Thursday, June 30, 2016

Into each life some rain must fall… but I’d appreciate it if it didn’t fall into my car too

I did it—after all these years, I switched my auto insurance.  Bright & early Monday morning, I contacted Metromile and said I was ready to give their “pay by the mile” insurance a go.   My personal sales rep (Evan) said “Doug, great choice—you won’t be sorry!  We’ll get your Metro Pulse (the mileage tracker you plug into your car) in Express mail today, you’ll be covered effective Wednesday, June 29.”

So the morning of Wednesday June 29 (that would be yesterday) I climbed into my car & drove to the car wash.  I pulled into the next to last stall when I remembered the last time here, another customer had warned me this stall was dry for a reason, the hose was ‘flukey’.   As I’m backing out to get into the next one, the hose hanging overhead catches on my sideview mirror and it’s nozzle somehow whiplashed into my car’s back glass, smashing thru. 

I didn’t know what hit me, I thought someone had shot my rear window out.  I jerked to a stop in front of the rusty Problem?  Call 412-… sign by the coin machine, fumbled for a pen from my glove compartment and scribbled the number down on my hand.  I then took a deep breath and drove home as carefully as possible, as glass pebbles shook from my hair & from that jagged hole into my backseat.

When I got home & pulled into my parking space, ran upstairs and tried calling that number on my hand (and got no answer, I let it ring 30-40 times).  I then called my sister Shawn, while Mr. Winn (the Korean who lives up the hall) pounded on my door shouting “Neighbor!  Someone smash your car!”

I then called Safelight Auto expecting to hear “We’re on our way!” just like in the commercials--nope, the soonest they can get here is... Friday??  (But they did give me a better quote than I expected, $314.00 including cleanup & mobile service.)  I headed back downstairs with my camera & some towels, trash bags and packing tape, and prayed for no rain.

wounded warrior


That windshield sun-shade that’s been hiding in my trunk for the last 10 years has finally found some use.  As I laid it across, the rest of the pulverized glass gave way



After (Friday): 

Safelight’s expert repair, I couldn’t have asked for a more professional service.  After he left, I grabbed a couple buckets & gave the car some much needed TLC

So after all this, I come back upstairs to my apartment (to wait for the police to show up and arrest me for leaving the scene of an accident) and there’s a small brown package resting against the bottom of my front door—it’s from Metromile. 

The Metromile Pulse, my ‘Big Brother’ tracker.

I come inside, my answering machine is blinking.  Hi Douglas, Evan from Metromile!  Your Pulse was just delivered, get it plugged into your car right away & don’t get into any accidents your first day!  Ha ha, just kidding Doug… stay safe!


I can feel my pulse

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Someone to watch over me—I’m thinking, I’m thinking



I think it was the timing more than anything.  Back in April, when I was doing my first year of ‘early retirement taxes’, I was horrified to learn I owed $1,000 in federal, state & local (versus the $230 I estimated) and had just picked myself up off the floor when I got hit with another whopper: an ambulance bill (from my trip to the hospital for kidney stones 8 months prior).  It had only been partially paid by my insurance, so I had to cough up $572.00 on top of everything else.

As l sat here reeling, I opened my next piece of mail:  a notice from my auto insurance carrier.  Dear Mr. Morris, your annual premium is due; send $530.00 pronto, Tonto.

I know, I know.  Everyone has bills to pay & everyone who drives has car insurance.  But I DON’T drive—well, hardly!  And they needed to know!

I called Erie Insurance.  Hi Doug, this is Carl.  How can we help you?  “Hi Carl, can you tell me how long I’ve been with Erie?”  Sure Doug, since April 2004.  I told him I deserved a discount.  I’ve never filed a claim, never gotten a speeding violation or even a parking ticket.  I drove a total of 800 miles last year.  I—I even pay extra for roadside assistance and never used it, the one time I needed my battery jumped I called AAA.

Carl got all excited.  Doug, we can’t go any lower!  You’re free to shop around but you won’t find a better rate--you’re already getting a safe driver’s discount!  He said my only option was to drop the coverage amounts to the legal minimum, but strongly advised against it.  Then he asked if there was anything else he could do.


So this morning, I got in my car (for the first time in a couple weeks) and for some reason was reminded of that plea on deaf ears.  I felt frustrated all over again.  After I returned home, I went online & began googling how to lower my auto insurance premiums and came across this little 2 minute video.

THIS WAS EXACTLY WHAT I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR.  I went to and took a look around, then decided I wanted to talk to a real person & gave them a call.  I got a very straightforward agent (Evan) who asked me a couple questions about my driving habits, then explained how their plans work (you’re billed monthly) with a $20-40.00 base rate and charged 2-5 cents a mile, depending on your quote. 

I told Evan I wasn’t interested in some “bare minimum” insurance, I wanted the same coverage & deductible I currently have.  He said “Good, find your insurance paperwork and let’s come up with a quote.” 


He said “Based on driving 1000 miles a year, you’d reduce your current insurance almost by half, 45%.”  Er… wow.  He explained to me how the device you plug into your car works (it doesn’t check for hard braking or speeding like those Progressive contraptions, it only records miles).  We must’ve talked a good 15 minutes, I didn’t commit to anything (yet) but told him it was very encouraging.

He said “Can I send you a couple links that might help you in your decision?”  Here’s a good article in The New York Times and here’s a more straightforward one in NerdWallet.

I’ve been going back & forth on this most of the day.  What if I suddenly wanted to start driving 50-100 miles a day?  Okay that isn’t happening, but I googled the distance to my sister Shawn’s house and on top of the $14-15.00 in gas it costs for the round trip, I’ll be paying at least $5.00 extra for those 120 miles.  But then again, it’s not like I make those road trips often… and I wouldn’t be getting a $530.00 bill next April.  

But how do I know the monthly base-rate or cost-per-mile won’t increase substantially a year or even 6 months from now?  Evan told me he couldn’t make any promises, but said they were very transparent with their pricing methodology & wouldn’t have their current ranking or member base if they pulled stunts like that.  “Doug… I’d give it a 1% probability of such a thing occurring.”

Aw, that’s reassuring!  Eye rolling smile   I’ve got some thinking to do…


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Big Short(s): From 44 to 40, and falling fast


Well, it was one year ago today that I purchased a couple pair of shorts for the summer from JCPenney.  I was relieved to finally have some pants that I could both button & breathe in, but was depressed over the fact they were a 44 waist. 44!  It was then that I knew I had to make a real change.

These 40w shorts got down there all on their own; so far, 42 lbs lost

By the end of the summer, I’d happily lost enough weight to squeeze into some 42 waist pants (but just barely).  Confident I’d be able to lose a little more, I bought 3 pair and gave those Memorial Day 44s to my neighbor Jim.

So here we are, a year later & the warm weather’s returned.  In April I pulled out my 42 waist shorts and was surprised at how big they’d gotten over the winter.  I should’ve been happier but doggone it they cost me $60.00 & I’d only worn one pair!  I gave ‘em to a friend’s brother, turned around & spent another $45.00 on 2 pair of 40 waist shorts.  A little snug, but still a good fit.  Six weeks until summer, I’m all set.

Well, I thought I was.  This past Friday I put on a pair of those 40 waist for the first time for a trip to the dentist (which is just a 10 minute walk from my apartment).  I felt them sliding down my hips along the way, thought this can’t be happening and then PLUP!  They almost fell right off!  Another step or two & they would’ve been down around my ankles.  I walked the rest of the way with the front of them bunched in my fist, in disbelief.   (That’s them, in the photo.)  I know that’s how some of these kids today wear them, but at my age just wearing flat-fronts is a gutsy move.

So now what.  I refuse to buy more pants, well, at least this summer.  (Besides I’ve seen where those people on ‘The Biggest Loser’ gain the weight back and I’m one pizza away from regaining 40 pounds.)  Maybe I can shrink these down some, I dunno—and that’s what belts are for, from what I’ve been told.  All I know is, I haven’t worn a 38 waist since the 1990s & can’t believe I could be headed in that direction.  But these shorts speak for themselves!

Hope everyone has a nice summer ahead