Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Overdue preparations

Today I made two critical but long, long overdue purchases: A cell phone and health insurance. One could potentially save my life; the other is health insurance. Since the newbies issued from the dorm en masse in pursuit of said items, I fell in with them, or rather, fell in with the Japanese assistants and spent most of the day translating and coordinating, which is where I feel most comfortable anyway, while also incidentally checking a few boxes myself.

Honestly, I have absolutely absurd amounts of insurance. I have MSP, a policy under my mother as a government employee, traveller's insurance, and probably some form of liability insurance from both my universities. It's only the traveller's insurance that sticks in my craw, though, because I specifically explained to my parents that I didn't need it because with everything else put together, I am covered up if I need a hip replacement or cybernetic implants.

To which they said, we'll just look into it for you, by which they meant take out a policy in my name. My first instinct was to phone and cancel the living shit out of it as soon as I got the confirmation e-mail, but I decided to at least hear what happened first. Why am I getting nailed for $900 of insurance I never wanted or asked for? Because I don't have $900. Don't worry, they assured me, we've got you covered. Well, fine. If that's what you're willing to pay for your own peace of mind, rock on.

I only later found out that by “got me covered” they meant that I could just pay them back as soon as I got my loan money. The loan money that would just barely cover my first semester. In fact, I was now stretched so thin I didn't have enough money to buy the mandatory government insurance! What irony. Wait, you have to buy into the national plan? Yes, you guys. I explained this.

“Then why did you get all that traveller's insurance?”

But really, Rude Boy, is it possible to have too much insurance? Yes. Of course it is. More than $1 million is too much insurance. Having to make such a large payment that it momentarily looks like you might run out of money and have to leave Japan is too much insurance. Look, I get it, this is basically an investment that, at some point in my life, I will probably have to make use of, but I can't get over the idea that you are paying huge amounts of money for literally nothing.

I only made it this far through frugality and ingenuity, part of which included not actually ever buying into the national plan as I am technically required to. But I always planned to once I had the money. Not because I feel I need it – I don't, in case that needs clearing up – but because I don't want to get a little note in my file for being an anarchic lawbreaker, a roving rebel who stops jaywalking just long enough to put burnable garbage into the recycling. I doubt it would actually cause a problem on my next visa application, but for 15,000 yen – they charged me retroactively starting in September, which I guess is just the price you pay, literally – it's worth it for the piece of mind. Hey, see what I did there?

Following the snake oil store was Yodobashi Camera. As I will be doing prepaid, I had only one phone to choose from, available in either black or Softbank white. I went with the black, because aesthetics, and because dirt. It's a fine piece of machinery, representing the absolute pinnacle of cell phone technology circa 2006. After falling so deeply in love with the Samsung Galaxy line, I feel silly and awkward clunking away at physical buttons. Writing a single mail is as painful and time-consuming as childbirth. The graphics are simplistic and lifeless. I have to open it to check my alerts. Looking back over a conversation entails manually scrolling through and opening dozens of previous individual mails, sometimes interrupted by messages from other people entirely. It'll do the job, though, and my Canadian phone can handle anything more intensive via Wi-Fi.

As soon as I got it in my hands, my new phone presented a problem, namely where to store it. My back-right pocket is occupied entirely by my wallet, so that's out; the normally empty back-left would seem to be the logical choice, but I knew from experience that alighting on even the softest seat would cause it to jab painfully into my ass. I gave the front-left a shot, sliding it in alongside my Galaxy and steadily shrinking pocket dictionary. Can I get at the new phone? In and out, no problem. Galaxy? Likewise. Dictionary? Um, not without removing everything else first. I finally settled on the front-right, which has heretofore borne only my camera. I was hoping to avoid this because having a phone in each pocket seems a little too symmetrical and lame, and also because I'm worried that positioning two cell phones in that particular arrangement might create a sort of electromagnetic gravity well and irradiate my testicles, rendering me sterile. Which I guess would actually be fine.

My ability to survive without a cellular telephone of any kind made me seriously question my need for one, but really, to have anywhere near the kind of social life I aspire to it's probably a necessity. It'll also save me that fun game that nobody else in the entire world has played since the late 1990s, where you wonder if the other person is early, or you're late, or you got the location wrong, or you missed each other and they already went to the venue already and you should go check it out, and maybe you should go stand over there instead to make yourself more visible, and goddamn it you'll wait five more minutes and after that you're cutting your losses and finding something else to do.

One drawback to my new communicative capabilities is that I can no longer avoid people by using the excuse that I don't have my phone. “Oh, yeah, everybody would have loved for you to be there! That's really too bad! Next time!” I really was using that as an excuse for never socializing with anybody in the dorm, and disappearing for hours (days) at a time. I guess now I'll just have to get really bad at answering text messages, and maybe sometimes forget my phone at home.

As soon as I finally got it set up, I fired off a Facebook status announcing my new wired status and calling for people to send me a message with their own contact details. Predictably, I received a bunch of timely responses, but all from people I hate.  


  1. “One could potentially save my life; the other is health insurance.” That line made me laugh harder than the reality of it should. That aside, it is hard to appreciate insurance plans when you don't receive much or anything at all for all the money that you're paying for it. Though I have to admit, I breathe a sigh of relief that I have a bunch of policies for personal health and for my home should unforeseen disasters strike.

    1. Always happy to get laughs, regardless of the reason. And yeah, I know logically that it's a smarter gamble to have it and not use than need it and not have it...but since when are human beings logical. Of course I'm also probably a little bit spoiled, coming from a country with socialized medicine...

  2. One good thing about applying for an insurance plan is that you can have the sense of security over it. You don't have to worry about the bills when you need hospitalization because your insurance would cover it.

    1. You are absolutely right, of course, although it kind of defeats the point when you then up worrying about whether or not you can afford your insurance.