Rite of Passage

I began this post on the day it happened, December 4, 2007

If you own a car in San Francisco, it's going to be broken into. There's pretty much no way around this, short of finding a garage equivalent to the Bat Cave (Batcave? BatCave?). And you know, even then I'm not so sure. Crackheads can be awfully tenacious.

When I first moved to SF, I owned a car.

It wasn't this very one, though.

But within about a month, I pretty much stopped driving it anywhere. I opted instead for public transportation and walking (by which I should clarify that I mean "taking cabs"), especially since the most secure garage I could find was a mile away from my apartment. I thought I was brilliant to have found such a secure space...uh, except that any time I wanted to drive somewhere, I had to first figure out how to transport myself to my car. Me, with the street smarts.

Of course I eventually realized how stupid it was to be paying for parking and a garage for a car I never used, and I so I sold my car. Before, I should add, it was ever broken into. Which wasn't so much tempting fate as it was putting it on hold.

Because right. Five years later -- this past summer -- I decided to once again purchase a car, since BlogHer got all official and moved into a real office down the Peninsula and I realized I hadn't spent nearly enough of my adult life in bumper-to-bumper traffic. (Why take the train when I can be part of the commuting throng, clogging up the environment and listening to NPR 2+ hours a day?) And as anyone around here will tell you, "I work on the Peninsula" is sometimes Bay Area code for "I work for a dotcom," but mostly it means "Yeah, traffic's pretty bad. I'm going to be late."

This is not a picture of my actual car, either.
I love Google images.

But commuting aside, getting a car meant also getting a parking space. One that wasn't a mile from my apartment, and one that could, you know, ostensibly deter break-ins. So when I happened to find one a block from my apartment in a real, locked and gated garage with 24-hour access, I snatched it up before I had even found a car. Yes, it's that hard to find a good parking space. And yes, it's like a million dollars a month. But locked! Gated! And I don't even have to take a cab to get to it!


You can imagine how pleased I was to arrive at my car this morning after walking a block in the dark, cold rain, to discover it had been broken into. The driver's side window had been smashed into a billion bits all over the driver's seat, and someone had clearly made a mad dash through everything they could find in the front. Which was a lot of receipts (which they left), spare change (which they left), and a pair of sunglasses (which they took).

I really loved those glasses.

I just sort of stared at it. I was hardly shocked, but awfully annoyed. And from that point on, my day just became stupid.

First debated about whether or not I should drive to work. I wouldn't mind driving with a broken window, even in the stupid rain, if it didn't also mean sitting in a pile of glass. I actually thought about what I might have in my car trunk that I could sit on to protect me from the glass, or to scoop the glass from the seat to the floor, until I realized I would surely end up bleeding.

So I called Emily to tell her I wouldn't be picking her up. (Hey, as long as I'm going to be commuting, I may as well be carpooling.) Then I called Ish to get the requisite "Aww, Sweetie"s and confirmation that going into the office would not be a good idea.

Then I called Progressive.

I have never had to call an insurance company to make a claim before (knock wood), so I don't know what I was expecting exactly. But based on my extensive experience with insurance company commercials, I thought that I would at least have an opportunity to speak with an agent who was capable of recognizing me as a fellow human being.

Instead, first I got a recorded voice directing me through a phone tree, asking questions about which language I speak and what kind of damage I'm calling about, and then I had to enter my policy number and blah blah blah. Wholly impersonal. And would have been way worse if I'd actually been in a real accident and was scared and on the side of a highway, trying to gain composure enough to enter an entire policy number into a cell phone.

But I managed to connect to an agent (who NATURALLY had to ask for my policy number again), and when she got through all the preliminary screening questions and FINALLY asked me why I was calling, and I said, "My driver's side window was smashed and my car was broken into," I at least expected an "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." Especially because I was calm and collected and not sobbing like I could have been. Instead, she just shot right to whatever script she's supposed to follow, including putting me on hold so she could look up my policy only to explain all the ways in which my policy is limited and how I have to meet the deductible and how they can gladly recommend a glass company but they are required by law to explain to me that they cannot require I use a certain glass company and do I understand? Would I like to be transferred now? And that will be $193.95 (before tax) out of pocket. Oh, and to have a nice day.

Then I got to talk to the Glass Man. He was much friendlier than the Progressive-bot, but only at first.

"So this is through Progressive?"

He asks this despite that Progressive called him, not me.

"Yes. But I haven't met my deductible yet, so it's going to be out of pocket."

"Oh I see. Okay then...your total will be...$215."


"Progressive said it would be $193."

"Oh? Progressive quoted you $193.95? Let me see if I can get you that price."

Um, I never mentioned the .95 part, and yet somehow he knew about it.

"Okay then, I will be able to offer you that price. But there will be tax. And so...if you're okay with that, someone will be by between 9 and 1."

It's fantastic that we live in an age where same-day glass replacement service is as easy as making a phone call (well, and forking over $200). On the other hand, I am not so thrilled with the idea that the window is FIVE HOURS long. How do you plan a day around that? Oh right, you don't. So I sort of, politely, mentioned this to the glass man.

"And there's no way to send someone over right away?"


"And there's no more specific time window you could give me?"


And as I'm saying this next part I realize the extent to which my day is not going to be well spent:
"It's just that I don't actually live at the garage where my car is parked. So if someone is going to come, I need to know so that I can meet them there."

I'm not entirely sure why, but this was apparently the feather that broke the Glass Man's back. He evidently did not like being questioned about his company's policies, even though it was my car that was broken into and not his and I'm spending money for his company to fix it.

So he offered the following in an extremely faux-pleasant tone:

"...well, if you were able to drive to one of our stations, then I could give you a more specific appointment time."

Yes, well, if i could drive my car, I'd be ON MY WAY TO WORK.

I told him that I would be looking for an alternate company to come fix my window and that I'd be in touch if I still needed his services. I was not playing hardball, I just wanted my damn window fixed.

Except -- and I don't really know how to convey this properly -- he basically said no. He told me that canceling the appointment would not be a good idea, and we hung up with me still expecting someone between 9 and 1.

* * *
Sometime last September I got an offer in the mail to join AAA. Normally I would ignore such things, but for some reason (perhaps because I'd just purchased a vehicle?) I decided to go ahead and join. It seemed like the responsible thing to do.

I will confess that I do not know anything about AAA except that it's the sort of thing that my ex-husband's dad would ramble on and on about which can only mean two things: it was boring, and it was cost-effective.

So now me and my responsible self get AAA mailers, and still neither of us knows what exactly AAA does for us, except maybe offer discounts to places we don't go. I know we're supposed to also get some sort of roadside assistance, but I don't get when we use them versus Progressive. These are the kinds of things kids raised by people who weren't my parents might know.


* * *

Pissed at the Progressive/Glass Man situation, I decided I would call AAA. That would show them.

And the phone tree situation was far more pleasant and swift, and I got to a live human almost immediately.

Which would have been great except the woman who answered the phone simply could not understand why I was calling her. After giving her my spiel, it came down to this:

"Well, um, do you replace glass?" I asked.

"What's your policy number?" she asked.

I start telling her.

"No, that's your membership number."


"Well, do you replace glass?"

"Yes. But what's your policy number."

It went like this for quite a while, until she finally figured out that I did not have AAA "insurance" I simply had a "membership" even though this did not change the fact that I still needed my glass replaced.

After a few more go-rounds of "policy number" versus "glass replacement" questioning, the AAA woman suddenly spurted, "OH SO YOU NEED THE GLASS REPLACEMENT DEPARTMENT."

And then she put me on hold to connect me to the right person, whose name was Miriam, from the glass replacement department, and just as we got through giving her all my information, the original AAA woman disconnected and the whole call was dropped entirely.

And THAT is when I lost it, and started crying, and decided I may as well just wait for the Glass People. It was almost 9 anyway.

* * *

As you might have suspected, the rest of my day was one big celebration of inefficiency and bad decision making. It kinda went like this:

9:10 a.m. Garage is cold and damp. Also no wifi. Need coffee. Decide that going around the corner to a cafe makes far more sense than going home, because home is a whole BLOCK and THREE FLIGHTS of stairs away. Plus cafe has bagels.

9:50 a.m. Stupid cafe has great coffee but spotty wifi. Could go home now, but maybe should stick it out.

10:30 a.m. This is dumb. I'm going home to my reliable high-speed.

11:15 a.m. Have finally clocked a solid half-hour of work after leaving my apartment nearly 4 hours prior. Awesome.

11:30 a.m. Tired of feeling held hostage by the Glass People, I make bold decision to call them. Am told "Oh, the guy's leaving right now from South San Francisco." Knowing exactly where that is, I confirm, "So 15-20 minutes?" Glass People say, "Yes."

11:45 a.m. Have arrived at garage to let Glass Guy in. Glass Guy nowhere to be seen. Would go to cafe instead of waiting, but did not bring my laptop because I thought I'd be gone for 15 minutes.

12:05 p.m. Still no Glass Guy (or laptop). Garage still cold and damp. Call Glass People. "Oh yeah, he's stuck in traffic." Of course he is. "He doesn't know how long he'll be. But he'll call you when he gets to the city." Of course he will. Decide I do not have enough time to go home and get work done or to go home, get laptop, go to cafe and try and work. Decide instead to go to nearby "Internet Cafe" so that I can pay by the minute for internet access I'm already paying for at home.

12:10 p.m. "Internet Cafe" would more appropriately be named "Methadone Clinic and Internet Cafe." Do not understand why so many recovering drug addicts have selected this particular cafe but am feeling very uncomfortable. Sort of like that "whore in church" adage except where by "whore" I mean "girl who showers regularly" and by "in church" I mean "in a cafe full of people who do not shower regularly."

12:45 p.m. My phone rings. Glass Guy has not called me from the city, he has called from the garage, telling me he can't get in. Tell him I'll be right there.

12:55 p.m. We have gotten to my car and assessed the damage. "How long will this take?" I ask. "Should be no longer than 45 minutes," he says. I consider. Go back to my place? Probably best. "Please call me when you're done," I say. And go home.

2:15 p.m. Concerned that I have not heard from Glass Guy, I call Glass People (realizing I do not have Glass Guy's cell). They put me on hold. When they finally come back, they say, "Yeah. He's all set now." So I should go meet him? "Yes."

2:25 p.m. Get to garage to discover Glass Guy's van is all unpacked, equipment still everywhere. Glass appears to have been replaced, but broken glass is still taking up the better part of the driver's seat. "Oh, I'm going to be about 15 minutes more," he says. Of course. Decide again there is not enough time to go home and do anything productive, so return to Methadone Cafe to pay for 15 more minutes of online time.

2:45 p.m. Get call from Glass Guy that I can come pay him now. Do. Return home.

And there you have it. It sucked and was stupid and annoying. (Thanks for reading through it with me.)

And in case you're wondering what I've learned, well. I still don't know why I have AAA. I still haven't met my insurance deductible. And I still park in the same garage, except now I back into the space with the hope that if someone's going to repeat the break-in, they will at least pick a different window.

The end.


  1. Well that sucks! Sorry that you had to spend your day that way, but at least you got a good story out of it.

    (That's how I make myself chill out when something crappy happens, try to convince myself that the story is worth it.)

  2. Oy! That's miserable! What a craptacular way to spend a day. Giggled outloud about the only showered girl in a non-showered cafe though. However, I imagine it was not so humourous at the time. :)

    Hope it never happens again (the break-in and the cafe!)

  3. That happened to me within a month of moving to DC, except it was the passenger side window and I did drive to work and then to the glass place in the rain. They didn't even steal anything, just smashed the window.

    AAA is your best friend if you ever need to get towed. They will also change a flat tire for you.

  4. I tell ya, my IIF, listen to that Aussie-talkin' Gecko...besides being cute, he knows a thing or two.

  5. I definitely would have cried over a day like that - especially with how windy and rainy it was out today. I'm so sorry your car was broken into.

    Keep your AAA membership - it's not that expensive and when you need it, they're great. I called them a couple of times, like when my battery was dead, and the people they sent out were so nice and helpful.

    Also, toss a pad of paper and a pen both in your glove compartment and in your work bag. Next time you have to call a place with a phone tree and they say they're transferring you to a different department, you say, "Could you please give me the direct number to them first, in case we get disconnected?" Some companies are starting to do this without you having to ask.

    Does your garage have a little man in a little booth? Or a rental office? You should report your window breakage.

    May I suggest getting a club? The thing is, it's a visual deterrent to vandals. Even if they don't want to steal your car, they often think if you have the club you'll also have a loud alarm that might go off if they break in. You actually don't even need to lock the club on your steering wheel, because if someone sees it and breaks into your car anyway, it means they know how to get the club off the wheel without the key anyway.

    Lastly, if you go to GetaHuman.com you can look up a company like Progressive and get a direct phone number you can call that will connect you to a human being.

    (Sorry so long.)

  6. that sucks!! parking in SF can be pretty sketchy but you'd think you'd be ok in a garage. i hope your weekend is better.

  7. Wow, that's awful. I'm sorry you had to spend your day that way. Great story, though! I've gone through that phone spiel a million times.

  8. 1. Sorry about this break-in. It sucks and gives you a bad paranoid feeling about the world and the people in it, huh?

    2. At least you are hilarious.

    3. You can have AAA tow your car to a repair shop, including a glass repair shop, so you don't have to wait around a windy garage. That is the wonderful advantage of AAA. They will also bring you gas if you run out, unlock your car, or change a tire.

  9. Wow, everyone on here is smart. Green, you just gave me like, 10 tips I had no idea about. Getahuman.com, brilliant!

    Also, maybe now that you've been broken into, it'll never happen again. That story was hilarious though. In a "can't be making this up because it's EXACTLY how dealing with companies like that are" sort of way :)

  10. As an insurance agent who happens to occasionally sell Progressive policies, I would advise you to switch to a different insurance company as soon as you've had 12 months worth of continuous coverage (I assume you didn't have coverage while you didn't own a vehicle). Ask about glass replacement coverage when you're obtaining quotes, because what a lot of insurance people fail to tell customers is that glass is usually subject to the comprehensive deductible -- totally not helpful when your glass is "only" $193.95 and the deductible is $250 -- no one wants to have to pay that out of pocket, especially when you were expecting your insurance to cover it. There are policies out there with a "full glass" option or something similar, where for about $20 more in premium per year, any time you need glass it's covered completely with no deductible.

    It also sounds like you are dealing directly with Progressive and not with an actual insurance agent; while Progressive calls their people "agents," they really aren't -- they are employees of Progressive, probably located in one of two call centers nowhere near San Francisco. You should be able to find a local independent (meaning not Allstate, State Farm, or Farmers or the like; these agents will advertise as "Independent" or "Trusted Choice" in the yellow pages or whatever) insurance agent who can handle your Progressive policy for you; actual agents are usually able to give you better advice on how to proceed after an incident than what you got from Progressive's call center.

    And seriously, what was the deal with that glass company? Report them to the Better Business Bureau or something -- the guy's manager at the very least. It does NOT take over an hour to vacuum glass out of your car and replace one window. It just doesn't. I've had entire huge windshields replaced that only took 20 minutes. I'd let Progressive know too that the glass company they referred you to sucks; they shouldn't be referring people to a company like that.

    Sorry to be all long winded. Just wanted offer a tiny bit of help.

  11. Dang. And I thought my day sucked.

  12. I agree completely with the above mentioned remarks about AAA. While, you're probably not taking your car on huge trips, it can still be very handy. I was driving a ways away to go camping with friends when their car broke down. Luckily, I had the premium AAA membership and was able to tow us all the way home for free, so we could move our stuff into another vehicle and continue on our camping trip. They had AAA also, but it was the regular membership, which I assume you have. They could have towed them too, but it would have cost them a little $, because it was out of the regular towing radius. I've also called them before when I locked my keys in my car... but oddly, I was able to get the keys back before they even picked up. Weird. Anyways, I love AAA. :)

  13. Wow. This brings back memories. I've had to have the glass replaced in my car twice, once because teenage vandals threw a rock through my front passenger side window, and once because I was a little careless scraping several inches of snow off my back windshield in sub-zero weather (seems glass gets a little more brittle in those conditions...). Funnily enough, the first time I had Progressive too, and they put me through the exact same rigmarole. The second time I didn't bother calling my insurance, and drove my car to the glass place myself. It was a little cold and windy, but it saved me both time and money.

    Oh, and AAA is wonderful because when you run out of gas on the side of the road, they will send a nice man with a gallon can of gas out to rescue you.

  14. damn, woman, that blows!

    i'm so sorry to hear about your ordeal.

  15. oh darlin,
    i am so sorry to hear that this happened, and how much of a complete and total run-around you had with all those freakin idiots.
    honestly. if they would take the time to actually listen...
    anyway, i'm sorry sweet girl. but its over now. done with now. and perhaps, this will have been the one time it did occur.

  16. Sorry for the crappy day, but your telling of the days events were great.

    I have felt your pain, spending most of my day on the phone with USPTO trying to get a trademark confirmed. Where is good customer assistance when you need it?

  17. That really sucks! I always wanted to meet the person that gets the 9:00 appointment when they give you a 4 hour window between 9:00am and 1:00pm. I'm always the guys that has them show up an 12:55, or not at all. I actually wrote an article on my blog about insurance companies if anyone wants to check it out its called "Insurance Fraud".

  18. Heya! I just wanted to back-up what Shannon said: Having an independant agent to act as a buffer between you and the insurance corporation can make all the difference.

    I'm sorry this happened to you!

  19. A blonde preppie from CT had a Cabrio? Shocker! ;)


  20. What a miserable experience. You got screwed by almost every single person that day, not meaning to sound crude there.

    I don't get the huge time windows given by contractors. I make them call me on their cell phone ten minutes before they arrive, but that may not have worked so well in your situation.

    Did you ever find out how the criminal got in the "secure" garage? Do they camp out and sneak in as the garage door goes down? Well written post as I was on pins and needles waiting to hear the outcome.

    AAA is best for towing if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhwere. I get confused too between insurance and AAA. I think they do that on purpose.

  21. What a nightmare. And such a joy to know that our conservative politicians work dutifully to protect these useless and greedy insurance companies! JOY!

    If there is one thing you do today, it should be to visit Safeco Insurance's website (www.safeco.com). I recently had a windshild replaced on my car AND had my house broken into (and lots of damages/loss); Safeco was freaking DREAMY to work with. The entire time. I cannot tell you how wonderful they were. And their rates? Cheaper by the hundreds (in the case of my car AND house insurance). Good luck!

    Oh, and I PROMISE I don't work for Safeco. ;o)


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