I’ll be honest. I was after the gift card.
Fifty dollars, Amazon.com—that’s a lot of music. I teach a spin class each week. That’s an exercise class on stationary bicycles. The music is an important part of the experience. And I’ve been wanting to upgrade my music library for months now. But my pay for the class is low, barely more than minimum wage. And while I’m not looking to get rich teaching the one class per week, I don’t want to lose money on it either.
The offer: Give us a call, we’ll send you an Amazon gift card. This flyer was from my medical insurance company. Fifty dollars for a phone call is a pretty good wage—that’s something like forty songs. Plus, they’re giving away a service for free—well not free, I pay for my insurance, but at no additional charge.
Here’s the deal: Through my insurance, I’m able to talk with a “guide” once per week in an effort to improve some aspect of my physical or mental health. This sounds like nonsense, right? A useless waste of time. Just another way for my insurance company to spend the money I send them each month.
My cynical theory: A provision of the Affordable Care Act limits insurers’ profits. The insurers may only retain 20% of the premiums they charge for services. Rather than lower rates, which will reduce the size (in dollars) of their 20% profit margin, the companies simply add services to ensure that they spend the 80%. The more they spend, the more they make.
Each Tuesday morning at 8:00, I talk with “Molly” for about twenty minutes. I don’t believe that’s really her name. I think it’s been selected because it sounds comforting. Molly, Amy, Josie: these are women you want to chat with. Pamela sounds pretty. Elizabeth sounds sterile. Margaret sounds brutish. It’s easy to manipulate an expectation with a name. I wonder what feelings “Jeff” elicits.
So what can be achieved in twenty minutes? I spent years in therapy while I was trying to understand the OCD and anxiety that left me agitated all the time. Angry and unfocused—that’s how I described myself. Therapy was effective but also exhausting. Every session seemed about twenty minutes too long. I was talked out, but I needed to plug along; get my money’s worth. That shit’s expensive.
But my twenty minute guide discussions leave me hungry for more. I get a taste of progress. I look forward to my next talk with Molly. We’re talking about social anxiety. That’s my biggest (only?) problem remaining. Together we craft strategies to make me more comfortable in various social situations. And so far, it’s working. My comfort level around people, strangers and friends, has sky-rocketed.
My only problem with this service is I don’t know what to call it. Not therapy, she’s a chiropractor. Calling her my guide seems too new age. Like we’re going to take peyote together. I’ve taken to calling it life-coaching. “I have my life-coaching session tomorrow morning. It sounds sophisticated, and it’s fairly accurate. She’s coaching, I’m doing the drills. I respond well to this sort of relationship. I’m willing to put in the work.
Now about that Amazon gift card: Susan found a book; Eli got throwing knives; Sophie ordered guitar strings; and I bought two songs. Things rarely work out the way I expect.