Peter – More Tales from the Office

I want to thank everyone who responded to last week’s column. Mary was very dear to me, and it was so nice seeing your responses. Many familiar names, (even if the pictures appear different from my memories 😉 .) Naturally, I later found a picture of her and Brian and l, posted it and again, so nice to see your reactions.

As this week marked the third anniversary of my retirement, I am going to replay some work memories, so here we go!

Although I was usually able to control interviews, every so often I would “come a cropper “. I had once interviewed a man, taken his information and sent it on to processing. Several weeks, later the decision had been made, but it was not favourable to him. He called me to discuss it.  (Remember that I had had nothing to do with the actual decision.) He said ” Mr Montreuil, there is a cloud of incompetence the size of the state of Nevada hanging over you! ” While I was impressed with his ability to think on his feet, I just told him that I was sorry that he felt that way, but he had the right to appeal this decision.( All these years later, I am still impressed with his ability to think on his feet!)

Another time, I was interviewing a young woman.  I asked her what other kinds of work she had done, and she began to go on about having done some nude modelling, while I made frantic, unsuccessful ” cut ” signs to end that particular part of the conversation.

As I firmly believed in accountability in the performance of my job, I gave my name and telephone number to every claimant whom I dealt with, regardless of the results, as shown above  😉 !

On one occasion, I received a telephone call from a claimant. As I was away from my desk, he got my answering machine. He left me a very polite message, stating that he would be in the office to see me on Friday. He then rang off, but not before leaving a venomous postscript liberally laced with profanity.

I know that you are wondering how I knew about this postscript. loyal reader, I knew about it because he didn’t hang the phone up completely at the end of his call. Message heard, I thought ‘Oh yes, come in Friday, sir.’

When the day in question arrived, he was his usual pleasant self and our conversation was mutually beneficial and satisfying. Rising out of his chair to leave, he thanked me once again. As he turned to leave, I told him that there was something that I wanted him to hear. Teeing up the voicemail in question, I handed him the phone and watched very carefully.

His expression changed dramatically when the “postscript ” came on, naturally. He tried to tell me that it wasn’t his voice, but his denial was weak as he knew I had him “dead to rights.”

I told him that I was a professional, and would never intentionally do anything to damage someone’s claim. Having said that, that didn’t mean that my feelings weren’t somewhat hurt, as I had never been anything other than courteous to him. I suggested in conclusion that he might want to work on his telephone etiquette, as he might not be so lucky next time with someone else. He left the office immensely relieved, I’m certain.

When I called an employer to do some “fact finding”, I would sometimes have to leave a message. I would say that it was Mr Montreuil calling from Canada Employment, and could they call me back? How’s that spelled? “M-O-N-T-R-E-U-I-L.” “Oh, Montreel?” I’d reply that the pronunciation didn’t change just because I had spelled my surname aloud.

We used jargon a lot when communicating with co workers. a) For example, “BPC” stands for b) “Benefit Period Commencement”, the Sunday of the week in which an Employment Insurance claim began. “”EDC” stands for “Expected Date of Confinement”, the date a baby is expected, (obviously!). “ADC” is “Actual Date of Confinement”, which may differ from the “EDC”, and sometimes does drastically c). We use the “EDC” when the claim is originally registered to be able to start working on it.

To demonstrate how this works, if I was talking to a co worker and they said “Well, BPC is 2020, EDC is 2025 and it’s an MA22” that would tell me that the claim was projected to start March 06, 2016, the baby was expected the week commencing April 10, 2016 and the last record of employment was missing. (MA22). Saves a lot of unnecessary verbiage, ehh?

It was stressed in our training that we were never to use “jargon” when speaking with a claimant, as they wouldn’t understand what we were saying. Strangely, it was very easy to not use jargon when dealing with a claimant. Family members, not so much. When my wife at the time phoned me at work to tell me that I was going to be a father, she told Peter Montreuil, her husband. Sadly, Peter Montreuil, the Unemployment Insurance worker, replied.

“So when’s your EDC?” I got her to eventually stop crying, but it did take a while and I think she always thought that it was an unromantic initial response to such great news. (She may be right. 😉 )

I remember once when a man came to my office, sat down, opened a briefcase and took out four stacks of paper. Handing me his ID, he said tersely “This is the 5th time I’ve been in this office in two weeks.” Looking at his claim, I asked when he had last checked his bank account. He replied the previous day. I said that we had directed deposited 9 weeks of benefits into his bank account that very morning. Gasping like a landed fish, he gathered up the four identical piles of paper, put them into his briefcase and wordlessly left the office d).

Then there were the things that you were just glad didn’t happen to you! Once one of our employees was on the phone with an employer checking some earnings. After getting the information he needed, he then began to criticize the payroll service the employer’s company was using because they made so many errors. The wretch got lots of subsequent facetime with his manager, but none of it involved mentoring.

Another time, a professional athlete came to one of our offices. (They never came alone, there was always a representative of the team with them.) In this case, the employee finished the interview and promptly asked for an autograph! When we were informed of both these cases in unit meetings, many was the employee who crossed themselves in horrified fascination.

One of our Investigation and Control Officers was a former professional wrestler, 6’8″ and a really nice guy. We were always happy when Steve was the “duty officer”, because that meant that he’d be on our floor. Days when he was there were always very peaceful.

It’s been fun putting these down, they were great times with great people, and the source of a number of future columns. In fact, I’m even going to write an interesting column about Social Insurance Numbers. (I do so savour a challenge.)

I’ll finish off with this memory. I was going through some of my work stuff and I came across this certificate trumpeting my excellence in ” Interviewing, Fact-Finding and Documentation Skills”. As I always say, sometimes the jokes write themselves!

When I did retire, I had a party at Cherry Cola’s Rock N Rolla Cabaret and Lounge. Four bands, no cover, just giving folks a chance to come out and hear some great indie music! This week, I am featuring 3 of the bands who played on that “enchanted evening” to show you the great indie music out there.

First off, “James Blonde”. We’ve been friends for 6 years now, and it has frankly been a thrill to watch their song writing and their stage show develop. Fine musicians, even nicer people, doing their best to get their message out. While they play “covers”, they also write some great original stuff. Here is one of those, “Golden Vibes”.

Next comes “Blackdog Ballroom”. The front man, Mike Stanfield, is not only a good songwriter, but a hardworking musician, who has crafted this band into a highly disciplined, tight group. “Sounds Like Now” was one of the first songs of theirs I heard, and it still resonates with me. Great video, too.

Finally, “Mushy Callahan”. four brothers from Alberta who came to Toronto to double the number of Calgary Flames fans in our fair city and make some great music at the same time. For Torontonians, they will be appearing at “Taste Of The Danforth” next month. Another original, another favourite of mine, “Weathered Eyes”.

See you soon.

  1. a) All secret societies do, of course 😉 .
  2. b) Or stood for. This is from 3 years ago and thankfully I don’t have to keep up on the newest E.I. legislation.
  3. c) In our case, the original EDC was August 9, 1979. Over time it got amended to September 20, 1979. The ADC was August 31, 1979. This, however, is an extreme case.
  4. d) I guess he really wanted to yell at somebody.
=PJM=

2 Responses to “Peter – More Tales from the Office”

  1. Betty Whipple Says:

    Another great column, Peter.! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your observations and memories. The Indie music is new to me but I love the beat and the heavy guitars. Thanks for sending-Bettie

  2. Peter Montreuil Says:

    You’re most welcome.

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