The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Michele Bender

April 5, 2014

MICHELE M. BENDER | Whisper sweet nothings in my ear

— “Your call is very important to us,” growled the crabby lady at the utility company. “Please wait for the next available representative.”

Ever suspect that there is no next representative? Maybe just six people in a coffee room playing poker, laughing their fannies off.

Utilities were notorious phone slackers, but Social Security put a new emphasis on lethargy. I’m applying for Medicare. Yesterday I spent 86 minutes (over three calls) waiting for that elusive representative.

Mostly, I play nicely with recorded people. My friend, Nancy, has a really hot, debonair guy fielding her missed calls. We chat often.

Now, the taped pharmacy tech gets easily confused and flustered. Transpose two numbers in your script refill and watch what happens. (Keep an extra 9-volt handy!)

“Fish sandwich and a diet Coke,” I politely ordered at the drive-up window.

“Fzhtgm haekj dvxuqp,” replied the captive in the box.

“OK, fries, too.”

Catalog orders have variety.

Order some junk from Fingerhut and it’s processed by a guy with the IQ of Gilligan. Purchase a leather jacket from Macy’s and you reach Katharine Hepburn.                    

The recorded bank teller seems a mite too jovial when she announces, “We are sorry to inform you that your account has been overdrawn.”

I entertain myself when the disembodied voice informs me that the menu has changed. I dutifully listen and select the number that appears to correspond to my problem. Doing this sends me to web purgatory for at least, say, 86 minutes.

When I call back, I carefully select the stupidest option, making sure it has nothing to do with my actual difficulty. Someone, probably bored to tears, picks up on the first ring and I have “bagged him,” the elusive representative.

I discovered that, with very little effort, I can ditch the mechanized default voice. For now, I have replaced him with seductive Barry White.

Knowing how irritating recorded folks can be, I make it a point to raise the bar. Close to Election Day, I record, “Hi. Michele here. Sling your mud after the beep.”

At Christmas, I ask why Santa is always so jolly. “It’s because he knows where all the naughty girls live. C’mon, ’fess up! Were you naughty or nice?”

With Easter approaching, I created something new. “Can’t take your call. The Easter Bunny decided to go Goth this year. I’m helping him draw the tattoos and pierce the shells.”

Enjoy spring and have fun with Medicare.


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Michele Bender
  • Michele Bender MICHELE M. BENDER | Scenic road to recovery

    I thought this busy summer wore me out.
    Father’s Day afternoon I flopped in my recliner and forced myself to do some bookkeeping. I licked an envelope and gasped. No spit, only blood ... as if Hannibal Lecter just served me lunch.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Licorice lends a paw

    I bet you expected to find Michele Bender’s column here today.
    She just came home from the hospital. She’s doing fine but resting, so I thought I’d lend a paw.

    June 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender MICHELE M. BENDER | Time to can clutter

    I’m “downsizing.” Sixteen years ago, this house was perfect for me. I gave parties. Friends came and stayed for weekends. Great insulation protected visitors from highway noise.
    Yep, I had the time of my life.
    But I’m 16 years older, and my friends are, too.  They no longer travel like they did. Parties wear us out by 10 p.m.

    June 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bender_Michele Those oldies, but goodies

    Twice yearly Hollywood marches out a platoon of war movies.

    May 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Living life out loud

    “If I make it to Medicare,” I declared, “I’m going to throw a party people will not forget! It’ll be something no one’s ever done!”
    Well, I made it to 65.

    May 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Watch the stars come out

    Every spring, I catch drive-in movie fever. We are blessed to have three outdoor theaters in a 30-mile radius. Movies under the stars … heavenly!

    May 3, 2014

  • Michele Bender Bye, bye, Easter birdies

    Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bender_Michele.JPG MICHELE M. BENDER | Whisper sweet nothings in my ear

    “Your call is very important to us,” growled the crabby lady at the utility company. “Please wait for the next available representative.”

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bender_Michele MICHELE M. BENDER | Sock it to me


    March 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bender_Michele.JPG MICHELE M. BENDER | What happened to Christmas?

    Headaches rarely bother me. I always felt sorry for folks trapped in the Advil/Dristan web.
    I woke up at 4 a.m. Dec 17 with a headache that probably registered on a Richter scale. (People in New Zealand experienced aftershocks.)

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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