If you are in crisis or looking for mental health services for yourself or someone you know, call Colorado Crisis Services Hotline. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” on 38255 to speak with a counselor or qualified professional. Counselors are also available in drop-in locations or online to chat between 4 p.m. and noon.

This kind of desperation seemed new to me. Perhaps this is because at this point in the pandemic people have spent their resources and no longer see help in sight.

“It’s very possible that I could lose everything, you know,” Baine said, “so hopefully that will work.”

In a way, his fate was linked to the display of hours and minutes on the screen. And, quite quickly, that changed: the stopwatch quietly moved back a few minutes. It was a victory: the numbers had never changed at Baine. Maybe his unreliable cell service had subtly screwed things up.

But he wasn’t ready to celebrate, “I’m not buying it.

And it soon became clear that he was right to be skeptical. The timer suddenly went up, then went down again. Soon its fluctuations were maddening. At one point, after hours of waiting, the clock returned to 1:48, our starting point.

“No, I knew it wouldn’t work,” Baine told me, “but I appreciate you trying. It’s like that all the time.”

The solution in three minutes

This story, however, has a happy ending. After some tinkering and refreshments, the timer finally started working again, and quickly. He spent 90 minutes, then 60, then 30, dropping a few minutes at a time. I noticed Baine was getting more excited and even nervous, his foot tapping as we were under 10 years old.

“I could pay for a house, pay electricity bills, go to work,” he said.

He wondered aloud what would happen when the stopwatch went to zero. Would someone appear on the screen, he asked? After weeks of frustration, would he give them his opinion?

The timer hit a minute, then an anti-climatic zero.

Finally, someone appeared – a woman in her home office replacing the timer.

“Can you hear me okay?” She asked, and they exchanged pleasantries.

She asked Baine to show a copy of her driver’s license on camera and recite some of her personal identifying information, including her Social Security number. She was verifying that there was a real person matching the information and photograph attached to Baine’s account – exactly what automated technology had failed to do months earlier.

Andy Kenney / CPR News
Bill Baine presents an ID card to a contractor with ID.me.

After months of waiting, it took about three minutes.

“Well, thank you for your patience,” the entrepreneur said jokingly. “That ends your ‘trusted referee’ video call. “

As he disconnected, Baine looked like he didn’t know how to feel. “It’s weird, Andy,” he laughs.

The solution to his problem was simple to execute: all that was needed was a modern computer and a solid Internet connection. But it was totally out of reach for him and a lot of other people.

About 15% of the American population does not have a smartphone, and even more do not have a computer, according to Pew Research. As governments and businesses embrace technology-dependent biometric services like ID.me, this kind of problem is likely to persist long after the pandemic.

There is another element: besides the lack of technology, he had not been able to get a single human answer on what to do next, which made him increasingly unable to navigate. in a complex system. This trip to the library was a risk, a potential waste of time and gasoline for a man short of both.

Back on the road, Baine thanked me warmly – but he wondered about everyone, all those increasingly desperate messages in my inbox, people I couldn’t spend hours with.

“What about all these other people?” ” he said.

By the time we got home, a thunderstorm was hitting the foothills. His wife was out shopping, so he called her from the front yard. “We managed it. I have to do a few other things, but then we’re good, ”he said.

A few days later, he let me know that his benefits had been released. He thinks that will be enough to last until his next job – and for the couple to live in their quiet corner of the Front Range.

Andy Kenney / CPR News
Bill Baine heads for his house west of Castle Rock.

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