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What’s Half an Hour?

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Everyone hates calling insurance companies. Usually, you are transferred to a customer representative after three or four tries on the automated voice system. I think of the gum commercial, where the guy is trying to get through while crossing a busy intersection. Finally, a ram comes along and butts him in the stomach, ejecting his gum. A bunch of guys get out of a truck and pick up the gum and hop back in the truck. “Leave the ram,” tone guy says, and they speed away, while the poor guy lies on the ground, not sure of what just happened.

I had to call my mail-service prescription service tonight. I’ve lost my ID card, so I didn’t have an ID number to work with. The woman at the other end of the phone, whose name I can’t recall, kept saying she was sorry it was taking so long, that the computers weren’t letting her access my ID. This went on for thirty minutes. She must of said, “I’m sorry,” a dozen times. I kept saying it was okay, although I needed to get back downstairs to supervise my son’s homework. I was also waiting for a call back from one of my physicians. It had been a long day, and I had taken my bedtime medications.

All I wanted to do was get a renewal on my sleeping medication. She asked for the number. I have about 20/100 eye sight with reading glasses and contacts, so I had to read the number slowly as I moved the bottle around to find the best viewing. Finally, I did it and she graciously renewed my medication for me over the phone, and gave me the number to call tomorrow, during the day, in order to get a new prescription card.

I’m very careful with my insurance cards. I have mine, my Medicare card, and my son’s card all in a little packet in my wallet. I searched my entire wallet before coming up empty. I only used my prescription card once, when I registered on the Web site, so I could renew my medications on line. Who knows what happened to it? In our house, we say, “The Borrowers have it” whenever anything goes missing. I believe in Borrowers. I’ve watched both versions of the movie, and it makes perfect sense. There are tiny people who live between the floors of our house, coming out only when we are away or asleep, and take things they need. I just wish they’d give some things back, like my cross and heart necklace that is currently missing.

But, back to the phone call. At the end, I asked her if people get angry with her when the computers aren’t working up to par. She said she’s had her share of bad callers, nasty, in a bad mood, or in a hurry. Why call when you know, absolutely know, it’s going to take some time, whether the computers are working or not.

I learned a long time ago that yelling and screaming doesn’t help the situation. I was working at the now-defunct Woolco in NJ as a cashier over Christmas. I would ring up the purchases (we didn’t have scanners back then), and then the customer’s credit card would be declined. I had many, many customers yell obscenities at me, as though it was my fault. I don’t know anyone who has not maxed out a credit card at one time or another. It’s humiliating, humbling and mind-numbing. Why people bring more attention to themselves in these situations is beyond me.

So, the lesson for today is patience and kindness. The person on the other end of the phone, whether a phone solicitor, bill collector, or insurance customer service person, remember: they’re only doing their job. Would you like to be yelled at by your boss, in front of all your co-workers? I don’t think so, so don’t do it over the safety of a phone. It’s cowardice, plain and simple.


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