A plot in one of the old Twilight Zone episodes featured a guy, let’s call him Adam, who was pictured walking through his normal daily routine with one notable exception: he was invisible to everyone else. Adam couldn’t understand why, and his stress level was rising accordingly.
The light went on when he was informed that his light was off: that he was, in fact, dead.
I’ve been feeling like Adam all week, ever since I was informed on Monday by a computer-driven corporation that I am deceased. Such is life in the virtual unknown.
But such errors were also known long ago to wits like Mark Twain who gave us the heading of this post. Twain was quoted as saying this after his obit appeared in the New York Journal.
Tip of the iceberg
The news of my demise came in the form of a “credit alert” from Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agenices that seem to run our lives. It said a “potentially negative item” had just been posted to my credit report by the good folks at Capital One. They’re the credit card folks with TV commercials featuring Middle Age Vikings who are as inept as the company itself.
The credit alert stated Capital One had posted one of my accounts as being “charged off as a bad debt,” although I’d been paying regularly and on time for a few years. When I checked with Capital One to see what was going on, I was redirected to the Probate Services Department where a guy named Doug said I was supposed to be dead.
Sorry to disappoint, Doug.
An actual admission of error
The human error by Capital One (which they actually admitted to in a letter I got today) remains unrecognized by their comptuer server which has to notify Experian and the other credit agencies that — oops — we made a little boo boo. But the computer won’t do that until Capital One launches its own investigation into my life-or-death status.
And I was told this morning by Ray, one of Doug’s colleagues over in C-One’s Recovery Department, that that can take from 60 to 90 days.
Yet another probe
Meanwhile, two nice – albeit powerless – women at Experian named Maggie and Mrs. ____ (I’ll respect the surname privacy), say that Experian will have to launch its own investigation as to whether I am still alive. The law gives them 30-45 days to do that.
In the interim, my credit report is frozen to the point that even I can’t see it. More importantly, neither can any would-be lenders.
Oh, and did I mention I’ve just moved to a new city and I’m trying to get a home mortgage? Not surprisingly, one cannot achieve that goal with an invisible credit report.
The epicenter of India
Monday’s saga actually began futilely talking to a C-One call center rep in India who didn’t have my problem on her script. The conversation went south from hello when she asked me how I was doing, and I responded, “I am dead. How are you?”
Again, the response wasn’t on her crip sheet, so she had to check with her manager who decided it was time I talk to someone at the Capital One ranch.
Ironically, Monday ended right back in India at another call center after I was told by Maggie at Experian that I should talk to their “online credit manager.” I foolishly assumed there was a real person with this authority who was awaiting my call. So I called the 866 number Maggie gave me, and got another call center rep, this one trying to imitate a Midwestern accent (there is such a thing, but she didn’t have it).
In any event, she knew nothing of any online credit manager, so another dead-end. I sometimes feel for these sub-minimum-wage call center workers who are paid to act as screens so the fat-cat executives can keep the walls up between themselves and their customers. These workers, meanwhile, have no power to solve problems and can’t even address any not on the scripts they are provided.
Tuesday was spent in a last-gasp hope for a quick resolution by finding a local notary who signed off on a letter containing all my identifying stats that any computer hacker would love to have. The letter said I am still among the living, although this experience is sapping life from me minute by minute, and would Experian be kind enough to let the records reflect that soon so I could buy a home in my new town?
One week and counting
As of 30 minutes ago, no luck. I’m still dead according to Experian. Chalk up Week One of Capital One’s mistake. And of my afterlife.
There’s a P.S. to this saga which arrived in the mail this morning: Even though Capital One still officially lists me as dead, they have just sent me a new credit card.
All of this made me realize something that most of us really know already: In a world driven by corporations, computers, and cutbacks, we have little control over our daily lives when push comes to shove. And the chance of remedying someone else’s human error is nearly impossible — at least not for 60 to 90 days — when you have trouble even connecting with a human voice and/or when that human says simply as Ray did over at Capital One this morning:
“There is nothing we can do. The computer is in control.”
At least, he said, until the human investigators are satisfied I am alive.
As writer and program host Rod Serling used to say, “There’s a signpost up ahead; You have just entered the Twilight Zone.”