"Yeah, we're totaling your car," Jessie, the claims adjuster said over the phone. "You'll have an additional five days to shop for a new one until your insurance stops paying for the rental. The check will go out as soon as its approved."
I appreciate the call, but I'm not sure if that's good news or bad. I certainly don't want the car back, given the extensive damage from the head-on collision, but I'm painfully aware I can't replace the wagon I've been driving around town for the depreciated amount the insurance company will now send my way. (A 10-year old car doesn't count for much - even when it's a Mercedes.)
To be fair, the outcome wasn't entirely unexpected, given that both cars took a MAJOR HIT! It's just that buying another automobile this year wasn't high on my priority list, especially as Cliff and I had already purchased a used truck for Case's college graduation last spring (go forth and prosper my son) and honestly,we need every available dime for the BIG remodel on Calmar Avenue that has just begun. (Look for my new blog:"Renovation Riptide.com" to debut next week. Less talking and MORE photos to inspire and motivate.)
This would be a good time to remind myself that these are gold-plated problems in the BIG game of life. "Boo hoo, poor me, I have to shop for a new (used) car this weekend . . ." (Unlike houses, cars are depreciating assets.)
Frankly, I don't much like the whole car shopping experience under any circumstances, let alone this unwelcome turn of events (I like fixtures and tile back-splashes, lighting and furniture, fabrics and finishes . . . I love homes!) Not only do I dread shopping for automobiles, the truth is that I know nothing about them. Should I lease or purchase? Go big or go small? Go electric, diesel, or gas? There's more choices than I care to trudge through, when what I really want is just a happy Disney ending.
Sing it with me: "Oh you, pretty chitty bang-bang, pretty chitty bang-bang, we love you, AND in chitty, chitty bang-bang, chitty-chitty bang-bang, what we'll do. Near, far in our motor car Oh what a happy time we'll spend Bang ,bang, chitty chitty bang-bang, our fine four-fendered friend." Luckily, I don't have to know a lot about cars: I just have to trust that the person who is helping me with the purchase knows much more than do I, and then trust that he or she has my back.
Okay, some of you are snickering about now, but gratefully, one of my closest friend's husband is a partner at the BMW/Mini Cooper dealerships in San Francisco. Michael and Teresa have not only used my services for several real estate transactions, they also referred me to Michael's brother last year when it came time for Patrick to buy a home. So while I liked that Mercedes Wagon a great deal, I truly feel I owe my business to Michael. (Isn't that the way it works? Or should?) More importantly, I trust him to look out for my best interest - as I look out for his, and his family's.
Granted, 'trust' is no small feat - especially in the world of sales; especially with respect to the things that matter the most to us: our families, our homes, our investments, our futures. How do we truly "trust" someone else to meet and understand our needs?
Therein lies the rub.
First and foremost, we need to vet the people we hire. Reputation and experience DO matter, but so do personal stories and interactions. Do check out your agent and ask for referrals. Then listen to your intuition. If it's not a "fit," don't force it (even if it's a close friend or family member).
My insurance salesperson doesn't have to be my best friend, but she does have to return my calls when I need her and guess what? She does. (Thanks very much Ruth). And I don't have to be everybody's perfect "fit," but I DO have to work diligently on my clients' behalf and provide a track record that backs up my claims. That's only fair. Trust isn't given freely, it's earned.
Second, COMMUNICATE your needs and speak up if things start to feel less than satisfactory. I have no problem holding people to their word or putting their feet to the fire, NOR do I take offense when others expect the same from me. It's my job to see you through to the end. Once more for good measure; trust isn't freely given, it's earned. Please let me know what you need and don't hold back. I work for you.
Third, once having found the professional that meets your needs, may I politely suggest that you let go (just a little?) and turn it over. It not only frees you up to focus on the next part of the equation, it relieves you of the heavy lifting. If you feel compelled to micro-manage the workload, you'll only make things harder on yourself, both physically and emotionally. Hire great people and then let them do their jobs. It's called delegation.
In my experience, no amount of fretting or worrying is going to change the final outcome. (Yes, I know that's easier said than done, but give it a try.) From one control freak to another - just know that the solution is going to make itself clear, irrespective of our concerns or posturing. We can't manipulate the results, no matter how hard we try, so let's stop trying and play it out. You may be pleasantly surprised.
TRULY, so much of what throws us for a curve is our preset expectations. Divorce yourself from those, and you'll be open to wherever the road leads. In other words: "Follow the yellow brick road."
So surround yourself with good people, take a leap of faith, and trust that things will work out in the end. (They always do.) To paraphrase what I recently said in the San Francisco Chronicle, "All things begin with faith and trust. Without them, everything else is moot." I don't know what car I'm buying this weekend; I don't know that it matters all that much, but I do know it's going to be fine. (It's just a car after all.) In the end, I just need it to run and be dependable. That's kind of what we all need, isn't it?
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.