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Corporate benefits and other random occurrences

No sooner did I mention in my previous post that I had never personally encountered a manned police speed checkpoint, that I came upon one on my morning school run.

From the opposite direction to the one that policemen were watching. And on my way back, in less than half an hour, they were gone.

It actually worked a couple of times for me here. I say something in a post (for instance, “I have not seen my utility bill yet”), and the thing immediately happens. I should be more careful in making this “never before” statements…

There were no exciting news over the last few days, so this post is all randomness.

Went to the dentist for the first time since coming over. Natasha found a Russian clinic (not exactly sure why; my New Jersey dentist was Italian) in East London. I came in right on time for my appointment, filled out a couple of forms, and then waited for 45 minutes to be called into the office. Profuse apologies ensued, blaming the very first patient of the day, who had been seriously late, which pushed all appointment times back. Everybody was nice, but time management is certainly not their forté. The doctor and I bantered away for a while, in between x-rays, followed by a fairly quick examination and a bit of cleaning.

The most unexpected bit was the cost of the visit. Not what you think. Basic dental care in England is free, covered by their fully socialized National Healthcare Service. But there are also private dental insurance plans, which one would use to obtain a supposedly superior level of service. I have one of those from work. It works on indemnity basis, i.e., I have to pay for services and then get reimbursed. I whipped out my credit card and realized that the visit cost me less than what I regularly spend on a tank of gas. As I alluded to in my recounts of previous medical encounters, you get what you pay for.

Oh, well, it was not that bad, really!

By the way, I do not think I ever mentioned how the benefit system works in the corporate world in England. It’s a bit weird. Based on your salary and position, you get a monthly allowance, expressed in sterling. There are couple of dozen available benefits, from plain life coverage and health insurance to exotic things such as bicycle vouchers or hotel concierge program. When you select a benefit and a level of coverage, its monthly cost gets subtracted from your allowance. If you “spend” on your desired benefits more than the size of your allowance, then you only pay the difference out of your paycheck. However, if you spend less, then the difference gets added to your paycheck.

If you are a young, single, healthy person, you literally can decline every single benefit (don’t forget – basic medical and dental service is free anyway), and pocket a few hundred pounds extra every month.

Makes the notion of total compensation a bit more straightforward, actually…

After I came to America, for the first five or six years, every April, I visited the famous New York Auto Show. It was sort of a spring rite in those days. Then I got bored with looking at shiny cars and stopped going… Suddenly, this week, an auto show came to me, in form of some high-flier fair in Canary Wharf. There are cars on display not only on the main lawn, but also in the lobby of 1 Canada Square, the central – and tallest – building in the complex.

Not just any cars. Lamborghini, Bentley, Maybach, Aston Martin, Porsche… You won’t see a Toyota or a Ford there. When Mercedes is your commonest brand, you know you are talking real luxury. The show is clearly aimed at affluent bankers and traders who can be found in abundance in my environs, but maybe I should dump my BMW in favor of a Ferrari…

Watched a chick movie with Natasha on cable. She started watching before I came downstairs, and although she offered to record it so that I could switch to something more agreeable, I inexplicably declined. The movie was your regular tear-jerker, with a single male character of redeeming quality – in supporting capacity. I am happy to report that I survived nevertheless.

Becky went through a week of final exams, which is seriously weird given that she still has four weeks of classes left. She got excellent marks in Math, French, Music, History and, unfathomably, Religious Education. In Spanish, she got 97%, which is the highest grade in her entire grade (50+ students). On other subjects, her grades are very respectable as well, with Physical Education – how exactly do you have a written exam on that? – bringing up the rear with 73%. Several results are still pending.

Natasha and Becky are constantly humming New York, New York, which is either a Tourette Syndrome symptom or the herald of our approaching homecoming. In fact, I am travelling to Chicago next week, where I will see my entire immediate family. The next post is likely to appear upon my return next Thursday.

Posted in Chronicles, Expat Archive