Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Schrodinger’s corpse.
For those of you unfamiliar with Schrodinger’s cat, in a vastly oversimplified nutshell, Erwin Schrodinger was a quantum mechanist who proposed a thought experiment in which a hypothetical cat is in a box with a hypothetical vial of poison gas. The vial of gas is either shattered or not, which means the cat is either dead or not. So, until you look inside the box, the cat can be thought of as both dead and alive. It doesn’t have to make any sense, just know that’s what Schrodinger’s cat is – it both is and isn’t at the same time until you prove it one way or another.
All of which is a long introduction to the fact that I had reason to call an insurance company about a gentleman who had passed on to the hereafter and who left multiple beneficiaries. Nevermind the ridiculous phone tree which gave no options for a person like me calling on behalf of a beneficiary. Finally, I had to pretend I was the dead guy just to get to a live person to ask questions to. Then, when she picked up and asked my name, and I turned out to be a 53 year old woman and not an 80 year old man, I had some ‘splainin’ to do.
Once that was straightened out, I asked if she had a death certificate, because I didn’t know if any of the other heirs had provided one. She said, “Not in your particular case.” I had no idea what that meant. Did she mean not for this particular dead gentleman or not for this particular heir? I asked the question a different way, and got the same answer. We went around a few more times, and I got the same response. Finally, I said, “Are you telling me that each individual beneficiary needs to provide a death certificate for the same decedent?”
On the one hand, yay! A direct answer. On the other, boo! A completely absurd answer. Does Mutual of Insanity really think that Mr. Mortality might be dead in the case of one of his children but alive in the case of another? He is both alive and dead at the same time. He is, ladies and gentlemen, Schrodinger’s corpse.
So why is this? Is their software so outdated that they can’t coordinate beneficiaries and it’s easier and cheaper for them to make each beneficiary do the work rather than update the software? Is it economically beneficial for them to make the claim process so cumbersome that only the most sophisticated of beneficiaries can pull it off? Or is it just the cartoon-evil-villain nature of insurance companies?
Don’t know. I’d say I also don’t care, but that would be a lie. I care disproportionately to how this affects my life. I thought about railing at this woman on the other end, but recognized in time that she was not any kind of policy maker, just some poor woman trying to make a buck, probably only ten bucks an hour and reading off a script, so I said thank you for clarifying and hung up the phone.
But seriously, y’all. If you needed proof that humanity is a failed experiment, here it painfully be.
 My all-time favorite depiction of this is in The Incredibles, an incredible (ha ha) movie in its own right, in which Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible, goes to work for an insurance company denying claims after superheroes are outlawed for liability reasons.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.