When the end of July 31st, American time, arrived without a pension deposit to my bank account, I realized something must be seriously wrong -- realized also that, since almost all of my savings are invested in the market, I could be in a seriously precarious position. My first move was to text Cathy, the Chengdu native who founded the tutoring service I work for, Ivy&Me, and ask her for an advance (she normally wires money the 15th of each month). She promptly wired me more than I asked for.
Then at 9pm I phoned via the Skype service MTRS, the Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement System, in Springfield, MA. I was put in touch with a very kind and very professional young woman, whose name I won't publish here though I would like to, and she listened to me explain my quandary, then did some tapping on her machine, then concisely explained to me the error of my ways. They had not received a change of address form from me, and every two years pensioners must submit a BVF (Benefit Verification Form). The deadline had passed, and benefits were being withheld.
I had for quite a while thought that the Leominster School Department was handling my paperwork, but this was true only for my first year of retirement -- I learned this during my time in Massachusetts in June. After the first year, it all gets shoved over to MTRS. My change of address was known to the School Department but not to MTRS, which had my old Fitchburg address. Had taken it for granted that the School Department would send along the change (one should not, of course, take for granted things that involve one's cash supply), and the change had not been sent. My tax forms had not been sent -- I filed for an extension -- and MTRS would have to provide these too.
Well, the woman at MTRS, despite her real kindness and professionalism, then dropped an anvil on my foot. The BVF could not be filled out digitally, but she would send one by mail; when they received it back signed and notarized, they would reinstate the pension. I knew this process could take three, even four weeks, and obligations raced through my mind -- P18,000 car payment on the 22nd, the weekly to Fred's of P6,500, Jane's salary, the cats' cans of mackerel . . . . I told the kind woman I really needed the money sooner. Could we do this by fax? she asked.
Jane and I spent the next two days canvassing the city. In the two establishments that advertised a fax service, faxing was no longer available, and other leads did not pan out. I called the woman back and explained the situation. She did not even "ahem" but said she would call her manager, and could I hold? In less than three minutes she was back and told me in my special circumstance I could fill it out digitally: it would be sent to me in a compressed and encrypted file, along with the tax information. In a separate file, the code for the encryption would be sent.