“Suppose you chomp down on an abscess and shatter your jaw,” says my dad in the cautionary tone of someone who knows about life or has at least been told a lot about it.
“Or suppose you get completely paralysed from the neck down. A proper superman job. How are you going to get home then?”
We are having a conversation about travel insurance. All I have asked for are the names of a few reputable brokers. Instead, my dad has opened my eyes to a seemingly endless score of terrifying “what ifs” that can happen around the globe.
“What if you put your foot down a rabbit hole and trip, cracking your head off a rock?”
I never knew this man had such a cool imagination. He lives in a world of “indemnity policies” and “negative equities” and “shadow cabinets”: things I had always assumed to be mind-picklingly officious. It turns out I might have been wrong. The field of insurance is as entertainingly grisly as a trip to the London Dungeon.
Come to think of it, the shadow cabinet sounds pretty spooky as well. Like something Lord Voldemort might be involved in.
“You hear about these kids,” he says, “who step on a jellyfish in Crete and spend the next forty years in a grubby Greek hospital, wriggling their eyebrows at nurses – once for yes, twice for no.”
After some more blood-curdling tales of potential holiday woe, my dad explains that my policy should include something called “repatriation”. Apparently, it is best to have a sort of escape plan built into your insurance policy: so that the company will charter a flight back to Old Blighty if you end up in a coma or a head in a jar.
“LastMinute.com isn’t much use if you’re in an Iron Lung in Baghdad with organ leggers asking suspicious questions about your teeth”, he warns me sagely.
I’m not going to Baghdad though. I’m going to nice places like Montreal, where there’s a really good socialist health service in place. A nice Canadian hospital is probably a good place to be in such an event. At least I wouldn’t have orange-skinned British nurses sponging me down with MRSA.
“And China? You don’t want to think about what you can catch in China. They invented SARS. And India? That’s where Delhi Belly comes from. And Poland? Whoa, Poland. Try pronouncing allergic to penicillin in that language.”
All this talk of jellyfish and eyebrows is putting me off going anywhere ever again. Who needs beaches and bad wax museums anyway? I might just stay at home.
“Home? Do you have any idea how many accidents happen in your own home? You’re scared of terrorism but you’ll twice as likely suffocate in your own bed.”
That’s it then. I’ll take one middleclass life of living in fear, sustantivo.