“I took this job to get out of the office. That cubicle was killing me,” Flora Davidson explained as she took a sip of coffee. “I was tired of paperwork and wanted to get some dirt under my fingernails. Serve the public.”
“That’s what we do,” Joe Peters slapped his knee as he laughed. “Serve the public, like we’ve got ‘em on a silver tray at a restaurant, on their way from the kitchen to the table.”
“Joe has an unusual sense of humor,” Stephanie Jasper explained. “It’s just that we’ve never had a lateral transfer before. Usually our co-workers have come from outside the company. People who did this kind of work for competitors. So what did you do for Fidelity management?”
“Writing policy, drawing up decision trees, implementing procedures. That kind of thing. It was all risk management. ”
“We’re all about risk,” Joe nodded.
“What he means is you’re joining us on a perfect day.” Stephanie reached for a manila envelope that lay in the middle of the table and pulled out three files, each marked “Confidential” in big red letters. “Today we’ve got some interesting assignments.” She passed the documents to Joe who read them to himself before addressing Stephanie and Flora.
“First we’ve got a straight forward Double X. Then there’s a Level Four, done a million of those. And the last one is a Stop and Spin, technically called a Reset Procedure.”
“Those terms sound familiar from my days managing the company SOPs,” Flora admitted. “But I don’t remember them being mentioned in the claims adjustor’s exam.”
“The Double X is always in a parking lot. This client has a high level of anxiety related to owning a new car. On Xanax, along with a powerful migraine medication, inhaler for chronic asthma and also pretty regularly doses himself with Valium. Dangerous combination, wouldn’t you say.”
“Wait a minute,” Flora objected. “How do you know that?”
“Legal loophole for the insurance industry,” Stephanie pointed out. “Public safety provision. Statistics tell us that for some individual’s anticipation of the first blemish on their new vehicle leads to a high probability of a dangerous crash. Hyper-reactivity response anticipating a first scratch or dent. But after a simple parking lot fender bender we reduce our claims ten-fold. Certainly you’ve heard of our division’s activities before? In other parts of Fidelity we’re called Dial-A-Crash. “
“Yeah,” Joe took a bite out of a donut. “A Double X is just a bump and dent. A common adjustment after buying a new car. Especially an expensive one.”
“The next is one of our specialties,” Stephanie continued with the orientation. “A Level Four, high on the risk/benefit ratio. Says right here in the SOP - Safety factor zero point two, yield stress over working stress, within acceptable limits. The poor grandmother’s already teetering on the edge of dementia. Hard for old folks to give up their car.”
“It’s not just having access to medical records that makes me nervous,” Flora admitted. “But you’re treating these drivers like patients.”
“Insurance companies have to have a close relationship with the medical profession and the police,” Joe explained. “We’re right in the middle of everything.”
“Let’s get to the third file,” Stephanie continued. “Then we can answer more general questions. This last one involves a teenager. Always got to be careful dealing with minors.”
“We call this a Reset Procedure. The kid will be involved in a rear end crash, plowing into a car that I’ll be driving helped out by Stephanie distracting him with her short skirt. Traffic court will suggest to the parents that his license be revoked for two years and in exchange Fidelity will agree not to raise the premiums. Everybody wins.”
“I thought insurance adjustors went out to see the wreck and put a dollar amount on the damage.”
“Of course,” Stephanie smiled. “There’s plenty of that but we’re involved in another aspect of the business, providing prophylactic collisions in situations where we can anticipate that big, costly, perhaps fatal accidents are right around the corner.”
Flora choked on her coffee and set the cup back down. “You mean these files we’re going over are about people who haven’t had an accident…yet?”
“They are all going to have an accident later today,” Joe grinned.
“I don’t remember procedure manuals about this kind of work,” Flora insisted.
“It all started with these college kids, math whizzes,” Joe explained. “Did some statistical analysis that linked psychological and medical conditions to insurance claims and realized that by causing accidents we could actually reduce the size of the claims. Now all the big companies do it.”
“There’s standard language in every policy,” Stephanie recited. “Fidelity reserves the right to provide standard planned adjustments through any means necessary in order to reduce personal injury and loss of property.”
“Couldn’t be more clear,” Joe laughed. “Except, of course, the devil’s in the details.”
“I guess so,” Flora shook her head. “So what’s my role in all of this?”
“It’s like playing Duck Duck Goose,” Stephanie offered. “Joe does the driving. You and I provide pedestrian distractions, take a half step into the driver’s lane to stimulate peripheral vision reflexes. Get the client to slam on the brakes or veer into another lane. Then, afterwards, identify proper witnesses, manage the police and ambulance response and then make certain the paperwork is in order.”
“Drip Drip Drop.”
“Daisy in the Dell.”
“Run around the circle. Tap somebody on the head. And then they’re it.”
Casey Bush is a longtime Portland poet whose most recent collection Student of the Hippocampus was published in 2017 by Last Word Press (Olympia, Washington). He is a senior editor of The Bear Deluxe Magazine which explores environmental issues through the literary and graphic arts.