It looks like good news. A printed form letter, it announces that the health care provider has been paid in full and the account is closed.
Trouble is, I don’t recognize the health care provider, and I can’t remember ever having gone there for anything. Bureaucratic screw-up? Identity theft in process? Senility? I figure screw it. It’ll take care of itself.
Guido aims the look she learned in wife school directly at my heart and “suggests” I call to straighten things out. Faithful married men know exactly why we ought to take our wives’ “suggestions.”
I hate bureaucracy and printed forms. I despise digitalized telephone answering messages. I resent speaking to strangers about shit that is none of their business and they don’t care about anyway, but who have “procedures” to follow if I want any information.
I place the call and after a few rings I get the notorious digitialized message that thanks me for calling (with the sincerity of a $5 whore who says that she loves me while administering a handjob), and sets the average wait time at some randomly selected number of minutes. Eat my ass, I mutter cleverly, and settle in to endure the hold button music, which is mercifully classical, not LOV-94 elevator or god forbid country.
Next a recording advising sternly that I listen carefully because selections have changed (Liar Fucking Liar!). I am asked to punch in my 17-digit account number, which incredibly I find on the one-page form. Pause. Do it again because something happened and “they” didn’t get it. Grrrr. Lather Rinse Repeat. More choices, none remotely close to what I want (no I don’t want to hear a recording about pre-birth diets, cholesterol management, or the proper treatment of crab lice). I feel myself losing it, and, like a lab rat with an electrode in the pleasure center of its cortex, I start pressing the 0 key over and over. And believe it or not, a human being picks up.
She bids me “Grdmwninth” and asks me how she can help me. I tell her I don’t know who I dialed, who she is, who the provider is, what the bill is for, why the account exists or existed, and what’s going on. She listens (I guess) then asks me for my 17 digit account number.
You mean the one I punched in twice 15 minutes ago? I ask nastily. You didn’t get it that time? Why’d you ask me for it, then?
Grimly she repeats her request for the number. So I punch it into the phone again, all 17 numbers, slowly and deliberately to make sure she gets it this time.
Apparently this makes an impression, because when I put the phone back to my ear she’s screaming at me to stop and what the hell am I doing and sounds damn near on the edge of hysteria. I piece together that this time she wanted me to SAY the numbers, not punch them in using the telephone keypad. Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuse me but why didn’t she just SAY so?
Well, now that we’ve achieved this little understanding, I convince her that insofar as it’s MY call, it’s MY questions that need answering, not the ones in her goddam playbook prescribing how to handle customer requests for information. So she answers my questions one at a time and I get to the bottom of the puzzle, which, briefly, is that over a year ago I had an in-office procedure by a third party who billed my insurance and it took this long to settle; as a courtesy the insurance company sent me a notice that a dispute I knew nothing about had been settled. It’s that easy.
“Is there anything else I can do for you, Sir?” she sobs, miserably.
Just have a nice day, I say sunnily, and ring off.