Eighteen months into my car injury battle with The Slobs, I slump over my kitchen table and throw my head into my hands. Through bitter tears, I email the ‘customer experience’ people at Aviva the following cri de coeur: ‘Right, that’s it. It’s official. I can’t take any more. I can no longer fight this Kafkaesque bureaucracy.
‘Nearly two years this has been going on and yet again I am about to be screwed for more money than I owe for my car insurance. The phoneline is a ten minute wait and I’m being played mindless pop music...’
‘Sweet about me, nothing sweet about me.’ That was the annoying tune they played. This is despite the fact that I selected two for classical. The recorded voice said that because the wait was ten minutes ‘we thought you might like to choose the music you listen to. We have put a selection together for you. For some Motown soul, press one…’ I really wasn’t in a soulful mood.
‘For classical pieces, press two…’ Pieces. Ugh. Whatever.
‘If you like jazz and swing, press three…’ I bet I don’t like Aviva’s idea of jazz and swing.
‘Or for pop and chart tunes just press four.’ This was clearly going to be the worst option, so in a state of ambivalence so severe it must have been close to how sociopaths feel when they split off from their emotions in order to commit crimes, I pressed two, expecting to be assaulted by an up tempo version of Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’.
‘Sweet about me, nothing sweet about me.’
This was just the latest in a string of broken promises. The thing that had pushed me to the brink was a letter from an Aviva executive saying that as my case had been going on for so long, the underwriters had agreed to restore my no-claims bonus. This was a major breakthrough because the allegedly injured parties, childishly dubbed The Slobs by me, are playing a game of prevarication.
They are claiming all sorts of horrendous traumas caused when I made contact with their Ford Galaxy in November 2011 in what the legal people call a low velocity accident. That’s a prang in a traffic queue to you and me. The sort where you hop out, see there’s no damage to either car and call out ‘It’s OK, I don’t think I hit you’.
And the other motorist calls back ‘No worries, mate!’ and you both drive on.
Unless the other motorist is Mr Slob, and his charming wife Waynetta Slob is sitting in the back next to her latest newborn, Frogmella, who, as her mother leaps out crying ‘Ow me back!’, is wailing from her baby seat about having a touch of whiplash herself which she’d like to speak about to a no-win no-fee solicitor.
Eighteen months on, they are still deciding whether or not they wish to go to court to prove that their sciaticas and pre-existing spinal problems were temporarily reactivated. All I have seen by way of detailed injury description is a statement from Mrs Slob about the inconvenience of having to get one of her children — not Frogmella, we don’t think — to help her with the ironing for several months. If they want, they can go on cobbling a case together like this for years.
Meanwhile, my no-claims bonus is suspended and I’m driving up and down an unmade farm track in a Fiat Panda, going through two tyres a week because I can’t afford to insure a 4x4. So when I got an email from an Aviva executive offering to allow me to use my five years no-claims discount again, I was in heaven. My premium — which at the height of the drama was £1,300 — now descended to £350. At this rate, I might afford a Suzuki Jimny!
Unfortunately, when I went online to pay, the amount went up to nearly £400 and it was the same when I rang the phoneline. Fine, so it’s still only £400. But I am a woman on the edge. I want the quote the Aviva executive promised me.
Logic tells me to be thankful for small mercies. But logic went out the window the day I started dealing with The Slobs. So I send a series of deranged emails, telling Aviva I am not coping. This is not, sadly, an exaggeration. I am deeply ashamed. But pride isn’t going to get me through this.
After I threaten to mentally disintegrate so extensively that it will make the skeletal structure of my adversaries look robust in comparison, a nice man calls me back and says he has ‘found’ the quote for £350. ‘Sorry for the bother,’ he says, ‘but you know what these insurance things are like.’
Yes, I say, I do.