A sign of the end time

Well, it came.

I don’t know how to feel about it.

I could grump that I’m old, or rejoice that I’ve lived this long.

I got my Medicare card this week.

I don’t understand it all, actually. The card says I have Part A and Part B, both. Maybe if I live long enough, I’ll get the other 24 letters of the alphabet. I hope at some point I’m writing to tell you I got Medicare Part T.

On the other hand, it would be scary to get Medicare Part Z, wouldn’t it? Like, that’s the end. Call the undertaker.

The card itself — the long-dreaded Medicare card? I thought it would be fancier. More solid. At least plastic. But as far as I can tell, it’s nothing more than a dumb old business-card-sized rectangle of paper. Yeah, it’s heavier than newsprint, but it’s not even as sturdy as the stuff they used to stick behind photographs when they mailed them to you, I mean back when we made photographs, I mean back when we mailed things.

Laminate it, maybe? Zip down to Staples, in Danvers, and let them preserve it like a valuable specimen under what amounts to see-through hot-glue? Actually, yes, it’s legal, and doable; but the government website advises that lamination might render as “unscannable” the official number on your card. And this being the 21st century, scanability is everything. (I understand there’s an app now that can scan a leaf and tell you what kind of plant is growing in your garden. If you can’t scan your Aquilegia canadensis, then forget about those lovely columbine in your garden. They’re toast. Maybe they’re columbine-flavored toast, but they’re toast.)

I shudder to think of the ways a plain old paper card could be despoiled. I look at even my sturdy Institution for Savings debit card, only five measly years old or so, and it’s battered like a veteran of foreign wars. Imagine having to use my cheap paper Medicare card in an ATM. It would be like feeding toilet paper instead of dollar bills into a Coke machine. You’re not going to get your Coke.

The official Medicare webpage, MyMedicare.gov, says I can replace my card if it’s damaged or lost. I just sign in to my  account and print an official copy of my card! To me — someone who grew up in a world where you practically needed Simon & Schuster to produce a coloring book — this advice seems quite cavalier. If I can print my own official Medicare card, what did I need the government for in the first place? They could have just texted me my official number, right? When I go to the doctor, I show the receptionist my number, they plug it in to their computer, and voilà! No need for me to carry around a cheap paper card at all. It’s not safe to entrust government paperwork to a doddering old chump, which is what I feel like when I look at this dang card.

Yes, I’m exaggerating, of course. I’m still quite young and vital. Still charming and attractive. Feeling pretty good about myself, actually. After all, what about the hearing aids, the bifocals, the TMJ night appliance, the arch supports, the thyroid medication, the stool softener, the acid reflux, the testosterone deficiency, the sexual dysfunction, the tendonitis, the sciatica, the high blood pressure, the high cholesterol, the hernia surgery scar, the nose hairs, the ear hairs, the pot belly, the memory loss, the farting, the bad breath, and the man-boobs is there not to love?

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, next door to a cemetery, to make it simpler when the end comes. Follow his shenanigans at Outsidah.com, and his serious work at NewThing.net.

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