Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: "It's Just Too Depressing!"

A friend had given me the name of her contractor. I called him.

“Your insurance company is going to try to screw you! Talk it up! Tell them it’s wicked up the walls. It’s wicked to the ceiling. There’s toxic mold! You’ve got to gut everything! Don’t sign anything!”

I thanked him.

That afternoon, the insurance adjuster arrived. (His last name was “Curry”. Our other adjuster’s was “Coffee”. Strange forces at work.) He was a fair, pudgy man with a deep southern accent, polite manners, and exhausted eyes. He’d been living in his car for weeks, he explained, traveling from claim to claim. I found him remarkably genial for a man living in a mid-size sedan, receiving daily earfuls from distraught claimants.

He measured, noted, and tabulated. He talked about depreciation models and replacement values and rates per square foot and lots of other things that made my head hurt. I watched him carefully. I saw—as best as I could determine—no overt attempt to screw me. He went on his way.


The contractor arrived. He was obviously, in normal times, a groomed, put-together man. Now, though superficially kempt, he had a wildness about him, an air of mania and an unhinged look in his eyes.

“You’ve gotta get this thing gutted! You don’t want to wait. The mold’s just going to get worse!”

“Okay.”

“I’ll get you an estimate, but I gotta get my own shit together first. I’m going through the same thing, man. I just got back—just saw my office for the first time this morning. There’s black mold everywhere. I was going through it, and I thought, ‘I gotta get out of here before I die, man!’”

Amidst speculative prices per square foot and recommended sources of temporary power supply, he lamented the state of the city. I commiserated, “I know it won’t be exactly the same.”

“No, it’s going to be better!” he nearly shouted. “We’ve got to tell ourselves that. Otherwise it’s just too depressing!”

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