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Don't Do This to Your Car

April 21 2005 02:42 AM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

Okay... where was I...

Oh, yeah, worst month evar.

Tuesday (the 12th) rolls around, and I'm surprised that I still haven't heard anything about my car. I'm trying to be optimistic, and I'm assuming the silence is because everything's being taken care of. But I decide I need answers, so I call the body shop.

The receptionist says she's going to forward me to the person in charge of my account, after which I immediately find myself listening to someone's voicemail message. I hang up and call back. Different receptionist, same response, but this time the phone rings before the voicemail message starts. I leave my name, info, and phone number.

About twenty minutes later, the phone rings. I glance at the caller ID, and it's my insurance company. Surprised, I pick up the phone. The woman on the line says that she's calling to give me an update to my car.

Estimate for repair: $4500. Value of policy: a little over five grand. They're not going to repair my car. They're totalling it.

I'm stunned. The accident seemed so minor when it happened. I barely register the rest of the conversation, and just start writing down what she tells me. Sign the back of the title, mail it to them, mmm hmm.

Oh, and I'm supposed to go clear my stuff out of the car within the next 24 to 36 hours.

I hang up the phone and immediately call my father for advice. We discuss the options, including buying the car back from the insurance company and repairing it ourselves. He suggests I call my mother (who's probably, oddly enough, the auto expert of the family). She tells me it's not worth it. But both suggest I call the collision place back to get more details about the damage.

The guy who answers inadvertantly ends up being the right guy to talk to. He runs over the estimate and tells me about what's on it. It starts to sink in. He mentions that they're open until six, so, given my usual busy Wednesday schedule, I arrange with Dad to go grab my stuff immediately. (My previously scheduled game of Goalty sounds a little out of the question at this point.)

We get there, and one of the guys leads us though the maze of vehicles on their lot. He can't find it. Finally, he remembers moving it to the "totalled" section of the lot. And here's what we find:

Strangely, the damage looks a lot worse now than it did the night of the accident or when the tow truck picked it up. I don't mean that in a "they did something to my car" kind of way - the damage is the same. It just looks worse.

(I can't help but notice that the Mercury Sable -looking car parked next to mine in the "totalled" lot has damage to the same area, but less of it. And it's totalled as well.)

It doesn't take long to clear out the rest of my stuff. I insist on removing the cigarette lighter, which actually came out of my first car, and the guy gives me the okay. I'm actually a little bummed out about the fact that I'd only recently gotten the rear speakers replaced, and the stereo finally sounded great. Here I am leaving all of the new equipment behind.

And I can't help but compare this moment to my last car. I drove a beat-up '83 Accord for eleven years. This car lasted me almost exactly three. Just a shame. (I dialogued about getting the car and the shitty stereo contained therein back in 2002 here: Eye Strain and the Misery Threshold.)

And with that, I take one last look, and we leave.

The rest of the evening is a continuing haze. My brother calls to talk about web design stuff, and I'm so out of it that I barely register anything he says.

After a few days reflecting on the situation, I've come up with a couple of silver linings. For starters, the check my insurance company is for more than what we paid for the car in 2002. And, since they totalled the car, I don't have to pay the deductible that I was worried I'd have to fork over. (At least, as far as I know. Here's hoping I don't get a bill.)

But the sad part is that I'd gladly pay the amount of the check to buy that exact car. Unfortunately, my initial search has proved fruitless in finding something comparable. I've never had to go out and look for a car, either, so all of this process is completely new to me.

But, for now, I'm hitching rides with people and enjoying the benefits of public transportation.

Wait, Atlanta has public transportation? Why, yes it does. Kind of. Unfortunately, my area really doesn't. So the last couple of weeks have been an absolute adventure.

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