On the Internet, you can find preparation instructions for just about any emergency you can think of. That's good, since we're entering tornado season here in the Midwest. But I've discovered that in everyday life, there are so many more predictable, unavoidable things that nobody is ever prepared for. Fortunately, the only thing you'd need to pack into your emergency kit is awareness. And, according to your mom, some extra underwear. But mostly awareness. For example, most people are woefully unprepared to handle things like ...
5Someone Else's Illness
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Most of us are prepared for our own impending illness because we know our bodies and what we can handle when we turn into human petri dishes. We know how much work we can handle, how much time we can afford to miss, how long we can go without performing professional wrestling moves on our unsuspecting pets. We can make those financial and physical adjustments on the fly and go on living after it's passed. But when our kids, parents, or spouses get sick, it's a whole other awful universe.
"I tried telling her to man up, but it didn't seem to work. At this point, I'm out of options."
In her younger years, my daughter had huge problems with dehydration when she got sick. She wouldn't drink anything -- we couldn't even force feed her. Not even those Popsicle things that all parents say do the trick. She was hospitalized three times from it, and every time, our world stopped. When you're in that situation, your entire life becomes focused on that moment, making sure that your child gets through it safely. Everything else can wait.
When it happens to a parent, the kids now have to take over their own meals, getting their own homework and chores finished with minimal or nonexistent guidance ... which usually means it doesn't get done. It's the same with business. How many times have you arrived at work and seen a manager bouncing around in chaos as she tries to lure some poor sucker in to cover someone else's shift? Yes, getting sick yourself shuts down your week, but it's hard to remember that it does the same to the worker who has to cancel all of his plans on his only day off in order to make sure your shift gets covered. Or the single mom who now has to skip work in order to take care of her kids. Or the magician who has to find another assistant for tonight's show because the mosquito trick gave his last one malaria.
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"This is what I like to call the 'handful of rattlesnakes' trick."
It always comes out of the blue, because how insane would you have to be to constantly monitor someone else's chances of catching a virus? But when it does happen, it sends out a shockwave of disruption that can travel a pretty impressive distance. You will undoubtedly be one of the affected people, and if you're not prepared for it, it will blindside you like your grandma's left hook when you try to turn off her Oprah.
At my wife's job, she has to look at people's bank statements. I don't know why -- I just always assumed her job was "money thief." Regardless of what she actually does or steals, one of the most common things she finds in financially troubled cases is a $500 cellphone bill. And we're not talking about families with three or four phones -- these are single college students in their early 20s working part-time jobs. Part of the reason is that we live in a weird area where we don't have much selection in companies and coverage is spotty. So going to the neighboring town often puts you into roaming. But even more damning is that the fine print for seemingly cheaper plans often goes ignored.
On my wife's cellphone, she once went over a certain bandwidth on her "unlimited" plan, and they throttled her download speeds so much that it was virtually unusable. Again, it was all spelled out in the fine print, but the problem is that it's almost always a mile long and filled with indecipherable legal jargon. So much so, in fact, that the people selling you the product may not even be trying to trick you into a sale when they answer your questions incorrectly. They just can't decode the lingo because they don't have a legal degree.
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"Yes, as far as I know, you never have to pay for it as long as you live. I think that's what 0 percent financing means."
It's why TV and radio commercials have that ridiculously fast, quietly spoken jumble of nonsense at the end. And when we slow those down (by law), they become ridiculous parodies of themselves. Even Googling the terms "medication commercials side effects" gives you page after page of comedy sites making fun of them.
But without forcing companies to make things like the terms of car leases painfully clear and honest, they simply wouldn't. And since no one wants to find out at the end of a lease that you can't paint your car to look like the bus from The Partridge Family, we insist that they make good with the fine print. And you always have to be on the lookout for the less obvious things so you don't get taken advantage of. That's where we get comedy goldmines like Macy's infamous "Worst Coupon Ever Made."