Wednesday 17 January 2018

Why are actors worse drivers than bagpipe makers?

Colm Lambert

Colm Lambert.
Colm Lambert.
If either of these drivers is an actor, they're probably in trouble for insurance...
If either of these drivers is an actor, they're probably in trouble for insurance...

This week I need help.

I'm either blessed or cursed with the sort of mind that wanders off sometimes into strange places, and comes up with questions that it simply can't answer. So, if you can assist in making some of the following puzzles any less puzzling, then please do so. Before I drive myself mad.

Like - what do rocket scientists say to each other when one of them doesn't understand something at work? Where did Noah keep the woodpeckers on the Ark? If there's a deaf person in court, is it still called a hearing?

And how, oh how, do they figure out how much you have to pay for car insurance each year?

It's that last one that's recently been exercising me most. The annual renewal notice came in the post about a week ago, and while the figure they're looking for is by no means extortionate - compared to what I used to have to pay back when I was a young lad - it's still about thirty quid more than last year. This is despite the fact that I've still no penalty points, the car is worth less than it was twelve months ago, and I've another year of claims-free driving behind me - all of which you'd think would see the premium either drop a bit or at least hold steady, if ordinary logic applied.

So, hoping I could do better elsewhere, off I went to seek online quotes from other providers - a wonderful way to spend an hour or two, that's almost as much fun as weeding the garden or sitting through the 'Million Euro Challenge' programme on a Saturday night.

If you've ever done the same yourself, you'll know that one of the very first questions you're asked - just after name and date of birth - is 'occupation'. It comes long before they want details of the type of car you drive and just how much driving experience or previous claims you might have, giving the bizarre impression that what you do for a living is far more relevant than either of those to your chances of a crash.

But the real wonder is the sheer number of options you can select from to actually answer that 'occupation' question. Some are so specialised or so rare that it's news they even qualify as an occupation at all - for example, 'tea taster' is one option they give. Most of us may taste a drop of tea on most days all right, but it could hardly be a full-time occupation for any more than just a handful of people in the whole country, could it?

Bagpipe maker is another option. Others include mobile disco owner, exotic dancer and hawker. Again, there are probably not too many people around who'd be putting any of those down as their main occupation.

Then there are ones that are even less familiar. Near the top of the list, for example, there's 'almoner' - one that had me stumped. I generally like to consider myself a fairly intelligent fella with a vocabulary as wide as like, whatever, but this was a new one on me. Never in my two score and two years on earth have I heard somebody described as an almoner. I don't recall the Sesame Street people ever singing 'Oh, the almoner's a person in your neighbourhood'.

My only guess - having seen how precise some of the other options are - was that it might be somebody who sells almonds. It turns out though that it's a religious role - 'a chaplain or church officer in charge of distributing money (alms) to the deserving poor'. You really do learn something every day.

Funnily enough though, it turns out the occupation you list makes no difference in the vast majority of cases. Taking the hypothetical example of a 35-year-old single man with no penalty points, a full licence for more than ten years, and a full no claims bonus, the same price was quoted where he was put down as an almoner, a bagpipe maker, a tea taster, or even a more regular job like accountant, farmer, and teacher.

Put him down as an actor, an artist, or a musician though, and he couldn't get a quote at all. So there's another mystery of the car insurance world - why are actors worse drivers than bagpipe makers? Might this be why so many so-called 'actors' have part-time proper jobs as well - so they have something else to tell their car insurance people?

Overall, the car insurance mystery is another of those that we ordinary folk will never figure out. And before we go, here's another example of its mysteries to ponder.

Believe it or not, will give you a quote online even if you're a man - and because of equality legislation, they can't turn your business away if you decide to take them up on it.

So why don't they just advertise to everybody instead of only half the market? Go figure.

Wexford People

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