A Matter of Policy: I thought I was doing my friend a favor

As told to Chaya Silber

About 20 years ago, I heard through some of our former classmates that Feivy had become a life insurance salesman. With his fresh-off-the-press license, he was making the rounds of our mutual friends, and I knew it was just a matter of time before he got to me. I remember preparing myself for my honest response to his sales pitch; I would tell him that I already had two insurance policies and didn’t need another.

I was sitting at my desk leafing through some invoices when the call came. Feivy asked if he could drop by for a few minutes to talk to me about a “vitally important decision” for my family. I did not feel I could refuse, especially since Feivy was a likeable guy; even though he wasn’t among my closest childhood friends, we had always been on good terms. But I had a stereotypical idea of insurance salesmen in my head; I put them in the same category as used-car salesmen, but I couldn’t think of the word you would use to describe them. I called out to my wife, Esther, who was in the kitchen.

“Esther, what’s that word that describes insurance salesmen and used-car salesmen…you know, the way they give their sales pitch, flattering you and ingratiating themselves.”
“I think you mean ‘unctuous,’” Esther called back over the sound of running water. Funny how I can remember this detail so many years later.
“That’s it,” I called back. I never ceased to marvel at the way Esther, who had been called a walking dictionary as a kid, always helped me find exactly the right word.
I immediately felt sorry for Feivy, having to fill this role in his latest attempt to make a living. The least I could do was hear him out, though I couldn’t help feeling annoyed that his visit on Sunday was an intrusion on our family time.

Esther did not work, caring full time for our two young children, the older of whom had special needs. Chesky, who was very lovable and sweet, had Down syndrome and required hours of therapy every day and numerous doctor’s appointments to deal with his cardiac issues. Ruchele, our toddler, was a strong little personality who realized she wasn’t getting her fair share of Esther’s attention. Despite having waited many years for a child and then having one with special needs, my wife was always positive, focusing on her blessings and never feeling sorry for herself. She was expecting again, and we were delighted.
I was working long hours in my construction supply business and earned a decent income, although not without the usual headaches involved in running one’s own business. Sunday was our family day, the time when I gave my wife and children my undivided attention. I felt more and more resentful about having to deal with Feivy, whose ten minutes would undoubtedly be considerably longer.

Feivy showed up early, his briefcase bulging, expressing gratitude that I had made time for him. He immediately made himself at home in my study, where my wife had already left a carafe of hot coffee and her delicious streusel muffins.

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