||[Aug. 21st, 2015|04:24 pm]
Phrembah (a potato-like mystery)
In ancient times, in affluent school districts, they had what they called "Life Skills" classes. Life Skills was a more general form of what people referred to in those forgotten times as "Home Ec," or Home Economics. Home Ec was a course primarily for girls that taught the student specific skills like cooking, washing, ironing, sewing and decorating, but also more general subjects concerning household management like budgeting, money management and how to be a smart consumer. Life Skills was Home Ec, minus the, then girl-specific, cooking, cleaning, sewing stuff. It included budgeting, how to shop for a good value, how not to get duped or sucked in by sales gimmicks, how to balance a checkbook, how taxes work (why is my paycheck less than my salary?) and they may even have gotten into things like car insurance. Anyway, it was the practical stuff you really need to know to be a self-sufficient human being---the stuff your parents knew all along but probably never occurred to you.
This real stuff, this honest-to-god essential information, was crammed into one or two semesters in your junior or senior year and I don't remember if you were even required to take it. Now I believe that you should not only be required to take it, you shouldn't be allowed to graduate till you get at least a B in the class. I wouldn't be surprised if it's not even offered anymore.
Of course, nowadays, the main feature should be how to manage a credit card and avoid the morass of credit card debt. But another essential modern skill, the one that inspired this post, is How To Fight Your Way Through An Automated Telephone "Customer Support" System. It would include the development of such attributes as fortitude, resilience, resourcefulness and anger management as well as little known tips and techniques. One thing I learned from a girl at the FedEx Kinkos store (I don't think they call it that anymore) was that, if you're stuck in a loop where your only option besides the listed options is to hear the options again, yell "Representative!" into the phone and the system will finally connect you to a more-or-less human being who can understand what you're talking about. I told her, "But, that's not one of the options." She said "Yes it is, they don't tell you about it, but if you say Representative really loud, it will bypass the other crap and connect you with a 'representative'." It worked. I was trying to get FedEx Ground to hold a package for pickup and there was simply no automated option for that, but yelling Representative! into the phone connected me with Bruce in Memphis who was able to have my package held no problem. The irony---oh, the irony---was that grey-and-green FedEx Ground isn't even the same company as orange-and-purple FedEx. The girl at Kinkos was helping me out of the goodness of her heart.
I just used that tip on my health insurnce company these many years later. And it worked!