After multiple layoffs in a short time, I took what I could get,
which turned out to be participant services for a third party
administrator of medical benefits. My primary client was a group of
industrial retirees who, depending on when they retired, paid nothing
for their benefits, mailed in monthly payments, or had their costs
deducted from their pensions…pensions we didn’t administer. After
hurricane Katrina, my former boss – author of such gems as, “You
guys don’t go into the supply room because if supplies turn up
missing, I don’t want anyone to think we’re using supplies” –
achieved a new personal best.
She approached me as one of the more senior team members and said we
needed to do something for our participants who lived in disaster
areas. It wouldn’t be many because most of our folks stayed in the
Northeast after they retired. I told her I’d already identified
that we had six people in the affected regions, only two of whom were
required to send payments for benefits. I had entered stops on those
two accounts to keep benefits from terminating for non-payment, with
a flag to reevaluate in six months. I asked her if she could think of
anything else we could do to help.
She said that since all the houses were either evacuated or
destroyed, retirees wouldn’t receive pension checks sent to those
addresses, so she wanted me to call each retiree and ask where they
wanted their pension checks mailed. I slowly repeated that she wanted
me to call houses that had been evacuated or destroyed (this was not a
cell phone toting crowd) and talk to the people who had either
evacuated them or been there when they were destroyed, praying she
didn’t catch the tone I couldn’t for the life of me keep out of
my voice. She nodded eagerly, beaming like a toddler who’d just
used the big girl potty.
Hoping she was just having one of those brain dead moments we all
have, but somehow knowing otherwise, I reminded (informed?) her that
phones in houses that had been evacuated or destroyed were unlikely
to be answered by the living, but she said she still wanted me to
call. I then mentioned that the few lines and towers that were
functional were needed for emergency response, so calling would be a
disservice to the entire community, but she wasn’t dissuaded. Then
– and I thought this would be the trump card – I pointed out that
because we didn’t administer the pension, we didn’t know who was
even on it or whether they had direct deposit, and that the pension
administrator wouldn’t accept address changes from us, anyway.
She stared at me sideways, obviously disappointed in my lack of
charity, and told me to start calling. That was when I tripped over
that elusive convincing argument: three people were out that day, and
we were swamped. I thought she’d finally given up the idea until I
walked past her office later and heard her leaving messages.
My current boss doesn’t understand why I adore him so much. I’m
going to send him this link.