Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ambulance Chasers

I'm going to reserve that thought for the end of this post. It's kind of like the punch line, not much good without the shaggy dog story preceding it.

It's been a few days of pushing the minutes on a normally very generous cell phone allottment. Lucky for me I get a warning in time to adjust my behavior or brace for a big bill.  Most of it has been talking to insurance people from both my company and the bus company's insurance company. Heck, even finding out who the latter was took about 25 of my minutes as well as some lucky guesses digging through the phone book.  I knew I had the right person when I mentioned the accident and he responded with it's location. It also, reassuringly, indicated they didn't have a whole lot of claims against their bus drivers.

My company has been great. Farmers, if you care. I turned to them in frustration with how long it was taking for the other company to acknowledge me, answer questions, return phone calls (How's never? Does never work for you? Me neither.), supply progress reports. I have pages of info now on what documents to copy/send where, and what to expect will be done after I do my part. I'm amazed at how many folks think I have access to a fax machine, however. I settle for older school. I can't bring myself to think of fax as that modern, with e-everything replacing all else, so it's claiming the category of old school. Mailing paper is older school.

An adjuster has been out from the bus company's insurance, and let me know that even without checking deeper than surface look, the damage is too much for them to bother fixing it. He estimated six grand damage to start. I was able at least to supply the info that I'd just put in a new tranny. With 320,400 miles on it, I knew they were going to rock-bottom-line it. It works to remind them that the whole car isn't that old. Last one I replaced was just after a new tranny too. It made a difference. I now save those receipts.

I'm back at work, getting used to driving a rental Dodge. Even as a fairly small dodge, it feels like a battleship. I can't get used to where my car's boundaries are, so I'm extra careful about what I get near to. Even a scratch will cost me both repair and loss-of-income. It took other adjustments too: where were the controls and more important, how do they all work? The sweet young thing from the rental place gave directions on adjusting the side mirrors that I finally figured out about 3 driving hours later. Meanwhile I kept adjusting the wrong mirror in the process of working on the other. Just when the first got right enough, I'd look at the other and discover it was now looking at the far ditch, the sky, or back at me. Not helping! And  fixing that mirror messed up the first. And so on, and so on. How to feel stupid in 3 easy lessons.

It took someone else to show me how the radio worked. Fortunately, he was an old Dodge driver. Technically, I am too, but that was years ago and it's all changed. I now have my three top stations programmed, and it only takes two tries to get to the one I want most times.

The gas hog has one redeeming feature: cruise control. In the two days I've been back working, I've done a fair bit of out-of-town work, and what I'd hoped for is true: the CC does help keep my legs from cramping from being in the same position all day. I haven't had it on a car of my own, just used it on those times I drove my folks' cars to and from Arizona before they decided to have one car in each location and fly back and forth. I've rented cars with it, but figuring how it worked.... For some reason auto manufacturers just have in itch to change everything on the dash each couple of years.

I'm sore about the neck and shoulders. After taking just one goofy pill, I decided to stick with ibuprofin instead. I like having whatever little mind is left, and can't possible imagine trying to drive under the influence of Percoset. If ibuprofin is good enough for my knees (well, not actually, but....) then it's good enough for the neck. Only hitch is my schedule has been so out of whack these last few days that my usual cues for when to take which pill are missing. I'm convinced I've missed a dose or two, but being unsure, haven't taken what might have been a double dose. So, ow. And don't even start me on how long since how many carbs!

It's not just going from a working schedule to non-working and back to working. The working schedule has been turned on its head. I'm not complaining. I mean, when dispatch asked me if I wanted the 5:00 AM pickup out in Eau Claire, knowing it meant setting my alarm for 2:30 instead of 6:00, I agreed, even before knowing it was getting me over $200 in pocket, and leaving me much of the day to add more work/income. Those three days off may be getting mostly reimbursed, but not immediately. Anything extra helps. And by yesterday morning it didn't hurt just to be sitting behind the wheel like it did when I picked up the rental car. But yes, the personal schedule is a bit to keep track of.

Then, the two wheeler doesn't fit well into the rental. Oh, it goes, but then where's the room for the freight that it's supposedly there for? Or with that freight, where's room for the wheeler? So, dispatch was requested to limit me to light weight loads. That works fine... when the customer is honest about the weight. First morning everything was 20-30 pounds over stated weight, and couldn't possibly have been simple dock-to-dock work.  No, they had to be going from one office up/down stairs, down a hall, and halfway across a parking lot to where I could legally park an unmarked vehicle.


It was made up for when I got the run down to Chatfield. I know, I never heard of it either, but it's a couple towns south of Rochester. One of those hospice meds runs.  Sometimes, though, that company is less than accurate about the location of its patients. (Occasionally they even are a bit late with updating the life status of them as well. Hospice does have a known ending.) I knew I was facing one of those issues again when I found the house and saw that I was the first set of tracks through where the road plow had banked snow and down the driveway to the house. How many days since snow? I rang the bell anyway, enjoying bird tracks in the shallower snow around the house. It looked from the shepherd crooks in front that the birds were used to being fed, but nothing had been hanging on them this season, I judged.

After half an hour wait, it was determined that this patient had in fact been transferred to a nursing home... in Roseville. Not only was I to be paid for the trip down, but an even longer trip back, plus loadtime for the wait. Sweet. And by then I'd be done for the day.

But with Friday's super early start, I decided to call it a day mid-afternoon. I passed a dealership on the way to my last drop and decided to check out what they had available on my way home. I'd already checked out the internet, and was pretty sure my car would not be repaired. The availability of comparable used vehicles was worse than sparse, and new ones are still climbing in price every year.

I'm fussy. (What? You're surely not surprised?) I want what I had: economical to purchase, run and maintain, easy to drive and maneuver in small spaces, good cargo area unencumbered by useless seating and compartments. In short, I wanted another Hyundai Accent. Only this time, let's throw in cruise control. This would, if located, make my 6th Hyundai: 2 Excels and 4 Accents, all hatchbacks, and barring accidents going to or very near 400,000 miles. Why change?

Just before I arrived, I pulled over to take a call. It was the claims officer from the bus company's insurance. She made an offer on the car that frankly shocked me, though in a good way. When you start with a 2008 used car I paid $9,000 for, plus one for painting it white, put over 300,000 miles on myself, doing the usual maintenance plus a tranny, I figured they'd start at "worth zero" and go up from there. Slightly. She ran down the list of what they'd be paying for, adding in stuff like transfer fees, and came up with an offer of just over ... ya ready? ... $8 grand!

Of course I agreed. I'll be showing up in their White Bear office Monday morning with a copy of the tow bill (another check to me) and the green title card to sign it over, and walk out with their check on the spot. They'll swing by to pick up the old one later that day, as I'll leave the keys ...... you didn't think I'd put that on line, did you? Oh, and if necessary, due to my vacation, they'd pay for one more day of rental car if needed for the 24th, so I could work after my plane landed.

So I walked into the dealership in an entirely different frame of mind. I was now looking for a new car. I figured financing a bit over $6 grand would be a snap, and not a bad deal for replacing a car facing major maintenance soon with one not needing any for over a year.

"My" salesman was interesting. After a bit of not understanding what I was looking for and how necessary white was, we finally got on the same page, and he started showing me listings on his monitor. There was one difficulty at first. I had to ask him what it was about putting in cruise control that added about $3,000 to the price tag? He wondered what I meant. I explained I'd been on the internet and everything was in the $14,000+ range, not what he was showing me. I was ready to walk out.

He walked over to talk to his manager,who, though talking to his own customer, simply pointed at the Accent in hideous green with a large silver bow on top sitting on the showroom floor right next to them both. The big sticker on the windshield said $14,030. ("Oh, there must be something wrong in the computer system." Ummm, sure, uh huh. Do your research, kiddies.)

Was I still sure I needed it in white? He suggested I think about it while I sat in the showroom one and checked it out. Yep, cruise control. Lots of other dashboard changes, and the automatic shifter now goes in a zigzag pattern rather than push a button to set in position up and down a straight line. The overhead light is just over the windshield now instead over the back of my seat, much easier to reach. And what's under the hood looks even more complicated than the last one. No more do-it-yourself tune ups. But I gave those up with the '08 model anyway. The battery, washer fluid, and oil input are still recognizable, but the back of the headlights looks encased in something that now requires a well-informed mechanic to change a little bulb.

But hey, yes, I wanted it, and yes, STILL IN WHITE.

Well, the nearest white one was in Iowa. They'd have to work on a transfer. (Go ahead, work away. It's still gotta be white.)

As it stands, they will try to have the car here sometime Monday. They'll call. It depends on the swap, a driver, and acceptable roads/weather. If it's here, then Tuesday Rich and I will hop in the rental, go to St. Louis Park to pick up the car, drive both back up to Forest lake to turn in the rental car, and run me to the airport before he goes and picks Paul up from work. Otherwise, Paul's car will get into the mix and we leave the house several hours later. If the car is later, this happens on the 26th, after I'm back and they're open again.

They're trying for Monday/Tuesday. Money sooner is better. I agree. Car sooner is better.

So, now we're finally getting to the reason for this post title. Keep in mind that the insurance company has just built up a lot of goodwill with me for a generous rather than stingy payment for the old car. My surprise over that lessens just a bit after I am home starting to relax in my recliner, and Paul brings over quite a thick stack of mail.

On top is a letter from an attorney firm. Fortunately, it says "Advertisement". I could start to get worried. Especially when the next, and the next, and a fourth show up. They all want to be very helpful in making sure I get whatever is coming to me after my accident.

Minus their cut, of course, which they don't quite get around to spelling out in their very solicitous letters. Yep, solicitous, any way you want to mean it. It's the parade of the ambulance chasers. No knowing how many more will be in the mail yet to arrive. But I'm happy with all the coverage so far, having agreed to the replacement details for my car and being in contact with all the very helpful folks from my own insurance company who handle the medical and then get to deal with the other company for reimbursement. As for a little residual pain? Well, at this age there's always some, and if nothing changes for the worse, it's not interfering with life or work.

On the plus side, they're supporting the post office, and everything sent so far is recyclable.

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