It’s the Little Things
For years, I’ve maintained a stash of birthday cards in my desk drawer. Then, when the occasion arises, I can just grab one and send it on its way. I collect these cards to kill time in airport terminals while waiting for a flight, and at my favorite car wash. I kid you not, Royal Car Wash has six rotator racks of cards in their waiting area. Most of the cards are funny—a few semi-raunchy. But, every so often I end up with a card that remains in my drawer for years because I can’t figure out who to send it to.
I recently got rid of one such card. The outside picture was of a woman with a handkerchief to her eyes and a few tears on her cheek. The caption was, “Sometimes it’s the little things in life that upset me.” The terse message on the inside was, “Like your pr- - - .” I’d had that card at least five years and I finally sent it off with a birthday note to a friend, who may never speak to me again.
But the sentiment’s correct. Sometimes it’s the little things that are upsetting. This week I was upset. I was the object of discrimination by a major organization.
I know that bigotry and discrimination against gays and lesbians persists. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is still on the books and enforced, despite government rhetoric to the contrary. I read of an occasional gay bashing or incident of discrimination elsewhere, but it doesn’t affect me directly. In fact, Fort Lauderdale, where I live, has a large gay and lesbian population and a high degree of acceptance. I never think twice about identifying myself as a domestic partner at hospitals, business establishments, or organizations for which I volunteer. So, I’m content to send a contribution to Lambda Legal, or HRC, or some other organization fighting discrimination.
But this week I was targeted. I was denied coverage by AAA, despite the statement in their membership solicitation brochure, “Free membership for a second member of your family…for your spouse or other eligible family member.” It never crossed my mind that I’d not be considered an “eligible family member.” In the global perspective of gay rights, this may be miniscule. But it’s an insult that stirred me to action—and it’s a reminder that sometimes, “It’s the little things in life that upset me.”
Here’s my response to AAA.
Mr. John Tomlin
President and CEO
AAA Auto Club South
1515 N. Westshore Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33607
Dear Mr. Tomlin:
I am writing to express my appreciation for the AAA Auto Club South policy which excludes gays and lesbians from family coverage in your membership.
Recently, I received a solicitation for membership from AAA and I joined. It never occurred to me that, having been in a domestic partnership for more than twenty years, I would not qualify for what your brochure touts as “Free membership for a second member of your family.” The membership materials arrived several days ago without a membership card for my partner. I called your 800 number and was informed AAA defined family as spouse and/or children. Domestic partners are excluded. I’ve cancelled my membership and requested a return of my membership fee.
While initially I was angry at the bigotry toward gays and lesbians that your policy perpetuates—and I still am angry—your exclusionary policy did, in fact, benefit me. It forced me to seek roadside assistance coverage elsewhere. Liberty Mutual, the company which provides insurance coverage for the automobiles in our family, does cover roadside assistance and does cover domestic partners in their policies. Roadside assistance was the only AAA membership feature I really wanted. It will now be provided by Liberty Mutual at a small fraction of the AAA membership cost. So, thank you for helping me save money in these difficult financial times.
I’m sure I needn’t remind you that many major companies and organizations, including AARP, now provide domestic partner benefits for their staff and their members. Nor do I need to remind you that Mapquest, GPS, and more than one thousand Google travel sites make many of the benefits AAA offers irrelevant and passé.
John Siegfried, a former Rehoboth resident, lives in Ft. Lauderdale. He can be reached at email@example.com.