nonfiction about things that didn't happen

Tuesday, July 21, 2009



His job was to visit the houses of the owners of the pets, at a pre-arranged time, and to look for any signs that the animals illness or injury could have been caused by any factor other than the one given - usually natural causes. Mainly this meant signs of mistreatment; not feeding it enough, or allowing it to become obese. Sometimes it meant whether they had been kicking or punching it - which was usually clear. It was in his companys and therefore his own interest to be very thorough in examining possible causes for the pets condition, as if the condition could be linked to any negligence on the part of the owner(s) then the policy would not cover it. So for this reason he would often link cause and effect together very tenously:

Smoking in the house could account for any lung or respiratory problem, cancer, heart disease, tooth decay.
Excessive exercise could account for heart attacks, limb problems, tooth decay.
Lack of exercise could account for heart attacks, limb problems, tooth decay.
Sharing the house with a mentally disturbed person(s) could account for abnormal behaviour, self-injury, tooth decay.

He had gotten into this line of work after completing a degree in Business Management, and after his friend Ricardo had gotten him to apply for a job working at the company eighteen months after his graduation. He was still living in Birmingham at that time, but after working in another department initially he was moved over to Pets and that department was in Sheffield. But then when he became a Loss Adjuster and had to travel around he was given first the North Yorkshire route and then the Humberside route and now he was doing West Midlands, so pretty much back he started, although travelling from Sheffield by car.

The training to become a Loss Adjuster was two days in London at Head Office, and was a series of briefings and role-playing scenarios.
He was told that it didnt matter a great deal that he had no real knowledge of animals, because what he was really going to be evaulating was the people. Use your instincts, she told him - the training leader - and if something seems up, it most likely is. These people are out to make an easy buck off our backs, she said. She was from Scotland, about as far North as you can get without falling into the ocean, she said.

He found it easy to get along with Jean, and they had two children. Upon his retirement there was not a party as such, because working in a car, travelling, all those years there wasnt the opportunities to build up real friendships. The owners of the pets that he visited were never pleased to see him. For about six months, one time, he did have an apprentice but he was gay and they had nothing in common to talk about. Their lunch breaks were sometimes entirely silent, usually in the seated area of the service station. On one occasion the apprentice noticed through the large windows one man being pushed into a car by another against his will - over there, he said, freeing one finger from his sandwich to point. On the news three days later they saw that the man who had been pushed into the car had been found dead - had been taken to a copse of trees near Hatfield and killed. He and the apprentice were granted three days paid leave, to get their heads together. Jean said over dinner on the second of those days that it made you think, didnt it, how many people must you have seen just before they died.

Being a Loss Adjuster was not an especially well-paid job, but he was entitled to benefits, the most notable of which was the company car which was upgraded every three years. One night after sex he confided to Jean that he would love, if he could afford it, to buy the car outright after its lease term was up, and Jean said it would be nice wouldn't it but that there was so much needs doing with the house, for now.


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