Protection Against the Unfavorable Event of Colliding With a Swamp Buggy

My auto insurance policy rate has been exactly the same for the past five years. Until yesterday, that is, when I received my new bill. I opened yesterday’s bill with the expectation of seeing the same amount due for my six-month policy renewal that I had seen for the previous ten or so six-month renewals.

You can imagine my surprise, then – and if you can’t, try imagining the surprise the Pope might feel were one of his cardinals to whisper in his ear that newly discovered information revealed Jesus not to be the Son of God, but rather the son of a guy named God (the genesis of the confusion being that the birth announcement for Jesus, Son of God, was listed just under an investigative piece entitled, "Does God Have Any Children (Other Than All of Us)?" (a popular musing right around the year 0 ) in the Bethlehem Post (stone tablet version) the week of Jesus' birth) and that the story had just kind of, well, gotten legs, er, wings, from there, like a game of ecclesiastical telephone, leading to the tall tale that so many embrace today, one of only a handful of tales that have stood the test of time as well as two of the other greatest stories of all time, The Lord of the Rings and Weekend at Bernie's II – when I opened the bill to see a thirty-five percent increase in my rate.

Had I received any tickets recently? None that I could remember. How about an accident? Ahh, yes, I did have a minor fender bender. It occurred at a slow rate of speed while approaching a stop light. The car in front of me stopped abruptly to allow the approaching unicorn (yes, they are one of a long line of strange beasts that have been spotted in South Florida) to pass, causing me to hit the car from behind. (Here’s a tip: if you stop in the middle of the road, and I am behind you, try to relax your muscles as much as you can because I can assure you that impact will be imminent. Not that I will have been following too closely, just that I will need to impress upon you the importance of not stopping suddenly in the middle of the road.)

Anyway, I have been driving long enough to know that under pretty much any circumstances and regardless of the carelessness of the person who gets hit from behind, the hit-from-behinder (let’s keep this clean, people) is invariably charged as the one responsible for the accident.

But . . .it wasn’t my fault. And . . .a thirty-five percent increase? Well, I just had to get someone from my insurance company, a company that shall go unnamed, on the horn. A horn that, if I were the anti-spokesman of my unnamed insurance company, I would have fashioned from the tusk of my pet woolly mammoth.

Yes, I knew the reason they were going to give as to why they raised the premium, but I wanted to hear them say it, and I wanted to make sure that they were aware of the implicit scam factor of their business model: that is, charge for a service (pay us our extortion payment regularly -- we shall call these payments “premiums”) and we will pay for your accidents when and if you have one. That is to say, we will pay for a portion of your accident. You will pay for the rest (we shall call this, oh, what’s a good word – your “deductible”) and then, when you use the service, or when you do something that may increase your chances of using the service at some point in the future – like having an accident, getting a speeding ticket, buying a Ferrari, etc. – we will charge you more going forward and until the end of time, or at least for the next five years.

The object of the game is to collect, on average, ten times more than you pay out.

People, the juice is running. Can you vig it?

Imagine if all businesses ran using this model. Sonny’s Pizzeria. You pay them $50 a month. Not because you want to, but because the state that you live in requires you to. In return, Sonny supplies the service of providing you with pizza pies when you like. But these pizza pies are not free; you have to pay each time you want to utilize the service. This is called your deductible. Additionally, each time you get a pizza, your monthly premium will go up. And if anything happens that increases the chances of you using the service, like, say, missing lunch and feeling really hungry and possibly in the mood for, oh, I don’t know, a pizza, guess what: your monthly premium increases in anticipation of your using the service.

Sound personal? Sound like a scam? Naa, sounds more like business, capice? Come on kid, let’s go get a slice. I’ll tell you how the world works.

So, it was time to call. And since my unnamed insurance company has the audacity to insult the intelligence of my Cro-Mag-cestors by implying they can only do “easy” things, and the audacity to insult the savings accounts of its loyal customers by increasing their rates at random by thirty-five percent, I decided to make the call from my cell while driving in my premium-ly insured vehicle down an uncharacteristically windy Southwest Florida Road known to be frequented by alligators, wild boar, frozen iguanas, non-indigenous Burmese pythons, and (indigenous) Florida crackers who fly out of the cypress swamps and mangrove forests at random locations and intervals on their four-wheelers and swamp buggies, chasing after alligators, wild boar, frozen iguanas, non-indigenous Burmese pythons and (also non-indigenous) high-hat Yankee transplants who condescendingly observe the natives and report back to civilization by publishing articles in such high-browed, hoity-toity publications as Anthropology Today, Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News and Reviews, and The Humor Books Blog.

But first, I texted the phrase “so ez a caveman can do it” to twenty of my closest friends, one by one. Then I texted the same message to all of them again, except backwards, “ti od nac namevac a ze os.” If my unnamed insurance company wanted to try to drown me in the deep-end of some high-risk pool with the 16-year-olds who can’t even see over the steering wheel and the dual DUI/illegal possession of a narcotic recipients (always a memorable evening, like winning a Golden Globe and an Oscar on the same night) over one minor fender-bender, like some bookie’s muscle trying to collect by plunging the client’s head repeatedly into, and then out of, the toilet bowl, then I was certainly going to extract some value from my new designation and generate some risk.

I dialed the number. Let’s call it 1-800-Caveman. I can do it. I may not be able to read, but I know which button on the cell phone is the five because it has that little raised bump on it. From there, I can navigate my way to the eights, the zeroes, the fours, etc., in much the same way one of my ancestors may have navigated the heavy end of his club into the side of his neighbor’s woolly mammoth’s head when it stepped over the property line.

“Hello,” I queried, “is this Warren Buffet?”

“Um, no. Can I help you, sir?”

“Yes. I am looking at my recently arrived auto insurance bill and it is thirty-five percent higher than it has been for the previous five years.”

“Well, let me look at this for you, sir.” -- click click pause pause click click pause – “Well sir, I am not seeing any tickets. But it looks like there was an accident back in August and we had to pay for both cars, meaning that you were at fault in the accident.”

- pause pause pause – “I was,” – pause pause – “at fault, did you say?”

“Yes, sir. That is why your rate has increased.”

“So, it seems we are in agreement that I have received no tickets since my last policy renewal, yes? Tell me then, if I received no tickets, how was I at fault?”

“Well, that’s right, sir. No tickets were issued. But somebody always has to be at fault in an accident. That’s just the way it is.”

That’s just the way it is. Is that what he just said?

“Interesting. Maybe you can tell me who determined that I was at fault, as you say, when I was driving below the speed limit and maintaining a safe distance between myself and the car in front of me and when, out of nowhere, driver of said car abruptly stopped in the middle of the street, apparently to allow a non-indigenous unicorn to pass."

“I’m not saying that you did anything wrong, sir. I am just saying that you were at fault.”

“Is this going to be on the LSAT? Because if it is, I think I am going to get this one wrong. It sounds to me like you may as well be saying, ‘I’m not saying that the earth is round, I’m just saying that it tends to resemble the shape of a ping pong ball and, seemingly by chance, has a circumference of (2*pi*it's non-circular radius).”

“Somebody has to be at fault to determine which insurance company pays. You came up on the short end of the stick.”

Better than coming up on the heavy end of the stick like the Woolly Mammoth, I suppose . . .

“Is that verbiage in my policy? That short end of the stick thing. Section Four, Paragraph Three, Line Five: ‘Someday, you may come up on the short end of the stick. When you do this, you nasty, nasty client, we will be obliged to increase your rates by thirty-five percent. That’s just the way it is.’ I don’t recall seeing that in there."

“No, sir, it is not.”

“Is it in your Customer Service Policies and Procedures Training Manual?”

“I don’t think it is.”

“Well then, I suppose the only thing left to do is to ask you to connect me to the person who decided that I was at fault for this accident for which we both agree that I did nothing wrong. Can you connect me to this person, or shall I call upon the Scarecrow and the Tinman to show me the way to Oz, where I might find such a wise and powerful being.”

“Let me connect you with the claims department.” That is to say, like I get paid enough for this bull****

-- pause, pause, soothing muzak paid for by me and all of the careless nothings that I so haphazardly and irresponsibly do wrong on an ongoing basis, I accept Jesus into my blood for all of my wrongs, pause, pause

“Claims Department. Can I have your name, please?”

Nice try -- putting me on the defensive by asking me the questions. I’ll bet that’s in your Customer Service Policies and Procedures Training Manual: “provoke customers by incessantly asking them an absurd number of identification questions each time they are transferred to another representative. Should they query on the company’s need to badger them with such inquiries, blame it on the Patriot Act. Eventually, they will hang up and we can go back to counting our money.

“Hi. Is this the person who arbitrarily decided to judge me at fault regarding an accident that followed my following all of the traffic safety laws and who then decided to raise my premiums by thirty-five percent?”

“Umm, do you have a policy with us, sir?”

At this point, it has become apparent that there are three swamp buggies fast closing in on me and the car is being bogged down by 300 lb. Burmese pythons falling from the mangrove trees.

I decide that the conversation has attained a sufficient entertainment value to me – ten dollars. I hang up. I have six months remaining on my new policy – plenty of time to siphon the remaining $140 increase in my premium and have it paid back to me in self-amusement dollars. You see, my unnamed insurance company has an 800-number with agents available 24/7. And I have a phone. That’s just the way it is.

As for now, I must focus on my most immediate concern: escaping from the natives and the non-natives, both of whom seem to be restless. And some of whom appear to be carrying clubs. Does my policy carry protection for this?


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