Customer Service by John Purcell

RECORDED FEMALE VOICE: “To ensure quality control, this conversation might be recorded.”

TRANSCRIPT BEGINS: “Satellite Life and Property, Customer Service, this is Monica. How can I help you?”
“Uh, yeah. Monica?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Yes. Monica. I, uh, I have been having a problem with a recent claim on my 2053 Tycho.”
“Certainly, sir. May I have your name, home address, and policy number?”
“Julian Anderson: Module 22, Vilnius Colony, Mare Serenitatis, Moon. Policy number: X-555803M.”
“Thank you, Mr. Anderson. And for confirmation, what are the last five digits of your phone number?”
“Home or chip-phone?”
“Oh. Home phone number, sir.”
“Alright, thank you. Now, Mr. Anderson, what is the nature of your problem?”
“Well, Monica, two months ago I submitted a claim to Satellite on my Tycho because the drive train was damaged when I side-swiped a boulder while driving to work.”
“So you filed it as a collision claim?”
“Yes. A week later I received an e-reject text saying that the drive-train wasn’t covered under the collision part of my lunar vehicle policy.”
“I see. Exactly where did this occur?”
“On the southeast rim of crater Plinius on May 17th of this year.”
“Thank you. Just a moment, sir. (sound of keys clicking) Yes, Mr. Anderson, I see here in the claim database that drive-trains are covered under the comprehensive part of your lunar vehicular policy, and then only if malfunction is due to usual wear-and-tear.”
“That’s why I filed it as a ‘collision’ claim. Everything with my Tycho was fine until after I clipped that boulder.”
“I see. So how exactly did this incident occur?”
“Yes, sir. Incident. Until proven by one of our claim adjusters, I cannot refer to your claim as an ‘accident’ unless your claim has been officially recognized as such.”
“But I hit the boulder!”
“Directly or indirectly, sir?”
“What? Oh, I get it. You’re trying to determine fault, aren’t you?”
“That is not my job, Mr. Anderson, but the adjuster’s.”
“Is there an adjuster’s name on file for this ‘incident’?”
“No, sir, no adjuster has not been assigned to this claim as of yet.”
“So who rejected my claim?”
“The database, sir.”
(pause) “The database?”
“Yes, sir. All claim databases are managed by computers, of course, that recognize and assign claims according to the parameters set for property and life insurance claims. If the claim descriptors are not compatible within the accident-claim parameters, then that claim is automatically rejected.”
“I see.” (pause) “So, what you are telling me is that I need to resubmit this claim under the comprehensive coverage of my policy.”
“I am not telling you what to do at all, Mr. Anderson. All I am permitted to do is answer your questions and direct you to a claim adjuster if applicable.”
“Oh. So I need to talk to a claim adjuster.”
“Yes, sir. The one assigned to your case.”
“But you just told me no-one has been assigned to my claim yet.”
“That is correct, sir. Yes.”
“Can you direct me to one, then?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Anderson, but I can’t do that. Adjusters are assigned to claims as they are received and evaluated.”
“Who does that?”
“The database.”
(pause) “Is this the same database that rejected my original claim?”
“Yes, sir. By working within set parameters, a claims analysis database is the most efficient and cost-effective way to handle the volume of claims that are submitted to Satellite.”
“I suppose so. . .” (unintelligible)
“It really does make a difference in reducing the workload. (coughs, clears throat) Well, let me get some more information from you, Mr. Anderson. What I can do is resubmit your claim to the database and have it re-evaluated so that an adjuster can be assigned.”
“Oh, that’s just wonderful.”
“Very good. Okay, so let me review the basic information from your initial e-claim, and you can provide additional information as applicable; would that be alright with you, Mr. Anderson?”
“Oh, I suppose. As if I have a choice in the matter by now.”
“Never mind. Go ahead.”
“Yes, sir. According to your claim file, at 8:20 AM, local time, on the morning of May 17th, 2055, you were on your way to work at the lunar mining facility on the Mare Serenitatis when your 2053 model Tycho rover, LVIN number T-77033Q00117, slid approximately 12 meters down the interior slope of Crater Plinius and came to rest against a large boulder, approximately 2.5 meters in diameter. Is that correct, sir?”
“Yes, Ma’am. All of it.”
“Very good. Were there any witnesses?”
(brief pause) “Witnesses? Witnesses?!? I’m on the MOON, lady, and there aren’t that many people up here! It’s not like it was rush hour in Houston, for Christ’s sake!”
“Mr. Anderson, please refrain from using epithets while conversing with a customer service representative. This conversation is most likely being recorded.”
“I really don’t care! Actually, I’m glad this conversation is being recorded because I’m starting to get sick and tired of this run around! I mean, really: how in the name of all that is holy could there possibly be witnesses to a one-car accident on the moon?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Rover, sir. You were driving a lunar rover, not a car.”
“Same thing. Up here a rover IS your car.”
“Yes, sir.” (pause) “Do you have anything else to add to your description of the ‘accident’, Mr. Anderson?”
(customer chuckles) “Ah, hell. . . I really don’t know what else I could possibly say that could help things out by now.”
“Well, maybe you could describe exactly what happened.”
“That makes sense. Okay. Well, it was about an hour and a half before the start of my shift at the Mare Serenitatis silicon mining facility, and I was driving my usual route from the residence colony when I followed the track up to the rim of the Plinius crater to enjoy the Earthrise. It really is an incredible sight. You gotta see it sometime. The view from the rim is spectacular, and since there’s no air up there, everything is sharply defined: the rocks, cliffs, boulders, mountains — the works – and you can see literally forever. And the Earth just hangs there like this massive, perfect blue-white-brown marble against that black nothingness of space. It never fails to take my breath away.”
“Yes, sir. That certainly sounds wonderful. So you drove up to the crater’s rim?”. . .
“Sure did. Four days a week at about that time.”
“Is there a roadway?”
“You mean like a paved highway? Naw. Not like that. It’s more or less a hardened track where Rover wheels have compacted the surface dust into something like a pair of sidewalks that lead up and down the crater rim, then off to the plant.”
“Oh? So there are other drivers that take that route?”
“There might be. I’ve never seen anybody else drive it, though. See, Hal, Cole, and I swap shifts to monitor the diggers and processing areas of the facility — we’re all engineering supervisors since everything is done by robot and computer — and no-one is supposed to leave the observation deck until their relief arrives to get briefed on this and that, or if there’s anything in particular that needs attention. You know how that sort of thing goes, I’m sure.”
“Yes, sir. But you said that others may drive the same route that you take to and from the residence colony?”. . .
“Yeah. We all live in the colony; it’s about 2 kilometers from the Serenity mining facility. I suppose Hal and Cole drive their rovers over the same route, but I’m not sure. I mean, everything is basically wide open up there on the Mare, so you can drive your rover pretty much any which where you choose.”
“I see. So, you’ve driven this particular route before?”
“I already said that. (pause, mutters) It’s a pretty safe trip. Obviously not completely safe, otherwise I wouldn’t have filed this collision claim.”
“So go on with what happened next. You drove to the edge of Crater Plinius’s rim, and then what?”
“Oh, I sat there for a moment enjoying the view and the quiet, then began to follow the track along the rim before it curves back down on the Mare — it’s a fairly gentle slope about a kilometer long — and that’s when the rover began to slid sideways into the crater. Scared the living shit out of me! Oops, sorry. Didn’t mean to say that.”
“That’s okay, sir.”
“Anyway. So my rover slid sideways about 12 meters into the crater, smacking into this big chunk of rock. Dinged the rover up pretty good; bent the frame, knocked the drive-train out of whack and all. It happened so quickly that it shook me up pretty good. Danged lunar dust is so fine it can act like spilled oil. That’s gotta be what happened: my wheels slipped a bit on a patch of that danged dust, and that’s all it took for even lunar gravity to take over and pull me into the crater.”
“I understand, Mr. Anderson.”
“So that’s why I filed a collision claim. Nothing was wrong with the drive-train until I slid into that crater.”
“Well, sir, I’m afraid there’s not much else I can do for you from this end.”. . .
“How do you mean?”
“I mean that I can’t advise you as to whether your claim will be covered by your policy.”
“Why not?”
“Mr. Anderson, decisions like that are left up to the policy underwriters. Besides, it sounds to me like this was solely your fault. Based on my knowledge of property insurance, my guess — off the record, of course, since I am not an underwriter and have no over-ride policy authority — I would not be surprised if your resubmitted claim would be denied again based on operator error.”
(Lengthy pause, unintelligible muttering — something about “damned rock-bound paper-pushers” — then another pause.) “So now what? I have to talk to an underwriter? Is that the deal?”
“Yes, sir. I’m sorry, but that’s how the hierarchy works here. If you need to talk to someone in authority, you have to go higher.”
(heavy sigh) “Well, that shouldn’t surprise me. So who do I talk to? What’s the name of the Satellite underwriter who can help me?”
“Um, that’s not determined yet, Mr. Anderson.”
“Don’t tell me. . .”
“You will need to resubmit your policy claim so that the database can assign. . .”

Customer Service Copyright © 2014 by John Purcell. Originally published in Planetary Stories #18.
Image Copyright © 2014 by Duncan Long.
All Rights Reserved.

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