true things you will never, ever hear any conservative admit. Tell me again about that unprecedented Democratic power grab in the Senate?

?otD: Do my words make you whisper?


11/27/2013
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 7.5 hours (solid)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Weight: 241.2
Number of FEMA troops on my block closing down donut shops: 0
Currently reading: n/a (chemo brain)

[cancer] Funerals are real fun

The topic de la semaine hereabouts has been my funeral planning. Contemplating one’s own final arrangements is a subject sure to brighten any day.

Dad has been investigating funeral homes and memorial marker. [info]kenscholes in his capacity as a former pastor has been giving me advice and talking points about memorial services. Mother of the Child has been giving me her thoughts and feelings about the process.

I get hung up on a couple of points as I walk through all this. One, the whole discussion just makes me want to cry. Two, what is the proper balance between my desires and the needs and desires of those closest to me?

The first I just deal with. So much of my life is devastating these days, what’s one more incitement to grief?

The second I think I have a solution for, at least in my context. We’re probably going to have a small, private set of observances at my time of death and shortly thereafter, probably to be led by Mother of the Child’s Buddhist pastor.

Sometime a bit later on, a larger, public memorial service for my extended family, friends, fans and whoever wants to show up, will likely be led by Ken. That will be the last JayCon and/or the second JayWake, depending on how one wishes to look at it.

For the most part, my own desires are nebulous. In simplest terms, I won’t be here to care. But I am very mindful of how the rituals of my death affect the grieving processes of [info]the_child, her mother, Lisa Costello, and the rest of my family and friends. At the same time, it would be the height of hypocrisy for my cooling corpse (well, cooling ashes really) to be sanctified in a religious framework. Can I be a hypocrite when I’m dead?

There’s all kinds of details: Scattering the ashes? Memorial diamonds? What plaque and where? Much of this will be handled in a series of meetings next Monday.

I do know what I want for the epitaph on my marker. It comes down to a choice between two different things I wrote in Kalimpura.

“What are years to me? Like pain, they pass unnoticed.”

“In end, so is the beginning. In the beginning, so is the end.”

The first is more obscure but pointed. The second is more universal but borders on the cliched. Neither can sum up my life, any more than any epitaph ever can for anyone. The dying process itself sums up one’s life.

So it goes.

[cancer|personal] Yesterday I had another meltdown

Yesterday, I had another meltdown. This one was slow and quiet and all the more poisonous for that. Crying jags and panic attacks at least pass after a while, and are readily understood by Lisa Costello or anyone else who happens to be in range at the time. Undirected resentment and sullen silence can be mistaken for a lot of other things, none of them very helpful.

It was a difficult day in some ways. I ran into an intractable Quicken problem generated by my bank switching online banking platforms. (See my previous post about being a strange attractor customer service issues.) Email correspondence passed at some depth about the search for a clinical trial that might prolong my life a bit more. I spent time focusing on my funeral arrangements, including a tense conversation with Mother-of-the-Child about that. There were parenting issues. There were minor misunderstandings with the people around me. Lisa at one point confided to me that she’d be feeling a certain kind of emotional sensitivity for a while to come. My response was, “You mean for the rest of my life?” That didn’t sit well with either of us. Mostly, there was and is me dying of cancer.

That last one? It never ends.

So by yesterday evening, I was feeling strung out and unhappy and pissy and strange. A chance remark pushed me over the edge, and I did not recover until this morning.

It’s so damned hard, being careful of my own emotions and others. The people around me don’t feel free to express their negative thoughts for fear of upsetting me. I don’t feel free to express my negative thoughts for fear of upsetting my loved ones, family and friends. We all dance this strange dance of toxic consideration like elephants on ice, slipping and occasionally crashing.

Last night I crashed. I want to tell myself to get over it, but that option is long gone. I want to apologize to Lisa, which I have fully. I want to not feel this way, but that option is long gone as well.

Frankly, I’d rather have the screaming and the tears, then get over it and move on.

[personal|culture] Me and customer service just lately

Like most white men of a certain height, class and educational standing, I wander through life in a cloud of largely invisible-to-me privilege. This privilege often expresses itself as good customer service. Sometimes it’s earned (for some value of “earned”) such as my frequent flyer status, sometimes it’s situational. I do make a serious effort to notice this sort of thing, so that, for example, if I walk up to a busy deli counter and am called next, I defer to the people who were waiting before me.

Lately the customer service levels which affect my life have been noticeably compromised in various ways. Yesterday I was talking to Lisa Costello about this. As I said to her, am I more needy due to my recent disabilities? Am I more demanding due to being shorter-tempered and fussier? Or am I really just bumping into increasingly weird problems at a higher rate than usual?

Her response was to comment that I’d become a strange attractor for customer service problems. Which doesn’t really answer my question, but was kind of funny. It was helpful to me in confirming that I’m not just experiencing observer bias or enjoying a version of the recency illusion.

I actually think it’s a combination of all three of my theories. My recent travel difficulties with wheelchair service wouldn’t have occurred in the first place if I didn’t need wheelchair service, for example — my recent issues with American Airlines. I am crankier than I used to be, what with the whole dying of cancer thing going on — yesterday’s noisy restaurant problem. And some of the problems I’ve encountered have been categorically weird, outside the usual run of issues — the whole CarMax power-of-attorney thing.

Being white, male and well-spoken didn’t really help me with any of these issues, though it certainly helped me resolve them post facto. Being disabled, well…

One more set of things to burn spoons on and have to deal with.

[travel] Flying back to Oregon

Lisa Costello and I are flying back to Oregon today. We seem to have accomplished all our critical priorities here in Maryland. I personally do not ever expect to come back to the East Coast except possibly for some medical purpose. Was nice to see folks yesterday, will be nice to sleep in my own bed tonight.

[food|repost] Open lunch in Bowie, MD on Saturday, November 16th

This is a repost for an event happening midday today. If you have already RSVP’ed, I do not need an additional RSVP. I you haven’t RSVP’ed but are planning on coming, please let me know.

As Lisa Costello and I have been back in Maryland this week, I am declaring an Open Lunch in Bowie, Maryland today, Saturday, November 16th. We’ll meet at DuClaw Brewing Company in Bowie Town Center at 11:30 am.

If you can read this, you are invited. Whether we’re old friends, casual acquaintances, or you’re an Internet fan/lurker, you are welcome to attend.

Please do RSVP in comments or by email so I can try to secure a suitably sized table.

See some, all or none of you in Maryland at lunch.

[personal] Our CarMax experience

I was being very grumpy about CarMax on Twitter this past Thursday. A lot of people wondered what was going on. As we were finally able to resolve the issue yesterday, I’ll lay it out now.

Lisa Costello and I are back in Maryland helping settle her parents’ affairs. Her 83-year-old father had a stroke about three weeks ago, and her 80-year-old mother has advanced dementia, with him as her primary caregiver. The two of them have relocated to Missouri to live with extended family. (That’s what we were doing here on our last trip a week ago, helping them get sorted out and moved.)

Lisa’s dad executed a durable power-of-attorney here in Maryland with her as his personal representative. This legally allows Lisa to work with the real estate agent, the attorneys, sell the car, and so forth. I’ve actually been handling the majority of the real estate and attorney matters on her behalf, but she is the client of record in her father’s name. Obviously, those are the most critical issues remaining to us.

Disposing of his car was another one that needed to happen in the two business days we were here this past week. It’s a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria LX with low mileage, in excellent condition. I had the vehicle detailed Thursday morning, then at Lisa’s direction, took it to the CarMax location in Brandywine, MD. I explained right up front that this was a power-of-attorney transaction, giving them the basic background outlined above. The CarMax folks assured us that they handled those routinely and there would be no difficulty. They then went through the appraisal process and provided us with what I believed to be a rather generous offer to purchase the car. (The amount offered was above the high end of the Kelly Blue Book value range for the vehicle as best as I could calculate.) All of this took longer than we might have hoped, but that’s what happens when you’re buying or selling an automobile.

We had gotten far enough into the transaction that Lisa had signed the title over, and the CarMax representative had countersigned, when we reached a deeply annoying snag.

CarMax required us to surrender the original copy of the power-of-attorney.

This had never been mentioned to us up front. The power-of-attorney document itself states quite clearly that copies of the document have the same validity as the original. I believe this is normal in Maryland law. In other words, the requirement for the original was a CarMax business rule, not a legal requirement. When we pointed out that we were not about to surrender the original copy of that document, the dealer reluctantly agreed to accept a certified copy.

CarMax’s own notary refused to certify the copy. She felt it was a conflict-of-interest, and that we would have to leave the dealership and go find a notary at a bank, or elsewhere, to make a certified copy. (I’m not sure that’s a term of art in Maryland law, but it’s what the dealership wanted.)

We visited a bank, an insurance agent, and a AAA office in the area. In all three cases, they declined to certify copies. The basic issue seemed to be whether a copy of a document which had previously been notarized could be notarized again to certify the copy. My suggestion of the notary writing a brief cover letter stating that the attached was a true and accurate copy, and notarize that, was not acceptable.

The only acceptable way to get a certified copy would be to return to the issuing attorney’s office and have a new original created. Which was now impossible as Lisa’s father had moved out of state.

We wound up taking the car back from CarMax, having spent about five hours of the day — one of our only two in Maryland to handle this business — with no success. Irritating enough. Vastly more irritating was that the title had been signed over to CarMax, so it was marred, and we couldn’t simply walk into another auto dealer with less stringent business requirements for the power-of-attorney and sell the car. And we didn’t have time to go seek a replacement title, given our return to Oregon on Sunday.

At that point, I figured we were in for a third trip from Oregon to Maryland to deal with this, or would have to pay the attorney to handle the details of the transaction. Either option would be annoyingly expensive, running at least into the low $1,000s. CarMax had wasted our day, and set us up for a very expensive failure.

So I did what I do when that sort of thing happens, which was bitch about it on the Internet, referencing @carmax.

Their social media team responded quickly, asking me to please call an 800 number. I did so, still in a state of pretty extreme irritation. (I am, however, always polite even those situations. Especially in those situations. Just perhaps a bit stronger voiced and worded than usual.) The woman who took our call was both surprised and sympathetic, and asked if she could call me back after talking to her legal department, and to a senior manager elsewhere in Maryland’s CarMax network.

Eventually, I spoke to another manager here in Maryland, who directed me to take the vehicle to their Laurel store and meet with the business manager there.

Lisa and I drove to Laurel yesterday morning to be there when the CarMax store opened for the day. The gentleman we dealt with there explained that the issue was that CarMax required the original executed copy of the power-of-attorney because as a nationwide dealer network, they often transferred inventory to other states, and not all states would accept a copy of a power-of-attorney as valid. As most vehicles sold under a power-of-attorney are sold via a limited power-of-attorney, essentially a single-use document specific to that transaction, surrendering the original isn’t usually a big issue for the seller.

As I pointed out to him, that was entirely CarMax’s affair, and I was not about to tell them how to run their business. However, they had a sales communication problem in not explaining that requirement up front to us before committing us to an hours-long transaction and having us sign over the damned title, thus rendering it difficult to sell anywhere else. We would have just left the Brandywine CarMax location and gone to another dealer rather then engage in the whole process. (In the end, there is a form in Maryland for mis-signed titles, called I believe an “Affidavit of Correction”, but we didn’t have time for that, either.)

The manager at the Laurel store made copies of the power-of-attorney and certified them, stating clearly he was making an exception to the usual CarMax business rules as make-good for our troubles of the day before. He had another CarMax employee handle our transaction paperwork so that his certification of the power-of-attorney didn’t represent a conflict of interest. In about an hour, we were in and out of the Laurel store with the car sold, and the check in our hands, payable to Lisa’s father. (We promptly FedEx’ed the check to him in Missouri.)

In the end, CarMax made it right for us. For this, I thank them, especially the staff at the Laurel, Maryland store.

The core issue was a business rule on CarMax’s part which placed an extra burden beyond what Maryland law required, plus a training problem at the Brandywine store in that when they stated they would accept the power-of-attorney as evidence’s of Lisa’s standing to sell the car, they did not explain this business rule right up front.

There’s also a sidebar issue specific to me personally about having to handle customer service problems through Internet escalation. I went down this road somewhat famously with PayPal last January, and have also tangled with UnitedHealthcare in public, and am on the verge of possibly doing so with United Airlines. As it happens, my social media footprint is sized such that I can make myself sufficiently radioactive to generate a focused response. Would I get the swift responses I do in these situations if I wasn’t me? Or does everyone who complains via Twitter or Facebook get this response?

Mostly, I want things done right in the first place, with no need to complain. I have no quarrel with the CarMax business requirement for the original power-of-attorney. I do have a quarrel with their failure to properly explain their internal requirements openly right up front. And if we weren’t in our last days ever in this state, I could have gone home and worked through the process patiently. Instead I escalated. And yes, I had plans B, C and D if the escalation did not work, because that’s how I roll.

So that was the CarMax misadventure. Another way to burn a few spoons and fritter one of the ever fewer remaining days of my foreshortened life.