[Ready to Make Nice II refers to a bigger struggle with anger that resulted in a published essay, here. Not that I'm advocating anger as a good thing, but, as my Goddaughter Stacy always says, it is what it is.]
A couple of weeks ago, while I was in Jackson (Mississippi) visiting my mother, my car got ploughed into in the parking lot of the hotel where I was staying. When I got back to Memphis, I called our insurance agency, and they told me to call “Betty” at the company who carries our policy. They also told me that if I had reported it to the police we wouldn’t have to pay more than $200 of the cost of repairs. (We have a $1000 deductible.) So I called the Jackson Police Dept toldthem what happened, and asked if it was too late to file a report. She said yeah, that I would have had to call it in the day it happened. My ignorance would probably cost me $800.
The next week I get estimates at two different body shops to see how extensive the damage is and decide to file a claim with our insurance company. Betty calls to set up the appointment for an adjustor to come look at the car. First she asks me to tell her what happened, so I relate the story of coming out of the hotel into the parking lot in Jackson and finding my car bashed in. The 24-hour security guard wasn’t around (he circles the building and can’t see the front and back at the same time) and there’s a sign by the door to the hotel that says “We are not responsible for damage done to vehicles in the parking lot.” I had an appointment with the nurse at my mother’s assisted living home, so I didn’t take time to go in and tell the clerk at the front desk about it… thinking it wouldn’t help.
She sounds like she’s twelve, but as soon as I tell her the story, she says, “I don’t mean to sound condescending, Miss Susan, but you should always report anything that happens to your car, even if you like hit a deer, because then we can like open an uninsured drivers case….” Blah blah blah.
She basically just says back to me what I had just told her, so I say, “Yes, I understand that now, as I just told you, but I didn’t know it at the time.”
She continues to tell me about setting up an appointment and that the adjustor could even give me a check on the spot, so I ask if I could take the car anywhere I want to have it repaired and she says yes. So I tell her I’ve already taken it to two shops and she asks which ones and when I tell her and she says one of them is one of their “VIP” shops. I say great, it’s right around the corner from my house, so it will be convenient.
Then she says, “Let’s get them on the phone, for a three-way, (was that a giggle?) to set up an appointment.”
So she gets the manager at the body shop and me on the phone and I suggest11 a.m. on Monday and the manager says that’s great. Then I say wait—what about the adjustor. Does that time work for him? At that point Betty says to the manager at the shop, “Oh, um, thanks so much, I’ll talk with you later,” and he hangs up.
Then Betty says to me that sometimes the adjustor, whose nickname is “Speedy” (or something like that) can’t make it to an appointment when he says he can, due to a previous appointment, but it really isn’t necessary for him to even be there.
I’m confused now. I thought the appointment was with Speedy, not the body shop.
So I ask, “What if I choose to use a different body shop?”
“Oh, you can use any body shop you want. And if the estimate the shop gives us doesn’t jive with Speedy’s estimate, we’ll just make an adjustment on our end.”
“So, how will you even know the difference, if Speedy doesn’t show up?” At this point I’m irritated and finally give Betty a piece of my mind, beginning with telling her that she did sound condescending when she gave me the little lecture earlier, and when she called me “Miss Susan,” and that she sounds like she’s twelve years old. And that she’s changed her story at least twice, beginning with saying the adjustor could come to my home and ending up with the adjustor doesn’t even have to be there. And that I’m 57 years old, and my time is as valuable as Speedy’s, so if I make an appointment to show up somewhere at 11, I’ll be there, because I’m an adult, etc.
She says, “I’ll assure you that I’m not twelve years old either, but I’m sorry that you are upset.” Not, “I’m sorry for being rude, condescending and confusing.”
In the midst of all this she asks, “do you have lots of accidents?” in another condescending tone… and I still don’t know why she asked that, but I say, no, and that this wasn’t an accident, either, it was a HIT AND RUN in a motel parking lot when I wasn’t even in the car.
She also asks if we have a lien on the car… that her records show that such-and-such-a-bank is the title holder and I say no the car is paid for, and that bank doesn’t even exist any more.
In the end I just say I’ll take the car to the shop and it doesn’t matter if Speedy is there or not or what kind of deal her insurance company has with the shop, since I’ll only be paying the $1000 deductible anyway.
And there went an hour of my valuable time and a severe break in my concentration as I’m writing and revising my book-in-progress… which is at least as important as Betty’s work at the insurance company.
But over the weekend I go to church and we have the memorial prayers for Mary Allison and I take my five-year-old Goddaughter, Sophie, up for communion with me, and, well, it begins to bother me that I was angry with this girl at the insurance company. On Monday morning I find my way to my icon corner and say my prayers, and my heart softens. Peace begins to return. After all she’s only, what, twelve? So I call to apologize to her, believing that my anger is only hurting me, right? I’m responsible for my own behavior, not the behavior of others—especially not twelve year olds who are not my own children. I get her voice mail, but leave a humble pie message, and then take my car to the shop.
“Speedy” is at the shop on time, but spends 45 minutes doing his inspection, talking with “his people” and all that, while I visit with the owner of the shop, inside. At one point I mention how confusing it was, my conversation with “Betty” … and he says, “Yeah, we’ve been doing business with this company for years, but something has changed with them recently.”
About then Speedy comes inside with a check, made payable to me and the body shop, and says all I need to do is sign it over to them once the work is done, plus another $500, for my deductible.
“Only $500?” I ask. “I thought it was $1000.”
“Our records show it’s only $500.”
Who am I to argue with the likes of Speedy and Betty? Or an insurance company? So I smile and say thank you, and Speedy leaves.
I turn back to the body shop owner and say, “Well, he was nice.”
“Yeah, but that girl, Betty…when I talked with her on Friday, she sounded like she was about twelve years old.”
I just smile. Ready to make nice. No more anger.