The nine-week car repair, or, don't turn left
Between the holidays and all the weather we have had recently, it may be hard to recall the relatively balmy and dry days of late October. Time does telescope when there is lots going on.
As I think back over the weeks, I remember a time just a few days before Halloween. It was a bright Monday afternoon; I was driving west on Route 17 in Union. Stopping at the intersection with South Union Road (Route 131), I waited for the oncoming cars to pass so I could make a left turn.
Suddenly – bam! – I felt a huge jolt and heard a noise like an explosion. For several seconds I wasn't sure what had happened. Then I saw the car behind me and light dawned – oh, sugar! I'd been rear-ended.
I pulled the car around the corner out of the way of traffic, turned off the car and got out. To his credit, the man whose inattention had caused the crash seemed genuinely solicitous.
“Are you OK? Are you sure?” he asked for the first of what would be five or six times. Fortunately, I was. There was another man, his passenger, standing with him. They called the sheriff's deputies.
The deputies arrived and spoke to us separately. They looked at the cars. The ambulance crew came and asked if we wanted to go to the hospital. We didn't.
I called Maureen, who came to pick me up, since the rear end of my car was bashed so badly I could not drive it.
It was a chilly, somewhat windy day, and the hurry-up-and-wait of anything involving law enforcement felt longer than it might have otherwise. Finally, the towing guy arrived with his flatbed and took my car a couple of miles down the road to the body shop where it was to be fixed.
And that was the beginning of my trouble. Since I have a deductible on my collision coverage, my agent advised me to work directly with the at-fault driver's insurance company. That seemed fine. They arranged for me to get a rental car to use while mine was being fixed, and said they would get right on the case.
Only that was not exactly what happened.
It took a while for the insurance company's contracted appraiser to get to the body shop and look at the damage from the accident. And when it turned out that there was more damage that could only be seen once the car was up on a lift, it took him another while – on the order of a couple of weeks – to approve the additional work.
Then parts had to be ordered, waited for, and waited for some more. Just before Thanksgiving, it seemed that progress was being made. The mechanical work was done! Now the body work could commence.
By now I had been driving the rental car for a month and the rental company wanted the contract renewed. Oh, and, by the way, could I take their car in for an oil change?
Days went by and the car sat in the body shop's lot and no body work was done. I spoke with the owner of the shop more and more frequently, it seemed, always with the same result. He would say what he thought I wanted to hear, and nothing would happen. Finally, he did seem to be getting some work done on the body and told me I could have the car back on such-and-such a date. A day or two before I was to pick it up, a part came out of the box damaged.
So a new one had to be ordered and waited for, and waited for, and waited for.
Maureen, was getting angry on my behalf at the way the body shop was dragging its feet. One day she went in, yelled at the shop owner and said she was going to suggest I take the car elsewhere to be fixed.
He called me, sounding like he'd just gotten mixed up with a mini-tornado, and made some more promises about when the car would be done. I thanked him, and threw a large pinch of salt over my shoulder.
Then we had an ice storm, which took out the body shop's power. Then the power was restored, and fried the shop's fuse box. Then the electrical system in the shop was fixed, but Central Maine Power had to turn off the power there in order to turn it back on for other customers who had been without. Each of these events added a few more days to the time it took to fix the car.
Finally, nine weeks to the day after it was hit, I got my car back on Dec. 30.
The frustration of delays, excuses and mishaps was excruciating. Even worse were the smirks of friends when I would tell them the latest date on which I hoped to have my car returned. And worst of all were the moments when I just felt like a fool.
But now I have my car back, and that feels wonderful. Wait … what was that noise?