January 10, 2013
Okay, today was not one of my better days. We really don’t have too much to do, to put it mildly. There are things to do, but sometimes those things are just busy work. That’s okay because busy work has to be done, too. But today there wasn’t even much busy work to do. We did go down to the beach where the baptism will be held Saturday to check it out. It will be a sweet experience. While we were there we saw about five guys out on boards the size of snowboards, but these guys were flying along over the waves behind and beneath big sails, like you see in the sky at Point of the Mountain. There was a stiff trade wind from the east (it is always from the east, always), and those guys were really moving. One guy would actually go up in the air 30-40 feet, and then fly down to pull off a soft landing on the waves. Anyway we had fun watching them. Sorry. No photos.
Gaye and I worked on our finances today. I have to preface this with a story. When we lived in Alaska I would try to balance the checkbook. It was before personal computers and I used a paper spreadsheet to categorize our purchases. I have a pathologic need to know where the money has gone. It doesn’t help slow down the escape, but I feel better knowing where it went. So I was trying unsuccessfully to work through the mess and 6-year-old Kim came up to ask me what I was doing. She could see that I was not having a good afternoon. I told her I was playing the checkbook game.
I got through that event and about a month later, tried it again. It was not going any better that time. Juli, about 4 or so, wandered over and asked me what I was doing. She was attracted by my snarls and growls and the ARRRRGH! that would regularly fill the room. Kim looked at Juli and said, “Be quiet, Juli! Dad is playing the checkbook game!” I hope my kids have recovered from those frustrating exercises.
So today Gaye and I were playing the checkbook game. I must point out that I switched from paper to computer years ago, and when the dental practice got busier, Gaye offered to help me do the finances of the family. So I yielded. For the next 20+ years I had no idea where the money was going. Gaye entered the checks and paid the bills, eventually getting into online bill paying, but the categories were not useful to me and a report from Quicken was therefore useless. I dropped out, but every once in while I would yearn for the days when I knew where the money was going.
I have started writing every purchase down in a small book since we have been here on our mission. It has given me some peace of mind and even a good job to do when there is nothing to do. Reports are hard to get from paper, though, so we decided we should purchase Quicken. The problem is that Quicken works on Windows driven PC, but I use a Mac. Much more intuitive and user friendly. So we loaded Quicken onto Gaye’s PC and started to record what I had in my little book. It was taking me way too long to relearn how to maneuver around Windows on a PC. We downloaded our credit card data from the card company, as well as the online banking data from our bank. Of course the data would come with an entry like “Check 00200997--$400”. That’s all. I was having flashbacks of earlier frustrations.
See, Gaye and I have one brain between us. I am completely left-side dominated. I see the parts very well. I love the detail, and the more the better. Gaye, on the other hand, is very happy to be close enough. She sees the whole picture, but not the parts very well. Don’t sweat the details. We still have money in the checking account. It went somewhere and we have lots of stuff to show for it. You know the drill. So we have been trying to resolve this little impediment to our relationship by communicating better over financial matters. That is when we discovered that we are not getting our monthly Social Security check.
I decided to start receiving the SS check when I turned 66 in November. Gaye is waiting for a year until she also hits the magic number next November. No check was deposited in November, but I assumed that was because it would arrive in the next month. No problem. Except that it did not arrive in December, either. So I called the 800 number for the SS Administration. I also called our bank to see if the information had perhaps just not downloaded. I’ll shorten this a little. After 2+ hours on hold and talking to “the next available representative” I learned that indeed, the check was being paid, but also indeed, it was not being deposited into our account. So where in the wide universe is it going?
The sweet lady on the SS line asked me for the account number of my bank. This was after I answered all those security questions designed to prove that I was really Ken Patterson, the owner of the problem. You know the questions: What is the name of your first grade school? What is the first name of your paternal grandmother? What is the name of your first pet? Who was your first girlfriend in kindergarten? What was the middle initial of your second grade teacher’s husband’s name? I answered them all correctly, for which I felt like giving myself High Five! So She asked me the number of my bank account, which I slowly read to her. She said, “No, that is not the account where the check is going”. I already knew that.
After a few requests of “would you mind holding for just a moment (five minutes) please” she came back and told me that I was two numbers off. Two numbers of the account number I gave her were not the same as the account number where the money was actually going. (The bank told me that if I could give them the number they could get the money back for me. But they had to have the wrong number to make things right.) She further informed me that she would not be able to tell me the wrong number. Something about regulations to protect proper identity of people. It was supposed to prevent fraud from being perpetrated on innocent victims. Of course there was fraud going on! If not I would not have needed to spend the day with the telephone glued to my ear (the phone does not have a speaker). I could only get the necessary wrong number only by visiting my local Social Security office.
Have you ever been to a Social Security office? It is not a pleasant experience. There is an armed guard without a personality who greets you at the door with terse instructions to turn your cell phone OFF, not just SILENT, but COMPLETELY OFF, then hands you a number from a computer system that has replaced the simple little take-a-number thingy like they have at the local electrical supply store. Better use of tax payers’ money I suppose. Then you sit there with lots of other people who voted for Obama and wait for a couple of hours until the lady behind the glass window with the two little holes in it to supposedly communicate through gets through picking her fingernails and calls out your number. It takes her about 20 seconds to tell me that I don’t have the right paperwork and I will need to come back. Don’t go there if you don’t have to.
But that is not the big problem here. We are on Tortola and there is not a Social Security office on Tortola. That is probably because Tortola is in the British Virgin Islands, and things British and things American were separated quite permanently in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, and really cemented with the War of 1812. So I need to go to a Social Security office to get this straightened out, and the nearest one is an hour ferry ride from here in St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. This is British, that is US. (I don’t know why they don’t just combine into one country. They all drive left-side driver vehicles on the left side of the narrow, steep highways and speak the same beautiful but unintelligible Caribbean English that I can’t hear anyway because they speak so softly. ARRRGH!)
The solution has presented itself. Gaye and I are going to catch ferry to St Thomas early Monday morning. Our friends from the MTC, the Peterson’s, with whom we spent New Year’s Day getting pounded by huge waves on Virgin Gorda--those same friends will pick us up at the ferry and take us where we need to go. We might even go to McDonalds or Burger King for some junk food and nostalgically wander through the aisles of one of the chain stores like K-Mart or Walmart. We will stay over there Monday night, have FHE with Elder and Sister Peterson, catch the ferry back Tuesday, and hope the Social Security office people there will get this problem straightened out. And I might then resist curling up into a fetal position with my thumb in my mouth.