Context Clues

Recently I went to a medical supply store to pick up a new octopus (CPAP machine). I arrived 15 minutes early. For a military family that’s on time. Admittedly, I usually fail at this. I walked up to the door from my parking space, which was pretty far away. I found the usual collage of Covid signs all over the door. But one of them stuck out. Right in the middle was a sign that said, “Please wait until your appointment time to knock.“ 🤔 Ok.

It didn’t seem so weird. Until a large man opened the door as if he was going to let me in, was very polite, and then asked what time my appointment was. When I said it was at 2o’clock, he said, “he doesn’t let people in until the time of their appointments.” With that, he closed and locked the door and that was that.

I contemplated walking back to my car, but knew that if I did, walking back I would end up needing an asthma inhaler. There was no where to sit. I walked around and noticed the sign and that the place was actually an oxygen supply store.

Really? That’s how they treat people who need supplemental oxygen to live and may be out of it? Wow. I was floored. I decided to go get my walker from the car so that I could use it to walk back and then use the seat in it to wait. Before I sat, I noticed there were two chairs just behind the window and the door in what appeared to be a reception area. Now I was irritated. The bouncer couldn’t even offer me a chair?

I started taking pictures of the chairs and the signs. Suddenly a different gentleman with a completely different demeanor came to the door, opened it, picked up my keys from the floor and asked, “are these your keys honey?” I said yes and he welcome to me in and said he would take care of me and he was so sorry.

I actually didn’t have anxiety about going here because they had already worked out the magical mess that always happens at every doctors appointment or insurance situation with the exception of a few very well run places when we were on the phone, and one of those well run places had to call there and ask what the hell was going on, which they admitted to me on the phone had made me the topic of conversation that entire morning. My machine was a month late, they had the wrong phone number, and they said they had emailed me but did not have my email address.

Then they tried to charge me under a different insurance. I told them I had already passed the catastrophic stage of my insurance and I don’t pay anything. Finally a supervisor came out and said it had been entered wrong and apologized. She said she would fix it. Guess what Mr. Sweet receptionist asked me for when he checked me in? The same co-pay. This is why I need anxiety medication to go to medical appointments of any kind.

When I started explaining their supervisor had to come out and fix it, the receptionist finally remembered and he was actually very sweet and said he knew exactly what I was talking about and would get it fixed right away, which he did. So in the end, most of the appointment went well.

I was just really shocked at how they treat patients given the context of it being an oxygen supply store. I feel very sorry for most of their clients. Especially the elderly ones trying to lug an oxygen tank from handicap spaces that are all the way at the end of the parking lot.


I got to experience a second lesson in context clues that had nothing to do with where we were. For the most part. A gentleman came in and sat next to me who spoke Spanish. He said he was also from Puerto Rico. Then he said he was there to return all of the equipment he had with him because his wife had _______. I’m using a blank here because I’m pretty sure I heard the wrong word.

What I heard, was the following: “ mi esposa falló.” To me this sounds like a word that means “made a mistake.” However, the tone he used and the fact that he was returning all of her equipment. Not just an oxygen tank or a CPAP machine, made me wonder if the word could have another meaning. This is where the comedy that is my family comes in.

I told the man I had lost my husband at a young age. But I was very concerned about whether that would be appropriate or if I had just misunderstood and embarrassed myself. I quickly texted my mother and asked her what the word meant. My mother promptly replied with a voice message.

I texted my mother back and reminded her that I was sitting next to the man and could not listen to her message. She responded with another voice message. I was getting irritated and was asking what she did not understand about the fact that sending me a voice message is completely useless if I can’t hear it.

If I had known what she was saying, I would have known she said that the word meant his wife, “effed up.” To which I would have responded, “Ummm… I think the context here suggests otherwise. Unless he means she jumped in front of a truck by accident.”

Then he went to the reception area where they asked why he was there and he said he was returning all of the equipment. And all of his brilliance although he was very sweet, the receptionist actually asked why. The man said an English that she had passed away.

I was relieved to know I was correct, and also heartbroken for him. I was headed to Puerto Rico in about a month and he’s headed to Puerto Rico in about a week. For completely different reasons. But now I was still stuck with asking my mom with the appropriate response would be or the appropriate thing to say. It’s out of my range of Spanish. I thought.

But having received another voice message from my mother, and when I was called back, I had no choice but to say something. Or to just be rude. So I said, “Cuídate.” (Take care of yourself.)

I would later learn that there are two words in Puerto Rico that mean two entirely different things that sound very similar. “Falló” means to mess up. “Falleció,” however, means to pass away. Thank God for context clues, because the only word I had ever heard for somebody dying was, “Murió.” 

When I got into the car I tried to call my mother to ask what in the world was wrong with her that she was responding in voice messages no matter how many times I said I can’t hear them because the man is sitting next to me. SHE TEXTED BACK, “Call later.”


And that was pretty much the end of my Friday. I won’t continue with the insurance battle that finished off the day. The insurance battles are getting too tense to even talk about.

For anybody who thinks context clues that you were taught in elementary school or not really that important, I beg to differ. Pay attention in school. You never know when it might become critical to know something you thought was irrelevant.

1 Comment

  1. I wish I could say that your experiences surprise me, but they don’t at all. Dealing with insurance companies and red tape is often as or more difficult that the actual medical condition that necessitates both. It’s awful how it becomes nearly a second job. Glad to hear yours got sorted out. Love and hugs to you.


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