I was thinking about a new book light when at the other end of the line, which is now actually the other end of the signal, the woman at the dental office was telling me that my insurance claim had been denied. Had I changed companies? No. My policy runs through Jan. 31, 2022, I said. She said they said it ended April 30, 2021. I was not surprised, for I have had previous difficulties with this company, which I’m forced to have through Cobra to retain my former employer’s group insurance. I told the dental office woman I would look into it, bracing myself for hours of phone conversations with recorded messages. And some folks ask me why I run, why I go to the woods, why I can spell Leinenkugel’s. When I finally navigated to the voice of a real person in customer service at the insurance company, the representative told me my policy was indeed terminated on April 30, 2021. “How can that be? I am holding a paper that shows my policy runs through Jan. 31, 2022,” I said. “All I can tell you is that it is no longer in effect,” said the guy. “Why? And why didn’t you notify me? And where have my premium payments been going for May, June, July, August and September?” I demanded, reeling off the months with surprising ease considering my emotional state at the time. “You’d have to call and ask Cobra. We take our directions from Cobra,” he said. “Why don’t you call and ask Cobra? I’m the customer and you’re in customer service,” I said rather smartly. “I don’t have Cobra’s phone number,” he said. “So you’re telling me you provide policies through Cobra but don’t have their phone number?” I drilled. “I don’t know what department I’d call,” said he. “And you think I know when I make that call?” I asked. From there the dialog took a rapid descent, admittedly mostly on my end, to the point that I’m sure I won’t be invited to MetLife’s Christmas party. At least not the dental division’s party. I called my Cobra administrator. The nice lady there expressed shock that the insurance company had terminated me, and she offered her condolences. She said I was paid up on premiums, and that Cobra had not instructed the company to terminate the policy. She would send out an “urgent” message that the insurance company would receive in three days (not that urgent) instructing them to reinstate me. I should give it a week, then call the insurance folks (oh boy!) and see if I had been reinstated. If not, she gave me a Cobra number the company should call. So now I had Cobra on my side along with some urgency and a phone number. It all sounded good, but my head was hurting. I went for a run. That a customer service agent in an insurance company can’t lay hands on a phone number for Cobra insurance really bugs me. My exchange with this agent reminds me of a phone call I made to a department store the same morning, asking if they had in stock 50-amp RV electrical cords. The store woman asked me — yes, asked me — if that would be in their electrical or automotive department. As calmly as I could, I said, “How would I know that? Maybe you should know that.” When I got off the phone I gathered up my chain saw and went to the woods. That would be the firewood department. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading books it’s that there ain’t no good book light. I’ve had lights with faulty on/off switches, lights that dimmed when the International Space Station passed over, lights that inexplicably quit, and lights with clamps that fell apart just from the turbulence of turning a page. I need a book light. Reading in bed winds the day down nicely. Also, reading in the camper is better with a book light since the bright overhead lights ruin the ambience of camping (I know, go read by the light of the campfire). I thought if I paid $18 for a book light through Amazon my problems would be over. Not so. The light had so many features (brightness, angle, mode and mood) that it overloaded and simply shut down. Or maybe it just had a sick sense of humor, for the shutdowns were intermittent. I’d beg it to come on again, and it would. For two pages, sometimes only two paragraphs. So I went to a dollar store and bought the only book light on the shelf. It cost a dollar. So far, it’s the best book light I’ve ever had in terms of trusty lighting. The plastic clamp, however, is like a limp handshake, so it takes constant fidgeting and adjusting. Some nights, I just go for a run. To the refrigerator.

I was thinking about a new book light when at the other end of the line, which is now actually the other end of the signal, the woman at the dental office was telling me that my insurance claim had been denied. Had I changed companies? No. My policy runs through Jan. 31, 2022, I said. She said they said it ended April 30, 2021.

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