Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tales from the Lost Months: Jury Duty Ice Road Trucking/Subaruing Blues (PART 7)

Upon hearing that King Subaru had received no notice about the insurance approval, I called my insurance company back, explained the whole thing to yet another rep and then asked why neither I nor King had been contacted as promised. The helpful and attentive agent (used with no sarcasm, as she was actually both) had a look in my record, saw everything I said documented and then she too wondered aloud why neither I nor King had been contacted. There was a brief moment in which the agent seemed to suggest that the supplemental had not actually been approved, but then she saw the note that it had (plus, probably a note saying I was likely to snap if unwisely told such a thing) and all seemed right. From what she was able to determine, less than a minute later, she had access to all the materials that needed faxing including, I confirmed, the much sought-after photocopy of the payment check for King Subaru. She said she’d FAX it right over and asked me to confirm the fax number.

“I have no idea,” I said. After all, I’ve never had cause to fax anybody in all this. I tried to look it up on King Subaru’s website, but it was not listed among the myriad of numbers they list.

“Well, I’ll just use this one,” the agent said. “It’s the one we have on file that we’ve been faxing things to all this time.”

A shudder of horror shot through me. This was about to turn into Barbara Turdmurkle faxing things to the wrong state all over again.

“No, really, I can call them and get the number, if you like. No problem at all,” I said.

She said, no, that it was fine. She had the number, so she'd just fax it over and put it to the attention of Mr. Loquacious in the body shop. After all it was the number they’d been using all along, right?

Yeah, but recent events heavily indicated a disconnect in fax communications between your two companies, I thought.

I tried explaining that King Subaru is a sprawling, multi-building complex and any fax sent to a central machine there would not likely be forwarded to the correct department with any speed at all. No, no. It would be fine, she said. I shouldn’t trouble myself.

I gave it a half hour of radio silence before calling King about it. Now, readers, you may want to sit down for this revelation: they’d had no faxes. I know. Shocking! The guy there, who was not Mr. Loquacious, said he was sitting right by the fax machine and nothing had come through for hours. He suggested this was some kind of ploy on insurance's part in order to keep from paying on time. I very nearly told him to shut the hell up, since he was talking to a guy who'd been defending his ass all morning, with no real just cause for doing so. Instead, I asked for his fax machine's number and called insurance back to tell them to start over. They were as shocked and appalled about the news of their earlier fax's failure as you'd expect.

This time it took only 20 minutes before King called me with the good news. My car had been released. Of course, there was then the matter of getting to King Subaru while at the same time leaving my wife’s car at her clinic, so she could drive it home. So I asked King Subaru to send a driver to meet me there and give me a lift over.

The driver showed up on time and rocketed me over, arriving a full 15 minutes before closing time. After finishing up the paperwork, the man who was not Mr. Loquacious said that there actually was a difference in the price he'd billed and the price that insurance had approved. But it was only $20, so he decided to just eat it. I told him that if I had only known that morning that I was going to have to do ALL the legwork for my insurance company, I could have just saved everyone a lot of time and done it all then. Or, better still, two days before. He smiled and nodded and handed me my keys.

The car drove great and got up the two major hills of my still icy neighborhood with hardly a fishtail. My driveway, however, said, “No, I don't think so.” I made it not even half way up it before the all wheel drive warning light began to shine and the car began sliding back down the hill until my braking finally slowed it. I had to turn around in the yard and leave it there, hoofing it up. The wife, too, could get no further during her arrival some hours later.


My in-laws came for Christmas Thursday night, and my father-in-law gave me one of the best early presents he could have: advice. “Maybe you should get your tires studded,” he said.

Now, I’d heard of studded tires before, but had no real inkling what this meant. My mental image was of little cones of rubber sticking out of the tires, like the Nazi Warwheel the Blackhawks used to fight in DC Comics. I’d never seen anything like that on the road, though. Turns out, studded tires look very much like regular tires that someone drove a series of nails into, all the way to the head. But I didn’t know that at this point.

Pa said that everybody back in Alaska gets studded tires during the winter months. Often, they have two complete sets of tires and trade out the studded set come spring thaw.

“You get your front tires studded, you’ll have no trouble getting up these hills,” he said.

I very much liked the sound of that. Why the hell hadn’t anyone told me about this before? This is the sort of thing that should be in a WV Handbook, given to you when you become a resident. It would fall somewhere between the chapters “Ramps and the Proper DeStankification There From” and “Moonshine: If you Have to Ask, You Already Drank Too Much.”

On Christmas Eve morning, after two more spectacular failures at getting up the driveway, I set out to buy a new set of studded front tires. Turned out, though, it was no good to get new front tires on an all wheel drive car with 30k miles on it. It would upset the differential. So I decided to go with four new winter tires and stud the front ones.

King Subaru even said they could fit me in as the last customer of their early closing day if I could get there by 11:30. Oddly, they tried to dissuade me from the studding on the grounds that most Subaru owners get by fine with just a good set of winter tires.

"They don't live in my neighborhood," I said. I added that the ice had already taught me the hard lesson that you can't drive through a boulder. The guy said he thought he recognized my name from the body shop roster.

Apparently the studding technicians went a little overboard, because they wound up studding all four tires. I didn’t care. It was about $16 more for twice as much stability, as far as I was concerned. The job itself seemed to draw some interest from some of the other employees at King, too. As I was paying for the job and was about to take my old tires and go home, one of them asked where the neighborhood was that gave me such trouble with ice. I told him.

“Oh, lord, yes,” he said, recognizing the area. “You’ll be lucky if some of your roads see sunlight before spring. Those tires will do you great. Unless you get two feet of snow, or something, you’ll be just fine.”

By the time I arrived home, the sun had indeed been out and my driveway was ice-free and practically dry. I didn’t have long to wait to test the new tires, though. From late Christmas Eve through Monday morning, it snowed and snowed. It might very well be the first White Christmas I’ve ever experienced—though how I’ve managed to avoid one after nearly 10 years in this state, I’m not sure.

The studded tires are amazing things. Driving on ice and snow feels pretty much like driving on dry pavement. Granted, I’m not abusing them and am still cautious, but just knowing they’re there makes me feel a lot safer. We’re even talking about getting a set for Mrs. Alaska Pants.


As of this writing, I’ve still not seen any jury duty. In fact, my wife and I are neck and neck for who's spent more time in the courthouse, as she was subpoenaed to appear as a witness in a case, testifying in her capacity as a physician. My particular jury group has been postponed for another few days, so it'll be a while before we see if the floor of the courthouse feels the imprint of my mighty snowboot again.

1 comment:

chaniarts said...

Studded tires are slippery on dry pavement, and REALLY slippery on wet but not icy pavement. I"ve done plenty of ground loops with studded tires on non-icy roads.