Sunday Nibble #53: If only we treated ourselves like our cars


Happy Daylight Savings Time (DST)! Once again, Congress is trying to make the spring ahead part of it permanent with a bipartisan bill. Maybe this time it will stick. Changing the clocks twice a year out of antiquated ideas that we don’t want farmers getting up in the dark or whatever the hell justification we had for it does not need to continue into the 21st century.

We’ve kept DST year-round before. For example, from January 6, 1974 to April 27, 1975, DST didn’t end, largely due to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, which is why Arabs became film villains for a decade, but then somehow didn’t after 9/11 or Jamal Khashoggi.

The beginning and ending dates of DST have been extended multiple times, to the point now where we go back to standard time for barely four months, which makes the whole exercise futile.

DST briefly began in the U.S. in 1918, after World War I, but Congress quickly dumped it as a national standard, over the objections of the well-known racist former president Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

There wasn’t nationwide DST again until World War II, when the country went onto permanent DST from February 9, 1942 until September 30, 1945. Instead of DST, though, it was aptly dubbed “War Time.”

There was no federal law on DST after that until 1966, during which time states adopted their own standards haphazardly. In some states, there was no time standard at all, so that different municipalities picked their own local time. (This was one year after Medicare went into law, by the way, the reason for mention of which will become clear shortly.)

It honestly makes no difference if we leave things on DST or standard time because we’re not really losing anything anyway, other than the one hour we’d leap ahead and not pull back — although maybe they can slip in a “leap hour” during the holidays to make up for it that does not result in advancing or retracting the actual time.

On the surface, it would seem like the way to do it would be like how leap years work. Add that extra day to February every four years to make up for the quarter-day short our calendar is from actual time. But the problem is that days don’t quite work like that.

Sure, each sidereal day lags a solar day by 4.07 minutes, which means you need to adjust the former in order to create a true “noon to noon” local day — but in that case, to adjust things properly, then you would need to add 14 minutes and 45 seconds to every day for two weeks, but only do it once, and then not count that time on any clock at all.

Or maybe not. The important thing to remember is that our timekeeping is entirely arbitrary beyond the Big One, which is how long it takes our planet to make one lap around the Sun. Oh — and axial tilt making seasons. And the approximate number of Moon phases in a year.

But other than that, there is absolutely no reason we carved our day into twenty-four hours of sixty minutes each, with each minute being sixty seconds, other than those Whacky Babylonians. But what the hell did they know?

What I do know is that staying on DST does make a bit more sense, because if anything it will end our sunsets being so ridiculously early in winter at the very least. And it will be less confusing to our dogs, who will stop wondering why walkies and food are suddenly coming later or earlier than they should.

Once Congress tackles DST — and presumably comes up with the right solution — then maybe they can tackle health care. I was reminded today of the enormous difference between how auto insurance works fairly well in this country, while health care is… bumpier. Pun intended for reasons you’ll see in a moment.

Well, it can be. Funny thing was that when I had employer covered health insurance with a gold-tier plan — which means that it has the lowest copays and deductibles and all that — I survived congestive heart failure, a day in the ER, three nights and four days in the hospital, and a ton of tests, both diagnostic while I was in there and blood draws for months after I was out, not to mention three meds for a couple of years.

Other than the maybe $90 a month that was deducted out of my paycheck (employer paid the rest) I think that my total out-of-pocket expenses for that whole experience never exceeded $800.

But that’s when insurance works. On my current plan, which is silver-tier, I have higher copays and deductibles, and although Covered California subsidizes some of that, my monthly premium is about four times what I had to pay previously, again for much shitter and more expensive coverage.

BTW, if you say “Covered California” really fast, it unfortunately sounds just like “COVID California.”

Stilll… that premium would skyrocket to probably costing per month what that one weekend adventure in the hospital cost me in total, except that at the end of April, I’ll be going back to group coverage through work, and they’ll be paying 90% of my premium, so it’ll be back to a reasonable amount again and, I’m sure, gold-tier coverage.

But I bring this up because last night, after a day working at home, and after I hadn’t been outside to get in my car since nine p.m. the night before, I had to make an emergency run to Staples because my old mouse died.

I walked out to my car, which I’ve been parking on the street ever since they jammed a fancy underground parking structure into my complex because my spot was three levels down, with only six half-flights of stairs or a tiny elevator to access it, and it opened in late May 2020.

Yeah, not a great idea during COVID. Besides, the street is closer to my back door than the garage. But there are risks, and when I got to the car at 6:30 p.m. last night, I found this:

Yes, basically somebody had decided to hit my car, either coming or going, crunch in and fold out the corner of the front bumper, while displacing and damaging my headlight. It was truly a WTF moment, but the most surprising part, really, was that the person actually left a note with her phone number.

I called and left a message, then did some internet ninja moves and determined that she did, in fact, live in the building right across from where my car got hit. I left a message with her but despite not hearing back, I phoned in the claim that evening and started the process with a very nice customer service rep going by the name of Saul.

He was probably in a call center who knew where — it was after business hours on the west coast —but he was incredibly professional and nice. I gave him all the information I had, got a claim number, and found out that I qualified for something called “estimate by photo.”

That is, they’d send me a website link, and I could use that to follow instructions and upload photos of my car and the damage for the appraisers to take a look at. I’d have to wait for the next day and better lighting to take those photos. In the meantime, the claims adjuster called me the next morning, and we got the ball rolling.

It turned out that my preferred body shop, the Toyota of North Hollywood Collision Center, is also an approved shop for my insurance company, Mercury, so it was like finding out that my favorite doctor is already part of the HMO for the insurance company I picked at random.

Well, my dad picked Mercury for whatever reason — probably golfed with the agent — and signed me up with them as a baby driver, and I never felt any incentive to switch. By this point, I don’t know how many generations down I am in the family agency I deal with.

But… I wound up with a claim number and an exact description of what was going to happen. I went off to take and submit the photos. An hour or two later, the claims adjuster, Linda, called me back. She’d spoken to the woman and had gotten all of her information. The best part: Since she said that it was 100% her fault, that put me on easy street.

Mercury waived my $500 deductible, the other insurance company is going to reimburse my rental expense — not that I really need one, since I’m working from home — and my body shop estimate and discount reservation number with Enterprise Rent-a-Car have been submitted as well.

Incidentally, my claims adjuster also told me that my car insurance transferred over fully to the rental, so there’s no need to buy any kind of gap insurance that they always try to upsell. Straight from the horse’s mouth! But that’s a concept a lot of people don’t seem to understand. Car insurance follows the insured when it comes to liability.

So I take my baby in for surgery and a hospital stay on Monday morning. This will actually be his second trip for essentially the same operation, although the last one was 100% my fault and cost me a couple grand. But how many cars can you truly say have had not one but two bumper transplant surgeries?

Oh yeah — this car is male because I alternate the genders, and he happens to be the seventh car I’ve ever owned, so I refer to him as Señor Siete. Interesting pattern there, too. Here are my first six cars: green (used Datsun) white (used Subaru) gray (new Honda); green (used VW), white (used Hyundai), gray (new Saturn.)

This one replaced the new gray Saturn after it basically died on the road, and is a gray, slightly used Toyota, in the sense that it was a dealer model for a year before I bought it, so not exactly consumer used, but still had about 16K on it.

And every single one of them has had a manual transmission because I wouldn’t have it any other way, although when I bought this one, the salesman told me that it would probably be the last manual transmission car I would ever buy.

Sigh. Work on that shit Elon. At least put a pacifier shifter in a Tesla or something. Asshole.

But back to the original point: Imagine if health insurance were this easy, and you could take care of it for a third party with a couple of phone calls. Report that you’re having issues to someone who starts the process and gets the patient in the system, use remote resources to transmit symptoms and the like for triage and diagnosis, deal with a knowledgeable case-worker to get pre-approval of all procedures to be done and covered, and then make one call to schedule a check-in time.

Any needs after that are already paid for, so you don’t have to worry about whether the patient will be in for a day, a weekend, a week, or a month. All you have to do is make the drop-in or check in yourself, sign a couple of things, and you’re on your way.

Oh… and make the premium a hundred bucks a month or less, like my car insurance is.

Or learn this lesson: In California and Los Angeles in particular, and the U.S. in general, we treat our cars way, way better than we treat our humans. And that’s backasswards.

I mean, over the years, I’ve paid so damn much to my car insurance company that to get that all back now would buy me a fucking Ferrari or something. And yet, there’s no way in hell I can pay back enough to any insurance company to buy back mom or dad or my brother or my grandparents.

But I and they should have been able to afford enough in the first place to not slip off this mortal coil due to lack of expenses. How goddamn hard is that to understand?

Piece of replaceable machinery suffers major random insult, nurses and doctors are on it in a heartbeat. And you can guarantee free ambulance transmission and/or emergency field surgery for about $50 a year via AAA.

Meanwhile, your human loved one collapses in a Kroger parking lot, and ambulance drivers demand to see proof of insurance and/or scan credit/debit cards for a couple grand before they’ll even load them up to go to the hospital.

Yeah. American priorities suck. You can replace a car. You cannot replace grandparent or parent or parentel sib or sibling or nibling or kid or cousin or SO or spouse or lover or friend.

Keep slamming Congress with this reality until we get Medicare for All and until it’s as easy to fix yourself as it is to fix your fucking car.

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