Yours truly Friday afternoon

Yours truly Friday afternoon

Friday, November 18th, was my last day of work at “the day job.” I consider Monday, November 21, to be my first real day of retirement, since it was the first day I would have worked but did not.

As days go, Monday pretty much sucked, frankly.

I had things I wanted to do and things I needed to do. Among the things I wanted to get done was calling MegaChannels* to discuss moving my service level up one tier. I spent about ten minutes on the phone with a guy at MegaChannels customer service, most of which was spent resisting his efforts to get me to “bundle” my service to save money, even though I would be actually spending more.

You have to be very firm about what you want when dealing with MegaChannels. They teach their CS reps aggressive sales techniques which they use to try to sell you on one of their bundles. Or an even higher service level than you initially wanted.

After I finally got the price for what I wanted out of him, I told the rep I would give it some thought, and if I wanted to go ahead with the upgrade I would call back. He made a few feeble attempts to keep me on the line but I kept repeating, “That’s it, gotta go, bye now” until he got the point.

So much for MegaChannels, or at least MegaChannels part 1. Before we get to part 2, let’s talk about Medicare.

One of the things I really needed to get done Monday was getting myself signed up for Medicare part B. As of midnight on the 18th, I have no healthcare insurance except Medicare part A. That only covers hospitalization costs, and not even 100% of that. No doctor fees, no nothing, just the hospital bill.

I want to get a Medicare Advantage plan, which combines all the different parts of Medicare, and after spending days going through the “Medicare And You” booklet, I think I have found the plan that would be best for me.

However, before you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan, you have to be signed up for part B with Medicare and receive acknowledgement that you are indeed covered by part B.

You sign up for part B on the Social Security web site, or so I had been told by the “Medicare And You” booklet. So Monday afternoon, after my first call to MegaChannels, I attempted to get signed up for Medicare part B.

The Social Security web site would not let me sign on. At some time in the past, being the genius that I am, I set my online SS account so that besides signing in with my user name and password, I would have to also enter a secret code that the SS web site would send to my cell phone. No code, no access.

As it so happens, Can’t Hear You Now Cellular**, my cell phone carrier, has been working on their network in the area where I live, with the result that for the last two weeks I have had very spotty cell service in or around my condo. Sometimes I do get a signal when I’m upstairs, but not always. And I never get a signal when I’m downstairs.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. While I was trying to get signed onto the SS web site, my cell phone had no f’ing signal at all. No matter where I went in my condo I could not get a signal to save my life. Then, because I did not respond with the secret code, the SS web site locked my online account.

The web site did tell me that to unlock my account, I had to call SS and say the secret word to get to their secret help desk (the secret word is “help desk” by the way, and it is not an option the telephone machine tells you when it’s reading your list of options). Supposedly, the secret help desk would be able to help me unlock my account.

Except, guess what? Even with me talking with a real human being instead of a machine, and even with me successfully answering all the challenge questions, such as my mother’s maiden name, I *STILL* needed to receive a text message with a secret code that I needed to then enter on the web page before the account would unlock!

The woman I was talking with on the phone pointed out to me that the “Medicare And You” booklet was mistaken where is says you sign up for part B on the Social Security web site. She also helped me get the .PDF’s of the forms I needed, and then explained to me how to go about filling them out.

She also explained that my employer would have to fill out part of one of the forms and then SNAIL MAIL that back to me so I could take it to the local SS office because they need to have the ORIGINAL signed copy, not a .PDF.

She also told me that the next time I got a signal on my cell phone and received the text message with the secret code, all I would have to do is call back and ask for the secret help desk again and give that secret code to the person who answered.

Forty minutes later I heard my cell phone make the sound that announces there was a new text message for me. Sure enough, I now had the secret code.

I called the SS phone number and said “help desk” at the special time (I forgot to mention that part, you have to say it at just the right time or the machine won’t understand it) and got through to another woman.

I explained the whole stupid story to her, whereupon she informed me that she was very sorry but she could not enter a code that had been sent earlier, by someone else. She needed to send me ANOTHER FLIPPING TEXT MESSAGE herself with a new secret code!

Ten minutes later (or maybe it was only five, I don’t remember for sure), I actually received her text message and I read her the code. She punched it into her computer and it unlocked my account.

The first thing I did after I accessed it was to go to the account settings and disable that damn text message thing!!

You may be tempted to think it would be easy sailing after that. I mean, all I had to do was type in my personal information in the top part of one of the forms, save it, then email the form to my employer’s regional HR manager so he could either fill in the company’s portion or have someone do it for him, and then mail it to my home.

I did all that and sent the email. This was around 3:30 on Monday. At 4:15-ish I came back upstairs to check my email and discovered an out of office auto-reply from the HR guy, saying he was out of the office all week because of the Thanksgiving holiday.


After a little thought, I forwarded the message I had sent the HR manager to the General Ops Manager of the facility I had worked at, with a brief explanation and a request that he forward the email on to whomever could take care of this in the HR manager’s absence.

You probably guessed already what is coming next. I got an out of office auto-response from the GOM. Same deal as the HR manager: he would be out of the office all week because of the holiday.

At that point I made up my mind I needed a little diversion, so I decided to call MegaChannels and order the damn upgrade I had gotten pricing for earlier.

Me:   I called earlier and was told I can upgrade my Limited Basic cable service to Digital Economy for $39.95 a month. I want to go ahead and do that.

[I am now skipping over five minutes or so of me telling the rep I would not listen to his spiel about bundling.]

Rep:  Ah, yes. Well, the Digital Economy is $39.95, but I need to check on something. Can you hold a moment please?

Me:   Certainly.

[“A moment” turned into six or seven minutes.]

Rep:  Okay, thank you for holding Mr. Evans. It seems that because of the area you are in [or some other lame excuse, which I can’t remember at the moment] there would be a $10 equipment charge added to the price of Digital Economy, so it would actually be $49.95 a month.

Me:   What do you mean by “equipment charge”? I’m still using the converter boxes I used when I had Digital Preferred previously. That’s a higher tier than Digital Economy. The guy I talked with earlier today who gave me the price told me specifically that all you would have to do is type a few things into the computer and bingo, a few minutes later I would have my new channels.

Rep:  Well I’m afraid there is some equipment we would have to use here that would cost you $5 per line per month, and since you have two converter boxes, that makes $10. The total would be $49.95 a month, plus taxes and fees.

Me:   In that case, I will get by with what I have now. Goodbye.

There is a happy ending of sorts. Tuesday morning I received an email from my former General Manager, telling me he had forwarded my request to someone who would take care of it. With luck, I will receive the paperwork in time to have medical insurance sometime in December.

As for MegaChannels, after that completely unprofessional little shakedown attempt on the part of their CS rep, I am seriously considering dropping them completely.

It’s not like I spend that much time watching anything on their service, and considering my meager retirement budget, there are other things I could better spend $30 a month on.

Such as new jazz CD’s to write about here. 🙂

Thanks for reading this.

Al Evans
Wood Village, Oregon

* NOTE 1: “MegaChannels” is my fictional name for the very real cable TV giant whose service I am presently subscribed to.

** NOTE 2: “Can’t Hear You Now Cellular” is my likewise fictional name for my unfortunately real cell phone carrier. I will point out that the unnamed carrier is neither Verizon nor Sprint, both of whom have used a similar catch phrase of some notoriety. (Notoriety, you ask? After nine years and hundreds of commercials, Verizon fired the pitchman in those ads via email. Is that a bunch of crap or what?)

This afternoon (11-23-2016), I went for a drive around the one square mile that constitutes Wood Village. My Can’t Hear You Now Cellular cell phone picked up a signal only in one small part of the city, along NE Glisan Street where it passes Wood Village Town Center, home to Fred Meyer, Lowes, and a few other stores and restaurants.

As I drove east on NE Halsey Street, past NE 238th Drive, my phone stayed dead until exactly as I drove past the “Welcome To Troutdale” sign, at which time it came to life. As I continued east, the signal strengthened.

The ironic thing about the signal getting stronger is, driving east was taking me away from the Portland Metro area. If anything, you would expect the signal to decrease the further east you went, not strengthen.

Besides dropping MegaChannels, I’m beginning to think it’s time to send Can’t Hear You Now Cellular off into history as well.


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Thank you!

My original content, including photos other than album covers, Copyright © 2016 by Al Evans. All rights reserved.

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