RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM

Let me preface this by beating the most pedantic would-be commenters to the punch and recognizing that minor property damage obviously isn't a big priority for law enforcement anywhere. In the grand scheme it doesn't amount to much, obviously.

To make a long story short, after leaving my car in one of the many (obscenely expensive) parking decks in the most expensive area in Chicago, my car was broken into on Saturday night. A large hole was punched in the passenger window. When I found it on Sunday morning, I called the company that manages the parking deck, as there was no actual human on duty. I was told, in the coded language of corporate American customer service, to go fuck myself. This was expected, and I called as a formality since I assumed my insurer would ask. Next I called the non-emergency number for the Chicago PD to experience their new officerless system for filing police reports. Apparently that thing you see on TV where a cop drives up and listlessly fills out some paperwork no longer happens. Officer – oh, let's say "Grabowski" – informed me over the phone that for some reason the new File a Report by Phone system would not allow me to File a Report by Phone and instead I would have to drive to the nearest CPD station.

OK, no big deal. I mean, the entire vehicle is filled with shards of broken glass and since I don't happen to have a shop-vac on my person I can't do much about that, but I'll sit on the glass and get a decent amount of it stuck in my clothes and arms so I can drive to the station with the film backing on the window flapping around and tossing additional bits of glass in and out of the car. Cool. After waiting 45 minutes at the station for no discernible reason – I was the only person there and the gaggle of officers passed the time talking about Jay Cutler – I was informed that it was my fault because I left a pair of gas station sunglasses on the passenger seat. Suitably chastened, I waited until Officer – Oh, let's say "O'Halloran" – finished the report I would need to file a claim. This process complete, I was set free. I asked Officer O'Halloran if perhaps someone could provide me the use of a dustpan, or a roll of masking tape, or a piece of a garbage bag, or anything that I could use to clean up some of the glass or cover the hole. I was told, in proper police procedural speak, to go fuck myself.

Finally I called my insurance company – not one of the cut rate ones, but a Legacy Brand – whom I pay handsomely for the privilege of being able to legally drive my vehicle. I thought perhaps they might send out one of those little hatchbacks with the company logo garishly painted on it, just some dude getting paid time-and-a-half to work Sunday to fill out a claim and maybe help me clean up a little. Nah, they don't do that except on the commercials. They told me to go online later and file my own claim.

You know, I certainly don't expect the world to concern itself much with a rather insignificant property crime committed against an insured white male. It would be nice, however, if perhaps the people who are paid to help out when something comes along to ruin my day in this manner could trouble themselves to pretend like they give the slightest shit. Or offer the most basic "Oh I'm sorry, I'll give you a hand for the three minutes it would take to help you." Life has taught me not to expect much, yet I always find in these situations that I end up wildly disappointed. All that rugged individualism we hear so much about came into focus today; basically when something goes wrong, you're on your own save for whatever help you can wring from a long, frustrating conversation with the overseas call center.

And that's the story of how why 12 hours later I'm still picking microscopic glass shards out of my ass and elbows.

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43 Responses to “RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM”

  1. ConcernedCitizen Says:

    Ed, it was your decision not to outfit your vehicle with state-of-the-art unbreakable glass. If you had invested more wisely this natural contingency of the free market would not have transpired against you. You reap what you sow.

  2. Greg Says:

    You should move to Canada.

  3. Chris Says:

    Hm, so not only did everyone refuse to help you after a crime was committed, but the crime was also your fault for enticing the criminal on to your vehicle.
    Sounds like US law enforcement's reaction to rape…

  4. Michael Says:

    This is how it is now, I think. And I don't have any delusions about some golden age gone by. Now, though, there's an awful lot of go fuck yourself going around. Also, all of this technological advancement that was supposed to make things easier, coupled with paying as little to as few people as possible to run things…well, some basic humanity is really lost in the processs.

    The truth is, your story reminded me an awful lot of the 2 Emergency Room visits I had to make in the last 10 years. 6+ hour waits in a nearly empty ER, a huge part of the wing closed (at Stanford), which led to having to put the gown on and lie on a gurney 10 feet from the main doors the entire time, and a very sophisticated tablet-computer based patient information system that seemed to almost perfectly record everything (symptoms, tests, etc) almost perfectly wrong. Those wait times seem to be common, which makes me wonder if anyone has ever taken the time to actually put enough staff on to cover what must be some kind of norm. One very nice, but loopy doctor cheerfully told me he'd been on shift over 28 hours.

    Note: the 2nd time, the more-worse visit, I sent a non-threatening, non-freak out letter to their patient service department about what a mixed-up baffling experience I had there and I got a serious 'we will crush you' legalistic response in return.

    Welcome to the terrordrome.

  5. Rich Says:

    The cold blooded are in the ascendancy at this moment, but these things come in waves. They will (as will we all) provide for their own ultimate comeuppance. You're just witnessing the grinding gears of a systemic breakdown. It's the shits, isn't it?

  6. sluggo Says:

    Chicago is the busted car window capitol of the world. I had at least three is twelve years in the city. Plus someone stole my car's battery one night.
    That, I don't miss.

  7. JD Says:

    This closely parallels my own experiences trying to get help from the Chicago PD.

    It actually makes me think that they're not as racist as their results would make them appear; they are just bad at everything.

  8. c u n d gulag Says:

    You interrupted Chicago cops when they were talking about Da Bears?

    You're lucky they didn't Taze you, bro!

  9. sluggo Says:

    Those glass pellets go all over, everywhere. You never get them all. As long as that car is on the road someone will be vacuuming up chunks of glass.

    @JD.
    Good point. Just because the CPD hates black people, does not mean that they like white people.

  10. Misterben Says:

    That really sucks, and I'm sorry to hear that it happened.

    You might consider, at some point, calling or visiting your insurance provider, just to tell them how very disappointed you were that they dismissed you in your hour of need. Tell them that you expected more, and that you are now considering switching to another provider (whether or not that's true). Don't rant and rave; just sincerely tell them "you really let me down" and "I guess your company doesn't really care about customers like me". Could prompt them to make you some kind of offer. If not, actually consider switching.

  11. Xynzee Says:

    I've often thought what a racket parking garages are and what it takes to get in on it.
    Besides upfront capital to buy innercity realestate.
    All you need to put in is a structure, requires few if any amenities.
    Now a days you no longer employ people to take the money, it's just a kiosk and some boom gates. Charge what you will. You're completely clear of liability if something happens on premise. Talk about a licence to print money.

    You could increase your capacity as well as security by installing one of those robotic parkers, but why would you? That would expose you to liability. Naw, a few pissed off customers from smashed in windows and the occasional rape or mugging is perfectly acceptable.

  12. Safety Man! Says:

    @Misterben

    Soul-crushingly sad that the average consumer's only option is to threaten to switch to another provider, who will no doubt have just-as-terrible service…

    Ed, reminds me of when my mother fainted at a major Amtrak station. I ran to a rep and asked her to call the EMTs, she honest-to-god just left her booth to come watch. I ended up taking her to GBMC, where the doctors tried to duplicate CT scans to run up her insurance bill.

  13. J. Dryden Says:

    My knee-jerk, uninformed reaction to this story is to attempt to draw some kind of connection between your experience and the What-Social-Contract-Do-It-Yourself-You-Parasite approach to government ushered in by the cult of Reagan and maybe work in a groundless claim about the staffing consequences of the war on drugs and blah blah blah I'm sure there's *some* connection between current budget priorities as a result of lower revenues and the wrong people in charge of local government, but really, come on, how big of a liberal douche would I have to be to do that?

    (Big enough to mention it at length here as a wimp-out hypothetical while patting myself of the back for "not" doing it–wow, I suck.)

    So instead, I'll just point out that the cold indifference of people in positions of *some* authority but not very *much* authority is pretty much a fact of life, and has always been so. Also, that policework is like politics–anyone who actively wants to do it should be disallowed immediately, so it's not surprising that you met with dickishness therefrom.

    Which doesn't ameliorate any of what you underwent, so fuck it: Fix the window, consider that your car (which, let's all recall, is AWESOME) was not itself stolen, and chalk it up to how much worse it could have been and how a few weeks from now, it will be as if it never happened.

  14. rachel Says:

    …except for the splinters of glass that are never, ever coming out of the floormats

  15. Jon Says:

    That tinting was probably illegal in Illinois. You're lucky the CPD didn't bust your ass for it.

  16. Dan E Says:

    Years ago the CPD provided me with my worst police experience ever! I was a senior in college and was driving a rental car from Madison to Chicago where I was participating in a job interview early the next morning. Someone ran a red light and side-swiped my car before hitting the gas and taking off. After taking stock of the vehicle, I got directions to the nearest CPD location where I parked the car and went inside. I had a similar experience where an endless stream of rotund, moustachioed cops traipsed in and out, seemingly oblivious to me. I finally was able to fill out a report and was sent on my way. When I went outside, a police cruiser had blocked me in, so I went inside to see if someone could move the cruiser, so I could get to the hotel and scrape together an hour or two of sleep before my interview. A gruff officer walked me outside and pointed to a small, rusted out sign posted 12 feet above ground level that said "Police Parking Only" or something like that. He then proceeded to chastise me for an eternity about parking in the wrong spot and listened to my fearful pleading that I hadn't seen the sign and was very rattled by the hit-and-run accident. After an eternity of silence, he glared at me and said in a low voice, "You're lucky I'm in a good mood" before moving the car so I could leave. So yeah, fuck the police.

  17. Desargues Says:

    Did you ask them if they have any leads? ;-)

    I've been reading this blog for years now, and it struck me today that you're slowly beginning to describe life in the late Soviet Union, which I knew first hand. Gradual, but irreversible, societal breakdown, while a small corrupt oligarchy steals everything from the masses. Upper Volta with rockets, as a limey diplomat called it once. Same goes for the Land o' the Free nowadays. Why the fuck did I leave the Eastern Bloc at all? They have everything you guys have here, but cheaper. At least there's no illusions about it there. You get fucked over at every turn, but there's none of that sickening smile-wider-clap-louder shit the ruling elites inflict on us here in America.

  18. Misterben Says:

    @Safety Man!

    My suggestion comes from one of the weird aspects of how customer-service systems are set up these days.

    The person Ed talked to when he called is not really empowered to say "yes" to anything. Just "no", and "sorry". So if they had gone out of their way to arrange some assistance for Ed, they might have gotten in trouble.

    But if Ed calls (or better yet, visits an office) and reports that he is unsatisfied with the company's service, and is looking for other providers, the rep will (probably) be obligated to try to "make up for" the previous bad service, or at least to retain him as a customer. So at that point the rep would have some cover for doing more than the absolute bare minimum.

    It's all part of the elaborate kabuki that passes for customer service at large organizations these days.

  19. anotherbozo Says:

    I wonder if this isn't a perverse argument for private enterprise.

    In NYC all the parking facilities I've used are privately owned, which means there's at least one live person prepared to overcharge you (cash only, dimwit). And presumably it's this same thug who scares off would-be break-ins. If you drop off the keys, of course, you will likely have the set pulled up and the radio retuned, but it should be relatively free of damage.

    I can't recall seeing any municipal parking lots, period. The city is known for towing cars, not parking them.

    The police response would be about the same, of course, were you to experience a break-in here. The current record among our friends, incidentally, is back-to-back break-ins from parking overnight on the street. Not recommended.

  20. evodevo Says:

    Yes. As Desargues says. Banana Republic time. If you had known someone in the po-lees department personally, or your cousin's friend worked there or something, you might – might – have been treated a little better. As it is, outside of small communities like mine in Ky where everyone is related to everyone and knows all their business, there is no "customer service" ethic per se, and it is getting more impersonal all the time. We are personal long-time friends with our insurance agents, and get quality service. Used to bank at a bank branch where I knew the teller personally. Not anymore. That doesn't happen when you have to call India to process a claim OR CALL A WRECKER 11!!!111 (Sorry…I don't know what came over me). This country used to pride itself on meritocracy and service, but that has become a thing of the past.

  21. Mo Says:

    Gosh, it sounds like … the old U.S.S.R.

  22. negative 1 Says:

    I love the cop shows on TV where they show up with holograms and technology that sends cameras back in time to see the crime and weird lights and forensics that identify the killer in two seconds. Here's how you can tell a real crime victim: they see that stuff and they laugh.
    My house was broken into a few years back (probably my fault for buying in a slum) and the cops showed up to… um… commiserate I guess? I asked if the cop was going to dust for fingerprints, he shrugged and said he doubted it would help, did it but got nothing, then asked if I had any leads. All in all it wasn't worth the hour I had to get off of work. The only thing I got out of it was the police report for my homeowners, which promptly increased in price. What they didn't seem to have that day was a light that showed fingerprints for 20 miles or plastic bags and gloves to pick up a hair with tweezers.
    If CSI used real technology on the air the show would be a comedy and would be over in 10 minutes.

  23. negative 1 Says:

    @Xynzee

  24. negative 1 Says:

    @Xynzee

    Don't forget the bribe to whoever controls zoning. Yes they are a license to print money, hence the license costs a lot in most cities.

  25. jestbill Says:

    "Soul-crushingly sad that the average consumer's only option is to threaten to switch to another provider, who will no doubt have just-as-terrible service…"

    As you march down that road to the other provider you will see one other person. He will be marching from that provider toward yours.

    That is why most companies do not compete on the basis of customer service. Home Depot drove everyone else out of business at first because they hired people who knew things and would help. I hear they've "improved."

    I learned the systems and procedures of everyday life just down the road from you (read: 10 years behind the rest of the world) at a time when a UNIVAC machine was a card sorter. Times change. Nothing works as you hope/expect it to.

    Recently I had to give a name in order to buy a cup of coffee.
    Recently I had to provide a telephone number to get a haircut.
    In one local place, the person at the register MUST tap his screen 9 times (!) to sell me a single cup of coffee–to drink inside that shop.

    You must conform to the approved list of customer characteristics or no soup for you.

    ~~~Have a Nice Day~~~

  26. Captain Blicero Says:

    Giving your name to buy a cup of coffee doesn't seem unreasonable to me at all. The independent place I used to frequent since the 80s, before Starbucks really became big, took names. They were so busy they had to. Everything you say is a good insight, but a crowded store taking names to keep track of orders isn't much of a critique. Would you rather they gave out numbers? I would myself would rather hear the barista shout "Andrew!" than "98!"

    That being said, I buy my on-the-go coffee from McDonald's. It's cheaper and I think hair as good as Starbucks. Starbucks is overpriced dreck. It's a compromise. I either grind the beans and make my own pour over at home, or if I don't have time for that, I buy the cheapest tolerable coffee-McDonalds.

  27. Graham Says:

    Oh jeez…I wish you hadn't mentioned cops. It all comes back.

    I live a very long way from Chicago but it seems the cops here and the cops there were cloned from the same Epsilon vat. The same rotundity; the same dead-fish glare; the same lazy sighing shuffle; the same ability to find anything at all that will get them out of performing any task at all. They resent you making them take the effort to say NO.

    In this city the Americanised cops (we have two helicopters and a SWAT truck now) specialise in some kind of Buddhist non-being of invisibility – Awareness Of Vacuity or something.

    Examples:

    1. Only about five of the (city of 2 million) metropolitan police stations are 24/7. That's right, most of the police stations are 8 to 4. Handy. Reassuring.

    2. My nearest 24/7 is 20kms away. To the South I believe the next one is 420kms away.

    3. If you find a police station open you will not find a cop. Instead you will find, after he comes out from behind whatever screen they have erected so you can't see the cops at rest, someone called a police aide. This is not a policeman. He will have no ID or anything, or uniform. He is the firewall between the public and police officers who wish to avoid the public.

    It works, because if you have a complaint about this setup you do not have a policeman's number to refer to in your complaint. Neat huh? Zero accountability. Of course I have never been so stupid as to insist on seeing one of the actual police officers hiding behind the screen.

    4. I had a spate of people breaking into my commercial vehicle in my driveway at night, breaking windows and searching the car. Half a dozen in 18 months. A cop never came near my place to investigate.

    5. A youf threw a rock through the window of my commercial vehicle while I was driving it. I called the cops who actually actioned it (feel free to faint now). I spent an hour and a half with the cops (losing money all the while) during which they apprehended the youf and during which I positively identified him. The cops eventually said to me they were not going to charge him. WHY THE FUCK DID YOU BOTHER TO COME TO WORK YOU USELESS APE, I didn't ask the officer. Instead I just slouched off, defeated.

    6. And then there was the drug dealer I bought a trailer off. Only he wasn't a drug dealer, but a cop. I hadn't known that. It's just that he looked and behaved like a drug dealer, or a pimp, or an armed robber. And that the trailer's ID tag had been handily sandblasted out of recognition, and that the papers for the trailer happened to be at his wife's work….

    And that his behaviour was a long way out of kilter for a conversation between two suburban guys in a driveway on a sunny afternoon discussing the sale of a trailer. It was more like a psychiatrists's first attempt to talk to a passive aggressive psycho. It was then I realised that cops were like that off-duty too.

    There were other times too…but I need my pills.

  28. Ahab Says:

    I'm sorry that happened to you, and that the people who were supposed to assist you were such jerks.

  29. Leonardo Z Says:

    Read this just after getting off the phone for the fourth time in a week with Anthem Blue Cross. Yeah, I'm grateful I can get coverage under the PPACA even though she and I both have pre-existing conditions. No, I'm not grateful this coverage requires us to spend 30 to 40% of our after-tax income on premiums, co-pays, and "out of network" accounts payable. What I'm focused on today is why I've now received three bills in one week for next month's premium, all for different amounts and none of which match the amount due at the online bill-pay site. Which is zero. I'm assured if I pay "zero," I'll have no coverage by Saturday, 11/1/14. Nothing gets done. Nobody on the phone is empowered to do anything.

    So, yeah, fuck Chicago PD. Fuck all hyper-militarized, cowardly, no-knock-warrant-serving, grenade-tossing cops. Fuck insurance companies, ALL insurance companies, anyone who works for insurance companies. And fuck their kids' hamsters, too.

    Now let me tell you about the time I needed a tow to an auto glass place after the same thing that happened to you happened to me (driver's side), but AAA wouldn't tow my vehicle because my license tag was one day out of date, even though I had the bill and check in my pocket, ready to mail to the DMV. That was 2011. I still find at least one glass nugget a week on the dash, in the map pocket, on the floor mat, wherever. And, yeah, it was my fault because I visited another town and left a GPS device clipped to the dash bracket because when I'd gotten into town in the wee hours of the morning, all I could think about was going to sleep. I'm the ugly, irresponsible American.

    So, yeah, fuck America.

  30. Bitter Scribe Says:

    You interrupted Chicago cops when they were talking about Da Bears?

    You're lucky they didn't Taze you, bro!

    The way the Bears have been playing, he did them a favor.

  31. robotswillstealyourjobs Says:

    I don't have a "bad" experience with the Chicago PD – somehow I've lived here three years and not been a victim of a crime yet – but I have noticed that every time I interact with the cops they try to bullshit me.

    First time – was walking home in Uptown. I see in front of a big apartment building that that the street's blocked off by fire trucks and they have half a dozen cop cars all parked in between, firemen and policemen milling around outside. I asked a cop, "What's going on over here?" and he tells me "Oh, some guy is sick." I was like, "Sure, OK." Later I found out from the news that a guy had tried to start a fire in a barrel in his room and was threatening the landlord with a machete when they told him to put it out (Livin' in Uptown!) Would it have killed him to let me know it was a standoff of some kind?

    Second time, I was walking into my house with my girlfriend. A cop drives up and rolls down the window, asks us if we've heard any "Fireworks" go off in the last couple minutes. We tell him no – we'd just driven up, and he takes off. Fireworks? I know what gunshots are. Are they afraid citizens are really going to get case of the vapors if they admit that, oh my stars, a crime was committed in Chicago?

    I hope I never have the opportunity to experience the level of bullshitting they'd employ if I was actually the victim of a crime. A friend of mine had his apartment cleaned out and ransacked – completely, like they took his underwear from the drawers and the food from the fridge, it's the lowest down thing I ever heard – and clearly by someone living in the building since only residents can get into the lobby. Police response? "Welcome to Chicago!"

  32. Desargues Says:

    It goes without saying that we're all really sorry about what happened to you. We may be a bunch of bitter cynics, but we're not heartless. Hope you'll be able to recover from this soon. It's happened to some of us too, and it's a huge, stupid drag. Let's hope the insurance company won't give you any grief over it.

    (Why aren't there more synonyms for 'hope' in English?)

  33. Jado Says:

    I am puzzled; why didn't you just have your personal assistant handle all of these mundane details while you called the chauffuer to pick you up in one of the other cars?

    Oh, you're not wealthy? Then who cares what happens to you, plebe? I thought this was a REAL problem. Heh.

    This haughty dismissal brought to you by hubris, naked greed, disdain, and the firm hand of the market. Now with more snobbery!!

  34. Assistant Professor Says:

    I am going to offer an experience different from that of Ed's and every other commentator's here. Last May, I was going to a conference. The last leg of my trip took me through Chicago. I flew into Midway, took the El downtown, and then took Amtrak for the rest of my trip.

    Well, while on the El, I got my pocket picked and wallet stolen. Holy crap! I was in transit without a penny to my name and without an ID. Moreover, I had a train to catch in about an hour and a half. And here's where a miracle happened.

    I called in my robbery to the Chicago police department and reported the robbery. I then asked if they could fax the police report to Union Station so that I at least had some proof as to why I was a human traveling without ID or money. The cop on duty said that yes, he could fax in the police report. I then went to the Amtrak counter at Union Station and asked them if I could use their fax machine. They said that I could, and so I gave their fax number to the Chicago PD. Then, what was even better, the cops faxed my police report to the Amtrak folks and so I had the police report by the time I got on the train.

    Some friends at the conference gave me a ride to a grocery store that had a Western Union, my wife wired me the money, and the rest of the conference went fine and then, on my flight back, the TSA was super helpful and, even without an ID, let me get on the plane after a very thorough search and questioning.

    The only thing that didn't make my encounter with authority perfect is that the cops never did follow up on tracking down the pickpocket.

    On the whole, though, when I was stranded in Chicago penniless and without ID, the CPD, Amtrak, and the System in general came through for me.

  35. Skepticalist Says:

    So I take it that none of us will be responding favorably to our County Sheriff's latest seasonal fun drive?

  36. Brian M Says:

    I lost my wallet in the parking lot at a local supermarket in my suburban town. A kind citizen turned it into the police (it was sans cash and debit card, but oh well), who actually sent a support officer out to my house.

    So…we are not quite Moldova, yet. :)

  37. Anonymouse Says:

    Ed, very sorry this happened to you.

  38. Mike Furlan Says:

    The "Koch Brothers" are pleased to see the plebs divided against each other.

    See, government doesn't work, time to cut taxes again.

  39. Dee Says:

    Sorry this happened to you. I was born and raised in the city of Chicago, and your story in the station, it doesn't surprise me in the least bit of how these cocky cops are.
    I can just envision the whole scenario. One word comes to mind…(okay maybe 2) Cringe worthy…just another reason why I no longer live there.

  40. Kevin Says:

    I had someone bash in the back window of my car with a golf club because, well, whatever.

    Weirdly, I found out about it because the police actually came to my door and told me that someone had bashed my window in. After thanking them for telling me about it, I asked them what may happen. The officer gave me his business card and essentially said "haha, nothing, sucks to be you" in a polite way.

    My "Auto Insurance" company told me to fuck off.

  41. JohnR Says:

    Just a point here – there's a scurrilous rumor going around that insurance companies exist to "serve the insured". No. They're in the profit-making business. You don't make the maximum profit by paying money out. The ideal for insurance companies is to make customers pay the highest premiums possible, and never pay out for any claims. That keeps the shareholders (the real customers) happy.

  42. Bitter Scribe Says:

    The problem is that replacing the windshield almost never rises to the level of the deductible, unless you've got some hella expensive plan.

  43. Carole Says:

    David Graeber, in 2006, experienced a great deal of "fuck off" after his mother died, and lived to write about it: Beyond Power/Knowledge an exploration of the relation of power, ignorance and stupidity. https://libcom.org/files/20060525-Graeber.pdf