For instance, your insurer might replace your windshield -- no questions asked -- if you strike a passing bird in mid-flight. But then, when you get to the "nuclear hazard exclusion", you realize that if your local power plant melts down and reduces your car to a pile of molten slag, they'll disclaim all responsibility.
The solution: in the event your car becomes a steaming heap of scrap, find a dead bird and toss it onto the hood. Your insurer will have a hard time denying responsibility after you tell them that one bird did all that damage.
The doorknob clattered, snagging his attention. Two men stepped into the office. One rounded the desk and sat down. The other shut the office blinds and stood beside the door, arms crossed.
The man at the desk paged through the binder on his lap. "Guernsey?"
"Yes," said Robert. "Robert Guernsey."
The man didn't look up. "What happened?"
Robert's mouth went dry. The man at the door shifted and his suit gave the tiniest rustle.
"A deer jumped into the roadway," Robert said. "It jumped right in front of me -- there was nowhere I could go." His shoulders slumped. "It was awful."
The man at the desk nodded at appropriate intervals but gave nothing but the occasional "M-hm" in response.
The office was silent.
"I, uh," Robert ventured, figuring he needed to justify himself further. "I called loss control from the scene. I've already filled out the police paperwork and..."
"What could you have done differently?" the man interrupted.
Robert stammered. "I... I beg your pardon?"
The man sighed at having to explain the obvious. "All accidents are avoidable. How could you have avoided this loss event?"
Robert thought on that some. He'd never been in a car accident involving wildlife, and it hadn't occurred to him that something like this could have been avoided. Besides, it had all happened so fast.
"I don't know," Robert said at last.
The man standing by the doorway leaned into Robert's ear. "What do you mean you don't know?" he accused.
"I don't know!"
"Guernsey," the man at the desk said, "please address your responses to me. Now, answer my question: what could you have done differently to prevent this loss?"
"I already told you, I don't know."
The man at the desk and the one by the door exchanged glances. "M-hm."
Robert shifted to rise out of his chair. "Look, I really need to be getting back to work, so..."
"We're not done yet," said the man at the door, putting out a hand to shove Robert back into his seat.
"Address me only, Guernsey," said the man at the desk.
Robert glanced at the man at the desk, then the man at the door and back again. A fine sweat broke on his brow.
The man at the desk shuffled through papers in his binder. "Could you have taken a different route that day?"
"I've been taking the same route to work since I started working here."
"Answer the question!" the man at the door shouted in Robert's ear.
"I... maybe, I guess," Robert said. "But the state turnpike is fifty miles west. It'll double my commute time."
"And did you know that deer lived in the woods along your route to work?" asked the man at the desk.
"Well, yeah, sure, but..."
"Then why didn't you affix an avoidance whistle to your company vehicle?"
"A... a what?"
"An avoidance whistle." The man reached into the desk drawer and removed a plastic tube. "You attach this to your car and as you travel at speed, and it produces a high-pitched thrumming sound to warn animals of your approach."
"I didn't know such things existed."
Again the corporate men exchanged glances. "M-hm. You are aware that irresponsible use of corporate assets is conduct for which you may be terminated."
"I don't understand," said Robert. "There was nothing I could do..."
The man at the door wheeled around Robert and got in his face. "You drove in an area you knew was populated by deer. You failed to use a safer route. You failed to use an avoidance whistle."
"It was an accident!" Robert shouted over him.
"Guernsey." It was the man at the desk who spoke. With the other man standing between them, Robert could not see him, nor could he see Robert. "This is your final warning. Address me only."
The man went back to his post by the door. The other man, the one at the desk, leveled a cold stare on Robert. "I will prepare a company loss report. A copy will be placed in your employee file, along with the list of preventative measures you have agreed to undertake so this doesn't happen in the future."
Robert felt it was safest to nod in response, despite that he was fairly sure he hadn't agreed to anything.
That evening, Robert's replacement vehicle was waiting for him in the company garage, fitted with a brand-new pair of avoidance whistles, one to each fender. They stood out in garish red against the unassuming gray paint of his corporate sedan. The constant drone the whistles made permeated the passenger cabin, and no genre or loudness of music could blot it out. By a week's time, no one wanted to carpool with him, and he had to take on the whole of the fuel expense himself. The gas bill mushroomed with all the extra driving he did, taking the long way to work via the state turnpike and idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours. His commute stretched to three hours daily. All that lost time forced him to stay late each evening and come in on weekends to meet deadlines. Lack of sleep made it hard to focus at work, saying nothing of the persistent migraines his pair of avoidance whistles triggered in him. His job performance took a tumble, as was evidenced on his quarterly reports.
When finally they found him sprawled on his couch, a handle of whiskey by his head and sleeping pills strewn across the floor, it came as a shock to his co-workers. Still more puzzling was what the police had found in his kitchen sink -- a hacksaw and a pair of avoidance whistles cut into tiny bits.