Failed to Find Sunshine Square (Part 1)

Well readers, I didn’t want to reveal exactly when I was going to New York with my family, just as a precaution in case someone was merely reading my blog to figure out when they could come to our house and rob us. But the day after I published my previous post began the three days in a row of work, and the trip began that Thursday. Overall, the trip was a success. Hamilton was absolutely fabulous, and so was the weather! We brought jackets along because we couldn’t imagine warm weather when it was below freezing when we left Wisconsin. But we really only needed them after dark as during the day on Thursday and Friday, the temperature was in the sixties! Our flight home went without a hitch, and we even arrived about ten minutes early. And most thrilling of all for me, I lost three pounds on the trip! My dad half-joked that for my sake, we should travel more often! But from a spiritual perspective, I behaved terribly on this trip. I really loved the notion of finding Sunshine Square, but when I was actually faced with annoyances on the trip, and even at work the three days before the trip, I just couldn’t. I suppose I would have regretted missing the opportunity to see Hamilton live in New York City, or the chance to be in the audience for a taping of The Late Show with Steven Colbert Thursday afternoon, I slept better Sunday night when we had arrived home than I had all that week and as I returned to work Monday March 18, I couldn’t remember when I had last felt more relieved to have a weekend behind me.

Monday March 11 at work was uneventful, and reasonably productive with four of my six clients for that day answering the phone for their appeals. But Tuesday morning, my first two clients cancelled their appointments with me. The third and fourth clients kept their appointments, but toward the end of the fourth appointment, the internet went down. Every now and then, the Social Security web site will go down briefly, but usually works again if you just press the refresh button and re-enter the re-entry number of the client you were working with. But when I hit refresh, it still wasn’t working, and when I quickly tried a different web site, it didn’t load either, so that’s how I figured out it wasn’t just a glitch with Social Security’s web site. The whole internet was down. I told the client I would call her back in ten minutes, thinking this was just a temporary glitch. I am not an expert in computers, but even at home, sometimes the internet will just go down for no apparent reason, but if you just unplug the modem for a minute and allow things to reset, it is back up and running again relatively quickly. To make a long story short, the managers reset the modem but when that didn’t work, they called the cable company, and that’s how we found out that the internet wasn’t just down for us. The whole city lost internet access when a contractor doing utility work severed an underground cable that transmits the internet to the whole city!The cable company said it would be awhile before this was repaired, and in the meantime, connected our firm to some kind of back-up network, but the connection was so spotty it wasn’t worth using. I called the client back and explained the situation. I was able to finish the appeal with her without the internet. All we had left were a few yes/no questions, and because I have been doing appeals so long, I know the questions without having them in front of me. I typed her responses on my braille notetaker, and told her that I would officially enter them and submit her appeal tomorrow when hopefully the internet would be back up and running. All the case managers who handle clients at the hearing level went home early because everything they do requires internet access, and the boss gave me permission to go home early too. I thought about calling my last two appointments and writing their responses on my braille notetaker to copy the next day as well, but I often need to Google an address or phone number for a medical provider or agency during these appeals, which of course requires the internet, and I felt like writing down the name of the doctor or agency I needed to Google the next day, and then calling the client back to confirm the address on top of the regular appointments I would still have the next day would just make life too complicated. So before going home, I had to call the other clients and explain the situation, but let them know I couldn’t even reschedule them at that time because the Google spreadsheet I use for scheduling required the internet! Usually I would be delighted to get out of work early due to a situation out of my control like a power outage, or in this case, an internet disruption. It is the adulthood equivalent of a snowday. But for some reason, I wasn’t seeing the silver lining at all in this case. In fact, I was furious and it was all I could do to maintain my professional demeanor and not scream. After finishing the appeal with the fourth client, I decided to eat my lunch, hoping that maybe by some miracle, the internet would be back up and running in time for my 2:00 appointment. I couldn’t clock out of course because our timeclock system is also web-based, so I made a note of the time I left for lunch to e-mail the payroll person later. In the breakroom, I asked one of the partners, who had more to lose with this disruption than I did, “are there consequences for contractors that cause a disruption like this? Can they be slapped with a huge fine or something?” It was partially a legitimate question, but also an angry thirst for vengeance. “It was probably just an accident. What are you going to do?” the partner said, clearly taking everything in stride better than I was that day. I think I was furious because I enjoy the usual routine of having Tuesdays off to go to bible study with my mom and our neighbor, come home to a hot bowl of soup for lunch and then enjoy a quiet restful afternoon before choir. I had accepted that every now and then, it is necessary to break with this routine for a special event, which the opportunity to see Hamilton was, but it infuriated me that I had to miss my usual routine for a work day that wasn’t even productive. Even though this unproductive day was due to a situation out of my control, I also had a little anxiety that I would be judged for this lack of productivity that I wouldn’t be able to make up for by coming in Thursday or Friday because of the trip. Had the internet been working, I would have been able to complete appeals with four clients, but because of this contractor, only one appeal could be fully submitted that day. In the old days, this was the kind of day I would have comforted myself with something delicious like maybe a warm chocolate chip cookie, but I stayed strong because I could tell I wasn’t really hungry for a cookie. I was just hungry for this week to be behind me already, so I reminded myself that time flies, and this time next week, the previous annoying week would be a distant memory. Mom was glad I was able to get off early because it allowed us extra time to figure out what to wear on the trip. That evening I went to choir rehearsal but since we were solely focusing on a Mozart requiem that we would perform as a free community concert April 7, and since I wasn’t used to going to work on Tuesdays anymore, I could barely stay awake during rehearsal, and to top it all off, toward the end of rehearsal, I felt a migraine coming on. Fortunately due to the mentally exhausting nature of the Mozart requiem we were rehearsing, the choir director has been ending rehearsal at 9:00 instead of 9:30 this semester, and that week especially, I really appreciated getting home a little earlier to eat some applesauce, take Ibuprofen and go straight to bed.

The next morning started out well. When I woke up, my headache was gone and I was able to get to work a few minutes early and officially finish and submit the second appeal from the day before. The internet was back up and running! I also had Gilbert with me so that I could hand him over to my friend and coworker who was going to dogsit while I was away, and just having him next to me to reach down and pet between appeals lifts my spirits. All three of my morning appeals answered, so that when I was ready to head for lunch, I was pleased that maybe I was going to be able to redeeme myself from yesterday with a productive day today. But when I stood up to head for lunch, I did the stupidest, most clumsy move ever. I had my right hand resting on the arm of my desk chair as I stood up, but I guess I didn’t scoot the chair far enough away from the desk, and I pinched the middle and ring fingers of my right hand between the desktop and the chair! It kind of hurt, but I didn’t think anything of it until I arrived at the breakroom and noticed I was bleeding! So I had to put lunch on hold and go wash my hand with soap and water, and then my friend found bandaids for each finger. Thank goodness it wasn’t my index finger, my braille reading finger that was injured, so this injury didn’t hinder my productivity in the afternoon, but it still put me in a bad mood, and made me wonder if it was a bad omen for how the trip was going to go. All three of my afternoon appeals answered too, which lifted my spirits again knowing that my last day of work before vacation was productive. The only drawback to having everyone scheduled for that day answer was that I was hoping I could have squeezed in the two afternoon appointments that I wasn’t able to do the day before, and then I would have felt totally redeemed before the trip. But that didn’t end up working out. In fact, I ended up staying half an hour late just finishing the last appeal because it was a more complicated case with a record number of medications I had to enter. But as long as I was already leaving half an hour late, I stayed a few more minutes and left voicemails with those two clients letting them know the internet was back up and running and I hadn’t forgotten about them. I would call them back Monday if they didn’t hear from their case managers before then. Then I handed Gilbert over to my friend. She usually stays later than I do, but because I had to stay late, we left at the same time. I was sad to part with Gilbert as I always am before a trip, but also excited to have this friend care for him, as she has a special affinity for senior dogs, so I knew she would pamper him and give him a lot more attention than he gets at the kennel where I usually send him. But after this long day, my brain was fried, and I could feel another headache coming on. Of all the Wednesday nights I would have loved to just come home, relax over dinner and look forward to sleeping in Thursday morning, that night would have been it. But I couldn’t relax, as we still had last minute things to pack, and Dad said we needed to leave by 5:00 the next morning at the latest. It was already almost 8:00 by the time I got home from work that night, so if I were smart, I knew I should get to bed in just an hour if I wanted to feel well the next day, but given the sedentary nature of the work I do, I have to exercise, and I still had things to pack. Mom made a wonderful pot of turkey vegetable soup, but to be honest, I enjoyed it more when we got home from the trip and pulled it out of the freezer. After I had exercised and it was time to pack my carry-on bag, I was overcome with this strange anxiety that the way the week was going, my bag would get lost or damaged somehow on the trip. Therefore, I decided not to bring my braille notetaker and take paper braille magazines instead. It made sense to use the backpack I use for work as my carry-on as I am familiar with its layout, and it fits my stuff well. But if this favorite backpack got lost or damaged, it sure would be a pain to figure out an alternative Monday when we got home. I wanted to just leave it at home, unscathed and ready for Monday morning when life would return to normal. I tried putting everything in the big purse I used for job interviews, but by the time I packed my oatmeal, roasted seaweed for a healthy snack or emergency meal, my phone and keyboard so I could text my friend and ask how Gilbert was doing, there wasn’t really room for the magazines. Mom looked in the basement for another backpack, but said she couldn’t find anything suitable and said I was being ridiculous, which I now admit was true. So grudgingly, I packed up the backpack I use at work, and then went to bed, but couldn’t sleep at all. So as much as I hate to admit it, the truth is, the combination of petty annoyances, and my anxiety about travel that I let get the better of me meant that I was just in such a bad mood I couldn’t even think about God or Sunshine Square, and the trip hadn’t even begun.

Published by Allison Nastoff

As I write this in 2020, I am 30 years old. I am blind, and Gilbert was my first guide dog. He passed away on December 2, 2020, but I decided to keep the title for my blog as a tribute to him because he will always hold a special place in my heart. In 2012, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication with a journalism emphasis, and went back to school for a Paralegal certificate in 2014. I worked for five years at a Social Security disability firm. When the pandemic hit, I did some reflecting and decided to resign from this job and take seminary courses. My dream is a career as a teacher or writer where I can be a blessing to others.

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