Around this time every year, my town hosts a large kids’ soccer tournament that draws families from all over the New York and New Jersey area for two days of games. The event is really impressive, even if it brings so many extra cars–and drivers of questionable talent–into my neighborhood that driving to the end of my block feels less like taking a car ride and more like trying to pilot an X-Wing down the middle of the Death Star trench.
Folks in my neighborhood like to joke about the soccer tournament, but this year, the laughter stopped abruptly late Saturday when a man was found burglarizing one of the cars in the tournament parking lot. The fellow was detained by other folks at the tournament, but in the confusion, the burglar managed to get in his own car. While folks were waiting for the local police to show up, a man stood in front of the burglar’s car so he could not drive off. The burglar drove off anyway, running down the man in front of him while the victim’s horrified wife and kids looked on. (He survived, by the way.)
As my neighbors discussed the event, the question they asked themselves was, what kind of person would run you down just to get away? The answer typically was that to do such a thing, one had to be on drugs, but I do not agree. There are plenty of motivations to do what this burglar did. He could have had previous convictions or had been on parole, and willing to do anything to avoid going back to jail. Or he could have had incriminating evidence of some other crime in the trunk of his car. Or maybe this was the burglar’s first time getting caught for something, and he simply panicked and hit the gas, no longer willing or able to think about consequences. After all, the burglar already broke his covenant with society when he decided to rob his fellow man. The mental distance between thievery and incidental violence is not nearly as great as the rest of us would like to believe.
As I thought about this incident, I remembered that it was almost exactly a year ago that a bad car accident on this same street provided me with the subject for my very first editorial for National Underwriter Life & Health. And in that time, I have covered some amazing things, having come into the life and health world on the heels of sweeping health care reform, on the eve of similarly significant financial services reform, ahead of a pivotal midterm election season, and in the midst of the Great Recession which had put additional pressures on an industry already struggling to cope with record-low individual life numbers, mounting health care costs, relentless regulatory and legislative pressure, an aging distribution system and very little sympathy from the public.
The insurance industry is nothing, if not cyclical, and while many of the life and health world’s more recent problems are unique in nature, they still speak to larger tidal forces that seem to suggest that whatever the problem of the day, we have in some way been here before. Just as this weekend’s hit and run and last year’s head-on collision are two very different kinds of tragedy, for me they both became automotive mayhem that darkened an otherwise enjoyable weekend, and reminded me that life is never as certain as we would like it to be, and the risks we manage are so rarely the risks we must recover from. Perhaps when I dwell upon this a year from now, I will draw different conclusions. I certainly hope so.