Fidelity, Wherefore Art Thou?

A couple of months ago, I went back to California to get vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine. In Mexico, I had been given the Chinese (Sinovac) vaccine, but that was eight months earlier, and it didn’t have all that great an effectiveness rating. Many European countries were not accepting it for entry, and I was worried the U.S. might follow suit.

I made the mistake of mentioning why I was back in California to my crazy cousin. He promptly held his finger to his lips, and signaled me to come closer. He whispered in my ear that “Everybody knows, the government has inserted tiny microchips in the vaccine that allow them to hear every word you say, and track everywhere you go.” When I said I wasn’t worried about that, he made me assure him that I’d wrap aluminum foil around my arm before phoning him in the future.

I had no difficulty getting my first two shots. I’d have to return in six months for the booster. The only side effect I experienced was hiccups. Two days straight. Night and day. With every breath—a hiccup. My only consolation was that, if government spies were listening, they probably went nuts trying to decode the message.

While I was in California, I also needed to straighten out some financial affairs. I was revising my will and I needed to update the list of beneficiaries on my 401K account with Fidelity Investments. So, after filling out all the necessary forms, I was told all I needed to do was have my signature notarized, scan the documents and email them to the company. Unfortunately, being a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, I had to admit I didn’t know how to scan documents. So the rep suggested I just drop them off at the nearest Fidelity branch office which was only seven miles away in Irvine, California.

So I dragged my knuckles to the car and entered the address into my GPS. The sweet lady with the British accent directed me turn-by-turn, ultimately saying “Arriving at 2211 Michaelson Drive, on the right.” I turned into the parking lot only to find that it served five multi-story buildings, only the backs of which faced the parking lot.  None of them had a sign saying Fidelity Investments.

I took a couple of reconnaissance loops around the lot before pulling over so I could go into the first building and ask if they knew where Fidelity was located. There was nobody at the reception desk, but eventually a lady peeked out of an unmarked door and asked if she could help me. She said she didn’t know where Fidelity was located, but she pointed to a nearby glass door that would take me into the main lobby where there was a directory that might help. With that, she disappeared back into the inner sanctum from which she had come.

It turned out, the directory was just for that one building, and Fidelity wasn’t on it. When I tried returning through the glass door, I found that it had locked behind me. The only way to return to my car was to exit into a central courtyard and walk two blocks, in the hot sun, around the perimeter of the building back to the parking lot. If I was going to have a similar experience at each of the four remaining buildings, I could drop dead before having delivered my beneficiary documents. This was serious. If nothing else, I definitely wanted to delete my screwball, anti-vaxxer cousin before I died. He’d just blow it all on aluminum foil.

When I got back to my car, I suddenly had a flash. I could let my fingers do the walking. I could call the Irvine office, and ask whoever answered the phone which building they’re in. I picked up my cell phone and said, “Siri, what’s the phone number of Fidelity Investments in Irvine, California.” I dialed the number and a recording of a very pleasant gentleman’s voice answered. “Good afternoon. Thank you for calling Fidelity Investments. This call may be recorded to ensure optimal customer service.” I was tempted to tell them not to bother, the vaccine police were probably already doing that.

“Please state your name and social security number.” I didn’t want to go through all that rigmarole, so I just said “Operator.” I had once read that you can skip all the questions and get a live human being if you just keep replying “Operator.”

The gentleman’s voice said, “In a few words, can you tell me what you’re calling about. For example, open an account, or check your account balance.” 

“Operator,” I replied.

The gentleman’s voice said, “I understand that you’d like to be connected with a representative. But before I do that, would you state your user name and social security number so we can establish your voice identification for future calls?” I was very tempted to hiccup into the phone.  But I stuck to my guns. “Operator.”

“Please hold while I connect you with the next available representative.” One ringy dingy. Two ringy dingies. A live woman answered. “Good afternoon. This is your branch representative. May I have your name and social security number?”

“No. Listen. I’m in your parking lot, but there are five buildings and I just need to know which one you’re in.”

“I’m sorry, sir, which branch office are you calling.”

“Yours,” I replied.  “Irvine, California.  Why do you ask?”

“Sorry, sir, I don’t know which building to tell you. I’m located in Portland, Oregon. However, if it will help, here’s the phone number for the Irvine office.”

“That’s the number I called and got you in Portland, Oregon.” I thanked her and declined to take the five-minute customer service survey.

At that point, I was tempted to ask my cell phone, “Siri, please ask the vaccine police if I’m anywhere near the Fidelity office in Irvine.” Instead, I drove one more lap around the parking lot. This time, I spotted a large red water pipe behind one of the buildings. Hanging from a wheel-shaped valve, there was a placard with the address “2211 Michaelson” painted on it, apparently to help firefighters in an emergency. I tried the back door and it opened. I walked up a long hallway and wound up in the main lobby which had a Fidelity Investments sign over the reception desk. I dropped off my forms and told the clerk how much trouble I’d had finding the office. He apologized and assured me that there was a large Fidelity sign on the front of the building, facing the street.

I exited the front door, and sure enough, there was a sign on the building. But more surprising, I noticed that the office was directly across the street from the “Magic Fingers Massage Parlor.” Well, for crying out loud. If they had just said that on their recording, I would have known exactly where to go.

July 2022 Issue

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Larry Kolczak
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