Got it Covered

“Face it girls. I’m older and I have more insurance.”
― Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Insurance is one of those monthly out the door expenditures that translate into a lot of cash in any given year–cash that could be spent on things one actually sees,  holds, or enjoys–but it does buy a sense of security.  No matter what the eventuality, those policies standby like a big brother there to protect you.  Or do they?

With regular medical and dental care, it is difficult to avoid accessing any insurance but in general insurance policies are usually paid and ignored.  In many cases there is the fear that costs could increase even more if a claim is made. By making no claim on it, the comfort of thinking insurance is there to protect you remains undisturbed by the knowledge that it may not.

We were amazed one day to see hail the size of golf balls and tennis balls bouncing off our patio, it was such an amazing sight and not for one moment did we stop to think that those bouncing balls of ice were also hitting our house.  It was not until I saw fleets of roofing trucks around the neighborhood that it occurred to us to have the roof checked for damage.  Two contractors said we indeed had hail damage and should call our insurance company.  I thought it was on us, that we would replace a few shingles, do some repairs, hand over more money than expected, and soldier on.  Thinking it would come to nothing, I called our insurance and the first person I spoke to put the fear of God into me about, “Having a claim on your record” if the damage was not attributed to the hail.  I hung up and called one of the contractors, who assured me that it was indeed hail damage, and he offered to meet the insurance adjuster to show him that damage. He was certain and assured me it was worth my time and effort.

The adjuster came and inspected the roof with our contractor. Everyone agreed there was damage from the great balls of ice and our story ended happily with a brand new roof for the cost of our deductible.  We suggested a lower cost composite roofing material, knowing that many of our neighbors had gone with composite rather than cedar shingles because of the cost, but it was our replacement insurance that filled the gap between the amount offered for the depreciated age of the roof by our regular insurance and the cost of a replacement; we had to use the same materials as the original. In the end we got a brand new cedar shake roof, window screens, and gutters.  We were unexpectedly covered for a very large expense.  The need for a new roof was inevitable given the age of our house. Were it not for Mother Nature we would have been facing the cost of a roof in the not too distant future. Insurance came through in a very big and very unexpected way.

But that is not the only story.

It was one of those normal winter days tucked between polar vortex events, sun shining and temperatures hovering around a balmy freezing as compared with the usual subzero temperatures of that winter.  I had ventured out to do some shopping and was edging my way up a lane in the parking.  Suddenly I saw an SUV pull out fast from behind a van. Being in a parking lot, I was moving slowly and was able to stop about two slots before the SUV, leaning on my horn for good measure. The SUV was coming so quickly that it was not enough to give space and noise. Clearly the driver had other things on her mind as she was both deaf to the horn and heavy with her foot. My poor car– less than a year old at the time and still sporting a trace of that expensive new car perfume–jolted and cried out with that indescribable sound of crushing, crinkling, cracking metal and plastic.

Issuing a silent reminder to myself to stay calm, I collected my purse and grabbed the door leaver to get out of the car. The door would not open.  I tried again, it made a little groan but would not budge. My car has a console between the front seats, which is very handy for storing my purse and convenient for shifting gears, but for climbing over it is a daunting barrier.  But given that both seats have head rests reaching nearly to the ceiling my escape routes were limited, climb over it I did, pushing the driver’s seat back as far as I could and, fueled by adrenaline, somehow managed to struggle to the other side.  It was not a pretty sight.

Once freed from my twisted metal I had a brief moment to examine hers, rust showing through places in the tired black paint, former damage that included what could be bullet holes to my heightened imagination, and a brand new ding on the aged bumper. And I was about to meet the occupant.

There is a very unusual Southern/Central Illinois accent that some people have here, very difficult to explain but consider that, although surrounded by the midwestern states of Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin, Illinois shares a border with Kentucky to the south and Missouri to the west.  There is a blending of accents that I am still learning to recognize, but I would say that I noted that accent as she said, “I don’t have insurance,” followed by, “This is my boyfriend’s car and he doesn’t have a driver’s license.”  Things continued to get interesting when she said, “We are moving this weekend and I am not sure what my address is.”  Her little girl got out of the car, her presence reminding me about the staying calm thing. I said, “Let me get my information,” and returned to the car looking for all the world calm and self-possessed until I tried and failed to open the door. Silently regathering my dignity and swallowing an expletive or two, I went to the passenger side, got in the car, closed the door, called 911, saying, “I have just been hit by an uninsured motorist.”

I had reason to remain calm, an inconvenience of course, but I do have uninsured motorist coverage.  And now, covering all bases, I would have a police report. I returned with my insurance cards and drivers license, informing her that the police were on their way. While we were waiting I took pictures with my phone of the damages. All would be well.

A car came up the lane and I realized I would have to move my car to get it out of the way of other cars (and it would box her in so she could not drive off, so definitely worth the effort).  I opened the passenger door and commenced the ugly and awkward climb back into the driver’s seat, moved the car, then struggled back out again to await the police officer.  Later I discovered that the easiest way in and out was to go backside first dragging the legs behind, not feet first followed by an attempt to bend in ways unnatural for someone far younger and more limber than I.  I did not know this at the time.

A nice young community officer came and took our individual statements, entered our information, and called it in.  The driver, perhaps nervously, chattered away as the waiting time dragged on and on.  Perhaps what she was telling me was an effort to gain sympathy for her circumstances, and for the most part it worked.

Although not a polar vortex day, the thin sunshine did little to keep the creeping chill from setting in. Still silently reminding myself to stay calm, I noticed the back seat of the police car looked sparse and hard-edged, not a space I would want to experience. I observed aloud, “It does not look very comfortable back there.”  Not missing a beat, she responded with, “Oh no it isn’t. I hate riding back there.”

Nearly an hour after he arrived, the officer finally began to print our copies of the report but had just enough thermal paper to print one.  He struggled with loading the printer for some time before giving up.  Saying that he still had to write the other driver a citation for driving without insurance, he let me go with the one copy.  Once again I climbed into the passenger seat and, not having discovered the easiest way to get across the great divide, struggled and strained to get to the other side, eventually getting all my parts in one place. Unbent and ready to drive I was set; with my uninsured motorist insurance, photographic evidence, and police report all would be well.

When I parked in the garage, somehow I made the great discovery that back-end first was easier than grunting and groaning and bending in ways I do not bend. Things were looking better already. It was with great confidence I called to report the not-my-fault-according-to-the-official-police-report accident to the insurance company.  It was then I learned that, yes I do have uninsured motorist coverage but…I was not insured for an uninsured motorist damaging my vehicle.  Uninsured motorist insurance is for medical expenses only, not for property.  Although a little worse for wear for all the bending and struggling between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, it was not medical coverage I needed. My car’s front end was crunched and, although my slide back-end first discovery was a great improvement, the driver’s side door really needed to be fixed.

Unlike the great balls of ice, the uninsured motorist story ended less happily.  My collision insurance paid to fix the car, but I was told by the insurance adjuster to collect the deductible–our higher deductible to save on premiums deductible–from the uninsured driver.  The saying, “blood from a turnip” came to mind, as did the thought that she had my name, my address, my phone number, my driver’s license number, and my car license plate number.  Not only did I not want to make an obnoxious nuisance of myself but there was no phone and no address, just a driver’s license number and a plate number for a car that belonged to someone else. Blood from a turnip that could not be found.  I was resigned to the fact that I had just learned an expensive lesson about uninsured motorist coverage.

Some months later, I got a letter that the claim was still open.  I called and was informed that they were in the process of trying to get the cost of my repairs, including my deductible, from the uninsured driver.  From what I gathered, they had not been able to find her.  Still later, I got another letter from a collection agency saying they were attempting to collect for the insurance company.  As far as I know, the claim is still open.

My reality is, the case was closed that first day when I was told what it meant and what it did not mean to have uninsured motorist insurance. I paid the deductible and considered it essentially a poverty tax. There will be times when those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to afford insurance, deductibles for repairs, newer cars, and permanent addresses will encounter those who are less fortunate and cannot afford all of those things combined. It is random, it is upsetting, and perhaps it is even unfair, but in the end perhaps it is the the risk we assume for having while living among those who have not. It was a random misfortune to be hit by someone who could barely afford to operate a car and could not afford the “luxuries” of insurance. Yes, it is against the law to drive without insurance in our state, but if it is a choice to be grounded or to break the law to drive and survive, then I must believe that there are many more on the road just like her.  A randomly assessed poverty tax and I only hope I have paid my share.

So, a split decision on insurance, one experience came through with more there than expected and one with less. We need a tie-breaker.  More in the next blab.



Goin’ Down to the Crossroads

In some ways, day-to-day life is pretty much the same no matter where that place called home is situated.  But I can say with certainty that my first Midwestern volunteering experience would never have happened while living in Silicon Valley.  

After moving, I took it slowly when it came to getting involved with the various groups in the area. My first experience volunteering was for a local music festival. I naively thought, sure I could be the handler for a visiting artist.  What could be so hard about that?  Even I could be hospitable for just one night.

I went to a rather chaotic volunteer meeting–one of those where just about everyone other than me had done this before and knew what they were about–learning next to nothing about what I was supposed to do and when I was supposed to do it.  Fortunately, someone called me days later with a few more details.  I was to pick up and escort an artist tagged with a rather unfortunate name, one of those inappropriate names that makes a person cringe to speak aloud, a name like “Washington Redskins.” In spite of the abhorrence of many Republican candidates for political correctness, every fiber of my being recoiled against calling an African American male with a visual impairment by this name. But that is what he calls himself, and that is who I would be shepherding.  I vowed to learn his given name as quickly as possible. 

Unfortunately, yet-to-be renamed artist was having difficulties with an international flight coming through New York and would I mind picking him up at midnight at the bus station on Friday night?  Meeting a blues musician at midnight. I turned to the spouse after hanging up the phone and said, “I’m goin’ down to the crossroads.”  I tried to get across that perhaps I was not the best person to be hanging around bus stations by myself at midnight; were something to happen the local paper would report me as “Elderly woman struck down in bus station.” Fortunately the delay was even longer, so rather than at midnight it was at noon the following day that I lurked around the bus station waiting for the artist.

I did not need help to pick him out of the crowd, he was the only one climbing off the bus carrying a banjo, a guitar, a cane, and dressed in overalls and floppy hat like a depression era dust bowl escapee.  The first order of business was to take him to his hotel to check in and clean up. I brought things to do expecting to have to wait for him in the lobby while he freshened up.  But no, he wanted to just drop his stuff, grab a bite, and get jammin’ with all the other musicians. He then surprised me with the question, “Where can I get Kosher food?”  I had no idea but remembered a friend telling me that their Jewish family tradition on Christmas Day is to eat Chinese Food. I suggested a Chinese restaurant and this was acceptable. In thinking he would want to sit down and eat I was mistaken once again.  No time for food, he wanted to get jammin’ with all the other musicians. Off we went with a couple of styrofoam containers filled with Chinese food tossed into a bag.  He had flown across the Atlantic through New York, connected on a domestic flight, and boarded a bus to his final destination.  An exhausting trip, yet he was still moving with purpose, not even a pause to change his shirt or stop to eat.

The festival had workshops, jamming sessions, and performances at several venues around the town.  I guided him to the green room in the main venue so he could eat his food and relax with other musicians.  Nope.  He dropped his bag of styrofoam containers on a table and took off for the stage and was soon jammin’ with whoever would pick up an instrument.  In a very short time I had to round him up to get him to another venue, untouched styrofoam containers left behind, for his next workshop.  

We arrived at an intersection and just as I was about to guide him across the crosswalk he took off diagonally across the middle of the street–full speed ahead–with me chasing after him, all the while trying to signal the traffic to stop, hoping the drivers could see his white cane.  Getting him from one place to the next was pretty much the same, always having too good a time to leave but in a big hurry to get to the next stop once I got him moving.  His first performance venue was at a bar.  The bar was packed when we entered, me carrying banjo and guitar cases and he holding his cane. Before I could finish checking in with the gatekeeper, he pushed through the crowd towards the stage, leaving me to weave my way through aften him while trying to avoid whacking people with the heavy cases.  I caught up with him at the side of the stage, set his cases down, and just when I was hoping we could stay put a moment he says, “I need a whiskey to clear my throat.” I probably did too, but off I went to the bar to buy him a shot, hoping he would stay where I left him and wondering if whiskey was Kosher. 

Apparently one whiskey was enough to wet his whistle, but clearly not enough to get him through the performance.  Soon he had audience members handing him up shots of whiskey.  With great optimism, I thought it might slow him down a bit.  Wrong. We got back to the main venue and, after a brief pause to eat out of those styrofoam containers that had been sitting there for hours, he was just getting started.  

His performances had concluded and I believed my job was done, then he found the dance floor. At this point I had been his keeper for over 10 hours and while I was completely and utterly exhausted he had only just begun.  I must have looked spent because at this point one of the organizers took pity on me and offered to find someone to take him back to his hotel when he was ready.  Later I heard he went back to his hotel sometime in the wee hours.  Forget going down to the crossroads at midnight, he was jammin’ well past the midnight hour and into the dawn’s early light.

Not sure if it was the Kosher food, the music, or the whiskey shots, but he certainly had seemingly endless jet-lag impervious energy and joy that sprang from somewhere. Even spotting me a trans-Atlantic flight and cross continental journey before my job started, I could not begin to keep up.  I think it is too late in life for me to dress in overalls and play the banjo–and I don’t have a taste for whiskey–but I could try Kosher food for stamina.  Who knows, maybe there really is something to that chicken soup.

Went down to the crossroads and what did I find there? Nothing but energy, energy fueled by food, whiskey, and music, energy fueled by pure joy of life.

Snow What

Sure, California has earthquakes and the Pacific can be anything but pacified at times, but barring “the big one,” an occasional shimmy and shake in the Wild West is little when compared to the frequent weather events in the Mild Midwest.  Although California weather reports seem to serve little purpose other than to make the rest of the country green with envy, there are times when the residents look to the oracle for signs of change. In winter I checked weather reports to see if I needed an umbrella or sweater.  In the rare summer heatwaves I checked when a high pressure system would lift and let the natural air conditioning from the Pacific fog return. Other than that, it just did not occur to me to check in with the weather while I lived in California. Now, I have six weather apps on my devices and several sites bookmarked on my computer to check forecasts, radar maps, heat indices, wind chill factors, road conditions, severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado watches, and even hurricane warnings.

Five years in and of all the weather drama it is the snow that still astounds me.

Yesterday I awoke to the sound of Hawaiian slack key guitar and the sight of newly fallen snow. It still is miraculous to see the sun go down on grassy terrain and come up to a silent world blanketed in white.  I knew it was coming, the snow was forecast and before going to bed a few big flakes could be seen drifting where the landscape lights broke through the darkness.  The question always is, how deep will it be?  This time it was a few inches accumulation, a bit too deep to ignore. The spouse put down the guitar, leaving the psychological lift of the tropics to see if the snow blower would start. It did not. Fortunately the snowplow guy–whose name and number I was just wracking my brain to recall–remembered us from last year and turned up just as the spouse was getting into his workout with the manual snow plow.  He took over and plowed our driveway and walkway, leaving little patches that the sun would later mischievously melt just enough to turn to ice.

A snow day is just fine by me, there is always loads to do indoors.  With a gas fireplace, it was lovely to light the fire and glance out the windows at the sun glistening on the snow as I bustled about. The four hour oven cleaning cycle brought cozy heat into the kitchen and seemed like a grand idea, well it did until the fumes overwhelmed the fans and I realized it was far too cold to open any windows. And the walk to the mailbox–tentatively but not always successfully stepping around icy patches only to find two credit card and one magazine offer–was not a high point. Otherwise it was a very nice snow day indeed.  I finished up a massive knitting project. I battled the paper monster and updated accounts. I visited the basement exercise room and used it too.  Throughout the day every window displayed a sparkling landscape covered in fluffy white snow. It was all and all a very satisfying day.

Yet there is the flip side. Appointments and other obligations do not stop because of snow. Even a clear calendar is no guarantee of remaining snug, safe, and warm at home. In spite of full cabinets, a full freezer, and full refrigerator–all stocked and readied in response to predictions of snow–the perishables perish and eventually it will be necessary to venture out. The snow is lovely but I do so fear the ice. The possibility of hitting black ice and slip sliding off the road or the fear of taking high flying spills on icy walkways and sidewalks are enough to keep me indoors until the next thaw. Add to that the lack of confidence in my winter driving experience, which is to say no prior winter driving experience, and I would happily opt for cabin fever.

In spite of its newly fallen beauty, I cannot be at peace until the winter snow, slush, and ice draw back from the roads and walkways leaving no treacherous ice behind. Unfortunately, none of my weather apps or websites–not a single one–show above freezing temperatures for the next few days. Unless I am willing to give up the milk in my coffee, it is high ho, high ho, out in the snow I go.

Look out experienced winter drivers, here I come.


Sportsball, My Sportsball

I get so stilted when I start to write a blog, which is made evident by how many blog posts I have made.  None.  To break the no-writing streak I will simply pick a random topic and jump right in.


First, credit goes to my sports-averse nephew for coining the word “sportsball” to designate all those sports that involve putting, punting, kicking, batting, throwing, catching, dribbling, and even hurling at others if one includes dodge ball: golf, soccer, football, baseball, basketball, field hockey, and on and on.  Of course one might suggest to him that snowboarding is considered a sport—an activity that captures much of his love and attention—but to be fair although it involves a board, a costume, a rider, and a thick layer of snow it does not involve any round rolling objects. With a few snowballs one could invent a combined dodge ball and snowboarding event, but let’s agree he does not participate in a sport that requires balls.

Growing up with four brothers, it would naturally follow that I would be become an avid sportsball fan and participant.  In fact the opposite happened.  Not only did I come to adulthood in the pre-Title IX age—a time before sports was a typical activity for boys and girls alike—there were brothers and boy neighbors who repeatedly reminded me that sportsball was for boys and that no, girls may not play.  The age of on-demand-multi-platform-instant entertainment was not even dreamt of and the one television in the house was tuned to sportsball games whenever sportsball was in season; and some type of sportsball was always in season. Even PBS broadcast English Premier League sportsball.  Of course I would have preferred to watch something riveting like the Monkees, but with one television in the house it was sportsball on the screen.  

When puberty hit, many an hour was spent sitting in the bleachers watching sportsball because inevitably there was someone on the field who made one of our feminine adolescent hearts go pittity-pat; throwing, pitching, kicking, catching, or tackling for both school pride and the giggling girls in the stands. Girls in turn watched with avid attention or studied indifference, depending upon the state of the relationship with the sportsball player on the pitch. In high school the Powder-Puff was a sportsball game where junior and senior girls played football on opposing sides; the boys on the football team served as everything from coaches to cheerleaders.  Every painful and sweat inducing drill their coaches had subjected them to they served up to us with a great deal of smirking, dubious that we could endure a single session. For our part, we could not bear to be found wanting and did every sprint, squat, and squirm with grim determination.  I was named team captain because of the 100% I received on the written test, demonstrating that I knew the rules frontwards and backwards. Apparently I inadvertently paid attention to all those sportsball broadcasts and bleacher sessions.

College went by without much attention given to sportsball save going to football games.  The team was never at the top of the division and if full attention were given it might have been painful to watch. The fun was in being with friends packed in the bleachers with color-coordinated attire, cheering and laughing as the sun shone down and the books were forgotten.  

My younger brothers were on some of the early soccer teams, their teams travelled far and wide to find opponents and their teammates were from all over the world.  Perhaps it was because I had a drivers’ license and could get them to their games—or perhaps because it was something different to see—I was often on the sidelines cheering them on.  But it was not until I was a few weeks shy of 30, with a toddler in tow, that someone at a party invited me to join a sportsball team for women 30 and older.  I said I had never played, was out of shape, and was completely clueless.  To that they responded that I would be perfect for the team. Completely out of character and surprising myself more than anyone, I said yes. The first game I chased the ball from side-to-side and end-to-end with no purpose in mind other than to follow that ball; to say I was soon sucking wind was an understatement.  Eventually I learned about positions, strategy, and to my great surprise, competition.  If someone were to tell me that years on I would have three knee surgeries and two ankle surgeries I may have stayed with my original assessment of sportsball, but the future was unknown and the present was filled with competition, camaraderie, and challenge.  Sportsball, I was all in.    

Meanwhile, our local sportsball team had this player called Joe Montana who started drawing just a bit of attention.  When my daughter was born, we lived right by their training center and I would get caught pushing a stroller through a forest of massive sportsball players as they went to and from their practice facility.  Pretty soon I was rolling over broadcaster’s cords and getting dirty looks as I wheeled an infant past their impromptu broadcast site, not the masculine shot they were looking for.  Our mail delivery got later and later as the mail carrier joined the growing crowds peering through the fences.   The excitement was contagious, and it was all happening right there in the neighborhood.  It was then I made another discovery.  Sportsball, when broadcast, can be viewed intently or viewed with almost no attention whatsoever.  While baby clothes needed folding, food needed preparation, or a toddler needed chasing, sportsball droned calmly and quietly until something happened.  With a great swell of noise, a play of note was announced and then replayed and replayed from every angle.  It was nearly impossible to miss anything of importance in a sportsball game, even in my most distracted moments.  Sportsball was perfect for a young mother.

Starting with the K-League Kickers, sportsball became a regular part of our life as parents.  Practices, games, coaching, refereeing, cheering, transporting, scheduling, and taking it all so seriously; sportsball for every season.  And if that were not enough, there were outings to college games and professional games.  Then one weekend as all the mad mothers in minivans roared past us hurtling from one field to another, we suddenly found ourselves with nowhere to be and no one to see.  Child grown and weekends on our own.  

Now as a lady of a certain age with her varied knitting projects and household tasks, sportsball is still the perfect background accompaniment.  The excited voices of the announcers and the roar of the crowds alert me to when I should take a glance; otherwise it is a gentle ambient noise that I can tune in and out as the spirit moves me.  As the latest sportsball World Cup got under way I even made a few converts.  A friend of mine asked, “Are soccer players like firemen?  Do they all have to be handsome?”  I do not profess to know the answer to that query, but if you would like to test me on the rules I just might get 100%.