May 31st, 2010

complaining better than suffering

Cab driver fail

This happened a couple weeks ago but the cab fail posted here a bit ago reminded me I meant to post it. Letter format ahoy!

Dear cabbie,

I realize drivers on the DC Beltway are crazy. I realize they fly along at way above speed limit and like to honk and flip off angrily people who go the speed limit. This is not, however, an excuse for you going 95 MPH when the speed limit is 65. Oh sure, a little over is fine, but 30 mph over speed limit? Not cool.

And when I tell you to slow down, do not smirk at me and tell me you're just 'Keeping up with traffic.' Feel free to play Indy 500 on the Beltway when you're alone in the car, but when I'm paying you to get me from point A to point B safely, I call the shots. So slow the fuck down and quit acting like I'm being a fucking prude for not wanting to die in a fiery ball of doom thanks to your Mario Andretti dreams.

No love,

Ancient insurance boggle

Recent posts about insurance companies reminded me of this episode of bad service, which happened about 25 years ago.

I was slightly injured in a car accident and treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, Phoenix, Arizona. When I received all the bills, I sent them in to my insurance company.

Which proceeded to pay Hospital of the Good Samaritan, in Pasadena, California.

And insist that since they had made a payment, it was no longer their problem.

And the hospital that had been paid refused to return the money until I could "prove" that I had never been treated there.

I ended up mailing copies of the bills and a notarized statement to the effect of "I swear under penalty of perjury that I was in the emergency room in Phoenix, Arizona, at this date and time and therefore could not have been treated in your emergency room in Pasadena, California, so please return the money" to the other hospital to get them to refund the insurance company, so that the insurance could pay the right hospital.

All told, it took about six months of phone calls, collection calls, collection calls referred to the insurance company, letters, and aggravation.

Is this a cultural thing?

It is now almost June 1st and I still haven't managed to get any information out of the only person who knows enough about US-based loans to help me at the school I plan to attend this fall in the UK, meaning I still don't know for sure I'm attending because I have yet to receive word if I'm actually going to be able to pay for school. A second school, which also offered me a conditional acceptance, has likewise had their international department be difficult to get ahold of - their general inquiries team replies within 24-48 hours of my sending an email (which is excellent given the time differences), and the department offering the course within a few days, but the international people refuse to reply to either me or the general inquiries people who forwarded my email.

I am absolutely livid at the situation. It is almost JUNE. Here in the US this stuff should have been worked out by December - and it's not my doing, as I applied back in September, got my FAFSA in the day after I filed my taxes, and have been emailing every few weeks (and calling a few times - calling got me "I think I can waive the deposit because we can't accept loans until you get here, let me talk to some people, and also, let me do some research" a month ago with no reply to emails since then). This is fucking ridiculous. I'm not even sure I WANT to attend university anymore - but I kind of need to, as my undergraduate degree (I have GRADUATED while all this shit was still up in the air!!) is pretty much useless for making any kind of money.

Is there any reason I shouldn't be fucking pissed off by now? Because if there's some reason nobody can tell me anything about school in the UK before the month I'm supposed to be moving there, I'll try to make accommodations and stop pestering people, but...

(Recap: I live in the US, thankfully on the east coast so the time difference is less horrid than it should be; I'm trying to attend a one-year post-graduate taught programme in the UK, but I need to pay for it with student loans, which the US government claims I am eligible for but that I have to contact the school itself to find out how much money I can get from the government to pay for schooling. Also, US-based loans all disburse directly to the institution, whereas apparently in the UK they give the student the money and you then give it to the school. If I can't get them to figure out how to accept the loans the lenders claim they should be able to accept based on a list of approved international schools the government puts out, I can't attend their programme, period. Since I also need to secure student housing, I have a vested interest in solving this, you know, before the last minute possible. Once it's settled that I'm going, to get a visa I have to borrow even MORE money so I have it on hand; I don't want to borrow living expenses if I won't be travelling after all.)


It doesn't make much sense to me either, guys, but that's how US federal student aid works. From the application website:

How do I receive financial aid?
The schools to which you are applying use the information from your SAR to determine your eligibility for financial aid. The financial aid office at your school will prepare a financial aid package to help meet your financial need. Financial need is the difference between your school's cost of attendance (including living expenses) and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
The amount of your financial aid award depends on several factors, including whether:
You're a full-time or part-time student
You attend school for a full academic year or less
You believe you have unusual circumstances such as unusual medical or dental expenses
Your financial aid will be paid to you through your school. Typically, your school will first use the aid to pay tuition, fees, and room and board (if provided by the school). Any remaining aid is given to you for your other expenses.

^ Despite sounding like it's coming from the school, the loans I've applied for are federal loans, grants, and work-study (it all has one giant application, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA).

Also relevant:

What if I’m attending (or planning to attend) a foreign school that does not have a Federal School Code, but is eligible to receive Title IV aid?
Enter the code for a U.S.- based school that you would not mind sending your information to. (This is because you must enter at least one code on the FAFSA.)
When you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) you will need to send it, or a copy of it, to the foreign school’s financial aid officer responsible for handling financial aid for American students.
Follow any additional instructions from the financial aid office at the school.
If you are unsure if your school is eligible to receive Title IV aid, contact your school’s financial aid office.
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