Like all insurance conventions, this one is well-stocked with booze and coffee. I pull myself a tall cup of French roast and secret five airplane bottles of Bushmills into my inside breast pocket. The unofficial credo of insurance agents has always been Loose but Tight. Crazy enough to enjoy the night, sane enough to calculate stats, ratios, and deductibles at a moment’s notice. What are the actual chances that a man my age would be injured, dismembered or killed in this activity, and how do I leverage premium and payout?
I become aware that a woman next to me has been making eye contact. I glance down at her name tag, then back up to her eyes. “Hello, Susan Smith of Guildcrest Home and Auto. How can I help you?”
She smiles. “I saw you in the BIPs presentation. That was pretty eye-opening wasn’t it?”
“Indeed it was,” I say. “So often what we do rubs elbows with ethical conundrums. It’s really refreshing to see someone take it head on.”
“Ooh, head on,” she says, “I like that.” Almost imperceptibly she pinches her upper lip between her teeth. “Have you seen the new Progressive Insurance commercial?”
My ears prick up, and I look around to see who might be listening. Seeing no one paying attention to us, I lean toward her and whisper, “I like how Flo seems willing to help everyone.” I look around again, “But this isn’t a good place to talk. Let’s…” I motion toward the service doors that lead to the conference center’s innards.
She follows me through the swinging doors, and I turn to face her. She reaches out and rubs the flat of her hand against my chest and stomach, and down.
“Susan Smith,” I say, as if to reprimand her, but she knows my words ring hollow.
“Sorry,” she says, “the BIPs talk got me pretty worked up.” She clears her throat. “But there will be plenty of time for that later.” She glances around, confirms that we are alone, and says, “It’s going down at eight PM, room 314. The watchword is Earnest.”
“Earnest,” I repeat softly. “Got it.”
We step into the hall, and I recognize a loud guffaw. I know who it is before I look and can’t decide whether to move toward or away from the conspicuous laugh. I decide to hurry away, but a great, heavy hand lands on my shoulder.
“Is that Yevgen Butterworth? Is that? Yevgen? Butterworth?”
I turn and smile, “Good to see you Alvin.” We exchange conspiratorial smiles and shake hands. His enormous paw swallows my hand.
“You still holding down the fort at Hegemony?” he asks.
“Just made senior partner,” I beam. “Hey, check it out. I got my new cards already!” I fish in my pants and hand him a card.
He studies it closely. “Ivory with a clean, aquamarine font. Razor sharp. I like it.”
He hands me his own card, which reads Alvin Merrick, Providential Insurance, then leans in closely. “Have you seen the new Progressive Insurance commercial?”
I nod and wave my hand to show him that he needn’t go on.
“Nice,” he says.
The next hour is a swirl of Bushmills, coffee, and guarded conversation. I have a sense of who is here for actuary business and who for fun, but I am afraid of slipping up, so I keep my own counsel. Each session is interesting in its own way, but I find it difficult to focus. I try to avoid meeting the eyes of my fellows, and kill time by counting ceiling panels and carpet swirls.
At last I steal down the back corridor making sure no one is watching. I sprint to the service elevator and leap inside. I select the 3rd floor and try to steady my heartbeat.
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Editor’s note: Technically it is her vulva, not her vagina.