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WHAT BELL HAD IN MIND? It’s unlikely Alexander Graham Bell imagined social media and Facetime when he said those famous words, “Watson, come here, I need you.”

Too much technology for my own good

Front Porch: Have you ever been stranded in the “lost call” jungle?

A friend of mine beat me to age 65. He began getting phone calls about Medicare supplement plans. I was a few months shy of 65 when he asked me one Friday night if I was receiving calls.

“No, not yet,” I said.

“You will,” he promised.

That Monday morning when I received three such calls, I was sure he had put someone up to it.

“No, I didn’t — honest,” he insisted. “I told you they would start soon.”

It turns out he was right on both counts. Over the next few months, I received about 100 phone calls, mostly “robocalls,” all wanting me to sign up for a Medicare supplement. Or at least I think so — I started hanging up on all robocalls.

Call jungle
Some people don’t even answer those calls because they can see they’re from far-off states where they don’t know anyone. Since I use my phone for business, I’m obliged to answer. But these “callers” are getting smart. Somehow, they get prefixes within Indiana. You’re more likely to think it’s a real call.

My friend finally called the Social Security Administration to check on conflicting information. Trust me, there’s a lot of that out there. He thinks he might have set a record for staying on hold: one hour and 42 minutes. I doubt it’s a record; some of you can probably beat that! He did finally talk to a real person.

He thinks I should write about my experiences seeking answers to Medicare and Social Security questions. I would because it might help you, but even I don’t know where to go to get correct information that won’t change when you talk to the next Social Security person — if you ever reach one!

Real example
Instead, I’ll tell you about my efforts to check on a W-2 which I thought was in error. I printed it off an internet site, naturally. Whatever happened to getting paper copies in the mail?

I called the number on the W-2 for the pension fund. Music blasted and then a robo voice gave me instructions. I tapped in an ID number, and then the voice told me to describe what I wanted.

How well can a robo voice interpret what I say? As it tuns out, not very well. He connected me with a live person, with a name I couldn’t understand, but it turned out she worked with IRA accounts, not pensions. I clearly said “p-e-n-s-i-o-n” when prompted. She transferred me to another gentleman, but it turned out he only worked on pensions for one company, and not the one I needed.

Finally, he transferred me to a sweet lady who answered my questions. My W-2 was correct after all — no one had bothered to tell me how changes made during the year affected my plan and taxes. By the end of the call, she found me more money. I didn’t have to reprint the W-2, and life was good!

Somehow, though, I’m not sure this is what Alexander Graham Bell envisioned when he said those fortuitous, or fateful, words: “Watson, come here, I need you.” You decide which word best describes what’s become of his invention!

TAGS: Technology
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