Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Widowhood 201: The Catch-22



When my husband died, within two weeks I got a little money from a life insurance policy. (How did they find out so fast?) To collect it, they sent me a set of checks that I could use just like checks from any bank. In those early months I used some of the money until other things got straighten out like my husband’s pension and Social Security benefits coming in my name and getting my health insurance under my own name so they'd cover medications again, etc. Even credit cards got frozen right after Don died and that alone took several MONTHS before I could use those cards again. It’s a little known fact that catches a lot of widows by surprise: a joint credit card account where you both have a card in your own name is not truly a joint account unless you are both listed as a legal payee on the account. Many wives aren't and I was one of them, even though I'd used that card for decades. Who knew? It takes time to get your widow's work like this straighten out. 

Fast forward to now. That insurance money that I didn’t use up was just sitting there because it pays better interest than any of the investments I have going, not forgotten but I thought the account was nicely tucked away for future use when I needed. This week I got a letter from the insurance company giving me thirty days to let them know if I still want them to manage the money and if I don’t contact them in that time frame they are going to send it to the state of Michigan’s treasury as per the laws in my state! They listed a web address where I was to go to email them. Great. To get on the website I had to set up an account. Fifteen minutes later I had that accomplished and I could see my money sitting there but nowhere in God’s green acres was there a tab for contacting them by email. The ‘Contact Us’ tab led to links to Twitter, Facebook and something equally as lame but no ‘send an email’ tab! After a half hour of frustration looking at every link on the entire site and then some I was nowhere closer to finding a way of contacting them by email than I was before I opened the damn letter. I had also tried their automated phone system to notify them and it listed a zillion choices but not one for: “Don’t send my money to the state!” But if I wanted to buy more insurance, no problem. There were lines for life, health, cars, houses and hangnails just waiting to hear my sweet, little voice. 

Just when you think there couldn’t possibility be any residual widow’s work left---it’s been three and a half years---something like this pops up. I’m too frustrated, now, to do it but the first thing Monday I’m going to call back and when the automatic phone system wants me to say or punch in the department of my choice I’m going start chanting, “Live Agent” and “Live Representative.” That often works with companies and hopefully, it will work with the insurance company. If not, does anyone want to go on a road trip to Pennsylvania with me? I’ve got 25 days left to get this issue resolved. 

Back when Joseph Heller’s popular book, Catch-22, first came out in the 1960s I read and loved the book. It was funny and obviously a memorable read for me. Over the years I have run into my own versions of catch-22 situations like the one described above but the book’s catch-22 was a little more complicated, though no less circular. Here’s how Wikipedia describes the absurd military bureaucratic for soldiers during WWII: “The term is introduced by the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes "Catch 22" to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity—hoping to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missions—demonstrates his own sanity in making the request and thus cannot be declared insane.”

Since the book was written, the term "catch-22" has found its way into common usage and I’ll bet a lot of younger people don’t even know where it came from. None the less we can all identify with the frustration of dealing with bureaucratic logic. Or should I say bureaucratic illogical behavior? ©

15 comments:

  1. Keep punching zero when calling, most voice response systems use zero to connect you to a live agent

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    1. I did not know that! Thank you for sharing that tip. I shall use it tomorrow.

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    1. You are always on a road trip. LOL But PA could be fun. I've always wanted to go to the Amish communities around Lancaster.

      Can you believe it, this morning I logged on to my new online account at the insurance company and on the very first page (that didn't appear when I set up the account) was a list of email links for various stuff including what I needed!

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  3. Grrrrr! And often when you DO find how to contact them via internet, they direct you to a site with "typical" questions and answers. So frustrating! So glad the link showed up!

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    1. Yup, all the email links were on their welcome screen which I didn't get when I created the account. It took logging off and logging back on again the next day.

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  4. I got caught in a loop the other day when I called my credit card company...I would say no and the robot would go back to the beginning. I finally kept saying person and they finally put me on to a person! (And it was because I had my renewed credit card in my hand with a chip and pin possibility but I cannot use a pin...apparently they are not going to give us a chip and pin in the US even though it is much more secure. Canadians find it amusing every time I try and pay and they won't even accept an American credit card in some places.)
    Good luck with your dealings!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I saw a news segment on that! If they are giving us the chip card---I've got one already, too---then why not go all the way like the other countries and give us the pin number function too?

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  5. I read Catch-22 in 1970 and loved it so much I had it in the middle drawer of my desk at work, and would open the drawer to snatch a couple of pages when no one was looking. I'm lucky it didn't get me fired.
    I hate those experiences of being trapped in voice mail hell where none of the options has anything to do with why you are calling. (Although I don't hate it as much as my sister, who has some speech difficulties and finds the voice-activated systems particularly torturous.) I have sometimes had luck with shouting "speak with agent" over and over again. Sometimes pressing 0 works, too. Good luck! -Jean

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    1. Boy can I identify with your sister. For some reason those voice-activated systems don't seem to "read" my voice very well and I end up shouting at them.

      I've thought about that book so much in the past few days, I may have to re-read it. And hope it's as good as I remember it being.

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  6. Well, bless their hearts. Leave it to the insurance companies to make sure the state gets your money instead of you. It's a shame it's so difficult. There are many that can't physically get their money. It's all an elaborate plan for the state to get that money.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. From what I'm gathering, if an inherited account sits dormant for more than two years some states assumes the insurance company hasn't tried hard enough to find the beneficiaries so they want the money. You can get it back from the state BUT it takes a LOT of red tape and I'm betting a filing fee paid to the state. Not all states have this law, though. It ticks me off they only give you one warning and 30 days. My mail and a neighbor's one street over are always getting miss-delivered.

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    2. I finally got an email through to them and a reply. I'm all set now for the next three years. But the email said that all states have laws like this though the length of time an account can sit dominate various, most being three years. I put a note on my day planner to draw out a little bit on the anniversary of Don's death. So I don't have to go through this again.

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  7. This is one of the most frustrating things in our world today, trying to get a live body on the other end of the phone. I find that if I just start babbling words or sing 'Old McDonald had a Farm' (or anything else), the automated voice asks if I would like to speak with a representative. It works. I see in your comment above that you've succeeded getting an email through. Good.

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    1. I love the singing idea! I hope I remember it the next time I need to get through to a live person.

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