Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bright, Shining, Gentle

Clarence the angel showed up a little early this year, but he certainly earned his wings.

The Clarence in question was a customer service representative from my company’s human resources department and while he seemed nothing like the heavenly helpmate from “It’s A Wonderful Life,” he did a very good impersonation.

Yes, you’re probably fed up with any references to Frank Capra’s holiday classic, seeing how often it’s shown on TV.

But the holiday season is getting underway and the guy’s name really was Clarence, so I think the comparison is justified.

And furthermore—I love that word--the name Clarence means “bright, shining or gentle,” according to the dictionary, and this fellow was all three.

I “met” Clarence in the middle of a nervous breakdown when I thought I had missed the annual enrollment deadline for my company’s health care plan.

If you miss the deadline, you’re not covered for the following year and that’s why I make a point of getting it done in time--even though my head starts swimming whenever I read about the different types of plans.

However, this year I was thrown off because of my back trouble and by the arrival of Hurricane Sandy which knocked everyone’s plans out of whack.

The deadline for enrollment was extended, but upon coming into the office this week, I was led to believe that the final date had passed and that I was now traveling up a certain creek without a paddle.

And then I did what I do best in these situations: I freaked out.

First I called my insurance company and after uselessly shouting at the robo-operator, I got through to an alleged human who was even less helpful than the annoying automaton.

Yep, this person told me, it looks like you’re not covered. Just the thing a hypochondriac wants to hear.

She gave me the number of our human resources helpline and I pounded out the number so hard I nearly gave my phone a concussion. And that’s when I met Clarence.

Ring the Bells

He sounded young and quite professional as he guided through the enrollment process. Panic is infectious, but so is confidence and I started to relax as Clarence described the various plans the company has to offer and compared them with my current coverage.

I felt so good that when Clarence asked me if I was still a “non-tobacco user” I dropped the old line, “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls who do.”

“I never heard that one,” Clarence said with a laugh.

And then we were finished. I was officially covered, Clarence had saved me and I didn’t even have to jump off a bridge. I was so relieved that I let out a sigh that would’ve put a steam engine to shame.

“Wow,” Clarence said. “I heard that.”

I thanked Clarence profusely and asked for his full name. This violates company policy, but he did give me an ID number, which is ironic given how humanely he treated me.

I promised myself I would call his supervisor and tell him what a good job Clarence had done.

But as I settled into work I realized that if I didn’t take care of it immediately, I’d never do it.

Two—or is three?—years ago I vowed to write a letter to Chase commending one of their employees who had helped me out when their City Hall-area branch was particularly crowded. Only I never did.

Like many people, I am quick to complain, but far too slow to compliment. I decided that has to change. I have been spreading a lot of vitriol over the last week or so after my cable service went out. It was time to share the love.

I immediately called HR back, got hold of an operator who put me in touch with the division supervisor and I told him of Clarence’s bright and shining deeds. The supervisor sounded grateful and a little bit surprised that someone was actually calling to say something nice.

I hung up the phone feeling like a decent human instead of a screeching complainer. I had averted disaster, given credit where it was due, and met some nice people in the process. It really is a wonderful life.

Atta boy, Clarence…

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