Opinion

WALLY'S WORLD: Just a few nickels can make everyone happy

I had an old, wooden, dilapidated shed on the South 40 behind my house. It was a real eyesore. It was built by Matt Media, if any of you remember him, more than 50 years ago.

When I bought house insurance a few years ago, it was insured as an outbuilding, sight unseen, for $15,000. Of course, it surely wasn’t worth that – not on its best day and in my wildest dreams – but I thought it might be worth a few nickels. I’ve been waiting for a major windstorm to collapse the damned thing.

That tempest arrived about a week before Christmas with 90 to 95 mph, hurricane-force gusts of wind. (You probably remember.) That little blow twisted the frame of my funny shed. The roof buckled and crashed, the walls cracked and the doors sank and splintered. The place was totaled.

So, I happily marched into my agent’s office with my hand opened, palm up. You see, never having dealt with an insurance company before, except for a couple of car accidents that weren’t my fault, I was a bit naive, to say the least.

A few days later, I received a phone call from a pleasant young lady – I deduced this from the sound of her voice – in Seattle. She introduced herself as an insurance adjuster and she wanted to know how old the shed was. I hedged a tad and told her it was at least 20 years old, maybe 30. (Hell, let’s face it, that wasn’t a hedge, it was a flat-out lie.)

“We’d like to have a contractor look at it,” she said, “to get an estimate on the cost of repairing it.”

“It can’t be repaired,” I said. “It’s squished.”

“Look,” I began. “The roof has caved in, the foundation has shifted and the doors won’t open or close. It’s well beyond repair.”

“Still, we’d like the opinion of a contractor.” She had this thing about contractors. “If it can’t be repaired than, at least, we’d like an estimate on rebuilding or replacing.”

“I’m not sure I’ll replace it.”

“I see.” There was a detectable note of joy in that brief exclamation. “Well, you understand, given the structure’s age, it will have depreciated by 90 percent. And since you have $500 dollar deductible and since you don’t plan to rebuild, perhaps you shouldn’t file a claim at all.”

“Huh?”

“I had assumed you wanted to replace it with another shed. Like, maybe one of those prefabricated metal sheds that Lowe’s or Home Depot sell.”

“Oh!” A ray of light flashed somewhere in the dark recesses of my ignorance. “A shed.” I cleared my throat and quickly digested my new-found insight. “But, of course. A prefabricated metal shed. That’s exactly what I had in mind!”

“Well, if that’s the case, let me work these figures for awhile and I’ll get back with you.”

A couple of days later, I received a check for the “few nickels” I wanted. This made me very happy.

In fact, not only was I happy, but my adjuster and my agent were also happy! Everyone was happy!

Hey, people, something this cool doesn’t happen every day. Especially in the insurance game.

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