Wednesday, Sep 14, 2016
Heidi and I headed to IESS this morning to get her signed up for medical insurance. I’ll cut to the chase right now…she did get enrolled, but it was an interesting process. We once again met Scott and Colleen there, so we were able to provide moral support to each other through it.
When we arrived at 9:30 am, the line was already long. And unfortunately the receptionist who spoke some English, wasn’t here. So in my best attempt to communicate I told the Spanish-only speaking woman at the desk what I needed. She spoke back to me, and I didn’t understand anything except her hand motion for me to step aside and wait.
It was a humbling experience because in my attempt to communicate with her, I had an Ecuadorian audience. There were people who were “lined up” but not in line, standing at the reception desk, and they all had their eyes on the exchange between me and the receptionist.
There were several smiles on their faces of “the line” as I looked at them. No one was being unkind. I think they were just amused at my awkward linguistic attempt. I don’t blame them for smiling. I often use a completely wrong word and it only hits me after my conversation with people. Gotta love learning a new language.
The receptionist handed a couple more numbers to people who were in line behind me. Then she just stood up, handed Scott and I a number, and told us to follow her over to Window #4. This was the same window we were at last week when the customer service representative just up and left us waiting.
Today, the representative here is the one who helped us last month, and she speaks English! The receptionist spoke to the representative and I assume explained we needed help. The representative was very nice, and tried to help us get our spouses signed up.
This required her sending an email to the primary insurance holder so a password can be created, then the rep can use it to enroll the dependent. The tricky part is, the email is only valid for 15 minutes to create a password. Now, we are at IESS and there are no computers to access email.
Scott was being helped first and the representative sent him the email. He tried to access his phone using cell signal and guess what? You can’t get a signal, or at least one very well, inside the IESS building. After a few attempts Scott went outside to see if he could download the email and go through the process to create the password.
As he left I sat down and had the representative sent an email to me so I could go through the same process. I got the email, and it began to download but was having difficulty so I stood up and moved a couple of feet to see if it would finish downloading. When I did that, some woman came out of nowhere, sat in my seat and pushed her paperwork toward the representative who was helping me.
This is just a physics principle that is demonstrated every day in Ecuador…”Nature abhors a vacuum”. Anytime I allow a space between me and where I want to be, it will get filled immediately with someone moving in front of me filling the gap. Guaranteed.
Anyway, since I lost my seat I went outside as well to get the email to download on my phone. The email did download, and I was able to figure out how to answer the prompts in Spanish so it would get me to the password field. The problem then became that the password field required using a scrambled keyboard pop-up that had changing letter positions on the board after each letter or number was entered into the password field.
The cell signal was not strong even outside because of the surrounding tall buildings, so this pop-up keyboard would have trouble loading. It had to reload after each letter was typed and it was a 6 character password…6 reloads required. This was taking a lot of time, and what I didn’t know was if my email would become invalid if I didn’t get my password entered into the system within the 15 minute window. I was well over 10 minutes at this point standing outside trying to get it entered in.
After what seemed like a slow and laborious process I was able to enter a complete password. Scott had already got his entered in and was back inside. As I returned to the window, Scott had just successfully finished his registration with the representative and stood up to leave. I began to sit down but was asked to wait while the representative helped a woman who was standing off to the side with papers in her hand.
When it was my turn again, I gave the representative my password and she was able to then finish the registration process for Heidi. Heidi is now enrolled for insurance but it will not be activated until next month, after I go to the bank and pay the premium between the 5th and 15th.
You know, none of this bureaucracy is really any different from many situations I could find myself in the US. The big difference is that it is all happening in Spanish, and somehow it makes the overall experience that more surreal.