i need to ask.

it has been pointed out to me in the past, by a certain someone who shall remain nameless but who lives in my house, is more than two feet tall, and is not a cat, that i sometimes overreact to petty bureaucratic irritations. this person attests that it was not necessary or helpful to shout obscenities at a customs official for charging a two hundred dollar duty on the forty-dollar sweater my mother sent one Christmas when we lived abroad, despite the fact that the charge was erroneous and due to Mr. Customs Official’s misinterpretation of the English on the packing slip, that he refused to listen to polite explanations of the distinction or grant us any access to a manager, and that he acted like an supercilious twerp from the moment we set foot in the office. this little voice of reason that lives and works with me also protested, quite forcefully, when i began to mutter threats on the life of the previously lamented skanky Easyjet agent, may her tanning bed burn her to a crisp, who brazenly – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – decided that the very same ticket that had gotten us from London to Prague this past spring suddenly didn’t allow for the very same three pieces of luggage that had been no problem four days before, and that would be $125 US fuck you very much.

yeh, okay, sorry…you tried to stop me, i know…it slipped out.

i don’t deal well with finding myself suddenly on the wrong side of rules i thought i’d been following along with reasonably nicely, particularly if random or irrational or fraudulent penalties are suddenly brought to bear upon me. i feel violated – more than is reasonable, i’m sure…or i’m told – by this type of encounter. but…i live with someone who keeps his cool, for the most part, in these situations of stupidness. who focuses on getting out them without international incident, and without focusing on the powerlessness they bring to boil in me.

so the fact that Dave this nameless soul of patience is pretty pissed right now too is completely messing with my head. what i need to ask is…how would you handle this tomorrow? because me…i want to bite people. and Dave seems amenable to this, in this particular instance. and that’s just weird.

we have a car. one small car. we have been insured by the same company – a Canadian company which advertises itself as the “people’s insurer,” having grown out of a cooperative insurance group started by some friendly farmers back, oh, you know, when the world was black and white – for the thirty-one months we’ve been back in Canada, and i was insured with them for the five years previous to my departure, too. we have our life and house insurance with this company as well as our auto insurance, though, irritatingly, they don’t seem to offer a method by which we could consolidate all our many payments. the life insurance comes out of our joint account monthly. the car and house are paid, by cheque or locally at the office, in biannual installments which come essentially quarterly because upon our return to this fair land we bought a car three months before we bought a house.

scintillating, no?

so, our car insurance comes due at the end of every January and July. this July, as you may remember, was a carnival of pestilence, guests, and work. the notice came to pay our car insurance, and we ignored it for a few days. then we went away for almost a week, spent some delightful vacation time in the hospital with O, and returned home, wretched and frazzled. when we got back, though, i noted that the car insurance came due the following Saturday, so i wrote a check. check made it into the mail using the company’s self-addressed envelope on Thursday…cutting it a little close…but the policy has a stated twelve day grace period. we’ve never used the grace period previously with this company, but their policy clearly states that it exists.

i was feeling quite proud of getting the damn thing sent and paid more or less on time, given the shape we’d all been in. ah, hubris.

fast forward eleven days. i had to bring Oscar to the doctor one Wednesday afternoon for a followup after his hospitalization the month before, so i swung home from work to pick up milk and some toys for my bag before going to his sitter’s to collect him. there was a message on the phone from the local office of the insurance company – a disembodied voice informed us that our insurance was about to run out, tomorrow, at the end of the aforementioned grace period. thinking how lucky it was that i’d happened home at an hour when their office was still open for business, i called back, thinking “oh, there must just be some mistake with the check.” i got a different agent than the one who’d called me, but no matter, she pulled our account up. no check. i said i’d sent it.

she said “when?” i said, Thursday, July 26th.

she said “where?” i said, to your Guelph, Ontario office, where the self-addressed envelope that came with my policy notice said to send it. duh.

she said “why?”

i started to think we were playing a very tiresome game of the five Ws, but explained that i’m in the habit of sending checks to the address that’s stamped on the envelopes that come soliciting them. she asked why i hadn’t dropped the check off at the local office. i explained that i work fulltime and hadn’t had the time off to take an hour off to drive to their office, wait in their foyer, and pay in person…plus they gave me that nice self-addressed envelope so i’d thought perhaps i should use it. she said something about it taking a really long time for things to get all the way to Guelph. i said nothing, but ruminated on the Christmas cards i sent my aunties in Guelph last year, which got sent a week before Christmas and were still in their hot little hands when i talked to them Christmas day, despite the holiday rush.

i started to think that perhaps this was not going so well, after all. i asked if i should call Guelph. the agent on the telephone assured me that she would follow up with a call, so they could “look for the check as it’s probably in their system somewhere” and would notify me if there appeared to be any problem or if our insurance for some reason was lining up to be interrupted. i decided that was great, as i had a baby to pick up and doctor’s appointment to take him to.

this was two weeks ago tomorrow. we came home tonight to a notice, from Guelph, dated ten days ago, telling us our car insurance has expired. or rather, it expired back on Saturday, July 28th. and that we can “apply for reinstatement”, but in the meantime, are shit out of luck in terms of any form of auto coverage. there has been no phone message, or even call display showing the number of the local agent. and that there will be an unspecified penalty.

thus, the residents of the crib, the tall and the small usually cranky about shit like this anyway, are pissed. because we sent the check and it had fourteen days to arrive and clearly local agent chick never called to follow up or notify them to look for it and now we’re out on our ear. despite the fact that we’ve never had a late payment. despite the fact that the envelope they sent was, erm, addressed to Guelph and if sending the frigging check to Guelph is not an effective system then for chrissake don’t stick their motherfucking address on the return envelope, people!

and we will apparently have to pay for the privilege of having them take us back, despite their rather inefficient system and its presumption that i’d be safer to take an hour off work to pay their damn bill because nothing actually clears their offices in normal postal delivery time.

we’re also grateful. that we haven’t backed into anyone while we unwittingly had, you know, no insurance.

i know this isn’t food, or anything. it’s car insurance, not a matter of foul injustice or life and death…much as i’d like to spit bubonic plague all over little miss “don’t call Guelph, we’ll call you,” i know what it is to be busy and work and let things slip. that’s where this all started. but…we cut the deadline close but follow their process with two weeks to spare, and we end up unable to drive, and having to pay a penalty to reapply to be insured, despite a perfect customer history? even though their agent and their offices’ disarray appear to be at least in part the reason that the insurance was cut off? i would have given the agent my credit card number for the damn payment while i had her on the phone, had she indicated in any way that this was a possibility. but nope. bah.

we live in a small enough city that we can walk Oscar to the sitter’s tomorrow and still likely walk into work on time. and it’s not January and brassmonkey cold out there. these are all precious blessings, yes…and i know it. people would give teeth for my problems.

but still, how would you handle this? what would you say, tomorrow, if you were walking my lazy ass to work and picking up the phone to call the insurance company?

should i try my best to kick their asses? or am i wrong to even think they’re being unreasonable in the first place?

i asked. i can take it. please reflect.