Wednesday, April 11, 2001

To Insurance, with Love

Once, with feeling, please, to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas:"

On the 13th of December my pipes they sprang a leak; then just for fun again the next week.

(And each "remedy," I might add, required the use of a slab-slicing jackhammer, destroying living room carpeting and wall on Occasion One, and bedroom carpeting and wall on Occasion Two.)

Yet, because I'm fully aware of all the "but at least you've got your health" - not to mention a slab and/or foundation upon which to enjoy such robustness - lectures that a plaint about plumbing is apt to incite, the focus of THIS plaint shall be, "What's Happened Since..."

Subterranean shifting is one of those things a homeowner cannot control. Neither can he control where, exactly, the builders of his humble abode will decide his plumbing shall be placed. Since my house was built circa 1970, and I'm not clairvoyant enough to know that I'd one day be purchasing this very shag-and-swag dream home, I never presented my indignant little 10-year-old self before this house's contractors to beg: "Hey, try and shoot the pipes through the attic, wouldja; I'm buying that joint in 18 years and underground plumbing is a nightmare to maintain." Nevertheless, my homeowner's insurance was curtly, without so much as a please-you-may, thanks for 12 years of timely remitted premiums at my current address; another seven years' worth of dutifully paid premiums were remitted for other addresses - canceled. Effective two weeks from now. (Note to potential thieves: all my Faberge eggs, maps to the Holy Grail, and Confederate money are locked away in a safety deposit box. So don't start thinking I'm easy pickin's.)

Heck, it's not as if "State Charm" has been dealing with a problem client all these years. I don't make a habit out of smoking in bed, leaving all the doors and windows unlocked and open, or storing oily rags in the garage.

On the contrary, every time my "good neighbor" agent invited me to obtain extra coverage for incidentals, which, in underwriter-speak means everything from a clumsy, litigation-happy Fuller Brush salesman to catatrosphe-by-Hale Bopp, I accepted. Yet even though it's the overly cautious sort like me who help big business like State Charm get rich, my sort seems to get the poorest service.

Consider the claims adjuster assigned to my second incidence of bubblin' crude. Forget the fact that, two days after Christmas, the day he was due to make an appearance here in Waterworld, he called to say he was lost, running "way behind schedule," and "Could I come over tomorrow?"

Forget that he came by two hours later that same day anyway, unannounced. Did he think he'd catch me unawares, wielding my own jackhammer and making a bigger mess of things than they already were?

Forget that, during the course of his inspection, this socially retarded adjuster enlisted me, the unsalaried one, to move a heavy piece of "stopgap measure" furniture away from a gaping hole in the wall - a hole that permitted anyone occupying the toilet a full view of anyone occupying the bedroom (and vice versa.) The unexpected Bekins duty wasn't so bad; it was the adjuster declining to help me move said stopgap furniture back I took issue with. It seems he'd had "...too hard a day."

Forget, even, this clod's running commentary: "Was the carpet always like this?" (Yes, sir. I have this peculiar affliction, causing me to slice out squares of year-old Berber, re-lay it over wet cement, and call on gentlemen like yourself to come view my handiwork.) "Things could be worse; I was recently at a NICE house that had a slab leak." (Okay, considering the source - Please; the man was dressed in bow tie, starched white shirt, and slacks cut from the same material as his hairpiece - I wasn't all that offended. I mean, PeeWee's Playhouse was probably his idea of a "nice house.")

What I can't forget is how, several days after this clown's visit, he called my good neighbor agent to cry, "Hey, did you know that she" - that would be me - "just submitted a similar claim!" as if I'd tried to "pull a fast one" on him . (Which, had I been so inclined, wouldn't have been too difficult, when taking into account Pee Wee's complete ineptitude. Did I forget to mention that I - again, the unsalaried one here - had to retake all the pictures he'd taken during our face-to-face? His own, he lamented by phone, had been "inexplicably lost.")

Pull a fast one? Color me naive, but what would I stand to gain by sharing my holidays with a bunch of gluteus maximus-baring plumbers? Since decorating the house with raw sewage instead of yule logs last Christmas has yet to yield any big payoff, I'm glad I didn't "plot" a raging inferno.

I'm beginning to think the middle classes/Jane Q. Citizen/your average Joe et al have been unfair to lawyers. I propose that the new butt of our jokes be agents of insurance: They're there for you, all right, so long as you don't have a claim.