Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tales from the Lost Months: Jury Duty Ice Road Trucking/Subaruing Blues (PART 4)

The first few days without a car were fine because the wife was still out from work on sick leave, resulting from a three day stay in the hospital with bilateral pneumonia. (Another lost tale for another time.) Fortunately, by the time of my crash, she was through the worst of it and on the road to the mend. Being from Alaska and therefore fearless on icy roads, the wife was fine driving us around when we needed to be out. However, once she was finished with sick leave, she made me get back on the driving horse and face my fears so that I would be able to drop her off and pick her up from work.This would have been fine with me, except the weather didn’t improve and it continued to snow more. The first night I had to pick her up, I spent the better part of an hour walking up and down the blind curve, flinging gravel out so the road would have some traction for me when I drove down at 9 plus o'clock at night. And even then I had her on speakerphone as I drove it so she could talk me through my first trip down the icy slope and serve as an audio witness to my demise should I take a tumble down Mr. Costello's yard. The trip was fine, though, with no slippage on the well-graveled road.

A few days into the icy stretch, the temperatures warmed enough to cause a lot of the ice to melt a little. Not enough to clear the roads, but enough to cause the snow to refreeze into an icy sheet in front of our house. I got to see just how slick it was. Having been unable to get more than a 4th of the way up the driveway, I later was attempting to leave and backed down that quarter driveway to the road itself, then proceeded slowly down the road in what I thought was 1st gear. Turns out, though, I was in reverse the whole time, but somehow the road was so slick that just the spin of the tires in reverse direction was enough to break the friction and keep me sliding forward. That makes you feel safe. After a few such trips, my wussiness faded and I got my snow legs back. I was still extremely cautious, but between me and the rest of the neighbors graveling the path, I never had any more close calls.

As for the car, it took the better part of three days for an insurance adjuster to be dispatched to Borderland to have a look at the damage. It took an additional day for anyone to tell me about it. In the end, I had to call King Subaru to find out that, yes, the adjuster had been there and gone, but they hadn't left any sort of damage estimate or report, preferring to fax that back to them once the adjuster was back at the home office. Eventually an agent of my insurance company phoned to give me the news. She said the damage estimate was around $750 to cover parts and labor to replace the bumper cover.

I was floored. The bumper cover was the only damage? Wow, they really DO make Subaru's tough! Still, my suspension of disbelief only went so far.

“There wasn’t any other damage?” I asked. “You do know I drove into a very large rock, right?”

The agent explained that the bumper cover was all that was mentioned in the estimate, though there was always the possibility that there was more damage within. The body shop at King Subaru would give it a look and if they found anything they would then let the insurance company know and insurance would pay King for it directly, since I’d already met my deductible with the bumper cover alone. Pretty sweet, I thought.

A day or two later, King Subaru phoned to let me know that there was indeed quite a bit more damage found, to the tune of over $3500. Among the number of things that needed to be replaced or repaired were a bent front tire hub, the passenger side control arm, and a radiator that had been pierced by spruce branches. If I was lucky, they said I might see my car again around Christmas Eve.

Wait a second, I thought. The radiator had been pierced by spruce branches, yet the insurance adjuster was only recommending a replacement for the bumper cover? What the hell? Some of the other stuff I could understand not being able to scope out in a quick inspection, but if the allegedly trained adjuster had opened the hood at all they should have noticed that the radiator was pierced by spruce branches, right? This didn't make sense to me. Someone was really paid money to drive from lord knows where all the way to Borderland to make a damage assessment and they hadn't even noticed spruce-branches penetrating my radiator at the bare minimum? Either this person was woefully bad at their job or there was something I was missing about how the process was supposed to work.

Turns out the missing info part was closer to the mark. During my next telephone call with insurance, I brought up the above matter on purely an information-gathering basis, rather than my usual bitter-complaining basis. The agent I asked about it said that the adjusters (who technically work for an independent, sub-contracted, third-party company) are only allowed to write down damage that they can see with their eyes. They're not allowed to touch the car in any way, so they were forbidden to pop the hood and have a gander at the damage within. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but what do I know about how insurance works? My next question, however, was: how the hell can I get that job, cause that sounds amazing! Getting paid to drive around just staring at cars and speaking their damage? Sign me up!

“Yep, that one’s damaged," I would say. "Dented bumper. I can see it right there, and I'm standing all of six feet away from it. Lemme mark that puppy down.”

Or, “Awww. Looks to me like someone keyed the ever-loving-shit out of this car's door. I’d be willing to bet the owner parked like an asshole at Wal-Mart, or something. That’s just unofficial speculation, mind you. I can’t actually see that.”

Or, “Well, that one’s really tore up. I can tell just by lookin’. Guy walk away from it? No? Oooh, that sucks. Yeah, by my eye, I’d say it’s pretty much a total loss. When he gets out of the hospital, we’ll send him a check. What? Universal Health Care got repealed? Oooh, sucks for that guy.”

Also, my jury duty date finally arrived, but when I phoned the jury hotline the night before I learned all jury service had been cancelled through December 22. Yay me.

For the next week or so, all was quiet, save for one call from an agent with the independent appraiser company who was trying to reach King Subaru and had, for some reason, been told that my number was the number to call. I had to look up King's correct number for her and told her to ask for the body shop. At least they were communicating, I thought.


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