I was cleaning my studio today and came across this stray piece of paper.
Last winter I was on my way to the dentist and a man with a small child was pulling into traffic from a McDonald’s parking lot and though I was right in front of him, he crashed into the right front of my car. Though the cars were drivable (his front bumper came off and my front right wheel was angled inward) it was clear that some major repairs were going to be needed. He wanted me to get estimates because he wanted to pay for repairs if possible; he feared if his insurance took care of it he would be dropped. We exchanged numbers. I rolled slowly to the dentist then to my mechanic.
It became obvious soon enough that the repair would be very expensive and that insurance was the route to go. I called his insurance company and was taken care of by a wonderful agent, Joyce Thompson. She was patient, angry along with me that this had happened, assuring me that all would be taken care of as soon as possible. She seemed somewhat elderly, grandmotherly, and even shared a bit about her grandchildren as we waited for calls to come through or her computer to calculate one thing or another. She worked really hard to find me a rental car even though it was the day before Christmas Eve and there seemed to be few cars available. I really felt as if she had my back. In fact, I felt so well-held by this insurance agent that I was already composing in my mind the letter I was going to write to her company in praise of her understanding and concern.
My mechanic could not begin working on the car until an adjuster from the insurance company came and approved the repairs. This went on for some time. I called Joyce and she was indignant and worked to locate adjusters to get on the job. She commiserated with me about my frustration and complained how some people did not keep their word. Some weeks later I received a call from my mechanic telling me I was going to have to get the car off their premises because it didn’t seem like any adjuster was going to show up. I asked him to give me two more days. I immediately called Joyce. She wasn’t in and I left her a message. Then I thought, for sure the insurance company had records of where adjusters were so I called back to talk to any generic agent. The woman I spoke to was helpful too but I was pretty angry in this call. Afterall, it had been nearly three weeks. After I had completely vented, I asked the woman to whom I spoke what her name was. She said, “Joyce.” “Not Joyce Thompson,” I said. “It depends,” she replied.
It depends? It depends! So, and the point of this whole story is—THEY ARE ALL JOYCE THOMPSONS! At least those who worked on my sort of case. I’m guessing that the perpetrators of accidents, as opposed to its victims, are assisted by “Joyce Smiths” or “Joyce Browns.” Were there any males who worked for this insurance company? Were they “John Thompsons?”
I felt abused. I felt like I had been used and just another exercise on pages 154-182 in some training manual on customer service. I imagined myself writing the letter about Joyce Thompson and it getting passed around the office— “This letter is for you.” “No, it’s for you.” “No, it’s for you…” and all the Joyce Thompsons laughing hysterically. It’s like The Stepford Insurance Agents. I felt I was part of a good ruse and clever manipulation.
The car eventually got fixed. They were actually able to replace a previously dimpled bumper because it was next to the tilted wheel. I shouldn’t complain. The Stepford Joyce Thompson, the first one, really did assuage my exasperation. And I am sure there are good reasons for them all to share the same name. But somehow, the discovery of the multiple Joyce Thompsons made me feel generic, typical, anonymous. Though my car problem was taken care of, my issues with significance and authenticity were not.