House fire: The Big Pink Forms
Spread across the kitchen table are twenty large pink forms. One has been torn into shreds (did I do that?). They are called Schedule Of Loss forms, and they have become a torment in my life. Each and every item that was damaged or destroyed in our house fire must be listed on these pages. They are stern, tedious and exacting. If you can't bear to look at them, you don't get your claim. They have nine sections, each of which need to be answered correctly. Leave out an answer and you’ll be penalized. Write down a wrong answer, or one you are unable to prove, and your entire insurance claim could be forfeited. For those of you who can stand to be bored out of your minds, here’s how it’s done:
Sit at a table, and place the form directly in front of you. Recall for a moment that you are devoid of all your personal belongings. Now read the instructions. Which say to “attach any documents you may have such as receipts, invoices, cancelled cheques, credit card slips, appraisals, warranty booklets, operating instructions or photographs, to support ownership possession or value of the items.” Got all those things? Then start.
Column 1: Number (hey, I can do this).
Column 2: A detailed description of the article, including make, model and serial number, size, colour and identifying marks. (The problem is, it's been burned up, so how do I find the serial number? And those towels were yellow, but I don't have a clue who made them).
Column 3: Where Obtained. (Mouats or Fields? In Victoria or at Sears? Or was that the one my sister gave me?)
Column 4: Who Obtained. (This ones easy. I'm usually the one who does the shopping in our family. I'm getting the hang of this now.)
Column 5: Terms of Purchase “cheque, credit or debit card, cash etc.” (I really could use all my papers for this…)
Column 6: Invoice. Indicate Yes or No if the receipt is available. (No, unless it flutters down from the sky. Who keeps receipts for teddy bears, socks or pillowcases?)
Column 7: Date of Purchase/Age (my mum gave it to me last year, but I think she bought it when Peter gave up smoking, which was…)
Column 8: Original Purchase Price (…could I be a winner on “The Price is Right”?)
Column 9: Replacement /Repair estimate (This is possible. I just have to go downtown, hunt around, find the item in a store or ask the salesperson for a quote, write it down in a notebook, and then add 13% tax. I’ll have the estimate – but I won’t have a life)
Repeat this process a thousand times or more. Fill nine boxes for every book, every CD, every toy, every single article of clothing you once owned. Keep calm. You can do this. Don't forget the nailbrush, the pyjamas, and the silk scarf that was your grandmother’s. Print clearly. Write down the plastic bowl and the Limoges teacup. Why did you ever buy all that stuff anyway? Don't forget the toothbrushes, the dishtowels, the lampshades or the telephone. Staring mindlessly into space is just part of the job. Try not to sit there shredding the forms. You weren't doing anything else with this year were you?