Island Life by David Slack

Reading Between The Lines

How devout a Muslim is Michelle Leslie?

How much distortion do you have to apply to a story to come up with a headline that that declares: Ministers First in Queue for Flu Pills?

How stupid would you feel to discover to your great surprise that the other half of the building you tenanted was full of hydroponic equipment and leaf after leaf of fine NZ green?

All valid questions, but not the one that I feel most impelled to answer this morning. The question I left hanging on Friday was: Who is Accident? What kind of man or woman is the person who penned this signature?

Thank you one and all for your answers to that question.

Jessica Reid thinks Accident is "definitely male".

He's professional, smart and in his early to mid twenties. He lives off KFC and Pepsi. He works in IT. He has two good friends who he keeps in regular contact with (they went to school together in Palmy). He owns the Lord of the rings DVD box set and watches it incessantly. He doesn't know many females. He lives in a student flat although with his salary he doesn't need to. At school he was good at Maths and geography.

Laura Roylance also thinks he's male: "men tend to have messier handwriting".

He is relatively literate because there are no spelling mistakes. (The "e" in "Compensation" is not really there but it's eluded to, so it's not a spelling mistake.) And let's face it, NZ is hardly a nation of people who are great at grammar and spelling, so he is of above average intelligence.

He is probably well educated - an Arts grad most likely, because a lot of us end up working for the big G and its departments. Accident is certainly not a Med School grad, because although his writing is messy, it is not messy enough for a medical professional (perhaps this is why he chose an Arts degree?).

He's probably left-handed, judging from the left lean to the writing.

The "e" in "Accident" looks like one of those backwards-3-style Es that were popular in high schools in the 1980s and early 90s, so he's probably in his early to mid 30s.

Accident must be around that age anyway, because he also has a healthy disregard for authority, and sufficient experience to know that he should follow through. Oh, and he also knows that it's not likely anyone will notice or care, so repercussions will be minimal.

Good sense of humour, too.

Daniel Nicholls says my guess is far too romantic.

That is most definitely a man's signature. Scruffy, un-ironed white shirt, loosely tucked in, who has worn the same tie his mum bought him last xmas.

He was having a joke with his mates about signing ACC…and wrote the letter and signed it. After his mates left he meant to redo it probably, but it slipped his mind and he Accidentally sent it….

Span(ner in the works) would like to add into the mix that Accident appears to have studied physics at some point in the past, possibly at school.

I say this because in my experience the practice of physics study does horrible things to anyone's handwriting and I detect a certain attempt to control what would otherwise be quite a ratty signature.

No offence to Mr/Ms Accident intended of course, I suffer from the same affliction.

Going by his first name, writes Duncan,

Accident was not a planned child, with something of a chip on the shoulder through constant reminder of the fact (especially when signing all those letters). The second name suggests that the child had some redeeming features - possibly accounting for his or her generous nature.

Robyn Gallagher casts her keen graphologist's eye over the signature and concludes:

I agree with your impression that the ACC signer is a woman in her early 30s, though she could be a bit younger.

When she went to school, she learned printing, not cursive writing, and as a result, her attempt to join together letters to make a proper, grown-up signature is rather clumsy - look at the join of the 'e' and 'n' in both 'Accident' and 'compensation'. Now, I went to two primary schools - one taught printing, the other cursive writing, so I assume that cursive writing was phased out in the '80s, which probably makes her around my age or younger.

The writer is right-handed, which is apparent from the way the 'o's have been written in a clockwise fashion.

My initial reaction was that it was written by a man due to its messiness (in my experience, men tend to have messier handwriting than women, but not always), but I looked closer and I actually think it's a woman.

It's the 'd' and 'e' in 'Accident' that remind me of the way that the cool girls at my school started writing in the third form. The 'd' has no downstroke and the 'e' is a cross between a capital E and a sigma.

I like to imagine that she was picked to be the signer after several attempts by the marketing department proved to be less than satisfactory (Fiona's signature was too girlie, Brian's was totally illegible, and the handwriting font, well, it looked like a font), so finally Mel, a PA, was asked to write "Accident Compensation Corporation" and it looked warm, friendly and ordinary enough to pass the test, so it was the chosen one.

Llew of Sunnyo manages to find allusionary room in the cast not only for the blogosphere's most controversial provincial redneck but also its least likeable woman.

A signature like that must be reassuring, it implies you have the support of an entire corporation, not just some nobody claims clerk.

I'm guessing that Accident Compensation Corporation has to be a woman. A man, even a callow youth, would sign his own name to wring a little power & respect out of the situation [viz:]

AJ Cheesewax,
Claims Clerk

Even some women:

Cath Yodgers
GM, Claims Division

Whereas my primary take on her is that she's young, somewhere in her very early twenties, shy, unassuming, a follower rather than a leader during work hours, but as in all these situations I'd like to think that she's pretty hot in a coy Jennifer Aniston kind of way, parties hard, but discreetly in the weekends & possibly routinely goes without underwear.

I think this view is evidenced by the jaunty little dotted "i"s, the devil may care "n"s and the slightly mischievous slope of the signature.

The other possibility... is that it is the night shift computer operator, who doesn't have the authority to sign letters, a 300lb bearded & bespectacled geek, probably an immigrant from Canada, who spends his evenings performing system backups & printing out & signing form letters, and his days watching Cartoon Network, smoking dope & surfing the net for pornography. The signature looks like that because at that time of night, he has the shakes.

BTW - Vote for & the (best lifestyle site) here:

This tour de force would have won him a book if he hadn't worked in that shameless self-promotion. I leave it to you to decide how to act, noting only that it is becoming increasingly apparent that he has invested significant personal stock in a successful outcome at the Netguide Awards, and a vote might bring him much more joy than some book about local politics. (As an aside, I can't speak for the others but I suspect that the official PA line is that although we have a two year old trophy on the mantelpiece, another one would be nice, so if you want to keep the sparkling prose coming, you know what to do.)

Because Llew has disqualified himself, I therefore duly declare the winner of Civil War and Other Optimistic Predictions (Slack, Penguin, favourably-reviewed with a couple of priggish exceptions) to be Ed Haszard Morris for this equally entertaining contribution. I generously forsake any copyright interest in the contribution and leave it to him to clean up with the movie rights.

Accident is a person of indeterminate gender in their mid-50s.

During their upbringing in a small King Country town, Accident was subjected to more than the fair share of normal childhood taunts. This may be attributed to their indeterminate gender, or more likely, to their debilitating bad haircut.

Accident managed to overcome the difficulties of childhood in a small town, and grew into a lithe and intelligent young adult. Enrolling at the equally young Waikato University for a B.Soc.Sci. in Human Geography was the logical next step after U.E.

Like many students in the late 60s and early 70s, Accident fell in with the hippie crowd, and consequently fell out of love with higher learning. A succession of manual labouring jobs eventually led to the ownership of a small second-hand bookshop in 1980s Auckland.

This naturally crashed along with the sharemarket, and Accident returned to the family farm a broken person.

Several years and many job applications later, salvation came in the form of a case-worker's job with the ACC. This appealed not only to the pinko socialist tendencies learned in Accident's hippie days, but also to some of the more base traits instilled by Accident's farm upbringing.

With this combination of caring, sharing, and putting the lame out of their misery, Accident soon rose through the ranks to the current position at the head of the little-known Anthropomorphisation section. This business unit is charged with the unenviable task of giving the corporation a more human image, even going so far as to create a signature.

Accident had a wonderful Labour weekend trapping possums, thank you for asking.

Any resemblance to any person living, dead, or employed by the Accident Compensation Corporation is of course purely coincidental etc, and we trust you had a nice weekend with the possums.