Friday, February 23, 2007

IT lives...

Today, the flu. I've been fighting it since Monday, and last night it decided to win. I'm actually quite bummed out to miss a day of work, which should go to show you that I love my job; I called in "maybe" this morning and my superheroine office manager* told me to stay away, as we have a couple health-fragile office mates for whom a virus might mean the end. I was proud to be able to offer advice on which clients will need to be contacted today... I am, miraculously, remembering names and on top of (some) claims!

(*She's not a superhero because she doesn't want me barfing all over the office phones. She's a superhero because she just IS. She's tough, loving, smart, and hard as nails, and about as physically fit as she can be. I think she may be in her late fifties or early sixties, but in my office, any employee could be any age... we have a 72 year old and a 69 year old. The 72 year old is NOT one of the fragile ones and looks deceptively 60. You're only as old as you feel: my office manager only takes the car if the weather is so bad as to be life threatening, preferring to walk wherever she goes. Hugging her -- it's also a huggy office -- is like hugging a very enthusiastic statue whose single-minded purpose is to make ribs creak: she's that hard-bodied.)

Yesterday we had torrential rain mixed with hail. I know, I know, those of you living where there is weather and where there are seasons are saying "cry me a river." But this area isn't prepared for it (especially me, because I grew up during a 10 year + drought) and it makes our power go out.

It didn't STAY out long, just went out every time lightning hit a power pole, which was pretty much every time lightning struck anywhere. But each time, the answering machine at work would scream and the lights would flicker, and the Internet would go down.

The Internet going down in an insurance agency is pretty much the end of the world. We can take down your info, but it isn't going anywhere.

The very funny woman who serves as the first line of defense answering phones and directing traffic would announce, before anyone else had a clue: "It's down." Or, "it's up."

I was frustrated; I had been trying to sort out why a check had not arrived for a client and where to send medical bills for a different one, and this requires a lot of research to follow up-- getting the phone numbers for the claims' adjusters from the claim reporting network, for instance. When I take any action, it must be documented on the electronic filing system where we keep track of our relations with clients (as my boss puts it, "The agency with the most information wins.") And I can't do either of those things, nor e-mail those addresses to the client with the bills, until it's up. I wrote the notes and saved them for later. I composed the e-mail and waited.

"It's up."

I pounced, clicking "send" on two screens.

"It's down."

"DAMN it," I said, looking at the "nope, the system failed" message. It was the first time I'd cussed in the office. My friend chortled. I toggled to the other screen. Nope, that one failed too.

"It's up."

I sent the files. This time, they went. "It's you-- you're doing this," I told my giggling friend. "You've got a button over there and every time you hit it, it toggles on or off." I opened a file festooned with sticky notes explaining all the things it needed done with it next time. It was next time.

She turned to look at me deadpan. "Honey, I've been single again for a long time... 11 years now. And it had been a long time before that. I don't touch any buttons and I don't turn anything on."

I cackled, surprised.

"It's down," she smirked.

I was defeated. "To continue your metaphor," I said, writing another sticky note to come back to the complicated file I'd just opened later that afternoon, "the system needs a little Viagra."

"Oh, thank God they didn't have that when I was married," she said with passion. "My husband was the kind of guy who has to be the best at everything--"

"Mmm-hm, MVP, BMOC?" I asked.

She nodded. "Only -- he was NOT the best at that. You just knew you were in for a long boring evening. Hey, look, it's up!"

Yesterday was like that... only with a birthday party in the middle. It got so difficult in the afternoon that I wondered if it was "haze the new kid" day... I took a glass claim from someone who was incoherent, cagey about sharing such sensitive information as "when did your windshield break?" and "where were you when it happened?" and "is this your current address?", and uncooperative about setting up a follow-up appointment with the glass repair company... had to sort out a billing snafu of my own making while speaking to someone stubbornly unwilling to listen to what I was saying to her... had to decipher whether those were 5s or Ss in my hideous scrawl... had to decipher what I had meant on a claim report by the cryptic "there were injuries" written on my 3rd day on the job... answered tough questions from the home office, a rental car company, and an adjuster ("it's just a red flag when the client is unwilling to contact us on a theft claim, is all"), and tried to figure out where I had lost one file and when I had intended to act upon another, all within the same 20-minute chunk of time (it bled out to about 45).

I love my job. I hate missing a day. When I called in "bleeeargh" my office manager told me that she'd cancel the surprise meeting where they were to tell me they were expanding my duties, and reschedule it for next week. I'm gonna be as busy as a one-armed paper hanger.

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