Every day that issues entails a certain amount of the routine, the mundane. For the Insurance Industry, this is something of an understatement. A matter that is known to him. He cannot say that from day one anything else was ever understood to be the case, by him. He knows it and he has always known it.


You figure out the commission, the account, the percentage, the duration, the likelihood of compliant payments, you get the whatever per. And the whatever per was what John got. Overhead came out of that. Considerable overhead. From that, portions were then removed further. The whatever per stood in constant danger of becoming quite small.

The whatever per was what got taken home, what his family lived upon. Of course, it disappeared entirely there.

But that was not the point at this moment. He was merely considering the whatever per before it left the office here. And the necessity to protect it from the multitudes of actual and possible assaults.

There is a relationship here. Between the aforenoted litany of mundanities and the whatever per. Take for instance. Companies, agencies, customers. The first two, you have to work together. The pipeline goes back and forth. So, you have to get along. There's a company you represent, say it's not the only company you go to bat for, but it might as well be. You're their guy in town.

Well, in this town, which is not a large town, but still a small city actually, you can't exactly be their one guy in town. There's other guys. You know them, they know you. You can't cover all the bases, there's just too many. There's even territories. Not like absolute, you can cross their line, they can cross yours. A little, maybe. Watch those toes.

It pays to get along with those other guys. You go on vacation, you don't have to take a call for a claim. The other guy can locate the adjustor for your customer. He can fill in. It's understood he's filling in. You do the same when it's his turn. Professional courtesy protects the whatever per.

But. You don't have to like the guy. He might have been in your high school and you hated each other's guts then. Maybe there was an incident involving your sister. No rule at the company says you have to do anything more than shake the guy's hand and grin like a complete idiot at company functions.

However. The mundanities. The paper trail. Some things you have to do for the company, even an independent guy like you, spreading the info around, certain statistics are required to be shared; Protocol, it's called by the company.

And it's meaningless actually. You pass on certain territorial acquisitions and daily data to the other guy, a formality, he doesn't read it. Only protects you, if he oversteps you can point to the paper trail and say hey whoa bud that's mine. But what happens is this: he doesn't read it. If he oversteps, you don't know it, because you don't read the paper trail he has to send you per protocol. What happens further, if one of you oversteps and you both know it, there's a phone call, the overstep is brought up in a very friendly manner,and then Ooops! Sorry there, old pal! Grins and over-the-phone-handshakes and everything is restored, taken care of. You don't read each other's mandatory paper trail.

What else is protocol for?

But you have to do it. You have to print the extra copy, print the envelope, use the secretary, find the stamp or use the meter. Because you're a company guy.

Those things--they push into overhead. This is what kills John. They diminish the whatever per. However small the diminishment. A useless paper trail required by company guys who make more than him any day and don't have to give one shit for the overhead like agents do. Even agents who are more accurately described as agent/company guys.

Like John.

Sitting in the empty waiting area staring at the envelope propped up on the secretary's desk with a brand new stamp still there because she didn't get through with the other paperwork, essential paperwork she reminds him, before the mailman came through for his quick drop-off-pick-up. And it's four-twenty now. And the protocol says it has to go out every day. Every day that comes along.

The post office. It's only four blocks away. He even thinks that's the exact way she goes to get home. He mentions.

"Me? No. No. Uh-uh. Ever time I'm out that door I'm on my own time."

Today. Protocol. He decides to just do it himself. On his own time. And out of his way, he doesn't hesitate to add aloud.

The post office is fairly new but small. Typical move for this part of town. He goes inside, doesn't want to do the parking-lot-drop-off for reasons unknown to even himself. As he pulls the envelope out he glances at the address.

A mistake. The secretary seems to have typed their own agency's box number. He stares at the six-digit number. No. It' not exactly the same. There is a one digit difference. And a one increment difference in that digit.

And another thing. Per protocol. The having to have a PO Box. When every single day you have an on-foot mailman come through the office per your street address. Protocol believes that a box can be up to half a day faster than having a significant missive walked to your door. Uh-huh. Funny thing, they didn't send commission checks to the box, but the address. You go figure the half-day's interest on that.

Before dropping the envelope in the LOCAL ONLY slot he checks the box. Trash, the usual, nothing more. He goes to the dump can, heads to mail the envelope. Then, randomly. he again notes the address on the envelope withe the one digit difference. The other guy's box is incidentally right next to his.

One box over.

It cost a significant fraction of a dollar to move the envelope to a box right next to his own. Overhead again. Did the secretary get less take home because of that? No. Who did? Guess.

And they want to jack that fraction up. Again.

No way in hell could it cost the Federal Government a signifiant fraction of a dollar to pick up an envelope and walk it to a box less than an inch from his own. Did it cost that much for that said envelope to reach the company in Hartford Connecticut? No, it took a hell of a lot more.

If he stood there with that said envelope and the other guy came up to get his mail at exactly the same time he could just hand it over. Like that. No loss of even a fraction.

Night. He was sleepless. Getting around this was a matter of finding a simple solution. There was beauty to be found in simplicity. When it didn't keep him awake trying to find it.

Canceled stamps. He could put a canceled stamp on an envelope with that box number and drop it into the mis-boxed mail--and the other guy would receive it as simply having been put in the wrong box, now rightfully delivered. Nice. It would work. But not elegant. Having to find canceled stamps, get them off the paper, making them sticky again. Besides, some zealous and otherwise-shotgun-wielding-maniac employee would catch on after a few times probably. Better to just put a new address label over a cancelled envelope, not messing around with the cancellation marks. Even better, address his own box, put the other guy's as the return, and leave the stamp off. A blank space where it should be. Like it was just inadvertently left off. So it would just be politely returned for lack of postage, but instead of returned to him, it would go to the other guy's box. Gratis.

But even.

Too involved. He could drive by the other guy's office, slip it through the door slot. But could he picture that guy doing the same? No way. Beneath him. His own time.

So he experimented. He actually did these things. Scotch-taped it to the metal swing-out door, hand-written wrong box. Boldly leaving the stamp off and tucking the corner of the envelope into the crack above the door so it dangled down. Like personal notes stuck on some kids locker at school.

But that was somehow scurrilous, sneaking around the system. He wanted the system to recognize it was wrong, grant him privileges for pointing out it was wrong.

Where he could just walk up and get his mail and simply slide his missive straight into the other guy's box with every right to bypass that idiotic fraction. Which he did, in a manner of speaking. The gap around the hinges to the door was almost wide enough to let an envelope through.

Several instances, several days. Progressively thinner paper for the missive and the envelope. Occasional mystified bystanders watching the process.

Until he went so far as to take a screwdriver surreptitiously to widen that gap, withstanding the subsequent appearance of an impressive suit, quite expensive material. And a quite authentic identification badge.