Thursday, December 04, 2008

My foray to my parents' house, with my laptop on hand to help them get retiree-benefits information that's online, was a partial success.

I was all set to dial in via AOL when I noticed that my computer was trying to connect to a wifi router... somewhere. Gosh knows where it was, but when I looked at the list, there were a whole bunch of networks visible. At least three of them completely lacked a password or any form of encryption.

Just for kicks, I let the laptop connect to see what would happen. Sure enough, there I sat with an internet connection, in my parents' living room, and I wasn't even tying up their phone line with a dialup connection. Bonus. I'm not entirely sure that such things are allowed, but hey, I won't tell anybody if you won't.

I was a bit skittish about trying to get into the benefits website on this unencrypted connection, even though the site itself is secure, but it turns out that wasn't an issue. Why? Because my parents haven't got a temporary user password to log in with, and the only way to get that is to generate a command to have them SNAIL MAIL it to the user.

So I issued the "mail me a temporary password" command, and then wondered if I could get a PW over the phone if I were speaking to a human being. Therefore, I called the benefits phone number and got a representative.

Unlike the un-knowledgeable rep that my parents talked to on the phone on Tuesday, the one that triggered their request for me to use my computer to look online and print out benefits info for them, THIS rep was knowledgeable, articulate, and genuinely interested in customer service. God bless her, and I wish more people in jobs like hers had her demeanor and her knowledge of the information that they're supposed to be able to provide to customers.

She verified that a password was going to be mailed to my parents' address. She also was able to answer a lot of the questions that my parents were unable to get info about from the rep they'd spoken to the day before.

So even though I wasn't able to get info ONLINE, we were still able to get my parents' questions answered. Plus, they're going to get a password for logging in. When they do that, I'll be able to log in from home, on my ENCRYPTED connection or better yet on the WIRED connection on the desktop upstairs, and print the information they're looking for.

We ordered hoagies for lunch, so while we were waiting for those, I tracked down Youtube videos of Odetta (see the one I linked to in my previous post), Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Mathis. :) In other words, it was a productive day even if some things didn't quite go as planned.

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