Idiot Tax.

At the age of sixteen, my best friend and I made an almost daily pilgrimage on foot from school to our dance classes on the other side of town. She was far more diligent and organised than I, and so duly got her licence long before me. Nonetheless, I was able to share in the luxurious upgrade of the transport method.

One particularly memorable afternoon, we were waiting at a traffic light and my friend regaled me with the story of how, when still learning to drive a manual, she couldn’t quite manage the coordination one night and ended up bunny hopping through the drive-through video return. As she was enthusiastically giving an impression of the car, the light turned green, she panicked and we ended up bunny hopping halfway up the following block, squealing with equal parts laughter and shame.

The first month back in The Hague felt about as smooth as that car trip.

I was apprehensive about the return from Oz, as I really didn’t want to go back and was worried that the improvement in my mood and outlook was not a long-term adjustment, but only a response to being away from a reality that was still waiting for me, ever the same, on the other side of the world. However, I had already paid for my return flight, so I duly got on that plane and came back.

To my surprise and relief, the first two days went perfectly well. It’s always fun, returning to people on the other side of the world from wherever you’ve just been. Regardless of whether you’ve been gone for a long time or not, the novelty of having been so far away makes people very excited to see you upon your return. I felt accepted and valued, by people both here and in Australia, and was super optimistic about the coming months.

Then it started.

While having beers with people instead of going to a class about three days after I got back, I noticed a couple of tiny, itchy bites on my arm. Whatever. How normal. The next morning, I woke up to maybe a dozen bites on both arms. Over the course of the day, these multiplied into more bites than I could count, each itchier than the last. Oddly, they only occurred on my arms.

Of course, having just travelled overseas, and having let a friend stay in my apartment while I was gone, I started freaking out about all the possible bugs that could be infesting my room and body. There was no sign of anything anywhere, but nonetheless I washed every single item of clothing and linen in the hottest setting my machine offers, then hauled load after load to the laundromat where they were all dried on the hottest setting for as long as I could afford.

If some of my dresses seem shorter than before, this would be why.

I spent two sleepless nights attacking my poor arms, waking up with new bites any time I fell into a desperate doze. On the Friday, I had to go into school to justify my absence to the coordinator of the Masters program, and to have a much needed lesson with the French baroque specialist. I was exhausted, I was itchy, I felt as if I was being attacked in my own home by some invisible scourge, but I figured I had just enough resilience to get through the day. Just as I was leaving, I got a phone call from my boss.

He told me that he needed a new person to join the working team, and suggested keeping on the person I had replace me while I was in Australia. Depending on schedules, I might end up working on a split roster with this person instead of the girl I had been working with before I went home. A little background information: my replacement while in Australia was The Ex. Yes, as in the one I ran back to Australia to get over.

B’s Helpful Tip: Don’t ever be nice to anyone. You will end up with bugs in your bed and working with someone you’d rather pretend didn’t exist.

Well, that was far more than I could handle on that day. So when I had to explain to my course coordinator why my life sucked so much that I had to go home without any notice, I lost it. Not in an elegant, charming way that garners sympathy and a desire to protect, but in a way that fundamentally disturbs anyone who has to witness it. As I have previously explained, my face looks like a squashed tomato when I’m upset. This time, I was a squashed tomato that had the hiccups. That can’t be unseen.

Anyhow, my charming state continued until the start of my singing lesson. My teacher took one look at my face, another look at my arms and sent me to the hospital to have a doctor check for allergies and prescribe me something to stop the itching. I duly went to the hospital, where I was received by a doctor who didn’t even examine me, but merely lectured me about how I should only come to the hospital for a life-threatening emergency, or outside of GP office hours. I pointed out that it was 3pm on a Friday, that I could not have been seen before the following Monday, and that I was unable to sleep due to the itching. He gave me a cream for scabies and told me to talk to my doctor in a week if it wasn’t better.

When I went home, I Googled the GP service offered by the hospitals, and came across the information that if you are admitted to the GP at a hospital during normal clinic hours, your insurance does not cover the costs of the appointment. So if you are stupid enough to go to the hospital when it’s not an emergency, you get charged idiot tax, to the tune of €100. Not only did I have the joy of seeing a less than helpful doctor, I had the privilege of paying through the nose for it too!

In reality, I heartily support the idiot tax. I think it’s very fair to financially penalise people who abuse or misuse emergency services when alternative treatment is available. However, I don’t like this rule when it applies to me.

Over the next few weeks I had my landlord send over a pest inspector multiple times to treat my room. Each time he conducted an inspection and treatment, and each time there was absolutely no sign of any bug living in my room. I guess Holland was just so excited to have me back that it made it’s atmosphere toxic to my arm skin. I honestly walked around for three weeks looking like a junkie with poor anatomical knowledge of the location of veins. Welcome back, B!

How fares it all now? No new bites, though one or two old ones flare up every week or so. I didn’t end up having to work with The Ex, he took my old job while I got a new one with a pay rise. And through some bureaucratic glitch, my health insurance ended up covering the idiot tax.

Wins all around.

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