Monthly Archives: March 2015

Risk Management

When I was about to graduate from college, with that valuable English degree, I went over to the NIU Placement Office to see if anyone was hiring.  There were a couple of companies recruiting on-campus for something called Insurance Underwriter.  I went to the library, read a couple of articles about what an underwriter is and does and then figured, well, even though this sounds pretty lame, I’ll probably get drafted (into the Vietnam War) soon anyway, so why not get one of these jobs that actually pay money (a princely $7000 a year) in the meantime?  The trouble with that thinking was that the year I lost my student deferment, was the first year of the lottery draft, my birth date came up 351 out of 365, so I was pretty much stuck in that job unless I quit.

I did find out during those three years that the thing insurance people do best is drink.  How fortuitous that the closest bar was just across the parking lot, and The Princess and I had an apartment two blocks away.  Tough duty, that daily trek to work, then to the bar and back home again, only to do it again, and again, and again.  Sounds a a bit like the movie, Groundhog Day.

I could’ve stayed in underwriting for my entire life, but the drinking, man, that was getting monotonous, and just a bit dangerous.  So after three years I quit, and went back to school for an MBA.  It was a tough period of detox, those grad school years.  I have no recollection of it myself, but The Princess alleges that at one party, I was found out in the back yard, on all fours barking at the host’s dog…I guess you could say, “howling at the moon.”  After two years and with my MBA in hand, I was once again fishing around for a job.

This time I got a call to come for an interview at a fancy pharmaceutical company for a job in a department called Risk Management.  Once again I read a couple of articles, found the description of the work not too distasteful, took the job and found after just a short time that working in Risk Management was a lot like working for an insurer, but with one notable exception.  Now someone else paid for the drinks…uh oh.  I remember one day in particular on that first risk management job, I had taken the train into the “loop” for some meetings.  An insurance broker or insurer bought lunch, and of course, drinks.  I know that somehow I made it onto on the train, because when it got to the end of the line, well past my stop, the conductor woke me up to tell me that I had to get off the train.

By now you’re asking yourself, “What’s he telling us all this for?”  Well, the incident I’m about to describe has nothing to do with drinking, but a lot to do with what a hot-shot risk manager I think I am.  For the second month in a row, March contained a “Friday the 13th.”  I thought, you know, this might be a good time to practice what us risk managers call, “risk avoidance.”  I’ll just stay close to home and keep myself busy with stuff around the house, thereby avoiding all of those nasty things that could go wrong.  So I spent most of the day giving the Camry a spring cleaning, including a nice, shiny wax job.  The day came to a quiet close, and I congratulated myself at once again avoiding some horrible triskaidekish fate.(1)

The following Monday I was back to my normal routine.  Twice a week I get up at 5:15 am and arrive at Starbucks just after their doors open at 6:00.  I picked-up a Brucio (a four-shot Grande Americano) as usual and drove on to the site of my volunteering gig.  Everything was going smoothly, and I arrived in the parking lot right on time.  I had some stuff in the backseat that I needed to take into the building, so before I opened the back door I put the Brucio on the roof.  It was as I was leaning into the backseat that I felt something hit me in the head.  The amount of time it takes to realize that your day is about to turn horribly shitty can sometimes be measured in seconds, but in this case it was just a fraction of a second.  What started as just a few drops of hot Brucio on my head and shoulders became an explosion as the the cup hit the door sill, the lid popped off and hot coffee splashed inside and outside the car and of course on me.  Argh!

It was still pitch dark out, so the true extent of the vehicle disaster wasn’t obvious until hours later.  But in the restroom, as I tried to make myself presentable enough to continue with my job, my analysis of the accident (more classic risk management) had already begun.  I quickly came to the conclusion that the event that precipitated my current troubles was Friday the 13th!  If I hadn’t stayed home that day, I wouldn’t have waxed the car.  If I hadn’t waxed the car, the roof of the car would not have been so slippery, and the Brucio would have stayed where it belonged rather than ending up on the Bruci.

But wanting to make some sense of this all, I wondered, is there a lesson here?  I’ve given this a lot of thought.  A good answer might be that sometimes one gets into more trouble hiding from risk than embracing it.  You know, don’t let fear hold you back.  Another lesson could be, and I firmly believe this one, never ever put anything on the roof of your car.  But probably the root cause of all my trouble was, as usual, The Princess.  Why?  It’s really pretty obvious; she didn’t warn me that on Friday the 13th, to wax the car…well its a “slippery slope!”

Thanks for reading.

(1) Triskaidekaphobia:  fear of the number 13.

Snow Pony

Last year GM began running commercials on TV for it’s redesigned Buick line.  I thought, man, that’s the quickest way to kill your new cars, because they’re so ugly.  They all have this gaping big grill in front that looks to me like a chrome mouth.  They ran these commercials where one person would say, “Look at that Buick,” and another would say, “That’s not a Buick, and blah, blah, blah.  The purpose of these commercials was two-fold.  First, they wanted to build-up the recognition factor, “Yup, that’s one of the god awful ugly Buicks.”  And second, by showing the damn thing over and over and over again, they figured that eventually you’d accept the new design as the norm, and not hate it so much anymore.  I have to admit, its kind of working.  When I see them now on the street I know they’re Buicks, and they’re starting to grow on me.

I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon with respect to Janet Yellen, head of the Federal Reserve.  When she first was being considered for the job, I thought, wow, thank god she’s smart.  But now after quite a few months, when I see her photo in the paper, I find myself thinking.  Has she had “work” done?  She’s looking kind of cute!  I’m pretty sure this is how I convinced a woman way better looking than me (The Princess), to marry me.  I just managed to hang in there long enough that she lost her sense of good taste!

As early as February 8,  I saw some of the daffodils blooming as I rode my bike by the old log cabin.  I thought, ahhh, Spring is just around the corner.  Well, it’s been a long time getting around that corner.  A big snow storm (well, big for us) went through here Thursday morning which left about 6 inches of heavy snow behind.  I thought it would be fun to get the Pony out in the snow, so I headed out to Gene’s yesterday.  The Pony hadn’t even been started in over a month, and it had been sitting through some dang cold weather, some nights in single digits.  Heck, it was so cold that Gene’s well pump froze.  But the Pony was up to the task and started on the first touch of the starter button.  For about an hour, I had a good time crunching through the snow and on out on Gene’s roads.  Gene was kind enough to snap a few photos, so here’s a little slideshow:  view here.  By the way, the slideshow looks best when viewed on the “wide screen” option.

Did you notice there was some “white stuff” on my face too?  That’s really helped keep my face warm on some of my cold winter bike (and Pony) rides.  The weather is due to warm up tomorrow, so I’ll take a bike ride out to check on those daffies.  Keep the faith everyone, and thanks for reading.