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Austin: The Side-Hustle

Austin: The Side-Hustle

We’re not as young as we used to be, so a smooth handoff from our health care providers in Chicago to new doctors in Austin has been a priority. The first time we encountered a doctor pitching her side-hustle from the office it seemed amusing. The second time it was odd. As it became a steady, inescapable pattern we’ve become concerned about what this will mean for our lives.

Seems like every provider here is pitching a magic tincture or some ointment that cures what ails ya. This was not a feature of our lives in Yankeeland. It doesn’t seem to matter whether we’re visiting doctors in the “urban core” or out in the suburbs. I took this photo in my doctor’s office on Friday.

“What, are you waiting for? Why haven’t you fled?”

The day before, my wife’s doctor pitched her an herbal cure he sold that would have complicated a condition he knew she had. Perhaps we’re just encountering a few bad apples, but if so then we have a talent for finding them. And so do all our friends and neighbors.

Professional standards around conflict of interest haven’t been the only concern. Infrastructure for basic data sharing seem non-existent. As a cancer patient, my care is pretty complex. Having a doctor rely on my recitation from memory of medications, dosages, and dates of treatment is unsettling. At dinner the other night a friend shared the Google sheet she maintains for that purpose since her doctors are otherwise unable to consistently track this data. We did not live this way in Chicago. Never once did it occur to me that I might need to keep track of this otherwise automated, shared and authoritatively tracked data because a provider would have no simple way to access it (#ThirdWorldProblems).

Far from our doctors’ offices, we got a peek at the side-hustle lifestyle at the other end of the spectrum this week. I went downstairs to unplug our car just before bed, since we have to avoid recharging in the daytime now due to power grid instability. On the first floor of our parking garage, which is open to short-term visitors, a young couple was wandering, looking for help. Their car, parked in a visitor spot, had died, and they needed a jump-start. They were DoorDash drivers who had just completed a delivery at our building. Now they were stuck in a very hostile environment.

Before I could bring our other car down to help, a passing Uber driver hooked them up with jumper cables. It wasn’t working. When I offered to pay for a Lyft to get them home so they could start rallying help they looked at each other for a moment and hesitated. That car, a beat-up Corolla built somewhere around 2008 which they’d purchased just a week before, served as both their hustle and their home. This posed an additional problem as the tow trucks would be making their nightly prowl through the parking garage to reap any unregistered or improperly parked vehicles. Pushing the car out of the garage and into street parking could have spared them a tow, but the car wouldn’t shift out of park.

I went back upstairs to register them in our system as a guest in the hope that this might prevent their home from being carted 15 miles away and held for ransom. Since the car was sitting in a temporary guest spot I had little confidence this would work. Meanwhile we gathered up some food, water and cash to take down. By the time I returned they were gone, though the car remained. The next morning the car was gone. No idea what happened to them.

Maybe they followed the advice from my doctor’s side-hustle and realized that “failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Maybe they used this opportunity to lift themselves up by the bootstraps they don’t have. Maybe I’ll find them sleeping in the park tomorrow. It’s a town full of hustlers, but all hustles are not created equal.


  1. Hello Chris, hope all is well.

    I worked in Georgetown for a few years back in 1994 to 1996, always loved the Austin area. Had a home outside of Grainger on five acres, raised goats to keep my Ag tax exemption. Loved Georgetown, dry city at that time at some places to eat, had to buy a club membership for a dollar to have a beer with my meal, strange. Explored all over the area and it is beautiful. Some great state parks north of Marble Falls.

    Sounds to me that the boom town craziness is still going on. It was that way in 1994, Dell computers was taking off big time and property prices were getting crazy. Anyway, enjoy the food.

  2. “my wife’s doctor pitched her an herbal cure he sold that would have complicated a condition he knew she had.”

    Lawsuit? ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯

    Welcome to the southwest, where frontier libertarianism and its necessary quackery aligns with New Age leftist woo and conservative deregulation and personal responsibility. Once the GOP takes away the power of cities and big D-run states the crime rate will plummet because murder will be deregulated unless it separates a rich person from his wealth, in which case the issue isn’t the life the rich person lost, but the property that was stolen from his use now that he’s dead.

    1. Hi Mary.

      The medical records issue is a serious matter, particularly for those of us who are getting older. I maintain an Excel spread sheet with all my medications, dosages, physician data, insurance information and a brief description of major procedures and health issues. I am a relatively healthy, 76-year-old, except have had some vision issues, and see two different ophthalmologists, which are not with the same health care system as my primary care physicians. Accordingly, I find the spreadsheet very useful, to keep the systems coordinated.

      On the other hand my partner, has numerous health issues, in addition to having had a AVM brain aneurysm in Jan 2018. All her health care is with Kaiser Permanente, except for the physician who treated her for the stroke. That is with a different health care system, which has a contractual relationship with KP. KPs record system is only partially compatible with the other system. As a consequence occasionally there are delays in exchanging information and getting checkups scheduled.

      All this could be eliminated, if there were common standards through out the US, but with the federal structure we have and the states’ independence, getting that commonality is virtually impossible. If the US would bite the bullet and adopt a single payer system, that could be resolved. Canada does have a single payer system even though their provinces have more independence than American States. But they also have a parliamentary system, unlike our federal system.

      An example of the confusion our incompatible records systems create, is my experience with the COVID vaccinations. I received both vaccinations through the VA because they were better organized at the beginning than the State of WA and was able to get my jabs scheduled much earlier through the VA. As I result, I have been fully vaccinated (including the two week period following the 2nd jab) since March 2. Yet according to the state database, I had not received any vaccinations until just last week when the state was able to get the detailed data from the VA.

  3. Getting back to the heart of your post – medical practitioner conmen (and con women)…

    Health care has undergone a fundamental shift in purpose and function from my generation’s experience. It’s not all good or bad. I, too, labor to keep medical records accurate amid a major shift in domicile and healthcare providers. I would live to be “chipped” so that whoever cares for me had immediate, accurate access to my records. I am turned off by doctors who promote sidelines to their primary function. It cheapens their service, imo.

    As for the young couple who found themselves stranded at your complex, they are probably far more typical than we would hope. For all the hype about people choosing not to work, it’s really not that simple, is it?

    I miss many things about my 18 years in TX – mostly the friends of kindred beliefs, affordable housing, and the diversity. I don’t miss the Tea Party, Republican bullying everywhere and patriarchal dominance that pervades government.
    I have only lived in three states: LA, FL, and TX. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Depending upon where one is in life – vocationally, family-wise, or retirement, in the end, family, friends, and access to quality healthcare are critical to happiness. Of course, I am 77 thus my priorities are driven by age.

    Enjoy Austin – arguably the best city in TX for people who embrace diversity and fun. Ignore the stuffed shirts.

  4. Chris, I hope the happiness you get from friends and family in the area over-rides all of the other facts of life you are going to face in that place. But I sense that is not going to happen.

    Texas is one bad storm or one wonky electrical sub-station from going offline. Let’s see how your decision to leave a first-world nation works out.

    1. I retired from a power company. Trust me Texas is not the only state with a vulnerable grid. Florida is not that much better. We really need that infrastructure bill in congress to get passed. But the Republican party is trying to derail something their constitutions need badly to smear the other political party. The solution is ultimately to vote out those obstructionists. When people get hurt enough they will at least change direction for a bit who they vote for . That is why after the financial meltdown of 2007 -8 Obama won. This is problem is going to eventual bite the Republicans.

  5. The hilarious thing is that on Nextdoor there is still almost daily somebody writing about how ” We cannot let a Houston turn into Chicago.”

    I have never been to Chicago but always assumed it is not a hellhole but the conservative boogeyman twin of California.

  6. I look around at our insane homeless problem. Mentally ill being forced to urinate at bus stops, scream at trees, and assault passerby. I look at our crumbling roads, our segregated racial enclaves, rapidly changing climate, and see little action. But Bezos is getting a new 400+ foot yacht, complete with a smaller companion yacht that the helicopter will land on. He and his buddies use the laws that they wrote to not pay income taxes. And a con man who didn’t care about any of this and in fact made things worse got 70M votes. Half the electorate votes for a party where the biggest problem they think they’re facing is the huge threat that teaching their kids about systemic racism poses to their way of life.

    What are we even doing here? Is this really the same country that landed a man on the moon? How are we supposed to have any hope for the future?

    1. I live in in diverse Orlando. My grandkids are voting adults now. They know about racism and are not buying it. My grandson’s graduating class was diverse and parents of all ethic backgrounds sat down together to watch our kids graduate. My family has lived in the south hundreds of years. Trust me a new south is rising.

      About homelessness we have the issue in my town. But the county mayor and city mayor are working to deal with it. We tried to locally raise the minimal wage and the state GOP government passed laws against that. Eventually a citizen state constitutional initiative passed state wide and we got that done. The GOP control state government is trying to undo that. Old fashion Republicans they are not. Govenor DeSantis won by 0.4% . I know I have said it before only to see the Republican squeak out a narrow win, but we are on the cusp of changing our politics and polices. The old frighten of diversity white people are dying off. The young are not scared of the coming multi cultural ethic democracy.

      I plan on helping with state wide democrat campaigns that I think have a chance to win in 2022. This is from a former Orange County Republican committee member. But like Steve Schmidt I think our Republic is at stake and the only major party that is still for Democracy is the Democratic party.

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