never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
— John Donne
My government wants its
money. Having turned 70½ in August,
I’ve had to sort through various options for taking the “required
distribution” from my IRA account so that the tax dollars I saved by
funding it can be claimed by their rightful owner. Maybe the Obama
administration can use the money to fix the Obamacare website that
it had three years to test, that it’s going to tax/fee people for
not being able to use.
I was able to navigate
the Social Security and Medicare systems when I reached those
government-relevant ages, so my aging mind can still do paperwork.
None of this made me feel old.
But today, there was an
interesting reminder of mortality in my typically overflowing
snailmail box. I recall getting advertising for baby products when
my son was born and senior citizen stuff when I hit 55, but somehow
didn’t expect to get a letter from the Solimine Funeral Homes when I
reached God’s waiting room at roughly 70⅔.
They asked what kind of burial I would choose for myself, and have I
updated my biographical information? (presumably for the obituary).
Actually, I wrote my
obituary column for this newspaper awhile ago, so you can look
forward to reading it someday if you are not yet yourself in your
Just in case I die
before next week, let me get a few things off my chest in this
Right at the top: The
fact that I just spent this entire beautiful fall afternoon at home
waiting for National Grid to keep its noon to 6 p.m. appointment. It
is now 6:22 p.m., so I assume they’re not coming.
National Grid recently
sent me a second “IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE regarding your natural gas
service. FAILURE TO RESPOND MAY RESULT IN INTERRUPTION OF YOUR
Is that a threat? The
first notice is probably in the several shopping bags of mail I’ve
accumulated since March (I remove the bills and anything that looks
interesting immediately but don’t take the time to sort the rest
until it’s time to write Christmas checks to charities).
Reading on, the notice
just seems to be warning that if National Grid can’t get into my
house to inspect the meter, something could go wrong someday. I hope
they don’t plan to replace it with one of those government-spy
meters I’ve heard about, that will tell the National Security Agency
when I turn my heat down and when I use my teapot. Regardless, I
called the number to make an appointment.
You’d think that if
this is so important, they’d have a line dedicated to callers who
don’t want to risk “INTERRUPTION OF YOUR SERVICE,” but they don’t:
After stating that I want to speak English, I went through the usual
voice mail hell, including pounding zeros while screaming
obscenities (in Spanish). I got through finally, I think by choosing
“I want to buy an appliance” and from there was forwarded to
“customer meter services,” which should have been a voice-mail
option in the first place.
The nice young man set
up an appointment for today, between noon and 6 p.m., promising to
call before they come. So, I avoided tying up the phone because I
don’t really trust my call-waiting feature, my answering machine or
its Comcast system backup. However, must say that Comcast gives a
much narrower window for appointments and usually gets here early in
that time frame.
I like Comcast for my
television, computer and land phone, but my cellphone is Verizon:
Just in case one is down, I can still use the other for emergencies.
I also like Verizon because, beginning with my first visit to the
Statehouse in 1978, its public affairs department gave me an annual
appointment calendar that contained contact information for
Massachusetts legislators and government agencies. This is the final
year for that directory; it almost seems a sign that an era — my era
— is over.
The era of people who
understand technology is here. I found someone who helped me erase
all the messages clogging my little cellphone, so I can get texts
from my grandchildren again, which is all I really need it for
besides the emergencies. I am not one of those people who spend
their entire life on the phone, including when they’re driving and
potentially killing themselves and innocent bystanders.
Maybe the funeral homes
should send its funeral-prep letter to people who text and drive:
The NSA can probably give them a list by connecting text-times with
the cameras at red lights that are photographing drivers.
Technology: the crime
fighters’ friend. I can appreciate that, just don’t seem able to
make it work for me. For instance, my cat usually wakes me at dawn,
but he’s not reliable and I have to be on time for an early morning
appointment this week. I know my little phone has an alarm clock in
it somewhere, along with other things I can’t find, but I just
bought an $11.39 Organtic Keywind Analog alarm clock that doesn’t
need electricity or a battery, never mind programming.
As I begin to think
about planning my funeral, I do not ask for whom the clock ticks; I
know it ticks for me.