SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 23, 2013

Anderson: Idle thoughts while waiting for the (electric) man

Barbara Anderson
The Salem News

---- — “...and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

— John Donne

My government wants its money. Having turned 701/2 in August, I’ve had to sort through various options for taking the “required distribution” from my IRA account so that the tax dollars I saved by funding it can be claimed by their rightful owner. Maybe the Obama administration can use the money to fix the Obamacare website that it had three years to test, that it’s going to tax/fee people for not being able to use.

I was able to navigate the Social Security and Medicare systems when I reached those government-relevant ages, so my aging mind can still do paperwork. None of this made me feel old.

But today, there was an interesting reminder of mortality in my typically overflowing snailmail box. I recall getting advertising for baby products when my son was born and senior citizen stuff when I hit 55, but somehow didn’t expect to get a letter from the Solimine Funeral Homes when I reached God’s waiting room at roughly 702/3. They asked what kind of burial I would choose for myself, and have I updated my biographical information? (presumably for the obituary).

Actually, I wrote my obituary column for this newspaper awhile ago, so you can look forward to reading it someday if you are not yet yourself in your preordered casket.

Just in case I die before next week, let me get a few things off my chest in this column.

Right at the top: The fact that I just spent this entire beautiful fall afternoon at home waiting for National Grid to keep its noon to 6 p.m. appointment. It is now 6:22 p.m., so I assume they’re not coming.

National Grid recently sent me a second “IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE regarding your natural gas service. FAILURE TO RESPOND MAY RESULT IN INTERRUPTION OF YOUR SERVICE.”

Is that a threat? The first notice is probably in the several shopping bags of mail I’ve accumulated since March (I remove the bills and anything that looks interesting immediately but don’t take the time to sort the rest until it’s time to write Christmas checks to charities).

Reading on, the notice just seems to be warning that if National Grid can’t get into my house to inspect the meter, something could go wrong someday. I hope they don’t plan to replace it with one of those government-spy meters I’ve heard about, that will tell the National Security Agency when I turn my heat down and when I use my teapot. Regardless, I called the number to make an appointment.

You’d think that if this is so important, they’d have a line dedicated to callers who don’t want to risk “INTERRUPTION OF YOUR SERVICE,” but they don’t: After stating that I want to speak English, I went through the usual voice mail hell, including pounding zeros while screaming obscenities (in Spanish). I got through finally, I think by choosing “I want to buy an appliance” and from there was forwarded to “customer meter services,” which should have been a voice-mail option in the first place.

The nice young man set up an appointment for today, between noon and 6 p.m., promising to call before they come. So, I avoided tying up the phone because I don’t really trust my call-waiting feature, my answering machine or its Comcast system backup. However, must say that Comcast gives a much narrower window for appointments and usually gets here early in that time frame.

I like Comcast for my television, computer and land phone, but my cellphone is Verizon: Just in case one is down, I can still use the other for emergencies. I also like Verizon because, beginning with my first visit to the Statehouse in 1978, its public affairs department gave me an annual appointment calendar that contained contact information for Massachusetts legislators and government agencies. This is the final year for that directory; it almost seems a sign that an era — my era — is over.

The era of people who understand technology is here. I found someone who helped me erase all the messages clogging my little cellphone, so I can get texts from my grandchildren again, which is all I really need it for besides the emergencies. I am not one of those people who spend their entire life on the phone, including when they’re driving and potentially killing themselves and innocent bystanders.

Maybe the funeral homes should send its funeral-prep letter to people who text and drive: The NSA can probably give them a list by connecting text-times with the cameras at red lights that are photographing drivers.

Technology: the crime fighters’ friend. I can appreciate that, just don’t seem able to make it work for me. For instance, my cat usually wakes me at dawn, but he’s not reliable and I have to be on time for an early morning appointment this week. I know my little phone has an alarm clock in it somewhere, along with other things I can’t find, but I just bought an $11.39 Organtic Keywind Analog alarm clock that doesn’t need electricity or a battery, never mind programming.

As I begin to think about planning my funeral, I do not ask for whom the clock ticks; I know it ticks for me.

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Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem News columnist.