There’s a reason why business majors don’t like creative writing classes (and vice versa)

Well, this week’s insurance classes were … excruciating.

I felt like I was living through a chapter of David Foster Wallace’s novel about the crushing boredom of working at the Internal Revenue Service.

The classes are required in order to become a licensed insurance agent in the fine state of Illinois. This is the state where the auto-complete in Google for “Illinois is” is “broke” and where the populace routinely elects corrupt politicians. If we forced candidates to endure two days of insurance class, we might weed out some of the more, shall we say, flashy ones.

Somewhere, someone finds insurance exhilarating. And they’re probably the people with the creative minds that came up with GEICO’s gecko, Aflac’s duck and Progressive’s Flo (poor Stephanie Courtney, typecast by a commercial brand and doomed forever to play parts such as “Kevin’s Mom” in “Fred: The Movie”; if only she could have provided the voice for an animated version of herself).

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I found a way to amuse myself in insurance class.

Among methods the instructor used to encourage classroom interaction, he asked each of us write sample quiz questions after we completed each section of material (you can only imagine my sorrow when I heard assignments like “Monica, why don’t you take HO-8 policies”; ah, HO-8, the bane of my existence). Here’s a taste of an early question I composed:

Once a licensed insurance agent has been ordered to cease and desist by the Director of Insurance, how long does the licensee have to wait for a hearing?

A. 2 months

B. 30 days 

C. 10 days 

D. 1 week

The bored writer in me couldn’t deliver such trivia for long. As class progressed, my sample questions incorporated more and more story and humor. By the end of the day, the rest of the class could hardly understand me through all the giggles as I recited my question.

A windstorm passes through a neighborhood knocking down a number of trees. Manny has one tree fall down in his back yard, but it damages nothing. Nick has three trees fall down, blocking his driveway. How much money doe Manny and Nick get for debris removal?

A. Neither get anything. Fallen trees are not covered by homeowner’s policies.

B. Both homeowners get $1,000 each.

C. Manny gets nothing, Nick gets up to $1,000.

D. Manny gets a backache, Nick gets a new chain saw.

For the record, the giggles were mine; I was pretty much laughing by myself. Aspiring insurance agents are a pretty dry audience.

Maybe you had to be there. But be glad you weren’t.

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