As many of you know, I've been doing the whole "self-employed writer" thing for about two years now. This job has presented many challenges, such as the one that comes when you realize it's lunch time, and you have to put on clothes if you want to go outside and buy a sandwich.
Ha ha! I'm just kidding. I'm usually out of bed and fully dressed by 10:30 sharp, which means I am more than ready when it's time to take a well-deserved lunch hour from 11 to 2:30. Instead, the difficulties I've faced have been very similar to the ones faced by many other small businesses, even though my business primarily consists of a mediocre laptop and a poorly assembled IKEA desk.
For example: when I moved to Philadelphia last year, I had to get – and I am not kidding here – a license to operate my "business." This is entirely true. You have to register guns, because you could use them to blow someone's brains out. You have to register sex offenders, because they pose a potentially debilitating threat to the community. And you have to register bloggers who sit around in their underwear and overuse hyperbole.
But the biggest challenge of all; the most difficult part of this entire process; the most unendingly terrible problems I've faced since going out on my own have related to getting healthcare. Seriously: you office workers have it easy. You sign up for healthcare through your employer for like eighty bucks a month, regardless of whether you have a wife, or kids, or a deformed possum-human hybrid child who lives under your stairs and receives bi-weekly cancer treatments.
Meanwhile, when you purchase your own private healthcare, you have to negotiate this maze of complicated phrases like deductible and co-pay and coverage limit and primary care physician and hold please, I need to get my manager, and after a while you realize that these companies have taken on the Comcast model of customer service, and you kind of wonder if they could actual cover any health issues larger than a stubbed toe.
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: This post is not about Obamacare. I know that some of you may blame Obamacare for my woes, just like some of you blame Obamacare for a lot of things, such as drug costs, pharmacy lines, rainy Mondays, rapidly depleting phone batteries, slobbery dogs, cold floors, Dancing with the Stars, etc., but I am telling you right now that Obamacare is not to blame, so I would instruct commenters to limit their anti-Obamacare rants to three, maybe four total.)
So anyway, I recently had some new issue with healthcare, and I called up my healthcare provider, and eventually things got heated, and I started yelling at the guy. At the time, it made sense: I had a real problem, this guy wasn't very sympathetic, I needed to get it solved, and by God I was pissed, dammit, so I felt I would really let him know about it.
And at the time it was very satisfying: I threw in a lot of "ARE YOU TELLING ME?"s and a few "HOW COULD THIS POSSIBLY?"s and even a couple of "I CAN'T BELIEVE"s before reaching the final crescendo: I asked the man if he drives a PT Cruiser.
No, I'm just kidding, what I did was I got so mad that I eventually hung up, because I saw that the conversation was going nowhere. And when I pressed the end button on that call, I felt alive, I felt excited, I felt empowered. And I thought to myself: Boy, I sure told him!
And then about an hour later, the regret started to wash over me.
Yes, it's true that he wasn't being particularly helpful, and yes, it's true that I had waited on hold forever. But what I had really told him? That I was a jerk? Some idiot that gets into screaming matches about … healthcare coverage? That I was one of these people who thinks that "the customer always right" really should be the unwavering mantra of the retail industry, even if the customer is a raving lunatic who eats Sharpies?
Regret turned to despair when I realized what this guy's job must be like. He sits in a large room, probably in some small town like Ellis, Kansas, where they view Best Buy as a big city intrusion, and the town lawyer ("Jimmy") also sells light bulbs. And this guy answers phones from angry idiots all day, every day, for his living. This is the man's career: taking calls from angry people about healthcare. Imagine the conversation:
"What do you do for a living, Steve?"
"I work in IT. What about you?"
"Oh, I get in screaming fights with people about the meaning of the word 'deductible.'"
So I thought about it for a while, and I came to a conclusion I plan to live by for the remainder of my life: there is no reason you should ever yell at the call center people. These are people who are paid, day in and day out, to sit there and take your calls, and deal with the public, and handle peoples' issues, and this probably isn't a particularly rewarding job, especially since it means they don't even have any free time to surf Jalopnik. So why make it worse?
So to the call center guy I yelled at, I'm sorry. Next time, I promise I'll be nice, and cordial, and warm, and pleasant, regardless of the problem I'm facing. Even if you do drive a PT Cruiser.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.