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When I know (mostly) FIRE has changed me
Old 10-04-2013, 03:57 PM   #1
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When I know (mostly) FIRE has changed me

So, like so many other people, I've struggled to look at what will be available to me on the "federal" exchange. One error and timeout after another, one "website down" and "wait in line" after another, one website glitch after another, it's been rather irritating.

So today, I got through the application but called in to the number listed so I can try to deal with the "prove your identity" thing. I tried to upload a copy of my driver license, but it thought my 91KB file was larger than the allowed 10MB. Tired of that, I called in.

I was on hold for 20 minutes.

Now a year ago, all of this would have sent me off into a rage. I'd be really mad the instant someone finally picked up the phone on the other end, even though I knew the frustration I endured was not their fault. (And keep in mind that I worked tech support for several years in my career, so I know all too well about giving bad news and hearing about product failures for software I didn't build.)

But one of the first things that also "left" with my regular Megacorp employment was anger. When I was laid off at the beginning of April, which I was not expecting at all, to my surprise my initial reaction wasn't horror and fear -- a little shock, yes, but not horror and fear -- but *relief*. I didn't have to go to my wife and say "honey, I gave my notice today, my BS bucket overflowed" -- Megacorp made that decision for me. And my better half had already noticed in the weeks and months since that I was much more easygoing and mellow. And that my health was improving from the lack of stress.

Anyway, back to the ACA/"Obamacare" call-in story. When I was finally connected I heard a woman in a nearly robotic voice respond and asked me what I needed. I told her and she started asking a few questions. Instead of being pissed at the process and being on hold for 20 minutes, I injected a few jokes into the conversation. I made a throwaway crack that made her laugh almost hysterically and she said that was the best one she heard all day. I recognized the change in her attitude and it uplifted and inspired me. From that point on, I made it a point to inject more levity wherever I could. Hers has to be a really miserable job right now.

And when she asked me for all my personal information, she told me that the computer told her she needed to log out and log back in again. She said it a little sheepishly, like she thought I'd flip out. (And a year ago, I might have.) No worries, I said, and we waited. She did one thing that earned a gold star -- before she logged out, she wrote down everything I already told her so she didn't have to ask me again. That was appreciated.

So then she logs out and in, and enters all the stuff and then asks me the security questions. By this time I can hear an upbeat attitude in her voice. Then she says, "OK, all entered. Let's see what we get."

I reply, "Cool. Drum roll, please..."

And to my astonishment, she starts making a drum roll sound for probably five seconds until the results came up -- then she laughed again. "OK, you're verified!" She was no longer a robot. She sounded a little... happy.

So tomorrow I'll probably try again and see if that really did the trick so I can submit the application and actually see the plans and premiums based on our income.

I told my wife this story and she was so proud of me for "making her day." I don't think I made her day, but I will take credit for making it a little bit brighter, and that makes me feel good. And if I were still tethered to my Megacorp job I think I would have just dragged her down into the vortex of my own misery because my own j*b stress would have come out.

I can tell you that the last six months of semi-FIRE have changed my life.... much for the better. Yes, the lost paycheck sucks and if I still had that j*b, I wouldn't be dealing with this exchange.... but that's a small price to pay for feeling less stressed, healthier and just generally being a much nicer and happier person.

TL : DR version -- Being relatively FI totally rocks and changes your life. Go for it!

"Hey, for every ten dollars, that's another hour that I have to be in the work place. That's an hour of my life. And my life is a very finite thing. I have only 'x' number of hours left before I'm dead. So how do I want to use these hours of my life? Do I want to use them just spending it on more crap and more stuff, or do I want to start getting a handle on it and using my life more intelligently?" -- Joe Dominguez (1938 - 1997)
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Old 10-04-2013, 04:08 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ziggy29 View Post
I told my wife this story and she was so proud of me for "making her day." I don't think I made her day, but I will take credit for making it a little bit brighter, and that makes me feel good. And if I were still tethered to my Megacorp job I think I would have just dragged her down into the vortex of my own misery because my own j*b stress would have come out.
After working on the phones doing customer service when I was 18. I can say you probably did make her day, especially for someone working on such a controversial issue at such a difficult time.

Anyone showing me basic human decency, which could be very rare over the phone, really made my day. Telling jokes and being OK when things go wrong-- because they always do-- is absolutely incredible. People like that are the only reason I was able to stay on the job as long as I did, which wasn't very long. On days without one or two I just broke down crying.

It's good you're so much more relaxed now! The world needs it.

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Old 10-04-2013, 05:29 PM   #3
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Great story Ziggy. I often get irritated a phone service people and try to remember to add a little levity since it really isn't their fault. Sometimes the better angels of my nature prevail and other times they fail. Your story can serve as an inspiration.
Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler. -- Samuel Johnson
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Old 10-04-2013, 05:44 PM   #4
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Yes, bad pay, cranky people all day, management that only cares about how many calls they process. I've never done that job, but worked with many that had.

A few little 'gifts' can change how you get helped. I'm glad others recognized this too. I agree being away from the stress of a j*b helps.

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Old 10-04-2013, 06:20 PM   #5
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Great story Ziggy. I've always tried to be very patient with folks in service roles, and to be bright and cheerful. Just today I was in a sports medicine facility that was new to me and after filling in forms and having X-Rays done I was called back to re-take an X-Ray. After the re-takes I asked the tech where the restrooms were and he happily gave directions but I must have taken a wrong direction and ended up at an office with a very bored, dour looking guy working at a desk. I asked him for directions and attempted to follow them but ended up back at his office, and you could see the "someone save me from these old farts" expression on his face so I said, "I'm really sorry about this but could you tell me again where to go, I don't get my hearing and eyes tested until next week". He cracked up laughing and got up from behind his desk, took me round a couple of turns and pointed out the sign on the wall where the restrooms were.
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Old 10-04-2013, 06:23 PM   #6
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Way to go Ziggy. Feel the same way - mega corp fired me three months ago, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Retired at 59 1/2 and trying to stay that way.
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Old 10-04-2013, 07:28 PM   #7
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What a great story, Ziggy29. It brought a big smile to my face.
"You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." - - - C. Columbus
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Old 10-04-2013, 08:15 PM   #8
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I feel the same way about ER, Ziggy! When I was working at megacorp, I would get exasperated at little frustrations in taking care of life's little problems. Now, I figure I have plenty of time to get things worked out. No sense in getting irritated with the folks who have these kinds of jobs. I really appreciate the new perspective on life!
It also helps that I have a little retail job for the first time in my life (although I was a waitress at one point). I understand what these folks (paid minimum wage) have to put up with.
All part of a new life and a new way of looking at the world. For me, that is the greatest gift of retirement.
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Old 10-05-2013, 05:25 AM   #9
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It can be uplifting to take a little more time to be cheerful about things that go wrong. I learned a lot about that in police work - not too many people are happy about finding themselves in a position where they are dealing with the police. So a little levity went a long way.

And I still remember the first time taking a guy to jail, and as the iron door closed between us he turned and said "Thank you", just because I had treated him decently. He'd screwed up, we both knew it, and I didn't see any point in rubbing his nose in it.
I heard the call to do nothing. So I answered it.
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Old 10-05-2013, 06:11 AM   #10
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Great story, Ziggy -- I bet the person on the other end of the phone is telling it, too! I took on some additional responsibilities at work recently and it has been quite stressful. I am trying to take the opportunity to learn and grow from it, rather than fall victim to it. It helps that it is my choice to accept this work or not. But it could be very easy to let it get the better of me. Instead, I have decided to focus on two questions every day: 1) What problem(s) did I solve (or move a little closer to solving)? and 2) Who did I help? I have found that as long as I have a few sentences to answer those two questions with, it becomes easier to let the other stuff roll off my back. those are problems I can solve and people I can help tomorrow. And if I'm not solving problems and helping people, then worrying about things I can't control probably isn't worth it. Yes, FIRE can definitely be a quick way to a more positive attitude and better life, but for those of us who are continuing to work it is sometimes good to remember that our mental attitude makes a huge difference for ourselves and others.
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Old 10-05-2013, 09:35 AM   #11
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I've done that all my life. If I can't make the person on the other end of the phone laugh at least once, I'm always disappointed.

A little humor can go a long way in greasing the wheels.
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Old 10-05-2013, 11:44 AM   #12
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Great story, Ziggy. I also have found myself less likely to get irritated by this kind of situation than pre-ER. My big regret is that my children saw/heard me lose my cool way too many times as they were growing up and I worry about the impact that may have had on them. I wish I had been more self-aware of my tendency to yell and argue and lose my cool, and even more so that I had done something about it. I do find it interesting that much of it went away without any conscious effort after ER.
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Old 10-05-2013, 07:47 PM   #13
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Great story. I had a pleasant call with our folks today to. My only snide remark was that I was skeptical there had been much user testing of the website and the person on the phone was in "I hear you" mode.
If something cannot endure laughter.... it cannot endure.
Patience is the art of concealing your impatience.
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Old 10-06-2013, 10:20 PM   #14
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A month into FIRE and I have become more patient with the world at large. I don't mind waiting in lines any more. I don't feel like I'm always in a hurry because I have plenty of free time now. Before you know it I'll be driving slow in the fast lane with my blinker on.
Now the fun begins
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Old 10-07-2013, 08:25 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by cranberryjoe View Post
A month into FIRE and I have become more patient with the world at large. I don't mind waiting in lines any more.
I still hate crowds and waiting in line. For me, it must be an introvert thing, and the amount of time I have is not a factor.

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