Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Legal Aid -take one

I didn't get to call Legal Aid yesterday, owing to the rigors of my weird little job, but I called today. The first time I called must have been while they were at lunch. I was given a phone menu for options and wound up thinking I should press the number corresponding to apply for Legal Aid. This put me on hold, but then I remembered it was probably their lunch hour and exactly how long was I going to hold. It just made good sense to call back.

On the second try a couple of hours later, I got the answering message. I could either dial my party's extension, try the directory or press another number if I was the victim of domestic violence. Jesus, that made me feel like shit. Not only am I not involved in any domestic violence, but I'm trying to compete against people who are. This is a messy custody/visitation case. Nobody is beating anybody up. It just feels that way.

I had no idea what to do, so I hung up, then called back. Maybe I missed the mention of the extension to apply for aid. Nope. Same thing. I punched for the directory and was asked to dial in the last name of who I was trying to reach. Huh? I hung up, then dialed again. I was just going to wait them out and see what happened if I made no selection, but just hung on the line.

Eventually, I was sent to someones voice mail. The audio was bad. I couldn't quite make out her name. I left a message, explaining that I was seeking aid. She could call me back if she wanted to. I considered what number to leave, but settled on my office number. I spend more time there during business hours and can usually be reached. I have a cell phone, but I'm prone to leaving it in the car, in the charger, in the bathroom...

I didn't like doing that. There's a chance I won't be at my desk if someone calls and someone else will pick up. I'm not ashamed of going to court. It's probably long overdue, actually, but I am a little ashamed at having to ask for assistance like this. It's not the first time I've ever had to ask for something I would figure should be within my means. Back in 2000, following my children's relocation to Baltimore, I started having chest pains, shortness of breath and headaches. I suspected these were anxiety attacks, but I was in pretty sad shape. I was worried I was pushing toward a heart attack at age 30.

I worked for a radio station, which should tell you whether I could afford health insurance and where some of the stress came from. A minister and rabble rouser who worked with the local union mission used to do a minute long non-denominational audio piece about basically being decent to other people and to yourself. I asked him about their free clinic.

He told me I was welcome. I went, the doctor had a look at me then sent me off for some tests. I was right. It was stress. He told me to drop some weight, get some exercise and relax. I took the message to heart, started going to the gym more, cut out the smoking (for a while) and ate less pasta (though it was cheap).

I still felt pretty bad about using the free clinic until a paramedic friend of mine sort of put it in perspective. He told me a lot of people use the system to take advantage. In his case, he was talking about people using the medical system to try and get high or get drugs they could sell. All I wanted was to not die.

That's not a bad thing to want, he said.

So, I guess that's how I'm trying to apply this. I'm not trying to abuse the system. I'm just trying to get it to work like it's supposed to.


Anonymous said...

I hate those types of phone answering systems. Even small towns have them for services.

Jay said...

If you're going to Legal Aid over the blog thing, you can forget it. They're not going to help you.

Your biggest obstacle with them is that you're vagina-less (I'm guessing).

Other than money, give the plaintiff what they want and move on would be my advice.

It's the battery.