Wednesday, December 1, 2010


You've heard of Catch 22, right? Just to remind you, it's the little problem hatched by the devil to make your life absolute hell. You're trying to solve a relatively easy problem but wherever you turn you're defeated. The term Catch 22 comes from the title of Joseph Heller's book, "Catch 22" which has a universe of very funny problems truly hatched by the devil which nearly drove the hero of the story, Yossarian, crazy. One involved a character named Major Major Major who Yossarian needed to see at times for something very important but he could never see him. Why? Every time Yossarian walked in the front door of Major Major Major's office Major Major Major jumped out the back window.

A few days ago I met Catch 22 for real. Not too surprising, it involved trying to communicate with a particular set of government agencies. I needed to replace a health card; that was all but by the end of the day I would have happily throttled any government clerk who came within sight of me.

One of my sons lives in a halfway house. He lost his Medi-Cal card. In other states, it's called a Medicaid card but for some reason the powers to be in California changed the name--and thus--the government agency assigned to work with it.

I called the Social Services number in Berkeley I was given by Social Security and at first all seemed rosy. It looked as though that card was just about in the mail. Then the gal I was talking to said "He's living in Palo Alto. You'll have to call the Social Services office in Santa Clara County to replace the card."

I called, after spending hours trying to find the Social Services office in Santa Clara county that handles Medi-Cal--which I finally found is in San Jose. That alone nearly drove me crazy. I finally found the telephone number and called and after the usual automated voice routine I got a gal on the phone.

That's where my problems really began. I gave her my son's Social Security number and she said "He doesn't come up on my screen."

This was said very rudely. According to my husband, I should have immediately said "Let me talk to your supervisor". Seriously, that might have solved a lot of problems.

She then claimed he didn't have Medi-Cal at all. More rudeness--really unconscionable. Should I have complained? Absolutely.

I finally recalled that the agent in Berkeley had been able to bring him up on her screen. I decided I would tell a little white lie; whoever I talked to I would simply say that the Palo Alto number was temporary and his permanent address was in Berkeley. With that plan in mind I called Berkeley's office again. This time, yes, they gal I talked to found him on their screen but next to his name was a county code for Palo Alto. The county code prevents them from pushing the proper buttons to send that card through the ether which of course is necessary to get it in the mail!

That gal was lovely, she tried to get someone more knowledgable to change the county code. Can't be done. I then asked for a supervisor. A little late, but there it is. She suggested I call Social Security as my son got his card through another department of Social Security called SSI and that was apparently why that county code comes up.

The supervisor called me back some hours later. He was very helpful and very knowledgable but that county code can't be broken.

In the process of talking to the Supervisor from the Social Services Office in Berkeley I found out my son's record didn't come up on Berkeley's screen at first either.

"How did you get it to come up, then?" I asked the gentleman.

"You just go to a site on Social Security," he said.

The gal from the San Jose office could have brought up my son's record if she had known how.

I have to call San Jose back. If that doesn't work I'll have to try calling Social Security. Wish me luck. Someone in Social Security sent me to that Social Services number in Berkeley.


Heidi Willis said...

Getting the run-around can be so frustrating! My husband is convinced many companies do this on purpose to get you so frustrated you give up trying to get your money back.

I think the government is just so complicated. So many people, so many agencies. No one knows what the other is doing!

I hope you got it all worked out!

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh man, government plus automated phone voices... grrrrr.

I feel that pain!

marsh to the fore said...

I just found your responses! I just found out that--hopefully--a woman at the halfway house can give me a telephone number that can give me a copy of that missing card. I haven't tried it first--haven't got the number, but maybe it will work!

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

oh man! Lame!