Dear Mr Riddell,
We would like to thank you for sending your claim form and supporting documentation into our office for our consideration, and apologise for the delay in our response to you.
We would also like to advise you that we have assessed your claim today; however, in order for us to complete the assessment of your claim, we require the following information from you:
- Written confirmation from travel agent/airline/hotel outlining the amount they reimbursed you for every cancellation cost;
- The first consultation note from GP/doctor related to your sickness condition.
In the meantime if you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The Travel Claims Team
Please forgive me for calling you Melanie. You signed your correspondence to me ‘The Travel Claims Team’, which I think you would agree is a bit cumbersome to use in a conversation. You are probably not named Melanie, and in fact you may be male, or your gender identity could be anywhere on the LGBTIQA spectrum – who’s to know? But I’m a little old-fashioned in the sense of wanting to humanise these sorts of interactions. Otherwise we might as well have your computer talk to my computer, and not engage each other at all. Melanie is a lovely name, and I think most of the Melanies I’ve ever met have had good solid characters softened with a hint of kindness. So I’m not at all trying to be disrespectful in addressing you by that name.
My name is Mike. You can call me by that, rather than the rather formal ‘Mr Riddell’. Let’s pretend, just for the sake of this correspondence, that we are two real human beings, communicating with each other.
Anyway, to get to the point, which you might be despairing of ever arising, I too am recording our tête-à-tête. I don’t use a tape recorder or a computer to do the job. You see, Melanie, I am a writer. And as such, I tend to record things in written words. It may be a trifle idiosyncratic, but that’s my lot in life. You could think of it as a personal impediment if you like.
And to be completely honest with you, it’s not just for my own therapy that I’m doing this. There is a long and complex story regarding our interaction over a travel insurance claim. More of that later – much more, Melanie, than I imagine you are interested in. The nub of the matter is that after needing to cancel our travel plans, which amounted to a spend of almost $13,000, I personally managed to obtain refunds of the majority of that amount. What is left in contention, after your excess is deducted, is probably around $600 in potential claim. But I paid $400 for your WebJet Travel Insurance policy, which is non-refundable. So what is at issue is the sum of approximately $200.
The thing is, Melanie, I estimate I have so far spent 60 hours of my time compiling various pieces of documentation requested by you under the terms of your policy. I’m no mathematician, but I think that works out at $3.33 per hour, which even for a writer is a fairly poor rate of return, even were I to be successful with my claim.
So, here’s my candid admission – I’m setting all this out in words because I think I could probably earn at least $200 by publishing this little reflection in a suitable journal. What do you think? I have the feeling people might be interested to know what lies behind the over-confident security they feel in purchasing travel insurance. So if you can’t find your way to eke out a loss of $200, I might not be in deficit at all. Brilliant. Though not so much from your point of view, I suppose.
Now that we’ve got the preliminaries out of the way, let me begin by telling you my tale. It involves a bit of personal information, which I hope doesn’t unsettle you, but I imagine you are privy to all sorts of medical trivia in your job.
As I’ve got older, I’ve had trouble peeing. I have it on good authority that I’m not the only aging male in this predicament. It seems inevitable, but it’s both embarrassing and annoying. Embarrassing because of the sheer amount of time spent dribbling into the lavatory on each visit, and annoying because it can require 3 to 4 trips to the toilet each night. You’ll understand, Melanie, that I’m not expecting sympathy for this, but just setting the scene.
The cause of this condition in older men is something known as BPH – Benign Prostate Hyperplasia. It could equally be called FBP, which I leave to your imagination to translate. The problem is, you see, that the prostate (a singularly unnecessary organ, in my considered opinion) enlarges in such a way as to obstruct the normal passage of urine from the bladder. Men don’t talk about it much, because they know the response from the GP will be a DRE. You probably don’t want to be eating your morning tea while reading this, but DRE stands for Digital Rectal Examination. And digital means a finger, not an electronic calculator.
As it happens, my GP is an attractive vivacious woman who has become something of a friend. You’ll probably agree that inviting a DRE from a friend is not an attractive proposition. For that reason I rarely discussed my urination trials while consulting my doctor. However, under pressure from family and friends, I finally owned up.
The answering response, predictably, was the snap of a latex glove. It’s difficult to know what one should discuss while undergoing a DRE. I’ve not found the answer in any social etiquette guides. To cut to the chase, my GP was satisfied by the outcome of her investigations that there was no cause for alarm.
But for my comfort and peace of mind, she offered me a referral to the Waikato Hospital as a potential candidate for a TURP. This, dear Melanie, is not something used to clean enamel paint from surfaces, but rather a Trans Urethal Resection of Prostate. It’s quite a mouthful, like ‘The Travel Claims Team’, but what it amounts to essentially is a rebore. I know a bit about rebores, because my brother liked buying old American cars that frequently required one.
This particular rebore (and I do hope you’re not eating) involves the insertion of an instrument called a resectoscope into the urethra through the tip of the penis. Somewhat akin to an electric drill, it trims away bits of the prostate to make a bigger passage for urine to flow through. TMI, I hear you saying, and indeed this image does not bear contemplating.
On January 11 2017, I duly turned up at the Urology Department – only to find it was temporarily closed due to a sewage problem. Ironic. But I was still able to be consulted in another part of the building. A young Registrar attended me, explaining that he hadn’t done much of this sort of work before. He led me through a checklist of questions, while constantly scanning his computer. I’d done a urine flow test that he seemed disappointed in. “You’ll have to do better than that,” he told me. I refrained from stating the obvious – that my lack of flow was the reason I was there. Sadly, he found it necessary to perform yet another DRE. His findings concurred with my GP’s that there were no lesions or lumps, and that everything appeared rosy.
After checking with his superior, he scheduled me for a TRUS, which is apparently a pre-requisite for a TURP. Look, sorry to keep introducing acronyms, but you’ll understand they come with the territory. A TRUS is a Trans Rectal UltraSound biopsy. It’s a fancy name for another unpleasant procedure, which resembles having a stapler shoved up your bum. A needle punches through the wall of your rectum into your prostate, and retrieves small samples of tissue for examination. This happened on 9 March 2017.
The year was well under way, and my wife and I were looking forward to our meticulously planned trip to Canada, leaving at the end of August for six glorious weeks. I will have more to say on this matter – I’m sure you’re eager to hear. My wife was turning 65 on 31 March, and I was busy planning a surprise gathering to mark it, featuring jazz piano. While this is not a fact strictly relevant to my claim Melanie, it’s what human beings wander off on when they’re having a real conversation.
Mike Riddell is a New Zealand novelist, playwright, poet, and screenwriter currently residing in the Waikato. He has a PhD from Otago University on the spirituality of James K Baxter.