The other day, we got a letter from our insurance company informing us of changes to our personal umbrella liability policy.
“You need to read this,” my husband said, tossing the four-page document into my lap.
“Do I HAVE to?!?” I whined like a 3-year-old. “I HATE insurance stuff. I get narcoleptic just thinking about it.”
I come by my aversion to the insurance industry honestly. I was force-fed the concept of risk management at an early age. My dad was an insurance man. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Every piano, ballet and swimming lesson I enjoyed was paid for by Property and Casualty commissions. I am grateful for insurance. And, that my family has never suffered for lack of coverage.
Still, I’d rather spend a Saturday afternoon depilating my nostrils than trying to deconstruct a revised liability policy.
“Just read it,” my co-insured insisted.
I took a deep, cleansing breath and skimmed the pages, front and back, my eyes landing on statements like:
“We now provide coverage from injury from pollutants caused by hostile fire.”
“We now exclude a loss arising from the exposure of fungus and bacteria.
“Exclusion M now applies to any activity that is sexual in nature. We emphasize that corporal punishment is excluded.”
“Wow,” I said, now acutely interested in reading the original Exclusion M in its entirety. “This is fascinating stuff. And I should care because…?”
“Look at the first page,” he said. “At the bottom.”
I found it in “Definitions” under “Coverage Restrictions”: “‘Personal injury’ no longer includes the word ‘humiliation.’ Humiliation is no longer a covered loss.”
(Yes. Seriously. )
“WELL!” I said sarcastically. “Clearly we need to find another insurance carrier.”
“My thoughts exactly,” my husband replied in dead earnest. “Thank God nothing happened at our last party.”
He referred to my enthusiastic, but perhaps misguided, attempt to recreate a birthday party from our youth for a 60-year-old friend. I had forced our middle-aged pals to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Musical Chairs, the latter on furniture that was, in some cases, held together with carpenter’s glue and a prayer.
“I worried all night that someone would fall and break a hip,” my spouse lamented. “That Musical Chairs game got aggressive, and we’re not young anymore. And you were merciless in Pin the Tail on the Donkey. You blindfolded a 60-year-old man, spun him around like a dervish and pushed him toward a glass door!”
“But nobody got hurt,” I insisted. “Besides, our friends wouldn’t SUE us over losing a little dignity. These guys bring flatulence machines to our tailgates. Dignity’s a moving target with this bunch.”
“Yeah, but what about other people? Opportunists who might take issue with some of your antics?”
“Antics? What antics!?”
OK, he had a point. I come from a family with a long history of humiliating our guests. The whole clan loved nothing more than to embarrass my siblings and my unsuspecting friends.
Sometimes, it would involve costumes, or a coating of Saran Wrap on the toilet seat. Other times, it was a good old-fashioned jump-out-of-the-closet, make-you-wet-your-pants scare. Whatever it was, comedy would always ensue.
Once, when my sister’s habitually late suitor kept us waiting at the dinner table for more than 20 minutes, we broke out the grocery bags and Magic Markers. Sheepishly, the young man walked into the dining room to see his future wife and her entire family of seven with the words “YOU’RE LATE!” written on brown sacks on our heads. Hilarious!
The tradition continued through my adulthood (and I use the word loosely.) I loved nothing more than to hide all the toilet paper so my kids and their beer-drinking buds would have to cry for help from the bathroom. Hysterical!
“And what about how you behave in basketball season?” my husband continued. “Don’t you think it’s humiliating to make people genuflect under the mantle?”
“Everyone knows that’s the shrine to the almighty Jayhawk! A little respect is only proper. Nobody has ever complained!” I shot back.
“All I’m saying is, humiliation is a subjective thing,” he insisted. “You have to be careful not to make anyone feel like a chump. We’re not covered anymore!”
“Well, if I were you, I’d be more worried about exposure to fungus and bacteria,” I countered. “That’s not covered either, and I haven’t scrubbed the shower in weeks. Now, bring me our original policy. I’ll save that Exclusion M for a little late-night reading.”