WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- Oh, Jodi Sellie is such a tricky trickster.

At about this same time last year, Jodi invited me to attend a fair that would be conducted on the Arsenal. And so, I saved up my dollars for several months to play carnival games and for fried dough. It turned out that the fair dealt with health benefits for the workforce and their family members, and that there would not be a petting zoo for me to visit between arcade games.

Jodi is a Human Resources Specialist in the Arsenal's Civilian Personnel Advisory Center who is a very kind person with a warm smile. But having said that, when she invited me to this year's health benefits fair, I was ready.

As I walked up to the fair location, a couple of ladies from the command group were walking out holding large bags and protecting them as if they had just come from a Black Friday sale. I asked them if I could have a look at what was in their bags. Immediately, both ladies moved the bags to their hip furthest from me and told me that if I wanted to know what they had that I had to visit the fair, and to be swift because the freebees were going quick.

Freebees??? My favorite word. My step quicken and I busted in the door to the fair site only to be met by ̶ you guessed it ̶ tricky trickster Jodi.

As what seemed like hundreds of Arsenal employees, family members, and retirees stuffing shopping bags full of free stuff, Jodi felt compelled to hold me back to explain to me about the fair, the Arsenal history, and War and Peace.

As I stood next to Jodi, more folks pushed passed me cleaning off vendor tables as quickly as the tables could be replenished. Jodi explained that fair is important because there have been changes to the prices for health, dental, and vision plans and getting that information out to the employees is critical so they can make an informed decision to either stay with their current plan or change to another plan. I nodded, but became more nervous as the fair site was filling up.

She continued to tell me that she and a new Human Resource Assistant by the name of Joelle Zwack had worked since September coordinating and planning for this event that she hoped to have about 300 attend. So noted, I thought as I started shuffling toward the freebees.

When Jodi got to the part that if someone is happy with their current plan then there is nothing that they need to do, that is when I made my break.

I told her that I am good because I don't plan on changing anything and moved toward the door as if I was leaving. She smiled and said goodbye and then I waited just outside the door until she latched onto another employee. Poor soul. I then made my move to the tables.

En route to the tables, Machinist John Maroney stopped me to show me the goodies that he was able to snatch. He said that while he was stuffing his shopping bag at the various tables that he was able to get information on how much his health insurance was going up. Which he said was his original intent on attending the fair. Yeah, right.

I quickly moved past John only to be corralled by Financial Program Coordinator Dave Madsen. While Dave was struggling to hold onto his year's supply of toothbrushes, he explained to me that because his health care insurance company didn't provide vision or dental insurance he was comparing various company plans to get the best coverage for the price.

I don't know if Dave was talking about me when he said, "This is a strange benefit fair this year. It used to be that people just came here for the free stuff, but today it seems as if people are actually asking questions."

If only Dave knew what my goal was for the day. It had not changed from last year.
I finally made it to my first table as Manufacturing Support Division Chief Tim Allard grabbed the last toothbrush off the table. I waited patiently for Von Ahouse, from Delta Dental, to reload the table. Instead, Von spent the next 10 minutes talking to me about the enhanced benefits his company is offering this year.

By the time I got done with John, Dave, and Von, the tables had been cleared of anything of value or what I call freebees. Not even a shopping bag was left. Well, there went my wife's Christmas present.

As I was walking out the door with no freebees, Jodi stopped me again. I explained to her that I was disappointed in this year's fair in that I was leaving with nothing other than flyers and brochures.

Jodi said she didn't understand my dissatisfaction because it appeared to her that I had a successful morning. Huh? She went on to say that the goal of the day was to ensure that people left with the information that they needed to make smart decisions about their health care.

Obviously, Jodi and I have a different measurement of success. She is once again a tricky trickster.

The health benefits open season runs from November 13 to December 11.