I am the crazy old lady on the phone.

Last Tuesday was a day to accomplish nothing, and try as I might, nothing is exactly what I got done. With a little affirmation from Greg Brown, I embraced my inability to comply with my list of things to do and went to bed promising myself success in the morning.

I awoke Wednesday with three items to check off: figure out how to get my insurance to cover new lenses for my antique eyeglass frames, order Melaphafon’s favorite cat food, and complete the exchange of a pair of socks I ordered a month ago, without creating a new account anywhere in the magical web of data mines.

I started with the socks. Last fall, I bought a couple of pairs of my favorite warm, fuzzy, three season wool socks from the manufacturer’s online store. Well, I thought I did. What I actually ordered and received was one pair of my favorite warm, fuzzy, three season wool socks, and another similar, but slightly engineered, version of the original model, made just enough theoretically-better to be actually-worse, at least on my feet. The socks had arrived with a postage-paid form for “return or exchange” so I filled it out, wrote a note stating that I wanted another pair of the model number on the correct pair’s packaging, put the wrong pair back in the box it arrived in, along with the form and a check for the difference in price, slapped the label on the box, and waited for my socks.

A few days later I got an email from customer service telling me that a gift card for 60 percent of the cost was redeemable at the company website using the code provided, and a credit for the rest was on my debit card.

No longer in possession of the style information on the now-discarded label, I looked at my original order. One style was listed as “extra cushion” and the other as “full cushion.” The descriptions on the company website, the next stop in my adventure, was pretty much the same for both styles, which was why I’d originally ordered one of each, so I clicked on the pictures. Now that I’d seen them in the physical world, I could tell that my favorite warm, fuzzy, three season wool socks are the “extra cushion” style.

I put them in my invisible cart, typed in the code for my invisible gift card, added my debit card information for the remaining 40 percent, and even swallowed more postage. When confirmation appeared on the screen, it was showed my card as the only form of payment.

I wrote back to customer service and described the situation. An automated reply told me they were processing my concern and I would hear back within 24 hours. When the response arrived, it informed me that my order had been canceled. I still had the refund and invisible, and apparently unusable, gift card from the original return, but I wanted the warm, fuzzy socks.

When it comes to words, pictures, research, and the like I’m pretty capable in most practical uses of computers. I prefer human interchange to the one-sided time sink that is the internet and I like to think of myself as a job creator, so when I can’t go into a brick-and-mortar store to find a human to deal with, I get my customer service through a phone line.

Tyler, the lucky customer service representative at the sock company Wednesday morning, was a cheerful and willing co-conspirator. I started by telling him that I hoped he would stay with me until I’d ordered my socks, processed the gift card, paid the balance from my debit card, and completed the transaction. “Sure thing,” he told me.

Tyler was true to his word. It took 37 minutes and some creative thinking, since the gift card had come without a required pin, but in the end he completed the order and threw in next day shipping. Nice guy, Tyler. Thanks for starting my day off right.

The only weird part, for me, was when I started to give him my debit card information.

“We don’t do that anymore,” he said. “For your safety, we now use an encryption and tokenization system that works with your phone. When you hear the prompts, all you have to do is type the appropriate numbers into your keypad.” For your safety is a phrase that, along with “in order to serve you better” should be banned from the customer service playbook,

As it happened, I had just that morning read a story in the New York Times about the environmental cost of encryption systems. So I told Tyler about that. I also told him what I tell anyone who offers me too much organization instead of a system that really worked pretty well.

“There’s a singer named Jimmy Buffet,” I said. “He’s got this song called Fruitcakes. You should check it out.” It turns out Tyler likes Jimmy Buffet, so maybe he’ll give it a shot.

My next priority was the eyeglass lens order and that went pretty smoothly, once I found my way from the health insurer to the payment processor and on to the actual vendor who could tell me where, within striking distance of my somewhat rural home, I could get the work done. Altogether, that inquiry only took 13 minutes, during which I got to meet Angel, Angelina, and Claudia. I may have mentioned Fruitcakes.

No encryption was involved, although the next day when I visited the approved optometrist, they were unable to process the Visa card my insurance company gives me to provide my copay for such transactions. Once again, I resorted to the phone. Nine minutes later someone named Lisa had given me a promise that a reimbursement request form would be sent to me. I charged the $40 copay to my debit card.

The final item on my list was cat food. Melaphafon is not a picky cat. In spite of her feral history, she has been the most easily domesticated and equable of the dozen or so felines I’ve had the pleasure to adopt. To reward this astonishing behavior, I started to give her a small amount of wet food, every day. I tried a few varieties and she settled on something inexpensive and loaded with additives. Her choice was probably made on the basis of texture, but I was thrilled. At the time I could get it from the now-defunct Feed Store for a very reasonable price.

When the Feed Store announced its closure, I bought two cases of Melaphafon’s favorite food. That was several months ago, and we’re down to five cans.

In spite of the pedestrian nature of this product, it is very hard to find. Eventually, I turned to the internet where, in exchange for a bunch of personal information and the creation of yet another password, you can order cat food from a handful of companies that cater to online shoppers and their pets. Again, I called customer service. I explained to Michelle that I wanted to order a case of cat food without opening an account or signing up for automatic delivery. She explained to me that an account was necessary but she could delete it as soon as the order was completed.

We set to work. After 22 minutes and another opportunity to type my debit card information into my phone, Michelle submitted the order and her system crashed. I told her about Fruitcakes, too.

After lunch I found another vendor, who did not stock Melaphafon’s cat food in their big box (where my eyeglass prescription is being refilled), but did sell it online without demanding a password. By ordering two cases I was able to get free next-day shipping. Yesterday, I got an email telling me the package would arrive by the end of today; FedEx tracking says I can expect delivery tomorrow. We’ve still got those five cans in the pantry.

Shlomit Auciello is a writer, photographer, and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Letter From Away has appeared online and in print, on and off since 1992, and is published here on a weekly basis.