Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grand Theft Auto: advice

There's nothing particularly new in this post. I just thought it might be nice to summarize my car theft experiences and advice in a couple paragraphs for those who don't want to read my long-winded stories but still might be interested in knowing. Some of these things may be Washington-specific, but I imagine that most everything I'm saying here will be pretty universal.
First of all, having your car stolen sucks. It sucks a lot. If you think your car has been stolen, you'd better really make certain. Jason and I scoured the garage where my car was stolen for an hour before giving up, and had I realized just how much it was going to suck, I might have waited even longer. If your car is stolen, you'll need to call the police and file a report, and then you'll need to report it to your insurance company. Be prepared to fill out a lot of forms, and find a fax machine, because you're going to need one of those too. If you take a cab or rent a car or otherwise pay for things that you had to due to having your car stolen, save receipts.

Then the waiting comes. Once everyone gives up on ever finding your car, you'll start negotiating a price with your agent. Keep in mind that it's their job to pay you as little as possible, and it's your goal to be paid as much as is practical. Under Washington insurance codes, the insurance company is required to pay you the replacement cost of an equivalent vehicle, plus taxes and fees, less your deductible. In fact, if you can't find an equivalent vehicle for the amount they offer (plus your deductible) after looking for thirty days, they're required to buy one for you or make up the difference.

It's a negotiation. If the agent tells you otherwise, they are lying. While the law is non-negotiable, the definition of "equivalent vehicle" may differ wildly. In my case, the difference between my opinion and the agents' was about a thousand dollars. Your state's insurance commissioner can help you out here if there is any conflict between you and the agent, or you just need clarification on the law. (Washington's insurance codes are surprisingly easy to read and understand, but I imagine most states are not the same.) To negotiate effectively, you're going to need data: lots and lots of data. Besides all the details of your car, you're going to need to know how much local vehicles are going for. Check sites like Autotrader for a starting point. Don't bother restricting your search to only cars from dealers or only certified pre-owned cars, because your agent is not going to pay you for that. (Unless, I suppose, you just want to start off with a higher number and bargain them down. That seemed to work for me.) Pay attention to mileage and options, because a comparable vehicle will have the same mileage and options as yours did, and if you can't find enough similar local cars, you can make them similar through adjustments. See how much price premium an automatic transmission is bringing in in your area (take averages and subtract), and if you are looking at an otherwise similar car that's a manual, add in the price of an automatic transmission to make it similar. Find out how much mileage affects the selling price of a car. Kelley Blue Book may give you a starting point, but they aren't going to be using it, so don't put too much stock in it either. Armed with a spreadsheet full of this data, you can come up with a price, and with that you can start arguing with your agent.

After that, it's up to you how you want to negotiate. Be realistic in your expectations, but don't just take whatever the agent offers either. You can also ask for an initial payment of the undisputed amount that the agent originally offered—that should help you get a replacement car sooner, and it also reduces the tension of the negotations a bit: your agent can no longer string you out forever, waiting on you to finally give in and take their low bid. They don't have to give you an early payment, but they don't have a good reason not to, either. According to the person I talked to in the Washington insurance commissioner's office, it's standard practice to grant an early payment if the customer requests it, but not required.

Other than all that, good luck. It's an expensive situation that you didn't want to be in in the first place, but you don't have to be unprepared. After the theft you'll have plenty of time—a week or two—to be ready for the dealings with the agent, the purchase of a new car, and getting life back on track. Take advantage of it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Armistice

The short version:
Mute Math—Armistice: 7/10
Imogen Heap—Ellipse: 6/10
Bear McCreary—Battlestar Galactica season 4: 6/10
Lily Allen—Alright, Still: 6/10

The first in this line of disappointments is the sophomore album from Mute Math: Armistice, an interesting alternative rock band with a really fantastic drummer.  And while the percussion work here really shines, the album just isn't as interesting as the first one.  There aren't standout singles, memorable tracks, or catchy melodies, and even the energy that their previous album had.  This album's darker and more depressing, and while the CD isn't bad, it's not as good as the first one.  They don't pull off "brooding" as well as "energetic."  Some of the best stuff on here is when they're trying to match the energy of their first album: Backfire (which is admittedly pretty great), and The Nerve (a fun, fast song).  Pins and Needles is the best of the slower, more moody songs.

The biggest letdown of the batch is Ellipse from Imogen Heap.  Her last album, Speak for Yourself, was several years ago, and the most recent album that I'd consider a 10/10 masterpiece.  Ellipse doesn't even begin to do it justice.  Half of the tracks on this album I've already forgotten having heard, and the others aren't faring much better.  I heard the first single First Train Home before the rest of the album, and while it's a pretty enough song, I really hoped it wouldn't be the best on the disc... but it is.  It matches pretty well with her previous work.  Bad Body Double and Swoon are pretty good too, but despite being some of the better tracks, the instrumentation on those two still isn't up to par with other stuff Imogen has done.  Overall, the best from this disc are barely equal to the worst from Speak for Yourself, and that's just really depressing.

The soundtrack from the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica by Bear McCreary is also not as interesting as the previous three.  It worked well in the TV series, but as an album this one isn't quite as good as the previous ones.  From this album I rather like Farewell Apollo, and Assault on the Colony (a fifteen-minute percussion-fueled battle song).  The most memorable is probably Kara Remembers, but it's sort of cheating as it's just a rehash of the tune that was basically the theme to the end of the third season.  All that said, it's still pleasant to listen to, and it's a two-disc set with the second disc containing solely music from the last episode.

Finally, after liking her newest album so much I picked up Lily Allen's previous one, Alright, Still.  I'm not sure I'd have been inclined to buy both had I started with this one. It's got a few good songs, but it's nothing to write home about.  The opening track Smile is pretty catchy, and Nan You're a Window Shopper is amusing even though a few of the British references are lost on me.  Shame for You is decent too.  Basically, the album is a far less-refined version of the sound from her second album.


I've still got a pretty sizeable queue of music to get through.  I'm currently listening to the new Muse album The Resistance, and it's... intriguing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Grand Theft Auto, day 37

15 September 2009

Epilogue:  I left work a couple hours early and drove down to The Middle of Nowhere, WA to pick up my new 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid right before closing time.  The whole purchase process only took about half an hour; it was just about as smooth as possible.  I'm very glad that it's all over.

Monday, September 14, 2009

He likes to hum along

Out of all of the pretty songs in the world for me to randomly hum as I wander around the house, In Bloom by Nirvana seems to come up far too often.  I know not what it means.  The only times I've even listened to the song in the past five years were when people were playing Rock Band, and just now.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grand Theft Auto, days 25-33

Thursday the 3rd through Friday the 11th of September 2009

A week after receiving my money from Progressive it became available for use in my checking account, due to the unnecessary-seeming delay imposed by the credit union.  I'd already settled on the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and I'd already spent enough time picking out that one, so I decided I didn't really want to spend this "gift" of extra time reconsidering.  I was going to get a Fusion Hybrid, and that's that.  They're in short supply, and they've been selling quickly, often before they even reach the dealerships. So, nearly all of the ones that were available a week prior had already been sold, and most of my efforts spent searching for cars previously were in vain.

I started a new search once I actually had the money in my metaphorical hands, and after re-searching the state and making a slew of calls, I managed to find two dealers who would sell me a Fusion hybrid at the "X-plan" partner pricing that I qualify for as a Microsoft employee.  (It's optional whether or not a dealer accepts the plan, but Ford pays them a bigger bonus if they do.)  One was the far-off dealer in southeastern Washington many hours away with a green one, and one was in Issaquah less than half an hour away with a silver one.  Both were willing to sell to me at a discount only if I financed the car through them, since they would get a commission on that, and both were really disappointed to hear that I didn't have a trade-in.  (Out of the dozen or so other dealers, none of the others were interested in selling below MSRP.)

The fellow in Issaquah's offer was rather enticing, and he was wiling to pick me up to get the paperwork signed to put a deposit down on it.  But his car wasn't going to be available for another two and a half weeks.  That far-off dealer was initially no longer sure if he would be able to sell the car to me at a discount, and I was literally minutes away from scheduling a time with the Issaquah guy when the far-off guy emailed me and said that he'd indeed sell it to me for the price I wanted, and it was arriving ahead of schedule: he should have it at the beginning of next week, two weeks sooner.  That was too good to pass up, and I'm willing to drive a few hours to pick up a car if I get it in a better color two weeks sooner.  So I put a deposit down on that one instead.

I felt bad for the Issaquah dealer.  I mean, he's still technically a person, and I sort of feel like I used him to get the other dealer to give me what I wanted.  He was rather helpful, seemed quite honest about pricing (explaining why he needed me to finance the car through him and so forth), and was willing to go the extra mile (or dozen miles) to pick me up.  But it's just business.  The other dealer simply had the better offer, and it didn't make sense for me to buy from Issaquah two weeks later just because the guy was nice.

So finally, after more than a month since this all started, I'm almost totally done making calls and planning and faxing and emailing and searching.  It's been like a part-time job, eating up dozens of hours of my time.  Having your car stolen sucks way more than I ever would have naively expected, and that's part of the reason that I didn't get another Civic (and avoided most popular Japanese cars overall).  Now all I have to do is wait for the car to arrive at the dealership, and I'll be done with all this nonsense.  (That is, barring some sort of unscrupulous evil or clerical mishaps...)

Patience got me an extra thousand dollars dealing with the insurance company.  Patience will save me another twenty five hundred getting a new car.  But boy does patience suck.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Grand Theft Auto, day 24

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The agent "Sandra" left me a voicemail Wednesday morning.  She said that the extra money in my check was because she re-ran the mileage numbers.  B.S.  I don't buy it.  As far as I can tell, a $970 difference in a 2009 Civic is about 24,000 miles.  That story just doesn't check out—and it's awfully convenient that it happened to be almost precisely the same number that you get if you open the Excel spreadsheet I sent her, highlight the cell where I add in an adjustment for the condition of the vehicle, and press the Delete key.

But whatever, I don't care anymore.  According to progressive.com, she had already closed the claim, without my permission and in contrast with her saying that she wasn't going to close it a day and a half earlier, so I called her up and said that I was fine with the claim being closed.  I was happy to be done with her.

I had several dealers to call from my previous night's exhaustive searching, and one by one they scoffed at the idea of selling me a car for less than sticker price.  All except one of the last dealers I called—a man running fleet sales at a dealership in Middle of Nowhere, Washington.  He had a car coming from Mexico in two and a half weeks that he would be willing to sell me at the Ford employee and partner pricing, which was about a $2,500 savings over what every other dealer was quoting me.  All I had to do was get there.

Grand Theft Auto, day 23

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

I had received my check from Progressive, and it was for almost a thousand dollars more than I was expecting.  I wasn't going to argue, and at that point it wasn't really worth even trying to get more from them.  I got what I asked for.

I went to the credit union to deposit my check, and even that was a hassle.  Since the check was from an insurance company and for more than $5,000, they put a 5-day hold on the money.  Ugh.  It was going to be another week until I had money for a car.  I could start shopping around, but without any actual money it was going to be hard to reserve anything or otherwise be a very interesting customer.  I looked around for hours that night, and I only found a few of the car model I was hoping for in the whole of Washington and Oregon (and parts of Montana and California), and far too many of them were white, which is the only color besides red that I simply will not accept.  What few there were left were far away, and the best of them were available for no less than MSRP.  Cash for Clunkers has obliterated the local stocks of desirable cars, and the dealers have no reason to sell popular cars for anything less.  One of the local Ford dealers was pricing the Fusion four thousand dollars above MSRP, and they'll probably still sell it at that price.

Grand Theft Auto, day 22

Monday, 31 August 2009

Having still not heard from my agent in five days, I called her again to see if she finally decided to show up for work.  Her voicemail message from Friday was still up.  So, I called her boss.  He couldn't be reached either.  I was just about to file a complaint with the insurance commissioner after all, but I decided that before that, I should call Progressive and ask for an early payment, and let them know that their agent was worthless.  I dialed their 800 number, typed in my claim number, and was connected with a real person really quickly.  I explained my story about how my agent was being completely unresponsive and generally making me rather unhappy.  She let me finish the story, and responded with "Oh, hi Travis.  This is Sandra*."

Grand Theft Auto, days 18-21

Thursday the 27th through Sunday the 30th of August 2009

The day after calling the Washington insurance commissioner's office I didn't even hear back from the agent, and I couldn't manage to reach her, so finally I left her voicemail.  I asked which laws she was referring to the previous day, and whether I could get an initial claim payment for the undisputed amount while we worked out the final numbers.  I didn't hear back that day, or the next, or the next, or the next.

She was starting to make me really angry.  I called her back again and her voicemail said that she wasn't in her office on Friday (which she hadn't informed me on Wednesday or Thursday), and she listed her boss's number in case of emergencies.  If I didn't reach her by Monday, I knew which number to call.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Grand Theft Auto, day 17

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The following day, I talked with the agent again.  When I suggested that the car was worth more than what she had offered, she scoffed and, with some mixture of indignance and bewilderment at my very suggestion informed me that "this was not a negotiation."  She explained that the very job of companies like Autosource, who are very good at what they do, is to determine the values of vehicles.  Her hands were tied—Washington state law prevented her from giving me any amount other than what the neutral third party decided was the value of the car, she said.

I frustratedly started to ask for some clarifications, and eventually she did admit that if I could fax her some proof of the original mileage on the car (6 miles), she could run some calculations to estimate the actual mileage at the time of the theft, and if her estimate came out less than the 5,000 I had originally stated was the actual approximate mileage, she might get different numbers back from Autosource.  She would also "follow up" and see why only two of the listed vehicles had automatic transmissions, but it wouldn't change the amount of money I would be getting.  I was not impressed, and no normal-driver estimation of mileage was going to say that a car that had been used as a primary vehicle for 11 months only had 5,000 miles; the average American drives more like 15,000 a year.

By then she had started to become frustrated as well, and finally said that if I didn't believe that I was getting a fair number, I'd have to pay for an independent appraiser, and then so would Progressive, and it wouldn't accomplish anything because they'd use the exact same process and come up with the same sort of number that she was already offering me.  And that was it.

After she hung up, I thought things over, and decided that she had gone too far.  Too many of the things that she said sounded untrue, and by making me wait a day between our conversations after having waited so long already it seemed likely that she was just trying to draw things out as long as possible so that I'd give up and accept her number.  So I called her bluff, gathered all of the emotional strength I could muster, and I looked up the number of the Washington State insurance commissioner.  I really didn't want to turn my financial battle into a legal one.

I was quickly transferred to an analyst who asked for my story, and I told it to her in fewer words than I'm using here.  She seemed very confused.  There was, of course, no such law that would prevent this agent from working out a mutually acceptable value for the car.  She strongly suggested that I immediately demand to know which specific law (by its Revised Code of Washington or Washington Administrative Code number) she was quoting, because she was surely either making it up, or interpreting it very strangely.  She admitted that hiring an appraiser would cost me several hundred dollars and thus not really be worth the time and effort, so my best hope was to threaten the agent with a formal complaint if she didn't "sharpen her pencil," which she would likely take seriously.  Any settlement I came to with Progressive would be legally binding, but there was a possibility that if a complaint were filed and they found the agent guilty of wrongdoing they would help me settle for more money, but it would take a month and I shouldn't count on anything.  Not having to file a complaint was still the best outcome, and that I could certainly agree with.

When the analyst told me all this, it filled me with a sort of righteous vengeance that I wasn't really expecting.  Before that moment, this agent was someone who was annoying me.  Now she was someone who had wronged me, and it certainly seemed like the law was on my side.  I started looking up Washington law on the topic—I've been consistently impressed with how well and easy-to-read the laws are written here—and found several things that seemed in direct contrast to what the agent had told me, and very little that seemed to support her point of view.  I was looking forward to hearing the agent backpedal the next morning.

(For the curious: the definition of a comparable vehicle; settlement requirements and adjustments.)

Grand Theft Auto, day 16

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The third Tuesday after the car was stolen was the day that things got really interesting.  By that time I'd utterly given up hope on seeing my car again, and had already moved on and picked out the car that I'd most like to buy to replace my Civic: a Ford Fusion Hybrid, which I'd already test driven and loved.  I was just waiting on Progressive to move on too, and that morning, they did.

The agent called me up and gave me an offer: $17,477.  This was quite a bit less than I was expecting, and far less than I was hoping.  This was even what I thought was a realistic hope, not a pie-in-the-sky lottery-winning hope.  The important thing is that it was considerably less than what I felt was a fair price for the car.  I had already come up with what I felt was a more accurate value for the car, and I told her that, but we didn't get into the specifics.  She didn't really want to discuss anything, but she did send me along the valuation report that she had procured from Autosource to come up with that number.

The process is not quite what a lot of people would expect; it's not just a matter of giving me the Blue Book price for my car or the original purchase price.  Instead, several local "comparable" vehicles for sale are adjusted and then averaged to come up with a price, and then taxes and fees are added.  Theoretically, it's the amount of money that I would need to spend to go to a local dealer and pick up a theoretically equivalent car on the day of the loss.  Washington State law and insurance codes are pretty specific on how comprehensive loss auto insurance works.  Where there's a lot of room to maneuver is in deciding what counts as a "comparable" vehicle.  There were three things that I saw that were wrong about the "comparable" vehicles chosen on that Autosource report, and those were the things that I would need to argue with her about to try to get a more reasonable amount of money from my policy.

The report listed fourteen vehicles, but only two of those had automatic transmissions.  The other twelve were manual, but in the column for adjustments in value between that car and mine was $0, every time.  That same report listed the value of an automatic transmission on my car as $800.  So, I felt that an appropriate adjustment would be $800 * (14 - 2) / 14, plus tax.  (You would get the same number if you added $800 to all of the manual cars and then re-averaged.)  It turned out later that Autosource used 34 local cars, not 14, but only 14 were listed.  The agent and I both missed that at first.

The second problem I saw is that the average mileage of the cars on the report was more than 10,000, but mine had 5,000.  I didn't have any proof of that number, since it was just getting time to have maintenance done but I hadn't done it yet, so there was no record of my mileage other than the 6 on the original purchase contract.  That difference in mileage worked out to be $215 by my calculations, based on how Kelley Blue Book values decreased by increasing mileage from 5,000 to 10,377.  (Again, we weren't using KBB, but it was the best source I had for how much a mile is worth: about 4¢.)

Finally, in my original estimate, I was looking at certified preowned (CPE) vehicles.  If I were to get a used Civic that's what I'd get, and I felt that they would most accurately reflect the condition of my car, which was excellent.  It still smelled new.  The difference in selling price of a CPE car and a regular used Civic in this area was $1,241.  But, since those vehicles also come with a comprehensive inspection along with their excellent condition, which mine did not have, I decided it wasn't fair to adjust the estimate by that full amount, so I thought I should get half that.  This was admittedly my most shaky request, and I didn't really expect to get any money in this area, but I needed something to "negotiate away" to reach a compromise between my numbers and hers.

Those three differences, with tax, came out to about $1,600.  So, I asked for her original value plus $1,600, or about $19,150.  That became my hopeful estimate.  If you remove half of that shaky $1,241 you get $18,467, and that became my more realistic expectation.  Armed with those numbers, which I felt had a pretty strong basis in reality and fact, I was ready to go to financial battle with the agent the next day.  It's her job to try to get me to settle the claim for as little money as possible, and if I wanted more than that—what I would consider a fair amount of money for my car—I was going to need to argue my case convincingly.

Grand Theft Auto, days 1-15

Monday the 10th through Monday the 24th of August 2009

The morning after my car was stolen, Progressive called and asked me more of those same questions, so that they could be really, really certain that my car had not been taken by a jilted lover or alimony-grabbing baby momma.  Since I bought my insurance from Progressive Direct and not an agent, I was paired up with a random local claims agent.  She was in charge of coordinating with the police, making sure that I was telling the truth, verifying my claim, and then eventually, deciding how much of a settlement the company should offer.  She explained that the process would take about two weeks if my car wasn't found by the police—usually claims were resolved in a couple days, but in the case of a missing vehicle it would take longer.  She called Jason while I was at work to verify my story, looked up information about my car based on the VIN, and tried to get surveillance video from the parking lot.  Beyond that, I don't think there was really any more investigation for her to do.  And, there wasn't much else for me to do, except wait.

I spent a couple hours Monday night filling out paperwork.  Every paper I filled out reminded me that insurance fraud was a felony, and that any error or missed space in filling out the paperwork could mean that my claim would be rejected.  (Not wanting to miss any spaces, I ended up writing my own full name and address a good twenty times or so on the forms.)  They wanted to know what items I had in the car, any damage to the car or scratches on the paint, how long I've lived at my current address, my exact annual salary, whether or not I bought floor mats from the dealer, if I'd ever offered to sell the car to anyone else, and a bevy of other questions in the tiniest of print.  In addition, they asked for how much I was claiming, which I hadn't expected for another week or two.  I came up with the best estimate I could and put that down—$20,759.  (I don't recall where that number came from; I think that was the dealer cost of a brand new 2008 Civic or something.)  It's more than I expected to get, but I figured it would be much worse to underestimate at this point.

The next day, on Tuesday, I had to mail out all of those forms, but first, I had to get them witnessed and notarized.  The credit union I go to luckily just opened up a branch on the Microsoft campus a few months prior, so we were able to get that done there.  That took quite a long time; the notary had to approve my documents and watch me sign, take records and notes, and all sorts of things beyond simply checking my ID and stamping them that I didn't really expect.  I doubt that any insurance company would have really made this process much easier, but all of this notarization and scary-form-filling-out really made me feel like the insurance company's enemy, not their customer, and overall left me feeling very drained.

After getting all that sent off, there wasn't much contact with the agent.  She called to let me know when she got my forms, and asked if I'd heard anything from the police, which I hadn't.  More waiting.  By the end of that week I figured that the statistical chances of getting a stolen Honda Civic back were exceptionally low, and I had given up on ever seeing my car again.  I started to plan out what replacement cars I was going to test drive.  Another Honda Civic was a possibility, but now I have a little higher budget than a year ago when I bought the Civic, and I also have a much better idea of what sorts of features I want in a car.  (My previous car was a $700 Isuzu I-Mark, which while fairly reliable and pleasant for such a low price, did not really put me in a position to make any demands from a future car.)  Not to mention, of course, perspective on just how much it sucks to have a car stolen.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Grand Theft Auto, day 0

Here's my first post of several about my experiences having my car stolen.
Sunday, 9 August 2009

Jason and I arrived at the parking garage from the pier after our weekend vacation to Victoria, British Columbia somewhere around 9:30 pm.  The garage had special pricing for passengers aboard the Victoria Clipper, so for Saturday and Sunday it was going to be only $20 instead of $36.  We went up the stairs with our bags, and noticed that the garage was rather empty.  They were closing in an hour or so, and all but one of the entrances were already locked down, so it wasn't very surprising.  We got to the spot where I had parked, and my car wasn't there.  We checked the length of that side of the garage and didn't see it.  Oh, it must be on the floor above, I thought, so we went up one more floor.  That floor was almost entirely empty, and you could immediately see that the car wasn't there either.  Hmm.

This was, of course, unsettling.  I thought that they must have towed my car.  I couldn't imagine why; I'd been very careful to follow all of the directions since I was parking overnight, and since it was going to be almost double the special rate if I didn't have proof that I was a ship passenger.  We kept looking, checking that whole side of the garage on every floor.  Still no car.  By the end of the night we had checked every little section of the garage, even in places that I was 100% certain I didn't park, and we probably checked the area where I expected my car to be half a dozen times or more.  After a good half an hour or more of searching, I called the towing company posted.  It was hard to hear the other person since trains kept going by, but eventually I confirmed that they did not tow my car—they hadn't towed any cars from that lot or any Civics anywhere recently.  They said that I should call 911 and ask for a non-emergency operator.

I was a little hesitant to call 911 since I still assumed at that point that the car had been improperly towed, not stolen, but that's what they told me to do so I did, and after saying it was a non-emergency they transferred me to a different operator.  She checked the Seattle towing records and confirmed that nobody had towed my car, also checking under various different permutations of my license plate and the information I gave her.  Let no one state that we did not do our due diligence.  She asked if I'd like to fill out a police report, so I begrudgingly accepted, and went through her long list of questions, questions that would soon become rather familiar to me.  She said she'd send an officer to the Bell Street Pier garage at 2323 Elliott, and asked where I'd meet the officers.  I said that I could meet them at the lowest-level entrance.

That was probably a bad idea, but I had no way of knowing seeing as I didn't exactly have a city or garage map in front of me.  That entrance was not, it turned out, the main entrance.  Jason and I waited about 45 minutes for the officers to show up.  At this point it's nearly midnight, and we're wandering back and forth, wondering if the officers are going to show up at the entrance that the 911 operator said they would, or the one at 2323 Elliott, which was two blocks away.  So, we switched entrances from time to time.  Of course, we finally saw them at the far-off entrance as we were approaching it from a block away, and they passed right by the entrance, not seeing anyone standing there.  I flailed my arms wildly at them but they didn't see me, and went on.  I continued running to that entrance, and Jason ran on, seeing if he could spot them.  Luckily, they looped around for one last check, and I was able to flag them down with their headlights pointed directly at me.

They asked me questions to verify that I was the person to file the report and that Jason was the other witness.  Then one of the officers had a few report forms for me to fill out, and offered to give me a seat in the police car.  At least I can now say that I've been in the back of a police car, but I'd really rather not have to again.  It's about as cramped and uncomfortable as possible, nothing like how it looks in TV and movies.

After filling out the forms he proceeded to ask me a series of questions, warning me in advance that several of the questions were rather silly.  Among many other things, they asked me if I had recently been through a breakup or had recently started seeing someone new, if I knew where all of the keys to the car were, if I'm absolutely certain that I actually drove the car and parked it there, if I had Lojack, and so on.  They're the same questions that the 911 operator asked, and the same ones that Progressive asked me twice.  When it was all over, I got a business card with an incident number, and an admission that the rate of finding stolen cars is fairly low though not unheard of, and that Civics were one of the cars I was least likely to ever see again.  They'd investigate my case, and call me if they ever found anything.  (Spoiler: they never found anything.)

At that point it was midnight and Jason had needed to go to the bathroom for quite some time, so we walked to the nearby Edgewater Hotel and used theirs, and called for a cab.  The cab ride back to my house cost $40.

When I got home, I reported the event to Progressive.  They had a handy online form for me to fill out that asked me all of those same sorts of questions, questions that they would ask me again the next morning over the phone.

All the way through Saturday evening I had been having a great time, relaxed and happy from being on vacation.  But upon finding my car missing all of that instantly ended.  I've become pretty good at keeping control of my emotions, and I didn't lose my cool, but Jason could tell by the time of the 911 call that I was pretty defeated.  My face was pretty blank for the rest of the night.  I felt very, very tired.

But at least I was insured.  The insurance company would take care of me...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Impatience

One of the most surprising things about having my car stolen is actually just how much I miss having a car.  I went more than four years here without having a car and never really felt like it was much of a burden, but now I feel very restrained, just a year after buying mine.  When I went to college I didn't take my car with me, and it was very rare that I missed it since everything I needed was within walking distance, but the area I'm in now just isn't as friendly to people without cars.  My old apartment wasn't so bad, as it was closer to Microsoft, and there were a ton of different bus lines available.  At my house, there's just one bus that only goes a couple places, slowly, and it only comes by once an hour and doesn't run on Sundays.

I'm sure that's part of it, but probably just as much as that is that I got quite used to having a car.  I'm less patient now.  Taking the Segway is still faster for a few things, such as commuting during rush hour, but it is not really a device built for pulse-pounding speed.