Ruth: Oh, hell.  I’m sure it can.  But I think our father’s insurance company is doing a far better job.  After his recent stay in the hospital, I’ve been besieged by reams of paper from his insurance company.  If there’s anyone unqualified to handle this, it’s me; I never met a detail I didn’t want to immediately forget.  I glance over the papers and “file” them.  Somewhere.

But one of the latest bits of correspondence got to me.  It had Mother’s name at the top — as if she’d been the patient and subject to the deductible.  Since she’s been dead almost 10 years, I find that highly unlikely.  Not to say incendiary.  Just seeing her name attached to an anonymous form enraged me.

So, being a responsible person, I called the insurance company.  Got a recorded voice of a very prissy woman whom I immediately disliked.  She kept asking me for Daddy’s (the insured’s) date of birth.

11-22-24, I said.

I’m sorry.  I can’t understand you.  Will you repeat that?


I’m sorry.  I still can’t hear you.  Will you repeat that?

By this time, I am realizing that this incompetent robot doesn’t realize 11 stands for November, so I say the name of the month followed by the date.

Oh, she says.  Let me repeat that.  November 22, 1910.

No, I say, and repeat the correct date.

She answers me with another November 22, 1910.

No!  1924!  By this time, I’m shrieking.  It doesn’t strike me as being unproductive or stupid to scream at a recorded voice.  As a matter of fact, it feels good.  So does slamming down the phone.  Ha!

My sense of wellbeing fades almost immediately.  I realize I still have the same damned problem.  So I call the company’s number again.  Eventually, after a barrage of number recitations, I reach an actual human being.  I am 1) so grateful to speak to a flesh-and-blood person that I want to grovel out of sheer relief; 2) nevertheless, so furious at the insurance company that I want to reach through the line and strangle their representative.

She tells me I need to dial another number.  I beg, plead, prostrate myself for her to connect me directly.  She does.

The line picks up.  It’s Sean or Jeremy or somebody else telling me that their computer lines are down.  Won’t I call back in 45 minutes?

By this time, I am so deranged that I can’t tell a recorded voice from a real one.  I keep saying, Wait a minute, Sean.  Hold on, Jeremy.  Till I hear the automated click and realize I’ve been talking to myself.

It’s been 24 hours since this ordeal and I’m trying to gear myself up to call yet again.  I am also trying to quantify this experience: What is it worth to me to be driven insane by my father’s insurance company?  How much money saved will compensate me for my time and mental health?  All I can say is, my price is going up.  Fast.

(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker) 

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