Monthly Archives: June 2009

Step Ladder

Friday I was presented an offer. Sat down in a meeting room with a member of the Human Resources staff, and he went over the paperwork with me, first presenting me with an offer of employment. The rate of pay is equivalent to what I was making as a contractor, but since the company sponsors most of the benefits (instead of the full amount coming out of my pockets like it does now), my overall net earnings will be more. So it’s like a raise.

I told him I’d take the letter home and think about it over the weekend. Talked in generalizations about it with my coworkers, and loudly they expressed that I should’ve signed it on the spot. “Well, if the pay’s OK, if the position’s OK, if there’s no wiggle room for haggling over pay or benefits, then why the hell haven’t you signed it already!?” So I signed. Beats the hell out of unemployment.

Assuming the rest of my background check passes without a hitch — and I don’t foresee any problems — then my first day as a permanent employee will be July 6th. I’ll have 95% of my benefits covered, which includes health, dental, and vision. Yeah, dental and vision. The company’s not matching 401(k) at this moment, so I probably won’t contribute. But I instantly get ten days of paid sick leave, and I accumulate vacation time, 15 days a year. The vacation time is prorated for the first calendar year of employment, which means I’ll accumulate only 8 days this year, 7 of which I’m required to spend during the holiday closure, so it looks like a proper vacation will have to wait until next summer.

Otherwise, it’s more of the same. Same tasks, same manager, same job. My running joke is, “Hey, congratulations! You’re hired! Now get back to work!” Only difference is that I’m an actual employee now. A fully-recognized human, not a capital expense.

Ladder

My manager told me just before the weekend that the ball was rolling and that I should update my resume on the chance that I’d have to submit it sometime this week. I’m glad I spent some time Sunday cleaning it up, because I was contacted Tuesday to fill out some paperwork and put in my formal application to be converted to a permanent employee. So yeah, I took my first steps to becoming something other than a contractor; it’s been a long 2+ years.

The downside to this conversion is that I’ll be starting at perhaps the lowest rung in the “career ladder” defined by HR. “Client Compatibility Technologist I” (or something of the sort), meaning I’m at the bottom. Entry level.

I don’t have a college degree. Even if I did, it sure as hell wouldn’t be stellar. I don’t have any special training or five-plus years of commensurate experience. I’ve made a few impressions over the years, even got a Spotlight Award from the Director, but that’s not enough to carve out my place in the department. So I can’t expect higher than entry level. I’ll have to actually earn the respect, and that’s the hardest lesson to learn. It’s not enough to have been there for two years, to show up every day, do my job, and go home. When everybody else keeps commitments, puts in extra effort, and makes a point of going above and beyond, the man who does only what’s necessary is at the end of the line.

Among the other hard lessons I’m learning are these tidbits:

  • In a corporate environment, it’s reasonable to expect opportunistic behavior among those who work there; if there’s a chance to take more, do more, be more, and therefore move higher, I gotta take that chance. Think of it as a classroom full of fifth-graders standing around a table, and there’s only two pizzas; the slowest ones don’t eat.
  • All that stuff about taking turns, letting others speak first, minding your manners, obeying your superiors, that’s all hideously bad advice, because nobody else follows the rules. Decorum and protocol have their place in society, but it’s in all the little interpersonal micro-transactions that the obedient are stepped upon.
  • Altruism is largely absent, reserved for only the “good ol’ boy network”. To be in the network, you have to actually be a good ol’ boy, meaning you have to be someone who has worked to garner that respect.
  • I won’t get promoted for being an all-around nice guy; I have to actually work for it. If friendliness was the requirement for promotion, the whole enterprise would be doomed to failure.
  • The company is built around the concept of “meritocracy”, where each individual person is responsible for their own career path. Don’t look to someone else to look out for you. You rise or fall by your own actions; do well, and you’ll be rewarded well. The guys in the highest levels clawed their way up there and were rewarded on their individual merit.
  • So, it follows that expecting a modicum of respect handed to me without expending a respectable amount of effort on my part is just foolish. I start at level 1.

So the ball is rolling. I mentioned my stress at the sudden speed of everything to my manager, and his advice was to not sweat it; it’s all on autopilot from here on out. The position is open to anybody, but I’m pretty much the most experienced person applying for the job (since I’m already doing it), so it should be a shoo-in. Here’s to hope.

Back To the Corner

I went out for a high-speed drive across town for a sense of perspective. Needed to get myself outside of myself for a while because I’m really, really in the middle of it. Right now, I’m a dog in a corner, and I’m ready to bite.

Today, I got a bomb dropped on me in the form of two envelopes from my health insurance carrier. Inside is a pair of Explanation of Benefits (EOB). Remember back in March and April when I saw the chiropractor because my back was messed up and I needed help in a bad way? Well, I finally got the insurance statements from all those visits. The end result is that my insurance carrier won’t pay for a single thing; their rejection reason is that the chiropractor isn’t in network. That’s Bullshit with a capital B.

When I was looking for help, I called the clinic; I’ve been to this clinic for 7 years…my general practitioner is there. And, for a while, so was the chiropractor. So I called the office to check, to see if I would be covered if I saw her for my back. The operator said she’d have to pass on the question to the billing department. They called me back and confirmed to the positive that I would have coverage, so I made the first of a series of appointments.

The first visit was nothing but a consultation on Monday. She then sent me for X-rays which I took that day. Then, since she didn’t show up to the office for my appointment on Wednesday, I had to come in Thursday to look over the X-rays and come up with a treatment plan. THEN, finally, had a visit Friday to pop my back into shape…two weeks after injury. She wanted me to visit three times the next week (office visits are $30 copay each time), but I whittled it down to two visits. By the end of that week, it was revealed that she was no longer a member of the clinic and that she would start her own practice elsewhere. So, I didn’t visit her again.

I had been waiting on the EOBs from the visit, but suspected something was dreadfully wrong. All my other EOBs from all the other visits to the various doctors I see produce an EOB from my insurer in short time. Something had to be wrong, and fucking hell, it was very wrong. I tallied up the charges from those five visits and the X-rays: $1270. You read that correctly.

My blood is boiling; I haven’t felt this level of rage in years. It’s an impotent rage because in the wash of corporate displacement and beaurocratic process, I have no target. No one is to blame. Nobody is at fault, and my only recourse is to play the game. I was provided an address to submit a written appeal; you can damn-well believe I’ll appeal. This is Bullshit. If I had known that the chiropractor was out of network, I would not have fucking gone for the first visit, let alone all five. I was lied to. I believed the lie. The one who lied to me didn’t know they were lying. Misinformation happened.

My teeth are grinding. Whatever it was I was doing in my life, whatever I had planned for the weekend, it’s fucked. My teeth are grinding. I’m in a corner, and I am ready to bite.

Difficult Technicalities. Please Stand By.

screenshot of disabled site: Site temporarily unavailable
Ooops.

So, uh, this site suffered an unintended outage. I tried to access my journal last night to make an entry and got this. I was disturbed that I couldn’t use my site. So I went to the website control panel to see what the trouble was, and my login was rejected. Perturbed, I raised the alarms and sent an email to the support team at my host provider, Prohosting, asking to know why I could not use my website.

After that email, I checked my ancient email account at Juno to see if Prohosting sent me anything there like a technical notice of a planned service outage. I’ve had this Juno account since ’97 and I keep it around as my backup technical contact for both my website and my domain name registrations, should something happen with either. It can be said that I never, ever use my Juno account, so I typically log in once every, eh, six months just to clear out the Juno-sponsored spam.

What I found among all the nonsense was a string of automated emails from Prohosting’s billing department declaring that my credit card had been declined. Declined. The first of these messages was back in February, followed by notes stating that my account would be disabled in March, immediately proceeded by a handful of other automated messages reiterating the fact that my credit card had been declined by my bank and that the past-due amount was indeed rising. I was incensed.

I have had this particular credit card for a good year and a half. When I last got a new number, I dutifully updated the billing info. This card does not expire until next year, yet Prohosting’s support team said my card was declined due to my card being past its expiration date. Somewhere, someone screwed up; whether it was one of them or all of me, I still had a locked website and something had to be done.

The only thing to do was to send a second message to the support team, with a copy to the billing department, revealing the evidence gathered from my investigation. My hat was in my hand. As soon as I clicked “Send”, I went to the credit card update form, submitted the details, and hoped for the best.

Support unlocked my site intact by morning, and billing had charged the past due, dropping the penalty fees, to my updated card info. $108 dollars later, here we are.

My wish, my regret in this, is that in none of that time did Prohosting try alternate avenues to contact me. I have an administrative email address at this domain that I check regularly; I have the option to use this address in my profile as my technical and billing contact. But for the sake of safety, should something go wrong with my domain registration, my webhost’s email system, or (as in this case) billing, I would not be able to contact them for problem resolution. So that’s why I still keep my Juno account around. Just in case.

And there it is, the problem. The problem is one of neglect. Neglect on my part because I don’t regularly check my administrative accounts. Neglect on their part because any human operator would have seen the contact form on this site and attempted to alert me. I have been with Prohosting for over nine years, since I first started this website, and I think it is for that reason alone they let me slide for so long. I’ll hold that to their credit.