The wrong answers to the right questions

In the midst of applying for long-term health care insurance because my husband and I are of a certain age, I had a telephone interview to test my cognitive abilities. As part of the call, I was asked several questions that I could not answer honestly. I had to think what the questioner wanted me to say, not in an attempt to hide my health, but to make sense to the caller.

Question 1. What would you do if you locked yourself out of your home or apartment? Truthful Answer 1. We don’t lock our doors. We don’t even have keys for our doors. Before I could lock myself out, I would need to replace the doorknobs. I wanted to say that but didn’t dare as the questioner wouldn’t understand and would have refused the insurance on the grounds of me giving a loony response: Answer I gave: Go to the neighbors and wait until my husband returns home.

Question 2. What would you do if you smelled smoke? Truthful answer 2. I’d go look around outside to see if the irrigation district was burning weeds or if my husband had fired up a pile of empty corn seed sacks or at least determine from which direction the odor was coming. I didn’t tell her that we have a fire truck in our shop building that is ready to go at a moment’s notice. Answer I gave: I would look around very briefly then call 911. Thinking she would want to be sure I had the faculties to know the emergency telephone number, I thought that should be part of my reply and deftly included it.

Question 3. The inquisitor told me she would give me 10 words, one at a time, and ask me to use them individually in a sentence. I was sworn to not write anything down and silly me, I didn’t. She then ran me through a few simple arithmetic problems — again, no use of a pencil or calculator — then proceeded to ask me to recall the original 10 words. I was moving right along when my husband stepped into my office doorway, and since that often means, “Can you come help me?” it broke my concentration and I’ll be darned if I could remember any more words. At least I had the presence of mind to offer that up to her as the reason my recitation had stopped.

I haven’t heard if I passed the test but considering I had to do double duty to answer her questions, I should have earned a good score.

There are just some scenarios lived by country people every day that urbanites would not comprehend, no matter how much explanation is given. Sometimes it is better to frame responses in a manner they can understand. You can contact Peggy via her website,

Peggy Sanders


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