Has this happened to you? I tried to pay a company the monthly rental fee on my oxygen machine. The paper bill said $28.43.

All went well until I came to the CVC part of the form. It would not let me type in my prove-that-it’s-you secret number. The site knew my credit card from last month, so it was in their system.

I took it on from all sides. I finally called their help number and, after only a few tries, was connected with a very patient woman with a foreign accent who tried to help me.

After a while she understood that I was doing business on an antique phone, I couldn’t type in numbers, that I was aged, and that I was able to speak slowly enough for the automated system to understand me when I spoke to it.

She said I owed twice $28.43. She was looking at the bill for last month, but I’ll pay that. I am easy to get along with and they will make it up to me when they discover, next month, that I have overpaid.

I said the credit card numbers slowly. Got to the 12th one and the machine croaked: “This is an invalid credit card.” Tried it again and after only four numbers heard: “This is an invalid credit card.” Tried saying them faster and got all 16 in before I heard: “This is an invalid credit card.”


We went over it several times but at last she had to admit that there was something wrong with the system. I had fiddled away over an hour. Not only did I not have my spaghetti dinner, but it was then past supper time. No wonder I’m wasting away to skin and bones.

I thanked the operator for her patience, told her that she was wonderful and that she deserved a raise.

But she couldn’t let it go. She asked if I’d like to sign up for them to automatically milk my credit card every month. “No, no, no, no, no.” I was rather empathetic.

Why did this happen? True, their machine might have screwed up. But it worked last month. And when I use this credit card instead of paying by check, it kicks 2% of the amount back into my credit card account. This probably comes out of their bottom line and their wily machine knows this. So it might make using that card month after month a bit more difficult for me. Don’t laugh. A paranoid old man thinks of these things. The corporations are out to get me.

I could always mail them a check, but I hate to buy a stamp when I can so easily make a quick, simple payment online.

The next morning, working with the crisp, clear mind that comes from 10 hours of sleep and a pint of water, I beat the company machine and made an online payment.


I thought I could delete several of my old credit card numbers that were in their lineup of choices and start anew. But I could not do that.

There is an automatic filling of the blanks. For the first time, I ignored the automatic filling and typed in every letter and number. It then let me type in my secret pin number. Had the nice woman who was helping me yesterday known that this would work, she could have told me to type in every blank and not use automatic fill-in, and all would have been quickly resolved. But online helpers obviously do not know as much as you now do.

To round out my day, I went to my 71st high school reunion. St. George had a small school; since 1939, all classes have met together. This time, I was the oldest person there and the only one from the class of 1953.

When they read the roll call of classes, I was the first called. They asked us to give our names and to say anything we wanted to say.

Having spoken to hundreds of groups, I can pretty well read audiences and know what they want from a speaker.

With trembling limbs, I lifted my bony frame out of my hard metal chair and shouted (because half the people there were deaf): “I’m Robert Skoglund. You know that I’ve got plenty to say, so please applaud me for not saying it.” Amidst the thunder of raucous cheering, I sat down.

They will invite me back.

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