Friday, September 16, 2005

A Lighter Moment

Even in the midst of disaster, there can be the occasional moment of amusing absurdity. Yesterday our Jackson homeowners insurance guy, Shaw Nickeles, came over with some papers to sign. Some of the things he told us illustrate just what a monster of a storm Katrina was. We picked Jackson because, as I wrote earlier, it seemed impossible to us that even a storm coming right at us from the coast could still be dangerous when it got here. Hurricanes get their power from the warm water they cross, and as soon as they move over land they start to weaken.

But Katrina, after hitting the coast as a category four hurricane, was still a category two when it arrived in the Jackson area, and just look at the damage cat 1 Ophelia just did in the Carolinas. Shaw is a likeable young guy whose been in the business about six years, and he was saying how he’d never seen anything like this. 250 miles from the coast, and the storm was uprooting trees big enough to come down and literally cut houses in two. Shaw had never had to deal with property damage this severe from a storm, though luckily none of his clients were injured.

But the absurd part was the reason he came over. After buying the Jackson condo, we naturally set about getting the proper homeowners insurance for it. After getting up here, A got the proper form, filled it out and mailed it in. It went to a processing office up in Missouri, and a lady in the office opened the envelope, took one look at the form, and just freaked.

Since if all goes well we will someday return to New Orleans, A had listed the uptown New Orleans address as the permanent mailing address. Also, the check for the premium payment was imprinted with the same address. She saw that much, and proceeded to leap to the horrifying conclusion that some villain was trying to buy a new homeowners insurance policy for a New Orleans property after Katrina had gone through, a property she assumed had been destroyed by the storm. (It wasn’t.)

Without reading any further she immediately stamped "REJECTED" all over the form, stuffed it and the check into an envelope and threw it into the out-box. Addressed to New Orleans of course. Who knows where and when that will ever turn up. Then she proceeded to phone up poor Shaw to loudly berate him for being such a gullible fool as to approve that policy. It took him a while to get her calmed down enough to hear his explanation, namely that if she’d read down a little further, like to "insured property," she would have found that the policy was for a place in Jackson.

The only way he was able to mollify her was to promise that, since we had to sign a new application anyway, he would personally bring that application by and personally verify that the actual insured property was undamaged.

I realize that the entire insurance industry is on the brink of hysteria just now, and with good reason, but this lady went over that brink at a great height and at high velocity. Not very professional behavior.


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Don said...

First, I'm so sorry you got comment-spammed. The people responsible for that must die. No, not die, just be made very uncomfortable. Maybe a hosing off with cold muddy water, something like that.

Anyway your story's funny. Yes, she freaked and she was probably freaking before she opened the envelope, but that's no excuse not to do her damn job.

Steve T. said...

Good idea. I'd like to volunteer to supply some cold muddy water straight from New Orleans. Liberally laced with e.coli. And worse stuff. One of the scariest stories from the disaster is that of the bio researchers examining and/or engineering some really nasty bugs who managed to get into their lab and destroy the samples just before the flood waters came in to spread the bugs all over the city. They regretted losing so many years of research, but thought it was better than letting -- something -- loose on the world.

Cheery thought, no?