Guest Curmudgeon: Adventures in Cost Cutting
This week, we welcome a first-time guest curmudgeon to the fold. It's always so heartening to know that I'm not the only one out there experiencing constant annoyance over one thing or the other. TWC
Life is funny—sometimes in the humorous way, but mostly in the way your crazy uncle laughs too loudly at his own jokes. On April 2nd, I was informed that because of the precipitous drop in revenue for my company due to COVID-19, my salary would be cut in a way that wiped out a recent raise and then some. I’d only had the raise for three weeks, so I was hardly used to the increase. I can live with that. However, it’s the “and then some” that has caused me some consternation.
I’m sure there is some clandestine order of accountants who could explain to me why my company had to report my pay cut as a reduction in hours rather than in dollars. But there would be secret handshakes to learn and undoubtedly some sort of uniform to buy as entry requirements which, due to my loss of income, I can no longer afford. So, I’ll have to let that go. I have learned that states apparently get very alarmed about a reduction in worked hours because it registers as a job loss, which looks very bad for an administration that wants to be reelected. My state, for example, responded with uncharacteristic lightning speed, sending me a “so sorry you’ve lost work” letter, and immediately signed me up for unemployment. They even sent me a state debit card (it has no money on it—I checked) with which to receive my benefits. There’s just one problem. I’m not unemployed. In fact, I’m still required to work the same number of hours even though, on paper, those hours have been reduced. I’ve become an administrative shadow of my former self—a partial person. I’m honestly not sure how to think about being a partial person. Do I dare fill my coffee cup all the way up? Surely a partial person doesn’t justify a full one. Do I partially do my work? If so, how do I know when to stop? Am I allowed to be only partially satisfied in my job given this new condition? Perhaps I can get a partial therapist to help me understand all this.
Okay, so it was time to do some serious belt tightening. I’m not complaining. Well . . . at least not too loudly, because I’m in good company; pretty much everyone, at some point in their life, has had to cut back. Most of the time it’s a pretty mundane process. Other times . . . the only polite word that comes to mind is adventure.
First, to give myself more breathing room, I reduced the monthly amounts on some big bills I was trying to pay off quickly. Progress. I cut out everything that didn’t involve keeping the roof over my head and the cat fed. Easy-peasy.
Next, I looked at my cable TV bill. I was on the premier level and pretty much had every channel available. Triumphantly, I thought I had found where I could save a bunch more money. I mean, who needs 330 channels of anything? Why do I need fifty sports channels? I never watch sports. (Perhaps it’s because I absolutely sucked at doing any of them as a kid.) The only reason I got the sports channels was because my family likes to watch them when they come to visit. But they haven’t been here in two years. The next time they come they can just watch on their phones. Then there is Baby TV. As the regular mailings inviting me to join AARP started many years ago, the possibility of having babies or there being anyone interested in babies at my house seems pretty remote. That channel can go. What about Dog TV? Dogs are great, but I don’t have one. What do they show on that channel anyway? Reruns of Marley and Me and A Dog’s Life? I mean, how many times can you watch the Beethoven movies? Yeah, that one can go, too. God TV (yes, seriously) . . . I don’t know what they show, but I’m afraid to cancel that one.
Still, great! It looks like I can move several packages down and save more than a hundred bucks a month. Sounds like a deal. Armed and informed, I call. I wait. Now, I know that I matter to them, because I’ve been assured about every three minutes how important my call is to them. I mean, they’ve told me so at least twenty-one times now. I finally give up, figuring that if someone whose call is so important to them can’t be answered in forty-five minutes, then perhaps Kanye West has stopped by their office and they’re all busy getting autographs.
That’s fine. I’ll just do it online. I go back to the website and get ready to say goodbye to 200 channels. I bid my farewell and push the button to make the change. “Not so fast,” says the website, “Are you sure you want to downgrade your package?” I reflect, reach to the bottom of my soul and decide yes, I want to do this. Steeling myself for this callous abandonment of my responsibilities to televised content, I look for a button to give my final approval.
But that button doesn’t exist. Apparently, I am the first person ever with the temerity to do such a thing. In their view I am clearly non compos mentis to want to make such a drastic life change. A “Yes, I’m sure” button would clearly be a safety hazard for someone in such a state.
I decide to take their implied well-intentioned advice to heart and sleep on it. Surely I will have returned to my senses after a good night’s sleep and will have written off my downgrade request as a ridiculous idea only concocted in a moment of financial panic. Cooler heads will prevail.
The next day arrives. Saturday. Coffee has been prepared and consumed. The sun is shining, mental health is no longer as questionable, and my resolve has been gathered into a neat, orderly pile. Before I call again, I think to try their chat function. I generally like chat functions. I can type my question and do other things while I wait for their answer. Except, in this case, there is no live person on the other end of this chat. It’s Alexa and Siri’s beautiful (but slow) cousin Myra who can only tell me how much my bill is and to try unplugging and plugging in my modem to restore my internet service. She doesn’t know how to downgrade my package. She does, to her credit, helpfully provide the phone number to call. I bid “adieu” to Myra, (not that she understood it, but I just wanted her digital brains to spin a bit) and called the number. They recognize me instantly as someone whose call is very important to them and they will be with me shortly. I’m beginning to think they’ve fallen for someone else, because they’re clearly not sincere in their assurances anymore. I can only stand to hear that voice eight more times before my heart breaks and I hang up. One can only stand so much rejection, you know.
I’m chagrined that despite my best efforts, babies, dogs, and God remain on my cable bill. I wonder if the provider would notice if I just started partially paying it. I suspect, though, that they’d probably just have Myra call me to tell me I’m behind on my bill. I’m dead certain she does know how to do that. One thing for sure—I will have to brace myself and attempt this adventure again on another day. Myra deserves the courtesy of knowing where we stand.
Maybe I can talk the cat into cutting back on that eating thing in the meantime.