Friday, April 4, 2008

what i have been doing lately

This has been another long week, but believe me when I say it has been MUCH more fulfilling and frustrating than barfing, catching barf, cleaning up barf, and dealing with other gastrointestinal nastiness.

I am on the board of directors for my county's Habitat for Humanity affiliate. I was the Boss of Things for a while...a long, LONG, while, and am happy to have served as the Boss of said Things. I rather enjoy being the Boss of Things, however that is another topic for another day. My current duty is Support Person for our Partner Family. The family is made up of a single mom and her three sons. I like the woman I am serving. She is smart and hard-working, drop-dead gorgeous, but best of all she wants better things for her babies. I am sure they would cringe if they knew I referred to them as babies, but you know that is how I refer to Short People. So get over it, boys. And I am really motivated by other people who are motivated. (Read: constructively motivated.)

This is a really stressful and exciting time for our Partner. The house is complete. We have a Certificate of Occupancy. We have the final cost-out on the house. Our attorney, who is so far from being one of those Butt-Of-The-Lawyer-Joke guys, is on the case (sorry, that was a lame and unintentional pun) and is preparing the documents for closing. Our Partner has prepaid her closing costs, has completed her 300 hours of Sweat Equity. For those of you who don't know, one of the principles of Habitat is to require the Partner Family to work on their home. Our affiliate requires 300 hours from a one-parent household, and 500 from a 2-parent home. Kids contribute by getting good grades, because they are not allowed to be on the actual job site when actual work is being done. Safety and things, you know. The stressful part comes in the form of waiting for closing. Waiting. And. Waiting. AND. WAITING. And if you've ever waited to move and have a major change in your life at the same time, and had no idea when the move would take place, you can appreciate the situation. The closest I can come to in my mind of picturing it is imagining being nine months pregnant, plus two weeks overdue, living in my house with some stuff boxed up and crammed everywhere, with an OB who refuses to induce, and knowing that when I get out of the hospital, all of my stuff will be moved someplace else, to another house entirely.

I think I can turn every stressful event into a pregnancy story.

This is also a stressful time for me (I'll refrain from the preggers bit), because I am supporting our Partner, which involves encouraging her to be patient, and also advising her about things like lawyers and insurance. And this also involves lots of nagging...not Partner, so much, but everyone else who is a part of the Process Of Closing The House. And nagging involves phone calls. Lots and lots of phone calls. My children have (this is me cringeing) watched TV for four hours both yesterday and this afternoon. Because I have been Talking To People.

The worst was this afternoon's conversation which I will preface with this:

Our rules say that Our Partner must purchase outright her first year of Homeowner's Insurance. We gave her a ballpark figure of how much she should be paying, and also told her how much the house is worth. She went to Her Person, who does all of her family members' insurances, and the person quoted her RIDICULOUSLY HIGH on everything: limits, coverages, deductible, and the actual cost of the thing...twice as high as we recommended.

I told Our Partner flat out, in no uncertain terms, in such a way that I did not need to repeat myself: You are being screwed. No, let's not say 'screwed', let's say she has taken a number of sharp rods and impaled you with them. Go back and tell her that is ridiculous and that there is no way on earth you will pay that.

Our Partner went back, and only the price was changed. So after consulting with Men Who Know Such Things, I gave her an idea of how many tens of thousands of dollars in coverage she was being over-covered by, and told her to go back again, and have it changed and also get the deductible cut by 75%.

Insurance Lady got snippy and said she wanted to talk to me. Super! (That is me, saying that with my sarcastically happy voice.) I have played phone tag with Insurance Lady all bloody week. And, for the record, I don't know if she's actually snippy, or just sounds snippy. There's just so much snippyness to snip through to get to the real answer that I have decided I just don't care either way.

So finally, today, I was able to reach her. Lucky for me, it was Snippy and Patronizing Day At The OK Corral. First off, I introduced myself as Pamela. Everyone who knows me knows that I Will Be Called Pamela, Dangit Already. I have never once in at least the past 12 years called me Pam. There are a number of reasons, but again, another post, another day. She refused to call me Pamela, even after I gently corrected her. And then again, after I less-gently corrected her, she still ignored me, but continued to use half of my first name in every sentence. It was all I could do to not jump on the Snippy and Patronizing Day BandWagon.

Then she educated me about how insurance works. And here is the lesson: Deductibles don't actually matter, you don't actually pay the deductible, and the deductible is high to prevent petty loss claims. Insurance Lady also told me that "the deductible is just subtracted from the check we send you if you have a loss."

I think that, in some circles, could possibly be regarded as paying.


And here are the two examples she quoted me:
  1. There's a windstorm, and your screen door blows off your house. It's a $100 door, so with a high deductible, you just hop your little door-less self off to the Home Depot (we WNY HFH-ers prefer Valu Home Centers, by the way) and pick up another door. If you had a tiny deductible, there would be petty little claims every time it got windy, and wouldn't that be a waste of time?
  2. In case of a catastrophic loss, everything is replaced, and the coverage is in layers, so you get layers upon layers of money thrown at you, minus the Ridiculous Deductible. Which is not to be confused with actually paying the Ridiculous Deductible, which is demonstrably different?

I tried to pry information regarding this mystery deductible from her, say, in the case of a $1200 claim, is Our Partner supposed to come up with the Ridiculous Deductible off of the Money Tree we are not planting in her yard? And her response: return to the Screen Door Scenario, and review the whole thing with me again as if I were a Colossal, Brain Dead, Naive Ass.

It was the longest 24 minutes 38 seconds of my week.

And THEN, despite me completely not asking, Insurance Lady said, "I don't get commission from the policies I write. I get paid based on the number of points I get."

Deep. Breath. To. Attempt. Cleansing.

Nope. Didn't work.


The number of points she gets determines her salary. I honestly have no idea what this means, and I wouldn't care, except for the fact that she just said she doesn't get paid commission, and boy, that sure sounds like a twin sister to the commission system.

I politely thanked her for her time and hung up the phone.

I wasted 24 minutes and 38 seconds of my life listening to that woman lie to me (let's call it what it is here, people) and treat me like a moron. I can't imagine how Our Partner must have felt talking to Insurance Lady.

Most importantly, I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how it is acceptable in our society to take advantage of the working poor. I don't understand taking advantage of anyone in a malicious way (except for when I play Monopoly with Uncle Benna, and then I assault him unkindly at every turn, but that's different).

This woman, Our Partner, is busting her ass to make a better life for her family. She is all those boys have, and she is responsible for everything, like so many others out there in the world. What good is there in overcharging her on something as simple as insurance? So when a kid comes over to play and slips and falls and breaks his whatever, Our Partner has to come up with a heartbreaking amount of money to cover the balance of the claim?

I do not wonder why there is a foreclosure crisis in our country.

I do not wonder why so many families live below the poverty line.

I do not wonder why people can't afford health care.

I do wonder how some people can live with themselves. There are some who should be ashamed. There's so much shame surrounding poverty, that shame should be spread around a little to everyone who contributes to continuing the downward spiral that is poverty, so that it's not just the poor families who are suffering the embarrassment. Don't misunderstand me and interpret this as me saying that no blame for poverty should be on the families. That would be a vast generalization. There is a lot of blame that could be cast.

But there is a lot of improvement that can be done.

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talk to me, people. because you know i get all giddy when you do.