Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Won't Look A Day Over 151



I've always been a union guy. So years ago, when I became a television writer and joined the Writers Guild of America, I felt good about it. I still do. The other day, I was telling a friend how great the Writers Guild is because I will have medical insurance and a pension for the rest of my life. However, my wife interjected that I was wrong (not the first time that she had made such an interjection). She had read our recent statement, and it didn't say I was covered, "for life." It said I'm only covered through the year 2099. That still sounded pretty good to me. I'll be 152. And I'll have insurance.


I never read the fine print from insurance companies. I don't even read the big print. I figure I have no choice about what they say or what they plan on doing. If they state something, it's fact. So if they say I'm going to live until 2099, I better make sure I floss regularly.


I know the idea of people living to be a century and a half old sounds far-fetched at first. But think about all the advances in medicine they're going to have between now and then. Maybe 150 will be the new 130.


Obviously, there will be some complications if it becomes commonplace for people to live this long. Imagine how large families will be. Where are we going to get all the extra folding chairs for Thanksgiving? And I'm a little worried that I'll be embarrassed because of all the names I won't be able to remember at my high school class' 135th Reunion.


But I put these negative thoughts out of my head. You don't look a gift horse in the mouth no matter how old he is. As long as we're mentally and physically healthy, what's wrong with living a long time?


However, imagining the future like this got me thinking: what if some great things happened in the year 3000 or 3001, right after my time is up? Maybe they'll finally establish world peace the year after my policy (and I) expire. Maybe they'll find intelligent life on Mars. Maybe they'll come up with a garbage disposal that isn't noisy.


Who did the insurance company think they were to arbitrarily choose 2009 as my checkout date? I know it sounds greedy on my part, but that isn't it. It shouldn't be up to them to decide how long I'm going to live, whether they say it's for one or ninety-one more years. So I called them on the phone and asked about the 2099 thing.


The guy on the other end of the phone was patient, but for some reason, he seemed to think my call was frivolous. Frivolous? What could be more serious than establishing how long I'm going to live and whether I'll still have medical coverage?


He explained that everybody they covered had the year 2099 listed as the "end date." "The computer" couldn't deal with a blank space at the end of the form. I suggested that they just type in "forever and ever" in that space. But he said they couldn't do it. "The computer" needed a number there.


So all of this was because of "the computer?" Like most of us, I'm constantly uncomfortable with the amount of influence that computers have on my life. And was this not the ultimate example of that? I was being told that nature, luck, and fate have been replaced by a machine that routinely erases our favorite vacation photos and supports businesses like The Lovely Ladies of Latex.


Sensing how upset I was, the guy said he had some good news for me: "If you live past 2099, you'll still be covered." I felt a little better.


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