Insurance adjustments

“Things will get worse before they get better; but then, they won’t get better.”

This morning’s happy thought is from Neville, an insurance broker who was among my drinking companions in Bangkok, forty years ago. To this day, he remains my standard-bearer for a certain kind of pessimism — the conventional kind — and I have often thought of him recently. Surely I have mentioned him before, in one scrawl or another. He was so perceptive.

One could walk down a street with Neville and, having been warned of the pedestrian dangers — many more, and less predictable, than one realized — he would call attention to faults in the design and construction of the buildings we passed by. All, so far as he could see, were doomed, and ought to be condemned frequently. At best, they might survive until engulfed in some large natural catastrophe: fire, flood, earthquake, volcano or whatever. In war, they might fall before they were hit.

I should mention, too, that Neville had the most delightfully dark sense of humour. The idea of a disaster filled him with good cheer; even little setbacks pleased him. He would giggle at the upshot from a memorable act of stupidity, then carefully constrain and collect himself, in order to express his condolence. But he knew what to do and say in an emergency, because he was so well rehearsed: dear Neville. (British, of course.)

Like many of my readers, I have become over-informed about the Batflu. Naturally, much of this information is knowingly false; most of the rest is wrong. By now, I even know that the pandemic was unlikely to have originated among the bats sold in the Wuhan wet market. This is because they don’t sell bats there (according to an old Hankow resident); whether for soup or for any other gustatory purpose. They do sell other interesting animals, however: especially fish.

That it was, as it were, a bat virus, follows naturally from whence it did come, in the same urban district. But rather than cultivate a reputation for paranoia myself, I will leave this to the historians.

For as Neville would say, you mustn’t blame anyone, unless you are willing to blame everyone, and apportion this blame justly. And you will never have time for that. You will only have time to do the sums on the insurance chart, and pay the indicated amount, provided that the total is small enough. If it isn’t, you might as well forget the whole thing.

“But surely someone should be blamed,” I once suggested.

“Good point,” he acknowledged. For he had also thought that through.

“You should do what the professionals have always done. Choose a plausible scapegoat, hang him, and then get on with your life.”

I pass along this advice, gratis.