This post was originally published on August 14, 2014.
It’s hard not to be angry while driving in Beverly Hills. The streets are crowded with cars, infested with oblivious pedestrians and often one-way; not to mention the fact that the only people driving in Beverly Hills are really old, really rich or Asian—the trifecta of horrific drivers. If you live in LA and are on the fence about killing yourself or someone else, take a mid-day drive down Rodeo and you will close that deal before dinner.
I will do almost anything to avoid the 90210—I have missed birthday parties, weddings, movie premieres and job interviews because I refuse to subject myself to the unmanageable frustration born from the six blocks between Rexford and Roxbury—with one exception: my shrink. He is not the person I see every week and tell my problems to, he is the guy that spends 15 minutes with me every six months to make sure I am not suddenly having an adverse reaction to the anti-depressants I have been on for the last 10 years, and then gives me a prescription for a refill. I have tried to find a doctor with an office in Hollywood, West Hollywood or Fresno—anywhere that’s more convenient than Beverly Hills—but it just hasn’t worked out. So I continue to see Dr. Feelgood (my nickname for him) every May and December like I have for the last decade.
My last visit to Dr. Feelgood’s office wasn’t any different than the ones in the past; I left my house 90 minutes before my appointment so I’d have enough time to get there, find a parking space and meditate (in order to not give into my urge to crack skulls on the walk to his building). I was lucky enough to find a diagonal corner parking spot in a structure directly across the street from Dr. Feelgood’s office, locked my car and went to my way. However, when I returned from my appointment, there was a black, late model Jaguar sedan parked next to me that was clearly too long for the spot label “compact.” It was also parked a little too close for comfort, making me question whether I’d have enough room to get out. Instead of canceling the rest of my afternoon, I did what any confident driver would do—I gingerly slithered out of the spot using my side mirrors. Unfortunately, I did end up lightly scrapping the Jaguar, leaving a scuffmark on the rear bumper.
Part of being in a 12-step program is working the 12 steps (this might seem obvious but ironically only a small percentage of people actually do). In step four, we take an inventory of ourselves and do our best to identify our part in each one of our resentments. In step nine, we are asked to make amends to all the people we have harmed as a result of our character defects. Through both of these steps, we are taught what it means to take responsibility for our actions. And then in the end, at step 12, we are told to “practice these principles in all of our affairs”—to take the principles we learned from each step (integrity, courage, faith, honesty) and use them in all areas of our life. It’s not an easy thing to, especially when you live in a city like Los Angeles where you are perpetually faced with amoral a-holes who have moved here to pursue their dreams of being vapid human beings.
So, as a grateful and proud member of a 12-step program, I didn’t hesitate to leave a note on the windshield of the Jag with my name, phone number, email address and insurance information. Since there was no damage to my car and I was eager to get on with my day, I figured it was the right thing to do.
A couple of days later, I got a call from my insurance company to confirm the accident. I told them exactly what happened, including the level of “damage” that was involved. They said that because of where I hit the other car, I was ruled “at fault” for the accident. I’ll admit that I was slightly annoyed by this as I am still not sure what my alternative options were—wait for God knows how long for the owner to return to his car? If I had opted for that, I would be looking at a homicide charge instead of a tiny bumper scrape. I concluded that none of my options were good and I made the right decision.
I also wasn’t really sure what an “at fault” accident meant other than that my insurance company would pay out on the damages and my insurance might go up, but I was assured that unless the damage was over $1,000, I didn’t have to worry about it. So I didn’t.
Last week, I got a notice in the mail with my auto insurance policy renewal. The amount for my bi-yearly premium had not just gone up, it had doubled. I immediately called my agent, who I have been an accident-free, ticket-free customer with for 15 years, and asked her WTF. She told me that because the damage to the Jaguar was estimated at $1,062.37, I was surcharged an additional $1,400 a year for the next three years.
Allow me to repeat that. Because some crooked body shop gave the Jaguar owner an estimate of over $1,000 to buff out a surface scrape, I am expected to pay out an additional $4,200. I’m deeply sorry but that just isn’t going to happen.
See, I am an alcoholic—riddled with character defects like inflated pride and the compulsive need to beat the system. Meaning: I will take the motherf**king bus in Los Angeles (which is just not done here) for the next three years before I will ever pay a dollar of that money. And that is exactly what I told my insurance agent before I hung up on her.
Now I am perplexed. Through the work I have done in my 12-step program, I have turned my will and my life over to the care of a Higher Power and am assured that if I practice integrity, courage, faith and honesty in all areas of my life, I will be taken care of. But that isn’t what was happening. I did the right thing and then I was being asked to pay an amount of money each month that—to be perfectly honest—I simply could not pay. It wasn’t even a matter of principle, it was a matter of the fact that I had been charging my car insurance to my Discover card for the previous three months because I was out of steady work. No offense God, I said, but what gives?
I called my sponsor but she wasn’t available so I did the next right indicated action and started to cry. Then I remembered what my 12-step program had taught me: First Things First and Easy Does It. It’s kind of funny that it does always seem to come down to these simple slogans. I took a few deep breaths and got online to research my options. I called another insurance company and, within 15 minutes, I was set up with the same coverage I’d had at a bi-yearly rate that was cheaper than what I’d been paying before the “accident.” I could almost hear my Higher Power saying, “See what I did there?”
Now, all of a sudden, I am grateful. Clearly a power greater than myself could see I was paying way too much for car insurance and this was the only way to get me into a more affordable policy. Of course I would rather not have had to go through all of that, but at the end of the day, I am happy to know that God does have my back and that he clearly wants me to take the money I am saving and go get a mani/pedi.