Friday, December 16, 2005

Nothing but Time...

One of the lesser-known benefits of being under post-operative “house arrest” is that you can get a lot of personal phone work accomplished that is just impossible to do during the day at the office.

Normally, you get home in the evening, and in the day’s mail is a letter you must respond to right away, which is impossible. Business hours are past.

But when you’re laying up in bed, captive in your own castle with a wireless phone at your elbow, there’s little you can’t accomplish. All it takes is a commodity of which you’ve got plenty—time.

For example, last week I began to see statements from the various school district taxing authorities arrive in my mail box. Ho hum, boring, I thought.

Woops—the county appraisal district failed to honor my protest, and certified an obscenely high value upon which to base my property taxes for the next year.

No problem…with time on my hands, and a mouse at my fingertips, I accessed the property information on line, and called the County Appraisal District. Spoke with a very helpful employe named Bertram (like the yacht, she said), who took my story, verified my information, and agreed that the appraisal office had, indeed, erred in certifying my values without a hearing. She’d have someone get back to me by the end of the next day.

That call took 55-minutes, including the hang-up when they dropped my call on accident, and Bertram called me back. Could not have possibly accomplished that during a regular workday.

The very next day I received a call that normally would have been left on my answering machine. One of the doctors we use has had a terrific time collecting from our health insurance company. That’s the germ of a whole other piece. Seems there’s a disagreement on what deductibles had been reached this year, which calls for a call to the health insurance company.

Ever call your health coverage provider at work? It’s technically business-related, right, since your employer provides you with the benefit, right? But try to get anything like that done on the phone from the office…forgettaboutit.

I began to punch in digits on the phone…and 43-minutes later, I’d negotiated three voice-activated, automated calling trees, spoken with two customer service representatives, and had extracted an e-mail of the records I needed from one entity, and a fax number to which I could send them to the other entity. And a partridge in a pear tree.

No way I’d have gotten that done at the office.

Today, I got a piece in the mail from our newspaper route salesman telling me I owed back subscriptions for two months, and asking for the next three months to be paid ahead.
Say what?
Thought my paper subscriptions were debited monthly…

I got to thinking about this. If the paper route I am on includes 1,000 customers, and only half of the subscribers pony up that kind of cash, this will be a very merry Christmas for the paper person, despite the fact she has to throw her route Christmas morning. Couldn’t she have just worked out a co-op with Santa the night before?

So, with the morning paper already comfortably crumpled at my feet on the comforter at the foot of the bed, I smiled and dialed the toll-free number to the newspaper subscription department.

I know what the music will be like in Hell. They’re playing it on hold at the newspaper.

Mercifully, I only had to hold for 13-minutes before a seasonally-cheery telemarketing/customer service operator came on the line. Not only did she confirm I’d been paying monthly, but something had gone amiss, she brought the account current through the end of the year, set me up for monthly auto drafts, and dropped a $10 gift card in the mail to me.

No, there’s no way you can get that kind of follow through on a phone call from the office.

You know, the county never did call me back about that first issue. Good thing my calendar is clear for tomorrow.

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