It all started one dark and stormy night back in February. My miscreant son mistook the word “RAM” on the side of my truck for a verb and turned the ass end of an innocent mini-van into an abstract sculpture.
Fast-forward seven months, and my auto insurance came up for renewal with a little surprise. Travelers decided to assess me a 39% surcharge for the next 39 months as a result of the winter mishap.
My initial reaction was incredulity that a company I’d been a customer of since 1984 would be trying to extract a punitive charge for a relatively minor accident. Especially since my only other claim was in 1995, and the other guy’s company paid for that one in full. So I got right on the phone to Ellen at the agency and asked what this was about.
Ellen has always treated me well, and she was quick to assure me that the charge was not punitive. Rather, it was an actuarial assessment of the now greater risk of another accident. I tried to wrap my head around this. After all, my son is not on my insurance policy. He borrowed the truck that night, and he doesn’t borrow it all that often. Clearly they weren’t saying his whoop-si-daisy somehow made me a riskier driver. So either they were assessing me a 39% penalty for my questionable judgement in whom I let drive my vehicle, or they were worried about some previously unknown quantum-gravitational attraction exerted by fresh paint such that my truck was now hopelessly attractive to other cars.
Either way, I felt betrayed, jilted, and abused. As if three decades of loyalty had no meaning. So, I did what any man would do. I went trolling on the Internet looking for someone new. By the end of the weekend, I had found Catrina, a delightful woman who worked for State Farm. She was only too happy to console me, answer my questions, and provide quotes enticing enough to lure me away from my tarnished relationship with Travelers. The temptation of something new and cheaper was powerful.
I called Ellen the next day to tell her I couldn’t go on like this. I wasn’t paying the surcharge, and if it didn’t come off, then we were through. I knew in my heart, if I wrote a check, Catrina would have me. But Ellen didn’t answer her phone. I left her messages. A whole day went by. Not a word.
When I finally did hear from Ellen, she told me how she’d been working with others in her office, as well as the underwriter and the claims manager to get this resolved. She told of how she accidentally yelled “yahoo!” during a call with another customer when the email finally came in indicating Travelers had seen fit to waive my surcharge. My checkbook went all pitter-patter as Travelers was once again my least expensive option, and I do like it cheap.
But now the hard part, I had to nip my blossoming relationship with State Farm in the bud. I contacted Catrina and told her the sordid tale of the “clerical error” Travelers made about who was driving that night. A misunderstanding that apparently caused our whole spat. I explained that I had agreed to take them back… but to be assured, they will be sleeping on the couch for a while. And should Travelers ever step out on me again, I will kick their butt to the curb and be giving her a call.
She said she understood, and that if Travelers ever slipped up on me again, she would be there with tissues, a bottle of wine, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, and a stack of insurance binders ready for me to sign.
The whole experience leaves me wondering… why do only friendly helpful women work for insurance agencies? Is this some sort of cosmic yin to the DMV’s yang? Is it some bizarre way for the universe to achieve a weird state of cordiality balance?