Not Very Progressive

The nice thing about wrecking your car right in front of your apartment is that you don’t have to call a tow truck. You can just roll it back to the curb where you normally park it!

That’s me, always looking for the silver lining on the radioactive cloud that threatens to extinguish all life on Earth. Another silver lining in wrecking my car is that since I work from home, I didn’t have to worry about how I would get to work the next day! Which is a good thing, since I’d be doing a lot of extra work in the coming weeks to pay for the car’s replacement! Huzzah and good fortune!

The car in question was a 1995 Toyota Tercel, previously wrecked when it belonged to my brother Lane. Its back end was crunched then, and the trunk was being held closed and the back bumper affixed to the body through the miracle of duct tape, but it ran perfectly. It was a good thing the BMW that hit me did so in the front. If it had hit the back of my car, already tender from its prior accident, the entire Tercel probably would have disintegrated like a vampire being staked on “Buffy.”

So the front of my car is now smashed beyond repair. Since the accident was technically mostly my fault, and since there were no witnesses to verify that the BMW had plenty of time to move or slow down without hitting me (if only the driver had been paying attention instead of talking on his cell phone), I was hosed. I only had liability coverage on my car, so absent any proof that the other driver was at least partially at fault, I get nothin’.

Most of this I deduced on my own. My insurance company, Progressive, was of little help, which I guess is to be expected. I mean, you start an insurance company on the assumption that for the most part, people will be giving you money in exchange for nothing whatsoever. Ideally, the motorist sends you a payment every month, and in return, you ignore him. You spend his money, and he leaves you alone. The crazy part is, that’s what the motorist wants, too! If you ever have to actually deal with him, or give him money, it means something terrible has happened. The driver would prefer that his monthly payments to you be the only contact he has with you.

So I totally screwed up the system by actually CALLING Progressive and reporting an accident. This was the first time in several years that I’d had to report an accident to an insurance company, so I wasn’t sure exactly how it would go. The woman I spoke to took down the basic information and expressed perky, corporate-mandated delight that no one had been hurt. She then said a local claims agent would call me “between 8 and 10 a.m. tomorrow.”

Now, I don’t work in the insurance industry. I’m not familiar with a lot of the jargon, with terms like “deductible” and “actuarial tables” and “between 8 and 10 a.m. tomorrow.” It turns out “someone will call you between 8 and 10 a.m. tomorrow” actually means, in layman’s terms, “someone will call you never.”

A few days later, I called my local Progressive office and learned who had been assigned to my case. I left her a message, which she (presumably) listened to and (apparently) deleted. Then I left her another message, and then finally she called me back. In the meantime, the other driver’s insurance company had already called me and gotten my statement. In other words, I’d been in touch with someone else’s insurance company more than I’d been in touch with mine. So we were off to a good start.

As I write this, more than a month has passed and I still don’t know what’s going on. I call the insurance woman occasionally, and for every three times I call, she’ll call me back once, always at a time when I cannot answer my phone. I’ve gleaned from the messages she’s left that the other driver denies any fault whatsoever, which provides some insight into why Progressive isn’t particularly interested in dealing with me: They’re going to have to pay the other guy’s insurance company, and they won’t be getting anything in return — well, except for all that money I’ve been paying them month after month after month. But I assume they’ve already spent that.

Meanwhile: I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with my old, smashed car, but I knew I needed a new one. Portland has a fantastic public transportation system, but it can only do so much, and my experience with riding the buses has led me to conclude that only crazy and/or smelly people ride the buses, and if I wanted smelly and/or crazy, I’d go to the public library and/or a county fair.

But as luck would have it, a friend of the family by the name of Auntie Karen said she had a 1994 Geo Prizm just lying around that I could HAVE, for free. There was just one condition: In order to get the car, I would have to spend the night in a haunted house!!!

Just kidding. It was worse than that: I’d have to fly to Ohio and drive the car back to Oregon. Now, I don’t know if you’ve taken a gander at the ol’ U.S. map lately, but Ohio is not where you think it is. You’re thinking it’s in the Midwest somewhere, maybe next to Nebraska or something. BUT NO SIR! It is way the hell east, past the Mississippi River, into the Eastern Time Zone, nowhere NEAR the Midwest. It’s practically in Europe. Anyone who is from Ohio who claims to be from the Midwest is a liar. You should punch that person right in his corn-fed pie-hole.

Nonetheless, Ohio is where the car was, and the car was free, and I needed a car, and so flying to Ohio seemed like the only option. And the nice thing about having to drive a car from Ohio to Oregon in the middle of January is that you get to see so much of this great country of ours!


This is the commencement of what will probably be a multi-part story, some details of which you may already be familiar with if you read my blog.

An update to the Progressive situation: I eventually made contact with the woman at the office. When I reached her, she said, "Oh, I'm glad you called!" Apparently in my previous voicemail, I'd left only my name and not the claim number, and try as she might, she could not find anyone in the system named ERIC SNYDER. Had I been in her shoes, of course, I might have tried variations of "SNYDER" (like, for example, "SNIDER") to see if maybe I was misspelling it, but that did not occur to her. So she was really glad I'd finally called back on my own.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the other driver was disputing any fault whatsoever (of course), and that even if he finally agreed to partial fault, Oregon law is that if you're more than 50 percent at fault, you're not entitled to any monetary compensation. It was now between Progressive and State Farm to work out exactly how much fault would go where -- 60/40, 80/20, etc. -- but that was none of my concern. I wouldn't be getting anything either way.

Eventually, I called a local auto wrecker to come and take the car away. I got $75 for it.