It’s a little-known fact that when planning a dinner party, it is nearly always advisable to include a claim adjuster on the guest list. This was the conclusion reached by a handful of adjusters I’d joined for drinks after a regional training meeting several years ago in Columbus where the evening’s storytelling culminated in a tale involving a neglectful zookeeper, a curious woman, and an open gate. And, of course, a lion. And a tranquilizer gun. Don’t forget the tranquilizer gun, because it’s key to the punchline.
So the maxim: Always include a claim adjuster on your guest list (because if the dinner party grows dull, you can always count on us to have a good story at the ready).
And yet, while it’s clear to most of us on the inside that adjusters have the best stories, you’ll find few books or films or even short stories featuring these interesting characters. Until now, anyway.
Now you can get in on Adjustments, a story we’re releasing in serial form, available only to our newsletter subscribers. Check out an excerpt of the first installment below, and if you’re not already subscribed, be sure to sign up for our free weekly newsletter now.
Excerpt from episode one, The Visit:
What an old man needed with a pair of roller skates, Will would never know. Yet there they were, scuffed gray leather, hanging by their laces over a dusty walnut kneeler just inside the front door.
Watching how the old man moved, how he favored his left side when he walked away after letting him in the door, Will knew he didn’t use them. He could see Joe praying, yes. Skating, no.
Joe had called twice to reschedule their appointment after all, saying he’d thrown his back out a couple of weeks ago and was laid up so he hadn’t been able to do any housekeeping. Will appreciated his good intentions. Most folks don’t see the need to tidy up for a claim adjuster. Isn’t that the whole point—that a house would be a mess after a sudden brush with fire or water? He hardly even noticed anymore, cutting through cobwebs or stepping over underpants lying on the floor right where someone had walked out of them on the way to the shower or bed.
But then again, he thought, maybe Joe did roller skate. Maybe that’s how he’d hurt himself, practicing some sort of spin move on in-line nylon wheels on the narrow paved road crossing in front of his faded green bungalow like it were perfectly normal for 75-year-old men to do in this quiet farming town. He probably even had a widowed neighbor named Midge who practiced her belly dancing behind a walker on the front lawn.
Not much surprised him anymore. “Leaky roof, single story, ” the dispatch note from Mad Dog had said. “Keep it simple. You’ll be back by noon.”
“Right, ” he typed back. “Noon next Friday.”
The only predictable thing about working claims with Mike “Mad Dog” Delaney was that he could predict nothing. Odds were, Hurricane Camille herself was coming his way, all dressed up in the straight-line skirt of a supposed open and shut case.
He remembered the day Mad Dog said “Leaky drain pipe. How hard can it be?” The next thing he knew, he was suited up in his coveralls crawling in the mud under the double-wide through spider webs thick enough to hide your grandmother, with the angry homeowner standing outside wielding a hammer, threatening to nail the opening shut and leave him inside with the rats.
When a guy’s day could start with a man falling asleep with a cigarette watching Jay Leno and starting his bed on fire, or a woman having a heart attack behind the wheel and crashing her car into the side of the local hunting lodge, her last breath exploding through safety glass and into a brick wall, the element of surprise gets harder and harder to come by.
Will Phillips had been an adjuster for as long as he could remember. And before that, he’d dreamed of it. Saturday afternoons when his friends were playing tackle football in the vacant lot, he was watching Double Indemnity in black and white. When no one was home he’d sneak into a three-piece suit and tie from his father’s closet and lean across the kitchen table like it was a big wooden desk, making believe he was his hero Barton Keyes lecturing Sam Garlopis about insurance fraud. He’d tousle his hair and hold a Tootsie Roll between his fingers, punching it into the air like Keyes’ stubby cigar. Every month hundreds of claims come to this desk. Some of them are phony. And I know which ones, he’d say, staring at Garlopis until he squirmed. How do I know? Because my little man tells me. … The little man in here. He’d turn his thumbs to point to his chest and then slip them into the vest behind the gray pinstripe lapels before he turned to look out the window, pausing to put a little more heat on his imaginary Garlopis.
Will wanted to be an adjuster someday, a job no one else he knew had ever sought on purpose. He would learn to listen to his own little man.
He interned with La Salle Mutual in Chicago during college, and by his 25th birthday had a desk of his own downtown, smoked three packs a day and kept a fifth of bourbon in his bottom right desk drawer which he never drank before 2:45 in the afternoon.
(end of excerpt)
Want to get in on the full series?
Go on the road with Will Phillips, in a regional tale of a claims adjuster who tries to navigate life with his landlady, a customer who has inserted himself into his life, and the pretty girl across the street.
Video by Josiah Lindquist.
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