We were disappointed. So when daddy said ‘there was more’, we willingly left the shoddy room that was daddy’s place at the company, and went with him, eager to finish it all and get back home.
Daddy had got silent. But then neither did we want to speak much. What was there to say? Daddy wasn’t no big-shot.
Jacko and I followed daddy up a marble staircase, near the field guys’ room. What was left now?
“The units where the people actually come are independently set up through the country… this is just the HQ. Only employees visit here… that’s why I could bring you guys…” Daddy was saying. He wasn’t enthusiastic. He was just completing the tour. We got to the upper floor. Another hall of cubicles greeted us. But these were larger. There were wider alleys between each row, and the one in the center could have contained me, Jacko AND daddy if we stood next to each other.
But we didn’t go inside. Daddy just showed us from the stairs. “The office at the far end is the boss of us all.” The ‘COO’ or something he said.
“The entire row in front of it is just his secretaries. ” Jacko and I counted five cubicles. That meant five secretaries. People were calmer here, I noticed. No one was hurried. No one was shouting. And hardly anyone wore white. PInks and hot purples, and blues! Oh, so many blues! A red scarf, silver somewhere… It hardly looked like an office.
“Some say they made this place just because he wanted to sit somewhere that was ‘office’. All the work gets done downstairs anyway. And it all depends on how much we guys sell, in the end.”
We retraced our steps. And daddy had an idea. “You wait here a minute. I’ll be back.” And off he ran to the miniscule room, and we stood waiting.
Daddy was walking proud again. I couldn’t stop from smiling. Jacko was looking up but that was all. The idea was spectacular. And we shouldn’t have judged daddy already.
Daddy was taking us to a sell. He was taking us to one of the ‘easy’ customers, he said, so we could see him at “the real work”.
“Watch and learn” he had said again.
We were walking with our backs to the sun now, no daddy did not get any angel lining- but I knew better. My daddy was MY daddy. Even in human form.
Daddy rung the bell at a small, dull house… I had never seen that part of town before. The houses were too small. “We call them the Weasies. They’re easy to sell to. The whole damn place is vulnerable!” Daddy laughed and I didn’t understand anything.
I looked at the small house. Daddy had once told me that to maintain an insurance some money had to be paid regularly. I wondered where the owners of that dinghy place would buy the insurance from, let alone pay the premium.
An old woman opened the door. “Ye-es?” she moaned. This was an easy customer?
“Hello Ma’am. I’m from Alpha Insurance. Could I have a few minutes of your time?” Daddy smiled. I stared. When did he ever talk like that?!
“I don’t want no insurance.” The old lady said plainly.
“I don’t intend to sell you any. But I would like to talk to you, Ma’am.”
“Okay, speak.” She folded her arms, and eyes Jacko and me curiously. Not an usual sales-party, I know.
“We have this record back at Alpha Insurance. I understand that you live here with your husband- Bill Getz? And you’re both above seventy? Well, ma’am, I saw those records today. And I must say… I am concerned for your safety.”The woman frowned.
“I have a mother, Ma’am. She’s about your age. I can’t begin to think how lost I’ll leave her if I- die before her. And then I saw your file. The horrors that could be in your life… should your husband…” I looked at Jacko. He was startled too. We had never heard daddy talk about granny before. Not since she had died two years ago.
“Sit down son.” She said.
“I hope you don’t mind my bringing along my kids… they just- didn’t want to stay at home today… it gets pretty alone there…”
The woman was nodding.
“Ma’am, I’ll get to the point. I don’t like to see that people are in danger. That’s why I came here. I don’t want to thrust an insurance policy on you, but I just want to make sure you have the resources for any kind of situation.”
“I understand Bill works at the bank?” She nodded.
“Ma’am, though I hope it doesn’t happen… I wouldn’t trust the bank right now. Things are showing clear signs of a Depression and bank turnouts haven’t been near good for months. They might soon be outsourcing their branches.”
The woman drew in breath quickly. A hand went up to the chest. “My! Bill was saying the bank was getting funny businesses nowadays. They must be renting out!”
I understood nothing, but it was clear that daddy was happy. But if he hadn’t come to sell insurance, why were we here?
“Now, I must suggest some security for your family ma’am. I mean, I look at these figures in the newspaper everyday… so many people jumping off rooftops, the accidents, the helplessness. And what with massive unemployment, and poverty and then the needs… I think you’re very deep in trouble.”
Was she, I thought. I heard food cooking in the kitchen. Her house, though small, was comfortable. Pictures of her kids covered the walls. But then, what did I know? Daddy must be right.
“Yes I am…” I heard her whisper, her eyes glazed and staring…
Daddy shifted suddenly.
“There’s another reason I came to you today, Ma’am… Every time I think about it, it saddens me so much. I used to work at a store once. It wasn’t a big job, but we were happy. My wife would take of the kids and every evening I would come to my small flat and sit with my family. But then the stores closed downand suddenly we were poor. And then, my wife.. my wife, died of asthma. I couldn’t do anything. I just… I wished I had a policy or something because then it would have been so easy for her to be alive…”
The woman was crying. Jacko’s eyes was wide. Daddy had another wife? We had step-siblings?!
The woman grabbed me in a hug suddenly. “Oh the poor dears! How bad!” She wailed.
Wait, my mommy’s not dead. It’s his first wife…. but I couldn’t say anything.
“Son, I think I want to buy some insurance now.”
Daddy had crossed the street when Jacko and I realised it was over and ran out after him. We wanted explanation.
“Daddy, mommy isn’t dead!” I whispered, as if revealing a secret he didn’t know.
“And granny is!” joined Jacko.
“What? Of course… Oh, I was just selling it to her.”
“You lied?” I was shocked.
“Is mommy dead, Jenny? No. Then yes, I lied. I got to do it. It’s how you play it.”
“So the company lies?” I asked, not wanting to discuss mommy’s death anymore.
“Insurance is a lie! It’s a gamble. Why will anyone buy it if they think they are safe and comfortable?!”
“So you fool people for your business?” Jacko asked, disgusted.
“Hey. What are you guys angry about? If the folks are stupid enough to listen to some sob story and be influenced, I’m gonna do my business!” Daddy laughed.
“Does everyone do that, at the company?” I asked meekly.
“No… that’s just my style. And it’s different with those up-street houses. There you got to talk all about money and management and more money. Half the Life insurance sells because the family will get more money after the father’s death…”
That was all we had to say. Daddy was… clever. But somehow, I didn’t like insurance much. And I don’t think Jacko did too.