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
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