Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Parking, Violations, and Vera

Note: some of the names and/or genders of individuals and/or facilities mentioned in this blog post have been changed to respect their privacy and protect them from retaliation from the social media community. Nouns that have been changed will be marked with an asterisk (*).

Well, if there is anything I learned from last week from the Lerner* Medical Center, is that their parking strategy  is completely not the same as my hospital system.

Case in point: whenever I have to go to the emergency room at the main campus of my hospital system, their parking direction works like this:

You get a ticket, or pass, from the machine at the main parking garage.  You park in their emergency room garage spots.  You go into the ER.  You get treated.  You get discharged.  You show the nurses station your ticket.  You get a validation stamp on your ticket.  You go back into your car.  You pull up to the attendant and give them your validated ticket.  The gate opens, and you're free to go. 

Now, how fucking hard is that?  It's not.

Lerner, meanwhile, has a different approach.

I will say this: Lerner Medical Center is a beast of a hospital. Its biggest rival, the Cleveland Clinic, has just as much leverage, if not more, than Lerner does throughout the Northeast Ohio region. So as I was driving up to this beast of a hospital called Lerner, this autistic brat was a bit intimidated by the big buildings, flashy signs, and folks who apparently lose their ability to operate a motor vehicle.
I saw the entrance to the parking garage, and did my usual: got a ticket, parked my car, and widdled to the ER (yeah, I was in pain that morning).  As the day progressed, and in between getting my tests done, being told I needed to see an OB /GYN specialist as an outpatient, and then having a moment and consented to being admitted to the spa resort, I asked probably the most important question of all:

"So, um. Where do I go to get my parking validated?"

The two nurses looked at each other while the three of us were in my ER bay. One of them chirped:

"Didn't you have Valet park your car?"

"Valet?" I asked. "Hell no! Why the hell would I pay for valet parking?"

The other nurse jumped in. "Valet parks your car, and if you are admitted into the hospital, your parking is free, courtesy of the valet.  If you parked your car in the garage, you have to pay the full price to the attendant."

I swear to fucking unf that I am not making this shit up.

"What the hell?" I panicked. "That's not how that works at my hospital!" As I ended up explaining the procedure.

"Well, maybe you can get a discount from the parking office when you are discharged," said the first nurse.

Yeah, no. Time for a commercial break.

So, instead of trying to calm the fuck down and focus solely on how to get rid of this toothy bastard dermoid cyst, I had to worry about how in the got damn fuck am I going to pay for this parking blunder. For my car to be stuck in that garage per day was ten dollars. So from Friday morning to Wednesday evening, the Madamobile had to wait for her Mastress (gender-neutral owner of a slave, heh) to come and get her. Poor child of mine.

Every damn day I kept asking how my parking ticket was going to be validated to almost every single member of the Spa Resort staff at Chesterdon* Hospital. And every time, I never got the same answer. Finally, on discharge day, Dr. Blum*, the unit's main doctor, had Kevin*, the social worker, write a letter to the parking office at Lerner explaining my circumstances. At least I had some backup to fight whatever the hell the parking garage would charge me for.

When I reunited with the Madamobile, it was like a person reuniting with their spouse after a long and difficult business trip. Yes, my car means the world to me, so there. I then made the trek to the parking attendant's gate to plead my case.

The attendant was really nice. She told me she would phone the supervisor inside Lerner to come out and help me. She then disappeared and came back about seven minutes later.

"Yeah, I got some bad news. The supervisor didn't want to come down. I don't know why, he just
didn't want to budge," explained the attendant.

Why that lazy sumbitch supervisor. Really?!

The attendant then had this to say (paraphrased): "Tell you what: I'm going to give you a new bill.  Take that to the parking office tomorrow and ask to speak to the supervisor about it."

I nodded in agreement. I then took a look at the "new bill". Sixty-five dollars. Five dollars for a fee and the rest was per diem.

There was no got damn way I was going to pay this bill. I mean, Lerner didn't even have a sign BEFORE the parking garage entrance, notifying drivers about the opportunity to use their valet and end up with free parking if you were admitted.  So, how in the fuck was I supposed to know?  How in the fuck would any newcomer to Lerner's emergency room supposed to know?

I drove back the next day, and I parked in the garage again. The first 30 minutes are free. I wanted to see how well I can get this settled without having to pay at all.

Going into the main building of Lerner Medical Center from the parking garage was easy. It's when I got inside that baffled the fuck out of me. Each walkway had a name and a color scheme all of its own. For example, LMC Way* had a pathway that was red in color, Polinsky Way* had its pathway blue, Cooper Foster Park Way* was green, and so on. I was like: "do each 'way' has its own parking office?"

So, I made up my mind at that point. Fuck the ways and colors and shit. I'm asking for help.

A doctor and two nurses were gracious enough to point me exactly where I had to go; the parking office. It was on LMC Way, heh. I was able to walk up to the cashier and hand her my bill and that letter Kevin wrote for me.

"Everybody pays for parking garage, no exceptions," the cashier groaned.

Oh, no she didn't.

"I had no idea that the valet service was free. It was not even posted anywhere near the parking garage. And I didn't get told about this until after I was already in the ER bay."
In the same droll, the cashier blurted, "Lerner doesn't operate the parking garage, a contractor does. They're the ones who make up the rules."

"Ma'am, I don't have sixty-five dollars to pay for a parking bill that would be free anywhere else. I am on disability. There's no way I can afford this. I...."

As my voice trailed off, the cashier snatched the bill out of my hand and circled "paid" on it.

"There you go. Have a nice day."

"Thank you so much."

That moment of joy went to the side as I remembered that my thirty minutes is almost up.  I ran back to the car and headed to the garage gate. To my surprise, the attendant who served me the day before was serving me again. She was happy when I told her that I got my bill settled. And when I gave her the ticket, I had four minutes left before having to pay two dollars. The attendant lifted the gate, and I went home.

Moral of the story? Fight for your rights. Be a self-advocate. Take no shit and give no fucks.

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