Who You Gonna Call?

Returning home to a three-month pile of snail mail, I start by making four piles: His, Mine, Ours, and Junk, the most easily handled but sadly the smallest pile.

Pile of snail mail


Over breakfast, we dispose of Ours: Christmas cards that arrived after we left, credit card statements already looked at online. Then I take Mine to my office and sort it again, but by source: magazines, businesses, charities, and government.

I boot pretty quickly through the first three piles, noting a few oddities as I go:

  • 1 letter ostensibly confirming a magazine gift for a grandchild but really giving me a handy form for ordering more (gift subscriptions, not grandchildren)
  • 53 bank mailings (maybe I miscounted) reporting on 1 RRSP contribution, 2 retirement savings account transfers (sending and receiving banks both heard from multiple times, thanks very much), and 3 bank accounts
  • 3 tax receipts for In Memoriam donations to offline charities, and 2 follow-on solicitations from charities whose mailing lists I joined by making In Memoriam donations

So far, so good: tedious but tolerable. Then I hit the last pile and its highlights:

  • A Canada Revenue Agency reminder that my first HST payment is due at the end of April, unlike every other year when it was due at, let me see, the end of April
  • A Service Canada notification that my application for Old Age Security has been approved, with 20 column-inches of additional information, much of it made irrelevant by this very notification and all of it in print too small for Old Age Security recipients to read easily

Wow! This is fun. But wait, there’s more. The last item in the government pile brings birthday greetings from Her Majesty the Queen.

I’m not kidding. Of course, the greetings come from the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care via ServiceOntario, but that’s a proxy for the Province of Ontario which is, in turn, a proxy for Herself. The letter starts off with a tone both celebratory and condescending, sorta like this.

Dear Ontarian: Congratulations on surviving to 65!

Maybe I overreacted.

Anyway, it’s clear that 65 is the eligibility age for the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, but the Program itself is past confusing. I hack through the jungle:

  • Deductibles, co-payments, and requirements related thereto
  • Income levels and their effect on benefits (in two tables)
  • Application procedures (“It’s simple!”)
  • Interactions with two other provincial drug programs
  • What You Should Do if You Move (call the Queen, I think, but maybe I misunderstood)

I reach the end of the covering letter none the wiser, really, and turn hopefully to the enclosed pamphlet. Sadly, it has nothing to do with the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, and is unexpectedly offensive besides.

Cover of pamphlet on safe medication use

How does it offend me? Let me count the editorial ways:

  • It has three named sections — Did You Know?, Some Suggestions, More Suggestions (I’m not kidding) — and an unnamed section that (going by its content) would have to be We Just Thought We’d Say It Again to Fill Up the Pamphlet.
  • It does not distinguish between content of passing interest (things you might want to know, you know, sometime) and content critical to health or life safety (things you MUST DO or MUST NOT DO with your meds).
  • Its advice on the proper handling of meds is valid for all ages, not just for seniors, as is its oft-repeated advice on What to Do if You Experience a Surprising Side Effect (Hint: Don’t call the Queen.).

I pay taxes for this, so I’m about to call the police: I (and other Dear Ontarians) have been robbed. Worse, as a soon-to-be senior, I fear I’m in line for many more such communications from the Crown. Good grief.

Does the Queen know what’s being done in Her name? Surely not. Maybe I’ll call Her.

I’m not kidding.



This entry was posted in Language and Communication, Laughing Frequently, Officialdom and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Who You Gonna Call?

  1. Tom Watson says:

    I have three thoughts.

    First thought:
    Ah heck…just go ahead and call the Queen! I suspect she will decide taking your call would be a good job for Charles, who will then relay you to one of the people who work in DRRILS (the Department Responsible For Responding to Inquiring Loyal Subjects).

    Second thought:
    Whoever prepared the seniors’ pamphlet is in training for a more advanced position in ODHMSLRG (the Ontario Department of How To Make Stuff Look Really Good). There’s a derogatory term that’s sometimes used – it’s called spin doctoring.

    Third thought:
    Ya really made my day. Ya really did!

    Thanks, Isabel. Cheers!
    Oh yes, by the way, when you call the Queen it’s not necessary to mention my name. I’m still a bit miffed that she missed my 65th birthday which occurred almost 15 years ago now, and I don’t figure there’s any point in getting on her list at this late date!

    • Years ago I wrote to the Queen to ask what she kept in her handbag, including a list of what people I had asked thought. Got a very nice letter back by return mail from The Queen Mother thanking me for the kind birthday card I had sent her.

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Barbara – OK, so maybe that organization isn’t the place to take complaints about communication practices? Good tip. (Did you keep the letter from The Queen Mum or is it part of the great divestment?)

        • I reproduced it in my first book, The Pattern of Pattern, along with all the things people thought she might carry. You have that book, right?

          • Isabel Gibson says:

            Barbara – I do not. I do have the one on pocket lint and two on Nebraska, though, and I suppose there’s a pattern there too.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – When I see bad writing/thinking (they’re indistinguishable sometimes) I suspect it’s because there’s no return to the organization in doing any better. I mean, where else am I gonna go for the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, or for unnecessary details on Old Age Security? Maybe we need to introduce competition into government. As for your name, it’s safe with me.

  2. I love organizational projects. 😀
    One year I saved every piece of mail that came. I have the number somewhere. It included 50 Christmas cards for our mascots Bear and Hemmy.

    I am not a hoarder, but this year I am keeping a list of all items I pitch w/comments/apposite stories. I started out wanting to pitch 365, but soon bumped that up to 1,000. I am now at 947, so will forget 1,000. Too easy. Pitching 60+ National Geographics from 1980s, 90s. Never read the articles: “magazine” too hard to keep open, but now reading a few and looking on-line to include advances/outcomes/images in last 25-30 years.

    Please don’t let me make a book of this…. But it would be an interesting document for posterity, says 200 years, when perhaps nothing will be pitched: too precious, aprés the Apocalypse.

    A friend got on the bandwagon of this and pitched 1,400 items from her bathroom! (Such an even number…)

    P.S. Know this guy? https://iamjamesward.com
    “I Like Boring Things” website with jpg compilations like, “Things I Held in My Left Hand in 2016”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I didn’t know him, so thanks! I’d forgotten about your divestment project, and agree that 1,400 is suspiciously even. I do remember thinking I could take a picture of everything I throw out and making a poster or somesuch.

      • My sister, also on the ‘game’, sends me jpgs taken with her phone. She says things do resist pitching. My own high score is due to pitching a lot of original drawings, etc., I have scanned, and notes, maps, etc. re Nebraska.
        It is hard: I feel like I am getting my affairs in order sometimes, but it has to be done at some point.

        Last year, I gave away ~3000 of my objects to Bill Staubi, who does assemblages. You will see two he did in thanks for us.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Barbara – Yes, they have minds – or, at least, a will. Would Bill Staubi like some telephone cords? I know someone who has more than he requires.

  3. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – Once you get the first government missive from Ontario reminding you that you are about to turn 65 – as if you really needed to be reminded of something like that – it might make you feel better to know that that is probably the last correspondence you’ll receive from Ontario on the subject. At least that was how it was for me. All that to say that you can probably wait a bit before you start writing to the Queen.
    John W

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