Way back in the mid- 2000’s, I was unhappily employed as a phone bank clerk at a “third party benefits administrator”. Mine was a truly dreadful and terrible job. The majority of my time was spent on the telephone, attempting to explain to truck drivers why their medical claims were being denied, or why they failed to qualify for benefits for that particular month.
I didn’t like having to hand the guys the bad news, and they didn’t like receiving it. I quickly learned not to take the strings of four-letter-words they hurled at me, over the roar of their diesel engine, personally. (Yeah, a lot of drivers would conduct business with me on their cellphones, while operating their rigs out there on America’s superhighways.) I actually felt sympathy for a lot of callers, because often the denial rose out some technicality – an “i” that wasn’t dotted, or a “t” that wasn’t crossed, so to speak.
The daily routine got old very fast. I was able to handle most calls by simply reciting a section of the bylaws to the caller. I might ask for a form to be mailed in. Or I’d say I was going to mail them something. The days just dragged on; there was little respite from the monotony, drudgery, and unhappy nature of the transactions.
But! Every once in a while I would hit the button to take my next call, and suddenly, reality would be suspended. This story is about one of those calls.
On an otherwise boring afternoon, my call light lit up. I picked up, saying, “Thank you for calling XYZ Benefits”, and I heard a deep, southern-sounding voice on the other end of the line. It was a trucker who was calling to see if he was eligible for benefits in the coming month. He explained in his slow, Southern drawl how he had failed a mandatory drug test, so the freight hauling company he worked for had suspended him. He was pretty worried he’d be disqualified for benefits. — I had to stop him at this point to get a few details, including his name. When the man told me his name, a light went off in my head. I was sure I’d heard that name. I normally have a good memory; but I’m also a musician, so I am especially apt to remember things that fall under the category of music trivia.
I said to the caller, “I know this may seem like an odd question, but by any chance, are you a performer, and do you do a tribute to Elvis?” Well, rather than being taken aback by my query, my caller reacted in a positive manner, happily answering in the affirmative. I said, “Well, I’m a performer too, I’ve seen your act, and you’re good!” Without missing a beat, he replied in his best Elvis voice, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” Well, at that, we both had a hearty laugh.
Of course, my uptight supervisor turned toward me to give me one of her well-known icy stares. Therefore, I quickly steered the conversation back to the business at hand. And sad to say, I had to tell the caller that unfortunately, according to the bylaws and all, he indeed would not get his monthly benefits. This news hit him hard, even though it seemed that he knew all along, this would be my answer. He said, “Boy, that’s really too bad”. I commiserated, telling him how sorry I was. I said, “Sorry you slipped up and failed that drug test.” He laughed a kind of sorrowful-sounding laugh and said to me, philosophically, “Well, I’m Elvis!”