Labor Saving Devices

Or:  Why Our Modern Lives Are Crazy
(well, mine, anyway)

The Babbage Difference Engine - a mechanical precursor to today's electronic computers

The Babbage Difference Engine – a mechanical precursor to today’s electronic computers

I set aside an hour Monday morning
to address various “desk chores”
that have gone neglected
for the past week or so.

I know now
why I put these things off.
Bear with me here.
And tell me:
Does this sound like anything
that has ever happened to you?

The first thing I needed to do
was submit documentation
to my “Health Savings Account.”
They wanted me to account
for the $800
that I put on the account
for some dental work
I had done a couple of weeks ago.

Now, mind you,
this is my money,
in my account,
That I have used my credit card
to draw on.

But that’s not enough.
These fuckers want proof.

They want me to work for it –
before they will let me
spend my own damn money.

So I search out the documentation.
It’s buried in my email.
Thank god for search.

I scribble something on the form letter.
And then I put their letter
and my documentation
in the fax machine
and dial.

And there is no answer.
I try again.
Still no answer.
I try one more time.
Again no answer.
Three times is enough to see
that somebody went home for the weekend
and neglected to leave the fax machine
on “auto answer.”

The letter lists
two alternative ways
to submit the required evidence.

The obvious next choice is:
Go to the company’s website.

The site is slow.
And amid the slowness,
the site does not make it obvious
where to go
or what to click on
to submit this document.

I must have thinking I’d find an obvious link
to an e-version of missive I’d received
(in the mail)
with a link to the upload function.
I was anticipating “the happy path.”
Silly me!

No,
just click and look
and look some more
and click some more
until you find whatever the fuck it is
that they’ve sent you here for.

I’m clicking around
for a couple of minutes
before I finally find
the holy grail of my quest:
The button that says
“Upload My Receipts.”

So I click on that.
And nothing happens.
It just sits there
laughing back at me in a half blink.
There’s nothing in the status bar
at the bottom of the page, either,
to tell me that a query
has been sent to the server.
It’s just a button to nowhere
Maybe if I try again?
But again,
no response.
It’s a dead button.

What can I do now,
in this age of instant electro/digital communications ?

I resort to the final alternative —
because I have no other recourse now
other to than to send the paperwork in the mail.

Now I open the word processor
And start typing a letter.
Tell the company:
You fax doesn’t work.
Your website doesn’t work.
So now I’m sending you this letter.

Finish typing the letter
Print it.

Then turn to the printer
And remove all the paper in the tray
and slip in the one envelope
and re-set the page guides
and then print the one envelope
and then re-set the page guides
so I can put the regular paper back in.

OK, I finally have my printed pages
any my printed envelope.
Fold pages.
Insert into envelope.
Find and affix a postage stamp.
Set aside for later trip to mailbox.

All that because
The fax line they gave me
didn’t answer
and the website they gave me
didn’t work.

So much for labor saving devices.

That was just first of the desk chores.
I will spare you the details of the others.
Suffice it to say
they all went
pretty much like the first one.

And the whole time,
I’m trying to absorb
the spiritual lesson
from the book I’m reading with Ann:
That whatever you’re doing,
that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.
And the stress you feel?
That only comes from thinking
that you’re supposed to be doing something else.

But, somehow
I have a hard time
believing
that what I’m supposed to be doing
is filling out forms for medical companies.

Forms that I can’t fax
And can’t upload
And wind up printing
and stuffing in an envelope
and sending
In the fucking mail
—a labor-saving device
from the 18th century.

So today’s lesson is
No desk chores on Mondays.
Next week I’ll wait til Tuesday.
Maybe by then
somebody will have come in on Monday
and turned the fucking fax machine back on.

 

Another 19th century "difference engine," designed and constructed by Pehr-Georg and Edvard Scheutz.

Another 19th century “difference engine,” designed and constructed by Pehr-Georg and Edvard Scheutz.



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Paul Schatzkin