Thursday, July 16, 2009

On Hold

I'm on terminal hold. "Your wait for the next available representative will be at least 15 minutes", the computer voice told me. I suppose I shouldn't have gotten so exited when the receptionist took my call after only 4 minutes on hold; I'd waited 17 minutes for her earlier this morning. Now, if the girl telling me that she appreciates my business and that I should hold for the next available representative would just stop annoying me, I could get on with my posting without interruptions. But, not, not only do I have inoffensive guitars setting my teeth on edge as I wait, but just as I start to get going on this post I hear her voice and, for an instant, I start to smile and think I'll actually be talking to a human. Then I have to listen to her repeat her 3 sentences. And I am distracted. If this post reads less fluidly than most, blame being on hold.

I used to get to my office 2 hours before my official start time, just to get my work done. Being a hospital social worker means that you spend most of your time on hold, waiting for approvals or information or data or answers to questions that really aren't that complicated but have been made so by bureaucracy. May I? How long until...? Is she covered for this? Then to whom should I speak? Where is the....? Is there availability? Nothing could move forward until the answers were in hand, and the people with the answers were at the end of the phone line, keeping me on hold. So, with my 2 hours of peace before the day's tumult began, I would collect all the questions that went to the same officials and begin to dial. After a while, I began to know which civil servants were at their desks as early as I was, and sometimes I was actually able to accomplish 15 minutes worth of work in 15 minutes of elapsed time. Mostly, though, I was listening to inoffensive music and waiting.

It's a funny kind of anticipation, being on hold. After a while, the debate begins. Do I hang up and get on with my life? Or have I invested so much time in the process that I'd be foolish to abandon it. Speaker-phones help; I can type and listen to the music at the same time. But being a prisoner at my desk has never been my favorite way to spend an afternoon, and the waiting means that I am not the master of my own fate. At least not right now.

Stacey finally answered my call. While she couldn't speak directly to my issues (G'ma hasn't filled out a HIPPA form for this company, yet, so I'm not an "authorized agent") she was upbeat and clear and helpful. I know what the policy won't cover (G'ma's assisted living care) and what it will cover (in-patient skilled nursing care or 1200 hours of licensed home care) so I really don't have a solution to the larger issues we're facing, but I'm on my way. The HIPPA and claims forms are in the mail. I can check off one more item on the list of "Things to do to get G'ma moved". And I have a direct extension for Stacey so there's a chance, albeit a small one, that the next time I call I won't have to wait on hold.

And if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Utah I'd like to show you.......

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