Sunday, June 22, 2014

Good Hands, Better Feet

Don't even think about going outside, y'all!
It's sweltering here in Hotlanta, one of those oppressively humid late June days where the air, sticky and thick as cooked pudding, bitch-slaps you back inside your nice cool house just for thinking about attempting a daylight 4 mile run. I can't imagine what it was like a hundred years ago, living down here without air conditioning. Alas, air conditioning's become somewhat of a sore subject for Spartacus and me. Sounds like one of those #firstworldproblems, right? Damn straight it is. The woeful story of our air-conditioning albatross began in July of 2011. Back then, we were living in Rome, Georgia, which is another story for another time. Anyhow, our Atlanta house was on the market, and every few weeks, we'd drive down to check on it. Since July 4th was on a Monday that year, and I happened to have the day off, we road-tripped to Atlanta to make sure the house was OK before heading over to Chambodia for some Ethiopian grub.

Feel free to sue me. I've got my MD and an umbrella!
The house looked fine, but it was hot as hell inside. I set the thermostat to 72 degrees to cool it down, figuring that one of the agents who'd recently shown the place must've screwed around with the settings. The system cycled on, but only warm air issued forth from the ducts. Hmmm. Low freon? A busted compressor? I was standing in the master bathroom, gazing out the window into the backyard and wondering "WTF?", when I discovered exactly what the problem was. Some asshole had stolen the AC unit right off its slab! Motherfuckers probably got $50 for the copper tubing inside. So I did what any reasonable person would do. After reporting the theft to the police, I called my insurance company. I mean, that's what insurance is for, isn't it? For six years, I'd had my home and three automobiles insured through Metlife, plus umbrella coverage since I'm one of those "rich" doctors that everyone loves to sue. Clearly, I was a loyal customer. Metlife cut me a check, and within a couple of days, I had a brand new AC unit, clad in an iron cage to prevent it from being stolen again. 

Look, it's the Good Hand of Insurance!
Fast forward two years. New city, new house, same crappy luck. On the same day last August, lightning struck one of our AC units and I lost one of the diamonds from a pair of earrings, both of which were insured with Metlife. Spartacus and I roughed it for a few days, sleeping in the guest bedroom which was cooled by the other equally ancient AC unit. Lightning strikes are considered acts of God and Metlife cheerfully agreed to cover the cost of the damaged AC unit. However, they informed me that my diamond earrings were no longer insured. That's where things got ugly. A little detective work into my plethora of policies revealed that when we moved from Rome back to Atlanta, Metlife dropped the coverage on the earrings without my knowledge or consent. After several weeks of battling it out with the underwriters, Metlife acknowledged they'd made a mistake in dropping that coverage and forwarded me a check for the missing diamond. Everything was good, or so I thought.

Fuck you, Metlife, Nationwide is on our side!
Even though Metlife had come through for me on the air conditioners and the diamond earrings, I couldn't help but feel annoyed that my monthly premiums had skyrocketed so drastically upon moving back to Atlanta. An increase of $200 per month isn't exactly chump change. Aside from the price-gouging, Metlife's customer service totally sucked because they'd outsourced it to somewhere in Asia. Nothing adds to the frustration of dealing with insurance bullshit than trying to converse with someone speaking unintelligible English who can't possibly begin to relate to your situation because they probably don't even have insurance where they live. Unacceptable! Spartacus had his rental property and car insured with Nationwide, so I called them back in April to see what kind of quote they'd give me. For comparable coverage, they were way cheaper than Metlife, plus their customer service was based in the good old US of A. We added my rental property and three autos, along with that all important umbrella coverage, to his existing policy. Nationwide advised me that because of the air-conditioning and lost diamond claims, I'd be better off continuing to insure our primary residence, which happens to be a condo, with Metlife until July 4th. That's when the 2011 AC theft claim would magically disappear. Apparently, if you have more than two claims as a homeowner, you get flagged as a liability, and each claim stays on your record for three years. Given that Nationwide's quote for said property was considerably higher than what I was already paying with Metlife, waiting until July seemed reasonable. I sent Metlife a letter, canceling all my policies except for our condo.  

Would Snoopy approve of this??
Long story short, Metlife was pissed about me canceling those policies. About a month after I'd switched over to Nationwide, they decided to cancel our condo policy, citing the theft, lightning, and mysterious disappearance claims as their reasons for nonrenewal. Since I'd gotten that condo policy quote from Nationwide back in April, I figured we'd suck it up and pay them the higher premium until the theft claim expired in July. We had no clue as to the shitstorm that awaited us. When we tried to add the condo onto our joint policy, Nationwide's underwriters refused because, aside from the three claims I'd previously filed with Metlife--one of which was about to expire--Spartacus had made a telephone inquiry last summer when his rental property was broken into and the refrigerator was stolen. Mind you, he never even filed a claim. But, in the world of insurance, being naïve enough to make a simple inquiry can and will be held against you. Four strikes and we were out. To make matters worse, Wells Fargo, our mortgage company, began hounding us about the impending cancellation, threatening to secure hazard insurance for us at our expense. When I called Wells Fargo to let them know that our property was deemed uninsurable, they gave us their list of insurers. Awesome! At least now we had some options. We breathed sighs of relief, thinking our ordeal was coming to an end.

In other news, Boris finally got his driver's license! 
Welp, no such luck. None of the insurers on their list issued condo policies. Wells Fargo then referred us to the State of Georgia's Underwriting Association to inquire about the FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) plan. The lady who answered the phone suggested that we call a few more insurance companies, as the FAIR plan didn't insure condos, either. Metlife's letter was indeed prophetic: we were pretty much fucked. Spartacus and I both got on the horn and started calling every insurance company we could think of. Finally, GEICO agreed to insure our condo through Travelers. Problem solved. Yet the nightmare continued. Now, Nationwide was going to cancel the insurance on my rental property because the address on the umbrella policy didn't match up with our homeowner's policy. "But, we don't have a homeowner's policy with you," I tried to explain, "we only have the two rental properties." At this point, the slop thickened considerably. Nationwide had mistakenly listed Spartacus's rental property as our primary residence, even though he'd been very clear that it was a rental when the policy was intially secured. That's why the addresses weren't matching up with the newer umbrella policy. We also learned that Nationwide won't cover rental properties or give you an umbrella unless they're also insuring your primary residence. Basically, we're being punished for being honest with our insurance company. The umbrella policy's a wash. Guess I'll have to call GEICO for that, since they're the ones insuring our condo. We're still awaiting a decision from Nationwide's underwriters about whether the rental properties can be retained. Sigh. We'd probably have better luck getting our cat, Boris, insured as a driver on one of our cars. LOL. 

Good hands, better feet
This isn't the first post I've written about the scam known as insurance, nor will it be my last. The problem is that the very idea of insurance doesn't jive with the way I live my life: insurance concerns itself with what might-but-probably-won't happen, while I'm all about what IS happening right now. Think about it for a moment. The insurance industry capitalizes on our fears and insecurities, conditioning us to into leading sheltered existences where every move we make is calculated and risk-stratified. Spontaneity simply isn't tolerated. Why, at any time, I could walk out my front door and get hit by a bus! Actually, it's more likely that my car would be stolen, my house broken into, or I'd be held up at gun point as my mailbox was being robbed of its contents. It's summertime in here in the 'hood, and Thug University's in full session. For weeks now, the Kirkwood Neighbors' FB site has been bursting its seams with alarming reports of such shenanigans and tomfoolery, so much so that Spartacus purchased a stun gun for me to take on my evening runs. It's basically a giant 7.5 million volt-powered dildo, a little too obtrusive for a jaunt around the 'hood, plus there's no way it'll fit inside my running belt. In the spirit of compromise, I've started carrying a miniature toy handgun instead. Now, heat stroke's the only thing Spartacus worries about when I'm out running. These Code Pudding days of summer, along with the neighborhood's unruly hooligans, have motivated me to run faster than ever, a pace of 9:17 per mile to be exact. At that speed, I'm confident I could probably outrun an out-of-shape elderly mugger. Knowing that I'm running back to the cool air-conditioned comfort of my house is also a great motivator. And ironically, so is knowing that our older AC unit's probably gonna blow any day now. Tomorrow, we're getting an energy-efficient, white solar-reflective cool roof installed. It should cut down on our summertime energy bills by about 30 percent. Best of all, our HOA has agreed to pay for part of it. Hell, we may not even need our AC anymore! Now that's a risk I'm willing to take.

Related posts:
A Matter of Principle
What Would Hippocrates Do?
The World Seemed Right Again
A Taste of Immortality
The Appointment (a four part short story)
  Part I: The Appointment
  Part II: Amplitude
  Part III: Redemption
  Part IV: Insurance
Nowsurance (My Summer of Living Dangerously)
Fail-Safe (a four part short story)
  Part I: Fail-Safe
  Part II: Detour
  Part III: Marvelously Fresh, Decidedly Vague
  Part IV: From Cupcake Epiphany to the Future Now
About A Boob


  1. You should get someone to run with you. Great post!

    1. Spartacus has started running with me...he's a great running buddy!

  2. I hate when anything I call into has been outsourced abroad. I have never figured out how that can actually be good for business. Fortunately, for me, we use USAA for every single thing we insure and, after a few claims, have never been punished for claiming. I find it unfortunate that people doing the right thing protecting themselves with insurance are often the victims of the "system" and rarely get what services were promised to them.

    The heat and humidity I can really relate too but I don't really ever want to leave the gulf coast region. I would offer you some advice but I have nothing useful that y'all haven't already tried except for one, we have fans everywhere, on the ceiling, on the floor, on the dressers, everywhere, they keep the air moving and that is a plus. I could wish you better luck with things but it looks as if you already have the bull by the balls. Just keep walking him around until he stops bucking, that day will come.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks, Steven. I am guessing that USAA is only for those who served in the military and their families? It doesn't seem like the insurance industry is regulated in any way, either through itself or an external source. This means they can do whatever the fuck they want and get away with it. My mom says that it's insurance agencies that own most of the construction projects that are going on around town...they make a fortune off us and stuff like that so they can continue paying their execs huge undeserved salaries, while denying us coverage and penalizing us for using insurance when we need it. At least the heat and humidity down here are for brief periods of time. I think I'd have a hard time living in a cold climate where it's grey and freezing for 6 months out of the year. Can't wait to see what a difference this new cool roofing will make in our AC usage.

  3. Kris, insurance is a kind of Alice-In-Wonderland thing. I know it's all based on statistics and probability which gives it the veneer of science, but there's something incredibly absurd and unpredictable about it. About ten years ago I hit a deer on a snowy road, my car skidded, slid down an embankment and smashed into a tree. Amazingly, I was unhurt and the car was still drivable, although I sustained heavy damage both to the front and rear of the car. I brought it into a service shop recommended by my insurer and they assessed that the cost of repairing the car exceeded its market value, so it was deemed a salvage vehicle. The insurance company paid me the market value, $6800, and basically left me with the wreck to dispose of as I wished. I found a local body shop willing to fix all the damages for $3000, so I ended up making almost four grand on the deal. I know, in the long run, the insurance company's wanton expenditure in this case balances out to enormous profits for itself, but the whole thing on an individual basis struck me as some unfathomable, irreducible mystery. The whole insurance business is one big arbitrary scam and we're all just pawns in the game. But like everything else in this world, we just have to rise above it by learning to laugh at the absurdity.

    1. Wow, you're lucky to have come through that accident unharmed. Deer vs car is never a good thing. You were smart to hang on to your "salvage" auto and make money on your insurance claim. You're right about the insurance industry hiding beneath the veneer of science and being a huge scam. I hate that we're pawns in the game, often without any real choice in the matter, e.g. mortgage companies requiring hazard insurance on homes, federal mandates to purchase health insurance, etc.

  4. I want to assure you of one thing, Kris: the call center emoyees based in India are globs of shit --they cannot relate to the woes of the local populace, cannot communicate with even an iota of humanly intelligence, leave alone sympathising with the agonies of the first world. However, the real thugs are the insurance firms. They remind me of the crook in Catch 22 who had replaced even the smelling salt on fighter planes that the hurt pilots would use, saying whatever is good for the corporate is good for the pilots too.

    1. Uma, that's an interesting insight on the callousness of the call center employees in India. But, as you said, the real thugs are the insurance firms. Now, i need to watch Catch 22!

  5. Great post, Kris! I love the way you can take a miserable situation and find whatever humor you can in it. “Code Pudding” humidity LOL, we’ve got that here in Maryland and I grew up with it in New Jersey (prefer the dry heat when I lived in California). I remember your posting last year about your AC going out and losing your diamond earring. What an insurance nightmare you’ve been going through with everything!

    Insurance is a scam, totally agree! Love the look on Spartacus’ face as he’s holding up the Nationwide policy. Those highlighted sections on the Metlife letter…right on and not far from the truth at all! (A dancing Snoopy on their letterhead…oh, he would never approve!) Insurance companies are such a hassle. I am still trying to get remaining funds released for the 2012 Hurricane Sandy damage to my late mother’s house in New Jersey.

    Boris looks so confident in the driver’s seat, love that photo! (Would be ironically amusing if Boris got to be an insured driver LOL!) You’re an excellent runner and really fast, I see the running times you post on FB (with what’s going on in the ‘hood, carrying a small toy gun is not a bad idea). Stay safe, and enjoy your new solar roof. Sure wish we could have a system without insurance companies, it's so unnatural to the human spirit!

    1. Madilyn,
      I prefer Cali's dry heat, too. At least the worst of the humid weather here is for a short time in summer. For that photo of Spartacus, I really had to coach him on how to make an excited face, LOL. Can't believe that 2 years after the fact, you're still dealing with insurance from hurricane damage! I agree, insurance is very unnatural to the human spirit.

  6. What a chronic headache, Kris!
    I am type of person who prefer taking risk than paying insurance premiums. I buy insurance only when I have to. I agree totally that insurance business capitalize on our fear and insecurity about life and properties. I suspect people usually have no better things to do so they choose working in insurance companies!
    Geico seems to be a better choice than other insurance companies. I've been with them for my car and house. Good luck working with them!
    Love your colorful shoes! Hope your daily running is safe. And be care with the heat. Too much energy spent in heat would not do much good. Well, you are the doctor so you don't need much this kind of advice :-)

    1. Your approach to insurance really makes sense, Yun. Pay for what you need when you need it. So far, so good on the running. I try to run early in the morning or after the sun has started to go down (but while it's still light outside) since it's so hot. Glad to hear you've had a good experience with Geico.

  7. Way to make light of what I am sure are many hours of frustrations and run arounds.

    Customer service these days, at least with big corporations seems virtually non existent. I was reading not long ago that outsourcing customer service is immensely profitable, at least short term, because so many people actually give up on the idea of eventually getting the service they pay for. Nasty companies, they need more competition.

    Loving Boris in the space age car, his super fast mouser reflexes should defiantly put it through the works.

    1. The outsourcing issue is really problematic,not only because it's so difficult to communicate, but because most of the time, the person on the other end of the phone really can't relate to the issue you're having in the first place. I think part of good customer service is some degree of empathy. I created that photo of Boris in the rocket car using a free app called Image Blender. I love that much fun!

  8. Ouch. That sounds like something out of Catch 22. Or the unpublished sequel "Insurance Companies Are A Bunch Of Asshats."

    And what is that car/jet fighter thing your cat is sitting in?

    1. Big D, believe it or not,it's a Firebird. We went to a "cars of the future" display at the museum and this was a car from the 50s, I think.

    2. It looks cool. I think I'd rather have one of those than the anonymous boxes we get these days.

  9. I follow the Chinese view on insurance; in other words, I'll take my chances, thank you very much. The only insurance I carry is car insurance, and that only because it's a legal requirement if I want to drive.

    Sorry to hear of your woes in that direction Kris, but at least you were able to make an enthralling post about it.

    1. You and Yun Yi have the right idea about insurance, Dennis. Here, many lenders require that you have homeowners insurance, but if you use it legitimately, they screw you for way more money. Such a racket. Good to hear from you!!!

  10. mmm...maybe Lagos is a better option afterall: just employ a guy to sit outside the apartment with a gun. I thought Atlanta would be like that,...but you have `Insurance Companies' instead(?)
    Rotten luck about those earrings.
    Cheers, ic