Monday, April 26, 2010


Let's go back in time to 1991, when an eleven-year-old boy noticed a strange rash growing on his stomach. Not sure what it was, he went to his doctor, who explained that our hero had shingles. "The same virus that causes chicken pox," the doctor said.

"But I already had chicken pox," the boy replied. "How can I get them again?"

"It happens sometimes. There's not much to do but let the virus run its course. The good news is that people rarely get shingles a second time."

Fast forward to 2010. This boy is no longer a boy, and he swims every day in a pool filled with people of every size and shape. And one day, this man begins to notice his back itching. At first, he thinks it's just the chlorine from the pool, and then he notices several small bumps. Zits on the back aren't that uncommon, the man thinks to himself, so he pays it no mind. By that weekend, it's clear that his old nemesis from nineteen years ago is back. Unfortunately, he has to wait until Monday to see his doctor. It also means he can't swim for a while, lest he risk exposing someone else to the virus.

The doctor takes one look at him and says, "Yup, it's shingles all right." Then he prescribes some anti-viral medication, something that didn't exist in 1991. The man takes his prescription to the pharmacy, and they tell him it'll be about half an hour. When he returns, they tell him they can't get this particular medication, and phone in a request to change it to something else. Two hours later, the doctor returns their call, saying no, our hero must have this exact anti-viral. So the man takes his prescription to another pharmacy, one all the way downtown.

That's when the man realizes he has the wrong insurance card in his wallet. Too bad the pharmacy is going to close soon. The man sighs and returns home to find is new insurance card.

The next day, our hero heads back up to the pharmacy, and he stops by the doctor's office while he's at it, since he unwittingly gave them the wrong insurance information. Unfortunately, the monsoon season has apparently started in Salt Lake City, so the man is soaking wet by the time he gets into the doctor's office. Then he heads over to the pharmacy, less than a block away, and feels like he's swimming since it's raining so hard. This time, he gives them the correct insurance card. Of course it turns out that his insurance doesn't cover this medication anyway, so he has to pay cash. It comes to $260.

Oh well, the man thinks as he leaves the pharmacy. At least it'll count toward my deductible.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Star Trek Nights

In the mid-nineties there lived a teenager filled with angst. Every morning, he had to get up and go to a place where no one understood him. He read mystery novels from the sixties, and he spent quiet lunches sitting on the grass at school, contemplating life or reading whatever book he'd taken from the library. He tried to talk to people, but few ever talked back.

The adults around him didn't care much, either. Theirs was a world of rules and enforcement, not of love or compassion. They told him which areas of the grass he could sit on, where he could eat his lunch and how much time he had to do it. They told him when he had to be in class, and how he should behave when he was there. They told him why he had to come to school every day, even though he hated it, and they made sure he understood that there was nothing more important than the day's assignments.

Ah, but the boy had a secret life no one knew about. Every night, long after his parents and his sister fell asleep, the boy wrapped himself up in a blanket in the basement and turned on the TV, with the volume down low and watched re-runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation. After a friendless day at school, he finally found people he could relate to. On the bridge of the Enterprise, everyone listened to everyone else. Everyone contributed. They had rules, but sometimes they broke those rules for the greater good. They helped each other out in times of crisis, and they never ignored one another's problems. They spoke to each other with the greatest respect and kindness. When they did have fights, they resolved them civilly and intelligently. Every night, the boy got to turn on the TV and see the best of what human beings could be.

All too soon, morning came and the boy dragged himself out of bed, choked down breakfast, and headed out to the school bus stop, where kids would make fun of his hair, his clothes, the fact that he wore glasses, whatever struck their fancy that morning. He'd get on that big, smelly bus and ride to school, where adults chided him for not staying awake in class, not remembering the previous assignment, not having the right attitude.

The boy smiled and bore it, because he remembered Picard, Riker, Data, Worf, Geordi, Troi, Dr. Crusher, and the others. He looked around and saw a world that didn't believe in itself, but he thought of the Enterprise and knew what they could become, and what he might someday be.