“Classical Gas”



As I write this in the kitchen of our Pittsburgh apartment I hear “Classical Gas” playing over and over in the living room. It’s the music Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Central New York plays while you’re waiting on the phone.

Da, da, da, da dah. The classic opening notes play over and over.

Waiting. That’s what we’ve been doing since December when Joe visited a vein clinic while we were in da’Burgh visiting family. The plan was to get those varicose veins taken care of and then head south in the motorhome for the winter.

Quick catch up. The vein doc grounded Joe from driving long hours in the motorhome until he could fix the veins. A blood clot could form and go to his heart, the doc said.

Da, da, da, da dah. “Thank you for holding. Please stay on the line for the next available representative.”

Even though two docs say Joe needs the minor surgery, the insurance company forces patients to wear a compression stocking for 12 weeks before the company will approve surgery.

The 12 weeks was up Feb. 27. Joe sees the doc to schedule surgery. Not so fast. The nurse tells us the insurance company will take four to six weeks to get approval for a minor surgery that could have been done three months ago.

Joe calls the insurance company the next morning and immediately is put in hold hell.

Da, da, da, da dah. The first three bars of the music plays. Again.

I learned to play “Classical Gas” on the guitar in high school. It was the height of my guitar training. I was proud of myself for learning to play it. I’m beginning to hate this song.

A representative comes on the line. Joe explains our plight. We have places to go, people to see, volunteering to do. Can Blue Cross expedite the approval process?

Nope, the representative says firmly. You have to wait four to six weeks before we will approve it.

May I speak with your supervisor? he asks politely. He’s more polite than I would have been. I’ve been known to become “Mrs. Hannagan” my Hyde personality when I get frustrated with annoying clerks.

The music comes back on. “Please continue to hold. We will be with you momentarily.”

The moments stretch out to minutes, tick on to quarters of an hour.

The supervisor comes on the phone. You need all the diagnosis codes before we can approve anything, she says. An obvious ploy to get this annoying customer off the phone.

“I have those,” says Joe as she continues to speak over him. “I got them from the doctor to expedite the process,” he says, again very politely.

Da, da, da, da dah. More music as this rep speaks to HER boss.

You’d think they’d allow the rest of the song to play as long as you have to wait. Or maybe switch up songs to something more fun. “Best Day of My Life” by the American Authors comes to mind.

The supervisor returns to the line.

The insurance company can expedite the process, she says. But, you can’t give us the diagnosis codes. We can only take them from the doctor’s office.

Forty-five minutes, and two representatives later, Joe is closer to getting approval for surgery.

He calls the vein clinic where he gets a person on the phone right away. We’re sorry the person who submits information to the insurance company won’t be in until Monday.

I wonder what music the vein clinic’s telephone system will play?


We’re grounded

20181217_101051That’s right.

Joe and I will be spending our winter in Pittsburgh. Not a bad place to be, but not the sunny Texas gulf shores we had planned on.

Here’s how we got here.

After being on his feet for more than 30 years are as a retail manager and then a teacher, Joe has varicose veins.  This fall they started acting up while we were on the beach in North Carolina. He went to a doc in the box who recommended he visit a vein clinic.

He put it off. We were already scheduled to spend three weeks in Pittsburgh around the holidays where we had doctor appointments scheduled.

The doc at the Pittsburgh vein clinic evaluated Joe’s legs and recommended an out patient procedure. He could do it and Joe would be good to go in a week. But, that old ugly insurance raised its head.

The insurance company wants Joe to wear compression stockings for 12 weeks before it will even consider the surgery.  And the doc said the clotting in Joe’s legs is so severe he doesn’t want him to drive long hours.

That means we’re grounded, in a campground, in Pennsylvania, in the winter.


We could skirt the camper with sliver insulating panels and buy lots of propane. I could wrap my self in throws and sit in the dark with the shades pulled to keep warm.

I mean, we could do it. But I wouldn’t be happy.

Joe’s mantra has always been “Happy wife, happy life.”

So we began looking for a short-term rental apartment, an expensive proposition. We found one in the city, near a park and children’s museum. It had a gym and  dog park. It would even take Nikki and Pocket, for a fee.

We put down a deposit and paid an application fee. Then the nice young rental agent wanted a picture of the dog, for the insurance company. The complex restricts dogs. They don’t accept “lock jaw dogs,” like pitbulls.

Nikki is a lab mix rescued from the pound. She has blue eyes, which makes us think she has some husky in her. She’s also 13 years old, sleeps a lot and is such a scaredy cat she runs when you jangle your keys.



The insurance company wanted us to guarantee her breed. There was a lot of faxing and phone calls back and forth with the vet. Bottom line, no one can tell you what the mix is and we’re out of an apartment.

Plan B.

Luckily, my son-in-law is part of a co-working space co-op called Work Hard Pittsburgh, which has an apartment above its space. The tenant is scheduled to move out Jan. 1. The co-op has kindly allowed us to rent the apartment for a short time and they don’t care what kind of dog we have.


We’re three minutes away from my daughter, who has gym equipment and a washer- dryer in her house. There’s a park near by. And my cousins have graciously said they will allow us to park the motor home on their horse farm.

So, Jan. 1 we move in above an old hardware store. We’re reliving college. We don’t have a bed, a couch, a table or a lamp. We’re buying a futon and borrowing the rest.

We’ll be warm and close to family. If you have to be grounded, there’s no place I’d rather be than Pittsburgh.

Happy wife, happy life.




I blame George Bush for our motor home

20180127_155455I blame George Bush the second for our motor home.

In 2008, to head off a recession Bush sent out a tax rebate to jump start the economy.

I thought we were going to use the $1,200 to buy a TV or pay off debts. Joe wanted a kayak. I didn’t even know he knew how to kayak.

We bought a tandem kayak.

There’s a lot we don’t know about each other. Like, after 30 years of marriage we both discovered we like slimy bacon. All those years we made crispy bacon because we thought that’s the way the other one like it. Who knew? But I digress.

After the kayak we bought a pop up camper.We’d always tent camped, but were now tired of sleeping on the ground. We bought an Aliner Ranger 12 with a bed that made up into a couch, a dinette that folded into a bed, a sink, stove, air conditioner and heater. We pulled it behind our four cylinder Jeep Compass.

Our first long trip was from our home in Auburn, New York to Yellowstone. That’s when I learned about “full timers.”

We stayed one night in a KOA outside Yellowstone before entering the park.  I met two women in the laundry. They both had just retired and were traveling around the country with their husbands in an RV, full time with no fixed address for a home.

That night I told Joe about my conversation with the women. I thought no more of it.

We never spoke about retirement. I’d never thought that far. When it did cross my mind I saw myself moving back to Pittsburgh, where I was born. I saw a little house in the city and a life full of volunteering, knitting and being closer to family.

Joe saw years of sitting in Pittsburgh with nothing to do.

Joe remembered the conversation about the traveling women. Two years ago he broached the subject of living full time in a motor home. We could travel the country, seeing all the great national parks. Stay for a month at a time in a great place. Live in new cities and experience new things. Volunteer for disaster relief and see our kids and grandkids for weeks at a time, not just on hurried holidays or weekends.

What did I think?

I called my daughters. YOUR father has gone off the deep end. He wants to buy a motor home.

The oldest, who lives outside of Detroit with her husband and two kids, counseled patience. Let him research it. He’ll soon grow tired of it, she advised.

The youngest, who lives with her husband in Pittsburgh, was all for it. Sounds like fun, she enthused.

So I went along with Joe to the RV shows. Researched traveling.

We picked up our 33 foot Jayco Precept in February and in June we’re hitting the road on a long adventure.

But, there’s still a lot of steps between now and June 22.