Last week (and part of this week), I got to have a lot of downtime whether I wanted it or not. I slipped on a wet patch on the kitchen floor, and bounced myself off the counter and stove before falling heavily on a shoulder. The bruising is, even by ER nurse standards, “spectacular.” (Thanks Brad, for covering Sunday!)
Given work requires lots of typing and being fairly thoughtful, one arm in a sling and being pretty spacey on painkillers won’t cut it. (Typing this took a lot longer than you think.) So there’s been a lot of time on the couch, and contemplating how this would be perfect downtime for getting X, Y, and Z done, if only they didn’t take physical effort or concentration…
Since I get paid by the hour, this means no paycheck for me for a week, combined with the ER, X-ray, and associated bills. (It’s January; the deductibles are all freshly unmet.) While this sounds like a disaster out of time and season, I’ve known two massage therapists that have had similar medical issues happen, and ended up with no income and medical bills piled on fresh misery. (One started getting carpal tunnel; the other other broke her arm when an ATV rolled over on her.) Writers are freelancers just like masseurs – and if our wrists, arms, or other body parts are injured enough, there won’t be any working.
Bad luck? Well, yeah. Completely unpredictable? Well no, not really. Insurance companies are great believers in getting All The Data, and using it to predict just how often the average person will need the ER, or have a house fire, or get in a car wreck. They then start breaking down humanity into smaller and smaller groups, to calculate the risk to each group… not unlike we break the great mass of English-speakers down into “People who like milscifi” and “People who like clean romance.” Given data, they can say that single men under 25 years old are far, far more likely to have car wrecks than married male homeowners in their 50’s… and be right.
They cannot say that Joe Blow, a 21-year-old single male, at 2:15am January 31, 2017, on his way home from The Wild Time Saloon, will cross the center line and hit a semi carrying a highly classified experiment from one lab to another. That’s science fiction, and our story is probably more concerned with the nature of the experiment, and what happens after it escapes.
But they can predict just how often I’m likely to end up in the ER. (Not often. I didn’t get lost on the way, I just didn’t know where it was. So we drove up to the hospital complex, and from there they had Big Signs For Panicked People.)
Anyway, sitting here, I realized that I have two important pieces of data to share with you. One: before you get to talking about copays and insurance rates and all, at the base, ERs are still about a thousand dollars an hour. Spend 30 minutes in one, expect $500 in bills (x-rays billed separately.)
Second, accidents happen. Cat underfoot happens. So do wet floors, splattering grease, kid toys underfoot in the dark, dull knives slipping, and all the other ordinary disasters. Even if you’re not a full time freelancer, expect that you’re going to get hit by something, and set aside the money for it. Injury is painful and stressful enough without worrying about covering bills because you can’t make it into work, and you just got hit with unbudgeted expenses.
How much to put aside? Well, I know of one place in the US that has a completely transparent billing: the surgery center of Oklahoma. http://surgerycenterok.com/ So take a look there, and contemplate what you bet will go wrong with you next. (And here everyone under 25 goes “I’m immortal and invincible!” and the further away 25 is in your rear view mirror, the more you start checking off procedures on that list as “been there” or “will need eventually.”)
The good news: unlike massage therapists, when you’re down for the count, readers can still find your books and buy them, providing some income. So the more you have out there, the more you’ll have coming in even when your highest ambition is to find some position that doesn’t press on the injury so you can sleep.
Take care of yourselves! Use proper ergonomics, give your eyes a break at regular intervals, stay hydrated, keep moving, and put away some money for a painful day.
..and if you need something to read while you’re stuck on the couch, Tom Rogneby just released Lost Children, which is darned fine sword & sorcery. I liked it; hope you do, too!