169: Sound the Bell — It’s Round 2

We received our first insurance settlement offer yesterday. I say “first” because there is not way this is the final offer. It’s about 25 percent lower than the number several of my neighbors have received, some of whom had less water damage than we did. And considering that in my neighborhood, we all have identical homes, built by the same builder, in roughly the same year — somebody has their numbers wrong. And when you consider the cost of replacing everything — from doors to windows to the kitchen to heating and cooling to the entire downstairs electrical system — I believe my insurer is the one with the wrong number.

And so my anger from yesterday spills over to today. The insurance offer came with the check already made out to us, a pork chop being dangled in front of a hungry dog. But sorry. We’re not starving yet. And I want a steak.

Here’s the cruel reality that is the Sandy life: You’re living day-to-day, just trying to get the kids’ homework done and pay for the dance class and the occasional vacation; you’re working hard to earn a living and be vital enough to your boss that you have some job security; you’re staring at your worn carpets and saying, “someday, new floors would be nice” but you know someday will wait until you’ve built up some savings and paid off some debts.

And then you hear words like “Frankenstorm!” and “perfect storm” and start getting emails from people you rarely speak with asking, “Are you worried? Are you evacuating?” Worried? Evacuating? Please. It’s just going to be some wind and rain. And then you see the ocean churning a day before the storm is set to make landfall and you realize, “We have to go.” And you throw three days worth of clothes into a bag, because the power couldn’t be out for longer than that, and tell your parents to get ready for some houseguests. You think maybe some water will seep in through the door; maybe it’ll be time to pull up that despised carpet. That could be a good thing. You don’t think to move photo albums to a higher shelf or empty closets or haul furniture upstairs. And you put your second car in the garage because of course, it would be safe from water there.

And three days later you return to find the your entire world has been through Mother Nature’s spin cycle. You didn’t ask for this. No action of yours brought this on. It was the freak collision of two storms during a full moon that sent tidal waves down your street. And you thank God you had insurance because of course, the insurance will make it all better.

And then it takes five weeks for the insurance adjuster to show up. And then he comes into your home with a growl and a scowl, scolding you for trying to get your life back together and berating you for offering any answer other than “yes sir” and “no sir.” And you’re left in tears on your front stoop because he doesn’t understand the extent of your loss, because he’s probably spent the last five weeks seeing houses flooded worse, houses burned to the ground, and doesn’t understand why losing just half of your home should be a cause for shoulder-heaving sobs.

And then the adjuster fights you on your contractor’s estimate, nit-picking each line item. And then he offers a final evaluation that might cover the cost of rebuilding materials, but won’t pay for the labor. And while many people are doing the work themselves, we’re not them. And we shouldn’t have to be them, because we have insurance. And according to the television commercials, insurance is supposed to be the warm hug you get after your life has been put through the shredder.

But no. Instead, I’m back to being Rocky, my arm on the ropes, willing myself to get back up. And I will. We will. We’re filing an appeal. We’re getting what we deserve. We were sent to the mat in a knock-out punch landed by a vicious storm. But we got back up. And even though we desperately want the fight to be done, even though we mentally salivate over the words “easy” and “simple,” “over” and “home,” we won’t give in. We’ll keep fighting. We’ll get back all we’ve lost.

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