Monday, March 1, 2010

the pleasures of outrage

Later this morning, I will drive 20 miles to a hearing at which I will present my point of view about an auto accident in which I was involved just over a year ago. The net effect of that accident, in which no one was hurt and damage was minimal, was that my once-sparkling rating as a driver went into the toilet and my auto insurance payments went up.

My insurance agent assures me that we are fortunate in this state to have such hearings at all. Most states leave it to insurance companies -- without any chance of redress -- to raise rates as they see fit in the wake of the accidents they insure.

The agent also counseled me to present the facts at the hearing. He said this as he heard my voice become very, very cranky indeed. The hearing officer, my agent pointed out reasonably, is only interested in the facts, in who was at fault and by how much. My passions were not his concern and, in fact, might tend to make that officer rule against me.

My agent's advice, which I could credit, led me, yesterday, to write the incident down on a single sheet of paper ... minus the hyperbole that I could bring to bear.

What pisses me off is not the point. The point is the facts and whether those facts warrant a rate hike or not. Based on the fact that my accident occurred over a year ago and the fact that my hearing is scheduled today suggests that the hearing officer is up to his eyebrows in such hearings and that he has heard it all ... all the complaints and anger and raging and finagling. His patience has a breaking point, I imagine, when it comes to the passions anyone might exhibit.

What pisses me off, and what I will not allude to at the hearing, is this: If I pay an insurance company to insure me against accidents I might have, and if I have an accident for which I paid premiums before the event, and if my premiums go up after I have an accident I was paying premiums to cover ... then what, exactly, was I paying for before I had the accident? If a business contract is a quid pro quo, what "quo" precisely am I receiving? As far as I can see, I spend the quid and the insurance company pockets it without living up to its part of the bargain.

No one has explained to me in what way my reasoning is wrong and as a result, I am in possession of a fat, unhappy child crying, "It's not fair!" ... and that's leaving out the cuss words I can tack on.

But isn't a situation like this the same for everybody at one time or another? Something happens -- life comes along and deals a patently painful hand and ... it's not fair! Tears flow, cuss words fill the heavens, sadness and anger are on the front burner, outrage swells, doubts nag and ... it's not fair!

And ... the hearing officer just wants the facts and the facts remain unchanged. After all the impassioned cries, still, the question remains, shall we go on crying or do we need to buckle down and do what we can? Impassioned cries may feel good, but do they solve much?

Not that the passions need to be shoved into some locked room -- we're not lawyers or priests after all -- but, however painful or irritating the situation, doesn't there come a time when we're out of impassioned breath and out of tears? Isn't there a time that comes when there is either put-up or shut-up?

I don't know ... perhaps I am forgiving myself too easily, but my foot-stamping irritation strikes me as par for the human course. And this morning I will try to stop stamping and growling and get something done.

Which doesn't mean I wouldn't kick the cat if I had one, but blaming the cat never accomplished much.

PS. For all my concerns and all my projections and all my outrage, what actually happened was almost surreal in its speed. I arrived at the registry to find perhaps a hundred people waiting outside, not all of them due for the sort of hearing I was scheduled for. Once inside, there was a shorter line to get into. The hearing officer, when he ticked off my name, informed me that I was first in line. Once seated across from him at his desk, he turned on a tape recorder, made several obligatory remarks about the time, place and people present. He then said, without asking me to say anything, that he was reversing the finding by the insurance company. "The punishment did not fit the crime," he summed it up. I was about to say something, but then realized the superfluousness of it. I was in and out of his office in fewer than five minutes, feeling somehow deflated that my outrage and concern had been so easily dealt with. So it goes.


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