Friday, February 10, 2006

Aging Fast Enough, part 2

This past Sunday, I groused about finding myself on "old peoples" mailing lists, specifically HeartLine Plus, a Dakotacare program apparently designed for folks on Medicare who have heart conditions (neither condition applies to me); and AARP, expressing confusion over my not joining since I am "fully eligible" for their dubious services (even though their letters clearly state you must be 50 or older, and I'm not). As previously outlined, I tried to be a good sport and tell them they were wasting money by sending me their stuff—no easy task, since neither organization is very forthcoming with useful e-mail contact information. Here's where things stand at the moment:

Never heard from the Executive Director of HeartLine Plus (Dakotacare), whom I had originally e-mailed some weeks ago. But on my second go-round I e-mailed the Marketing Director, who sent me a very nice if somewhat puzzling note. She apologized for the "inconvenience" of my receiving mail from them, and indicated that they were sending said mail to lots of people to make them aware of the program. Okaaaay…. Except that the mail that I received from them very clearly was addressed to people who are on Medicare and have a heart condition, not a general audience. By the time I'm eligible for Medicare, in sixteen years (assuming the Bush Administration has not succeeded in destroying the program), I'm sure that the various supplemental programs from Dakotacare and others will be completely different, so I have very little (read: no) incentive for paying any attention to what they're offering today. But I appreciate the speedy, friendly, and personal reply.

And speaking of speedy, friendly, and personal replies, there's AARP, which was certainly speedy in sending me this boilerplate:

Thank you for your recent communication. Your concerns are very important to us at AARP. Please be assured that we will prepare a response for you as quickly as possible.

Please do not reply to this message. This email address is not monitored for responses.

You may update your membership information or request and print a membership card online by visiting the Your Membership area of our Web site at

Additionally, all of your Member Benefits and Services are available by visiting the Member Services and Discounts area of the Web site at

It has been our pleasure to assist you.

AARP Member Service

Well, of course, so far they actually haven't assisted me, but I remain inexplicably hopeful, even after nearly a week.

Still, one does wonder about the quality of their customer service, no? And considering that I will be eligible for AARP in another year, you'd think maybe they'd be trying to get on my good side now. As it stands, I'm inclined to keep my money in my wallet, not theirs.

Okay, What Would Jesus Do?

In his blog in today's Washington Post, Dan Froomkin references his column of last Friday, in which he wrote about President Bush's "fundamental challenge as he tries to regain his political footing," viz., most Americans don't trust him anymore. (Anymore??) Anyhow, Froomkin had invited readers to suggest sample interview questions for the president regarding his credibility, uh, problem. You can read the ones Froomkin published in his column, but here's my favorite:

What Would Jesus Do?
From Mary Beth Hastings:
"Mr. President, you have spoken often and with conviction of your Christianity and how you bring Christian principles to bear on your conduct of foreign and domestic policy. The 2007 budget you have just proposed extends tax cuts that mostly benefit upper income Americans, while drastically cutting programs that help the poor, including sick children. As news sources have pointed out, the cost of these tax cuts is far greater than the cost savings coming from entitlement program cuts. Given the number of times the Bible, and Jesus himself, references lifting up the poor and tending to the sick, how do you reconcile this proposed budget with your Christianity?"

Well put, Ms. Hastings! Nice to know there are a few people who agree that there's more to being a Christian than the ability to spout the "right" lines at the "right" times.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


This is in today's New York Times:

February 8, 2006
The Telegram

I've received exactly one telegram in my life. It arrived on New Year's Eve a couple of decades ago. The message was congratulatory — it quoted J. D. Salinger — and so was the medium, which had a sort of "all the ships at sea" feeling about it. In fact, the telegram was just a piece of paper that looked a little down at the heels, as if it had been a ragged night for the telegraphers. But it arrived with a sense of its own occasion, which went a long way toward enhancing the occasion it had been sent to celebrate: a wedding.

The last telegram ever delivered appears to have been sent by Western Union — whose very name seems to say "telegram" — on Jan. 27. It's easy to understand why the practice of sending telegrams lapsed. They simply could not compete with telephones, express delivery services, e-mail and text-messaging — which, in its compression, bears some curious analogy to the telegram. But knowing that the last telegram has now been delivered is somehow a little like knowing that the last martini has been drunk or the last dinner jacket worn. I would like to believe that there will always be a world where telegrams come directly to the door, throwing a note of suspense into the air.

How many movies turn on that moment! The doorbell rings. A uniformed boy says, "Telegram!" or, "Western Union!" He hands over an envelope in return for a tip, and the plot rounds the corner. Only the telephone has rivaled the telegram as a plot point. It's hard to imagine that e-mail will ever play as large a role in Hollywood.

It is probably as well, though, that the telegram has gone its way. We are out of the habit. Hardly any of us could manage opening the door, tipping the boy and slitting the telegram's throat with the air of familiarity — even aplomb — that one sees in the old movies. In these days when information flows like a river, when e-mail comes and goes no matter how we are dressed or what change we have in our pockets, the telegram has become too singular, too momentous.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

I too remember the only telegram I've ever received. (When I was a kid, someone sent my parents a Candygram—anyone remember those?—but that hardly counts.) On the morning of our wedding day, almost 25 years ago, we arrived at the church to find waiting for us an honest-to-gosh telegram, congratulations from my then-boss in St. Paul. He and I didn't often see eye-to-eye, but I've always said he had class.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Aging Fast Enough, Thanks

I just wasted half an hour trying to slow down the aging process, sort of. And getting pretty vexed at a couple of organizations that supposedly serve so-called Older Americans.

Obviously, some out there has A Mailing List, and on that Mailing List is my name, and after my name is an incorrect date of birth. Consequently, I have been receiving junk mail from HeartLine Plus, a Dakotacare program apparently designed for folks on Medicare who have heart conditions. I appreciate their concern, but I'm still 16 years away from being eligible for Medicare, nor do I have a heart condition.

Being a good sport, I went online a few weeks ago seeking to e-mail them and encourage them to quit wasting good money sending me unsolicited junk that will go straight into the garbage. Of course, their web site was spectacularly unhelpful. You would think a "Contact Us" link might provide something more than an 800 number and a street address (I wish to waste neither a stamp nor my time on what will likely be a sales pitch), say, an e-mail address, since it's a virtual certainty that someone who visits their web site will have e-mail access. But no. Finally I Googled them, found an address for the Executive Director, and e-mailed him. No reply. Well, unless you count the junk mail that came from them the other day, over the signature of the Marketing Director. Whom I e-mailed today (thanks again, Google, since the Dakotacare web site hasn't improved in the last couple of weeks). We'll see. Hah.

I've also been getting junk from AARP, expressing confusion over my not joining since I am "fully eligible" for their dubious services. And yet, the very junk mail they send me indicates that one is eligible for membership at the age of 50...which I have not yet hit. Whoops.

Well, see above re: being a good sport, and also good luck finding an e-mail contact on the AARP web site. Again, do they not suspect that anyone who is, you know, at their site might have e-mail? Their "Contact Us" page is in fact an overgrown FAQ page. Google was not much help, at least in part because there are so bloody many hits. Finally I did come upon a form to fill out with comments on the web site. My comment, naturally, was that their site does a pretty poor job of proffering contact information and, oh, by the way, howzabout you take me off your mailing lists, since I am ineligible...which is why I was trying to contact you in the first place!!

I have to say, my experience with these two organizations does not fill me with enthusiasm for possibly doing business with either of them when I reach my Golden Years. They don't seem to be very detail oriented; in the case of Dakotacare, they don't seem very responsive; and based on my experience with their web sites, neither seems really interested in making it easy for their "members" (or anyone else) to contact them. Both of these outfits are really going to have to spruce themselves up if they want any money from me down the line.