I don’t think it’s entirely fair or accurate to say that Obamacare launched us on this tour, but you could say it played a part. You could maybe go so far as to call it something of a tipping point.
Last December, a meeting was held for the adjunct professors at Arapahoe College. Most of the meeting was devoted to updates in the grading software, but then the Dean addressed us about some other upcoming changes. Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act would require any employer with 50 or more employees to provide healthcare to any employee working 30 hours or more per week. It was determined that, for adjunct teachers, that would translate as 12 credit hours of teaching classes. Since the community colleges did not want to assume that financial burden, it was decided that, effective the Fall of 2013, adjunct teachers would be limited to 11 credit hours of teaching (and since most classes were actually designated as 3 credit hours, many teachers faced the possibility of being restricted to only 3 such classes). But then it got better: many teachers were supplementing their teaching load by tutoring (or, in the case of music teachers, teaching private lessons). It was decided that these activities would be subjected to a formula and subsequently restricted as well. Moreover, while many teachers had been cobbling together something that resembled a full work load by teaching at more than one community college, it was further decided that these new restrictions would cover the Entire Colorado Community College System (thereby knocking out that option, as well).
By my reckoning, the college was basically saying, “We’ve never paid for your healthcare, and we don’t want to pay for your healthcare, so we’re going to restrict how much you can work, so you can continue to pay for your own healthcare, only with less money.” I called Pony immediately after leaving that meeting. I was so mad, I’m surprised I didn’t melt her phone while talking to her. Calmly, she replied, “Okay, then. Let’s go on the road.”
Last Thursday, we made it to Omaha, where I had a gig scheduled for Saturday night. Pony had booked us a spot at Lake Manawa, on the southern end of neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa. It is beautiful park, with electrical hookups, dumping stations, and all manner of other amenities.
On Friday, we took the yellow car (our yellow submarine) to do laundry and shopping. We had keyed “laundromat” into our TomTom GPS, and it took us to this strip mall in Southeast Omaha. There is no kind way to put this: it was a pretty seedy place. Half the washers and dryers were broken and unusable. Still, there were few enough customers, and we were able to find some working machines available.
As I proceeded to stuff dirty laundry into one of the machines, there was a guy slouching on a nearby chair. About four or five days of stubble connected his mutton chops, and neither body, hair, nor clothes looked as if they’d been washed in some time. He did not seem to have a load of laundry, but was more likely taking advantage of the air conditioning in the place. Then he reared up and let fly a big gob of spit in the middle of the floor.
“Hey,” I said, “there’s no excuse for that!”
“You don’t know where I’ve been, man,” he replied.
“I don’t care where you’ve been,” I said, “there’s no excuse for that. Show some respect!”
He mumbled something and laid down on a couple of the chairs.
There was a “No Frills Market” in the strip mall, so once we got all the laundry going, we decided to get some shopping done. In addition, the battery in the yellow car had been draining in a troubling way, and there was a car repair place in the same strip mall, so we figured to have that looked at, as well.
The car shop tested the battery and found it wasn’t holding a charge. We had no idea how old the battery was (for all we knew, it could still be the original battery), so we decided to get it replaced. Between the generator in the RV and battery, we were hoping this would take care of our power problems for awhile.
While shopping in the supermarket, I got concerned about leaving the laundry unattended for too long, so while Pony continued with the shopping, I decided to go check on the clothes. I got a candybar as an excuse to break a five for some more quarters. While going through the checkout lane, I saw my old buddy, the gob-spitter, now in cuffs and being led by a police officer; apparently caught shoplifting. A store manager was following behind, saying, “You picked the wrong store for that kind of action!”
Welcome to Omaha.
Next: The Pizza Shoppe Collective (and “have you seen our cat?”)