I am accident-prone. Even as I write, I carry the scars of my most recent moments of clumsiness: scratched lower legs which I acquired during a morning of chainsawing; a toenail that's deep blue from the trauma of being torn from its pad; and a thigh that bears a wide and, frankly, impressive bruise that I acquired by running with a damaged hamstring.
No surprise, then, that I have a steadily accumulating collection of letters from the Accident Compensation Corporation. I used to be noble and principled and wave away the forms when they pulled them out at the doctor's surgery. No, I really didn't want to make a claim - no, it seemed too trifling a matter, no, I was quite happy to pay the bill myself. But these days it takes more time to dissuade them than it does to answer a couple of questions and let them punch, process and despatch the claim online.
So the other day I got another nice letter from the ACC, and here it is. It's nicely written: helpful, clear, succinct, with just the right tone of approachability and goodwill. But for one small quirk, I can't fault it.
The quirk is this: they conclude with the "signature" of the Accident Compensation Corporation.
I daresay that, legally speaking, this is the correct procedure. If the lecturer covered this in Company Law, I was quite possibly asleep. It's not the legal dimension that interests, me, though, but rather the sense conveyed of a living, breathing, letter-signing entity named Accident Compensation Corporation.
Every signature tells a story, and this one suggests to me a smart, efficient woman in her early thirties. Perhaps a little brisk, certainly very organised and methodical. She works hard all week, and gets everything done before the office drinks on Friday afternoon, but on the weekend, she's more light hearted, and perhaps somewhere within the range prescribed by Patty Loveless:
I ain't the woman in red, I ain't the girl next door
But if somewhere in the middle's what you're lookin' for
I'm that kind of girl
But perhaps I'm reading too much into it.
There's just something so jaunty about the signature, though, that you feel almost compelled to send a nice thank-you note.
Dear Accident, you might write, thanks very much for taking care of that. The leg is already much better thank you, and I expect to be walking again in a few weeks. Hope you had a nice a Labour Weekend. Did you manage to get away up North? We spent a couple of days at Waipu Cove in a house just by the beach. Etc.
That's just my impression, though. I could be miles off. And that's where we get to the audience participation bit. What do you make of the signature? What kind of man, woman or beast is Accident? Best description wins a copy of Civil War and Other Optimistic Predictions. Signed.