The old one-two punch

john.spevak@gmail.comJuly 11, 2014 

In a previous column, I told the strange story of stopping for a break on my way to Reno and parking my car in a lot next to a coffee shop. Before I had left that lot, my car was badly leaking coolant, one of its windows had been smashed by a thief, and I was in a tow truck headed back to Los Banos.

Fate had played enough tricks on me for the day, I thought, and I was trying not to get discouraged by the two strange setbacks. Fortunately, the long ride back to the Los Banos repair shop went smoothly and quickly, thanks to the friendly conversation I had with James, the tow truck driver.

After James had let my car down off the truck in the repair shop lot, I noticed the car was leaking some more. That didn’t surprise me. I had seen a lot of coolant leak out earlier that day by the coffee shop before the tow.

But now coming from the front of the car was not coolant, but oil. And lots of it. A pool of oil the size of a small pond! Fate was not content with dealing me two strikes. Now it dealt me strike three – and I was out.

I theorized what had happened. When the underside of my car hit the curb in the parking lot, it had not only cracked the radiator; it had also cracked the aluminum oil pan, which sits low to the ground. In automotive circles. this might be called the “one-two punch” — to my car and my gut.

I felt myself in some ways lucky. If I was going to be dazed by leaking coolant, leaking oil, and a smashed window, it might as well have happened all at once.

Now it was time to inform my insurance company. I felt confident working with this company, since it had previously treated claims with efficiency and fairness.

I needed to make an insurance report about not only a smashed window, but a minor solo accident – a car running into concrete, specifically the underside of a car running into a concrete curb.

I talked with Mary, a friendly insurance claims person, who was both calming and assuring. After I told her my long sad story, she determined that there would need to be two claims filed: one for a one-car accident, the other for smashed glass. They were two different, not-quite-simultaneous events.

She also wanted to know what repair shop I wanted to use. I told her Clyde’s in Los Banos. Her computer check found Clyde’s was not on the insurance company’s pre-authorized list. But that didn’t matter, she said; it would just involve another step.

I knew Clyde didn’t repair glass, so I told her I’d use whatever glass repair shop was on her list. She gave me the list’s closest mobile glass shop. I said fine – one less complication.

After I hung up the phone, in spite of the small trials and tribulations of the previous 24 hours, I felt good. My insurance company was handling the claims, and my wife Sandy let me use her car to drive to Reno the next day.

I arrived in Reno in plenty of time to serve as my granddaughter Hanna’s sponsor at her confirmation, which was both a delight and honor.

On my drive home to Los Banos that night, I reflected on what had happened. I thought primarily about the smashed window. Even though it was only for a short time, I had made the mistake of providing “targets” for thieves by leaving my clothes (on hangers) and a briefcase in clear view.

I resolved never again to leave anything in my car in sight which might look tempting to steal, even if I’m away from the car for only a few minutes – anywhere, no matter how safe it may look.

The next day it was time to follow up with my insurance company. I expected a smooth process, but what I didn’t know then was that the company had recently installed a new software claims system. That would turn out to be another saga in itself.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, a California Newspaper Publishers Association Blue Ribbon Finalist for 2013, are encouraged, and can be sent to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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