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Al Martinez

Cigna was never able to grasp even the spirit of my request. : Somewhere Over the Rainbow

November 30, 1987|Al Martinez

I am sitting here staring into space, exhausted by the effort it has taken to communicate a simple request to the people at Cigna Health Plan, an organization that purports to be interested in my general welfare.

It was an uncomplicated message delivered in a calm, clear voice with absolutely no trace of an accent. To the best of my knowledge, I pronounced all of the words correctly.

But Cigna was never able to grasp even the spirit of my request, and that inability has driven me to the brink of madness.

It began with a telephone call to the medical facility in Woodland Hills. A woman answered.

I said, "Hello. My name is Al Martinez. I am a member of Cigna.

"Yesterday I received in the mail a booklet from Cigna outlining a program concerning use of private physicians. I lost the booklet and would like to get another. Can you help me?"

She said, "What?" in the kind of arrogant, incredulous tone that suggested I might have asked if she'd ever had sex with a duck.

It is a response I especially dislike, and at one stage of my life I would have eaten my way through the telephone to her head. I have learned, however, to deal with limited perception, so I simply repeated the message:

"Hello. My name is Al Martinez. I am a member of Cigna.

"Yesterday I received in the mail a booklet from Cigna outlining a program concerning use of private physicians. I lost the booklet and would like to get another. Can you help?"

"What is it you want?" she said.

I couldn't believe it.

"What part is it that baffles you?"

"You want some kind of booklet?"

"Some kind of booklet will do," I said.

"You'll have to call our North Hollywood office," she said.

Fair enough. I decided this time, however, to couch the request on a more primitive level:

"Hi," I said, "name's Al and I'm with you guys. Cigna shot me a booklet in the mail and I went and lost the little sucker. It's about, you know, private doctors an' stuff. Can you help me out, honey?"

She said, "Who is it you want?"

I said, "Hello. My name is Al Martinez. I am a member of Cigna . . . "

"Wait a minute," she said, "I'll connect you with customer relations."

Someone named John took the call.

"John," I said, "you may be my last chance. My name is Al Martinez. I am a member of Cigna."

I paused to let that sink in.

John said, "Yes."

"Yesterday I received in the mail a booklet from Cigna outlining a program concerning use of private physicians. I lost the booklet and would like to get another. Can you help me?"

Silence. Then John said, "I'm sorry, go ahead."

"Go ahead?"

"I had to leave the line for a moment."

"Damn, John, I'm not going over the whole thing again!"

"OK," he said, "do this. Call our corporate office. It's a toll-free number. They can help you."

I called the corporate office. My hand was beginning to tremble.

"Hello. My name is Al Martinez . . . "

"Hold please," the operator said.

A moment later another voice said, "How can I help you?"

I had no idea who the operator had connected me to. I had only given her my name. Was there a department that dealt specifically with people named Al Martinez?

"Hello," I said, "my name is Al Martinez . . ."

I explained everything, adding touches heretofore omitted, repeating whole phrases, dramatizing for emphasis, utilizing instincts honed over a lifetime of refining the simple, declarative sentence.

She said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

My jaw began to tighten.

I said, "Is there anyone there on any level who has absolutely any knowledge, however slim, of booklets Cigna might have either published or distributed? Take your time. Think about it."

"Just a minute," she said.

Music came on. I believe it was "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

I waited. And waited. And waited.

It was obvious that my question would never be answered by Cigna. I hung up. Then I was taken with a great notion. Health plans are handled here at God's Chosen Newspaper by the Employee Benefits Department. They would know.

"Hey," I said to the woman who answered, "this is Al Martinez. Cigna sent me some stuff in the mail and I lost it and am trying to get a copy. How do I go about it?"

She said, "You want to talk to Al Martinez?"

It was unreal.

"I am Al Martinez!" I said.

"Who?"

"My God, woman, help me!"

She said, "One moment, please."

She put me on hold. And disappeared.

I called the extension again and a recorded voice said no one was there but I could leave a message. I did. That was weeks ago. No one ever returned the call.

I feel it is not my destiny to know whether I can get a copy of a booklet distributed by Cigna, but if anyone should ever call me back, I'm ready:

Hello. My name is Al Martinez. I am a member of Cigna. Back in 1987 I received in the mail . . .

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