GAG ME WITH A TONGUE DEPRESSOR

This is Denise Walsh:

She recently joined Ashton Tiffany as a clinical nurse consultant. She knows medical care. She’s at ease with claims and data analytics. She can sing like a wood thrush. She’s never lost a staring match with a cat. All in all, it’s an impressive set of skills.

But let’s back up a bit. Some years ago, Denise was attending one of those  awkward freshman dances: Boys on one side, girls on the other. After many uncomfortable minutes of whispering and giggling, a young man mustered the courage to breach the gender divide. Making his way across the floor, he appeared to be walking straight toward Denise. Her heart began to beat just a little faster. She looked to her left…then to her right…then across the floor again. Yes, it was Denise he was headed for, and no one else. As he approached, he swallowed hard, looked down at his shoes, looked up again, and then asked hopefully: “Do you want to dance?” But Denise was too shy to leave the comfort of her friends. Politely, she said, “No, thank you.” Her would-be dance partner responded, “Yeah, me either. I was just taking a poll.”

That young man’s name was George Gallup III.

As you probably guessed, none of this is true. Children of the 80s, however, may recognize it as a re-envisioning of a scene from “Valley Girl.” Back then, Nicolas Cage looked like this:

Now he looks like this:

So he’s holding up well.

Anyway, turns out “Valley Girl” is one of Denise’s favorite movies. Why does that matter? Because it makes her exactly the kind of person we like to hire: copiously degreed, exceptional at her work, well rounded in her personal life…and all without a hint of snobbishness.

Welcome, Denise. Now crush that fly.

AZCENTRAL’S TOP COMPANIES: ONE FOR THE (OTHER) THUMB

Do we have any competitive runners out there? Marathoners? 10Kers? 5Kers? (God bless you, fun-runners, but you and your dog are going to have to sit this one out.)

If you’re a “yes” and you’re a bit older, you’ll understand what follows. When you hit 40, you are dominating. That’s because you’re in the 40 to 49 age bracket. You’re competing against runners up to nine years older. They’re ancient compared to you! It wasn’t that long ago you were still trying out different careers, marriages, etc. You can dispatch runners in their mid-to-late 40s like a housefly on your hot dog.

Yeah, 40 is pretty great.

You know what’s not so great? Years ending in nine: 39, 49, 59, 69, etc. When there’s a nine at the end of your age, you’re competing against younger runners, many of whom can still get out of a chair without wincing. You do not like these people. At all.

Everybody get the premise? Great: Now flip it on its head, and transfer it over to the AZCentral program, Top Companies to Work for in Arizona.

Eh?

Let us explain:

This year, Ashton Tiffany was named a Top Company under the aforementioned program for the sixth year running. We’d be very excited about that under any circumstances. This year, though, for the first time, we were in the 100-999 employees category. Do you know what it’s like being a 100-person company competing against a 999-person company? It’s not easy, brother.

We say, “We bring in someone to give chair massages once a quarter.” They say, “We have a masseur and masseuse on staff. Icelanders. Their androgynous beauty is haunting…yet somehow unthreatening.”

We say, “We have an incredibly generous 401(k) match.” They say, “We purchase a Bahamian retirement villa for anyone who works here more than a week.”

We say, “On your 10-year work anniversary with us, the owners take you on a private trip. Mexico, Germany, wine country…these are all past destinations.” They say, “On your 10-year work anniversary with us, the owners give you the company.”

So, you see what we’re up against. Still, through determination, a can-do attitude, and getting our stuff in on time, we earned a place among the big boys and girls in this category.

We’re proud to be here and grateful for the honor. And yes, we plan to hang around until we’re 999, (graciously) sharing the medal stand with 100.

JAKE WILSON: HIS LIFE IS BETTER THAN YOURS

During all of this pandemic stuff, you think claims are following stay-at-home orders? Not a chance. They’re out raising hell, as always. But don’t worry; Jake Wilson’s on the job.

For the few of you who don’t know his face, here he is:

Jake handles his work a little differently. He’s got a commercial pilot’s license, so he can survey pending claims activity from the air. When the proverbial tea kettle’s about to whistle, he radios the claims Rapid Response Team (RRT) from up in the big blue. (RRT uses cell phones, of course, so they never get his warnings. Still, it’s cool to see.)

Jake may own the skies, but claims are wily. Beat them in the air, and they’ll just take to the ground. With Jake, though, they’re out of luck—he knows Brazilian jiujitsu. Sure, they can try escaping to the water, but Jake’s a scuba diver. Quicksand and outer space are about their only remaining refuge. If it comes to that, though, a rogue claim will usually go looking for a softer foe.

When the day’s done (long after sundown), Jake likes to relax at his favorite hideaway with a handful of Cajun crickets, a smoky-soft Lagavulin 16, a filet mignon with bleu cheese crown, and a Gurkha Black Dragon. For dessert all he needs is the memory of another amazing day taming claims.

Finally, when it’s time to head home, Jake pays his regards to staff and the chef and leaves without a fuss. Still, every eye in the room is on him. Should he nod in your direction as he makes his way to the door, cherish it—that’s Jake Frickin’ Wilson we’re talking about.

Oh and did we mention? He works for Ashton Tiffany now.

COMEBACK? WE NEVER WENT AWAY

Okay, technically that’s not true–we actually did go away for a while. We’re risk managers after all. Prudent risk management dictated that we work from home during the spring months.

Our offices have now reopened, however, and we’re mixing on-site and remote work (following all of the recommended protocols, and then some…our highest priority is keeping everyone healthy).

We hope, and believe, that amidst all the chaos, we’ve maintained uninterrupted, mutually supportive relationships with our employees, customers, business partners, and everyone else that’s part of Ashton Tiffany. In fact, we think those relationships are better than ever.

We also believe that along with health and safety, staying grounded in normalcy is very important. For us that means hard work, optimism, a sense of humor, and a refusal to get beaten down by everything happening out in the world.

We just wanted to let you know we’re here, doing what we do…doing what we’ve always done. Nothing’s going to disrupt that.

Stay safe and healthy, and enjoy your holiday weekend.

HUNKER UP, YOU TWO

Today we’ll start with three questions, moving from easy to medium to hard.

First: Are you familiar with Yuengling?

It’s America’s oldest brewery, located in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. The beer is pedestrian, but drinking something with a nearly 200-year heritage is a kick.

Pro tip: If you really want a boozy, historical thrill, drink a Yuengling in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the U.S.

Next: If we said “youngling,” would you get that reference?

That’s a stupid word invented by George Lucas to describe junior Jedis. Ewan McGregor deserved an Oscar in Episode III for saying “younglings” without grimacing.

Finally, ever heard of Yingling?

This is a Yingling:

More specifically, it’s Stephanie Yingling, who’s helping our employee benefits pool, Kairos, reinvent health care, one Highlights magazine at a time.

Stephanie’s bio is full of surprises. We’ll pick a few at random and make arch remarks. (You know the drill.)

When asked for a fun fact about herself, Stephanie said, “I married my fifth grade boyfriend.” Seems a little young to be making that kind of commitment, but we’re sure it was a beautiful ceremony.

In a woman-bites-dog story, Stephanie says she’s eaten shark and liked it. Better watch your six, stingrays.

Stephanie’s favorite musician is Pink, and her dream vacation is to Italy. Okay, so the Italy trip will have to remain the stuff of dreams for now. Pink, on the other hand, is fully recovered from COVID-19. (Pink and her son Lavender were both diagnosed with the virus in March but are all better now.)

Finally, Stephanie loves her some Shawshank Redemption. She doesn’t need any encouragement from us to get busy living, so we’ll just say welcome, we’re glad you’re here. Oh, and have you met Sherri?

That’s Sherri McLaughlin.

Before we tell you more about Sherri, please note the slapdash staging and framing of the photo, which actively destroy the illusion of Sherri being physically on the beach. At least you know we spend our money managing risk, not on photographic trickery.

Okay, so more about Sherri: Like Stephanie, Sherri is helping Kairos do what it does, one icy stethoscope at a time.

Sherri’s favorite food is German Chocolate Cake, which is a pity, because that’s the Hawaiian pizza of desserts (coconut is the issue here; fiberglass shavings belong on the factory floor, not in food). To be fair, the signature dish of Sherry’s people—the Irish—is pub crisps.

Sherri’s favorite band is Shinedown. They’re from Jacksonville, so yeah, they’ve got a lead jug-blower. But let’s reserve judgment.

Being curious about the name “Shinedown,” we looked up its etymology and found this: “The name Shinedown was inspired by an innocuous comment: Glancing at a painting in then-bassist [Brad] Stewart’s house, [Brent] Smith mentioned that it might look better if it had a light shining down on it.”

Behind the music indeed.

Sherri tells us she’s never left the country. Well, gosh darn it, that’s not going to change anytime soon. But that just means we get more time with her, which makes us happy. Plus, when the storm clouds part and Sherri gets her passport stamped, the journey will be all the sweeter.

Stephanie, Sherri: Thanks for putting your faith in us during these crazy times. So, quarantinis tonight?

HUNKERED DOWN, BUT STILL HARD AT WORK

As the COVID-19 situation progresses, we’ve decamped to work from home for a while. While the health and well-being of our employees and their families is of primary importance to us, we’re doing everything we can to continue providing the highest level of service for our customers and partners, and therefore are taking a proactive approach to maintain business operations and to ensure no interruption in service. In the meantime, make sure you’re following CDC guidelines and doing everything you can to stay healthy. We’ll get through this together.

it’s march, but this isn’t our final four

We’ve got four new employees loaded up in the confetti cannon, ready to rain down goodness all over you.

Our first man is Adam. (Stephenson.)

A free-thinker who’s not afraid to court controversy, Adam says his favorite food is chicken. Edgy. But don’t put him in a box: He’s got an MBA, a love of the sweet science, and a passion for video games. Adam tells us he’s not as serious as he seems, which we’ve learned is far better than being more serious than you seem. (With those people, you end up doing a lot of this: “Sorry about filling your donut with mayonnaise. We thought you’d find it funny.”)

Next, Lauren Scardello.

When Lauren interviewed for her member services position, we asked her how much experience she had doing this kind of work. She said, “None! And I’m ready to put that experience to work for you.” Attitude goes a long way around here, so we hired her.

Lauren has eaten eel. Good for her. Eels are the focus of evil in the modern world. (Take all the bad stuff about snakes, then drop that into a medium in which humans are essentially helpless.)

Her favorite movie is Almost Famous. Her favorite band is Vampire Weekend. Her favorite book is Little Women. Her favorite food is Pumpkin Cheesecake. This format may seem constraining, but it still allows for many good choices, as you can see.

Finally, Lauren was a theater kid, and we found this fun little head shot of her from that era.

Next is Michael Ryan:

He’s more Irish than St. Patrick drinking Bushmills on the Titanic. He holds the distinction of being the first native Phildelphian not to be off-putting. Michael’s favorite food is red hot chili peppers, and his favorite band is Salmon. (Fact-checkers, please give that one a second look.)

In his new role in Ops, his Hydroflask is always strapped to his belt, he’s PPE’d from head to toe, and he carries a clipboard that quietly conveys authority. But he’s still so approachable! Just like you and me.

Finally, and winning my vote for the coolest name in Ashton Tiffany history, is Mackenzie Fugatt.

Like Lauren, she also showed up a little green, telling our recruiters, “I’m eggs, diced ham, and onion. Let’s make an omelet.” And darn it if we didn’t grab a bowl and a wire whip.

Mackenzie knows CPR and first aid, which is cool, even though we’re an OSHA model workplace. But boy, back in the day: fingers severed by dollar-store paper cutters, tongues caught in the whirling mixer blades of Cookie Tuesday, interns succumbing to ditto machine fumes, etc. Risk management was the wild west back then.

Mackenzie’s favorite leisure activity—and we’re quoting here—is “baking or watching horror movies.” Okay, then, ours is “origami or chainsaw sculpting.”

Mackenzie says her favorite movie is IT. (You hear that, Wes? You and the Nerd Herd are gaining some traction in popular culture.)

Finally, she says her favorite inspiring quote is anything from The Lorax. Yes, it’s a gold mine, and we unearthed this nugget:

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. The trees are consumed by an angry disease. If we’re not careful, they’ll puncture our lungs. They’ll cut off our noses and rip out our tongues. They’ll gorge on our innards ‘til the last of us dies, then chew on our skin like a cloud of black flies. They’ll kill all our kinsmen and ravage the land, and grind our dry bones into piles of white sand.*

Inspirational words, indeed.

Welcome, you four.

*Not actual words from The Lorax.

The (Iron) Butterfly Effect

Have you ever been a fan of a band that lost an original member? Then another? Then another? And pretty soon there were no original members left? Was it even the same band anymore? Were you even a fan at that point?

Given what just happened at Ashton Tiffany, we’re going to break the fourth wall and answer those rhetorical questions with a non-rhetorical “Hell yes.” Why? Because we onboarded four new employees last week. That’s enough fresh blood to make a Tarantino film.

We’ll introduce you to everyone in a moment. Before we do, though, a disclaimer: When you’re one of four, you don’t get the full bio treatment. There just aren’t enough microtargeted jokes and self-congratulatory references to go around.

(No complaints, please. You could have staggered your starts. You chose not to.)

First up is Klaudia Gyder, whose Ancestry.com test tube was returned with spit intact and a full refund, because come on, Klaudia Gyder. She says her favorite movie is “The Devil Wears Prada and Mulan.” Mine is, “Some Like it Hot and Tangled.” (And she had the audacity to tell me, “People say you use too many commas.”) Klaudia does business development for us, and lots of it.

Then there’s Isaac Cisneros, loss control consultant. He told us he’s got a half-year’s professional experience. We said, “You don’t want to round that up to one?” He said, “When it actually is one, I will say one.” We liked the precision and honesty of that response. He also said, “I love Dachshunds with a passion.” That wouldn’t have surprised us coming from a Klaudia Gyder‒type, but it did surprise us a bit from Isaac. Okay, so he’s into short legs and long bodies. Everyone has their thing.

Ashley Perkins is a new member services coordinator, and is the granddaughter of Anthony Perkins.* Her favorite food is “my mom’s homemade cherry pie.”(You see that, Mom? You can’t call it “yours” if you get it at IHOP.) Ashley likes Justin Timberlake, but we’ll forgive her because she also digs hoops and New Zealand. Speaking of which, she and Jay-Vay might just be soul mates. (Scroll down. You’ll see what we’re talking about.) She believes in dreaming big…but she came to work for us anyway. For that, we offer a stately bow.

Finally, there’s Jacob Johnson. He could trade on the whole Jake Johnson thing, but he doesn’t. Why? He’s his own man. You want proof? His favorite band—Dan and Shay—sounds like a couple of college buddies you’re meeting for drinks. What else? Normally when we ask people their favorite food, they give us a cuisine, e.g., Italian. Sometimes they’ll give us a specific food item under the broad umbrella of that cuisine, e.g., lasagna. But Jacob skipped the forest and went straight for a leaf: “In-N-Out Double Double.” That attention to detail will come in handy in his new job in Claims, and in providing a buttery soft transition to the antepenultimate paragraph in this post.**

Welcome, one and all. Now let’s do a hiring freeze and give this tired newsfeed some R&R.

*Not true. But falsely claiming we had a Hemingway on staff got us some notice, so we went back to that well.

**Some people use the word “penultimate” as if it simply meant “ultimate.” They are among history’s greatest monsters. “Penultimate” means “the one before the last one.” (And “antepenultimate” means the one before that.)

THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE

Imagine Ashton Tiffany were producing its own independent film. The female lead would be a young woman from the streets of Chicago. She’d like pizza, dancing, basketball, FASB conferences—the normal stuff.

You’d need the right name for a character like that.

Roxie Hart? Fiona Ryan? Jessie Vega? Denise Swerski?

Wait a minute, go back. What was the third one? Jessie Vega. Jes-sie Vay-ga. Jay-Vay. Jessie Vega… (nodding slowly).

Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? We thought so, too, which is why we hired Jessie as the newest member of our august accounting group. Jessie can stare at a screen full of numbers for hours on end, finding otherwise hidden patterns. It’s impressive to see.

Sometimes, though, just for fun, we’ll bring in a random little brother to try to break her concentration: “Eighteen… four-and-a-half… eleventy-hundred… February… negative banana point six… Capricorn… infinity times ten… Albuquerque… Does this bug you? Am I bugging you?”

As good as she is with numbers, Jessie somehow managed to botch this question: “What’s one thing you can’t live without?” Her answer: “Family and friends.”* That’s two things. (HR, please make a note for her file.)

Jessie’s been to Africa, she’s been to Iceland, and she longs to go to New Zealand. Not just yet, though. There’s an epic holiday party to attend in a matter of weeks, where there will be a nice Sauvignon Blanc—one with a chaste kiss of kiwifruit and the faintest echo of Manuka honey.

Welcome, Jay-Vay. The adventure you seek is right here.

*Post-script joke: Once on an Ashton Tiffany corporate retreat, a van driver taking us to the airport asked, “So, are you guys friends?” Answer: “No. We work together.”

THEY CAME FROM DIFFERENT WORLDS

It’s easy to forget that Ashton Tiffany, which began its operations in a pillow fort, is now a global behemoth. Don’t believe me? Our two new employees, Jamie Kidd and Karen Crosby, are living proof. They’re redolent of the international.

Let’s start with Jamie:

Jamie was born in the megalopolis of El Paso/Juarez. Two big cities. Two big countries. And the overhead shot is truly impressive:

(To give you a sense of scale, each inch on that photo represents three thousand miles.)

Jamie’s favorite food could be something all-American like Pop Rocks, but it’s not. It’s Italian. (There’s no disputing that bongo is the best thing you will ever put in your mouth. Better than Hamlet’s soliloquy. Anything else is crazy-talk.)

Her dream vacation? Paris. Farthest place she’s traveled? Canada. Childhood aspiration? To be an interpreter at the United Nations.

Jamie doesn’t like to run up the score, so we’ll have her lateral over to Karen. This is Karen:

Karen’s bio touches Mexico (favorite food), Scotland (favorite movie = Braveheart), England (favorite band = Rolling Stones), Ireland (dream vacation), and Norway (favorite constitutional monarchy).

Karen may be a citizen of the world, but there’s one thing about her that’s as American as bald eagles, UFO sightings, and rampant obesity: She’s been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan since 1978.

To you, Jamie and Karen, we say willkommen, bienvenido, kíimak ‘oolal, and hey what’s up? Though the globe is your playground, we hope you always come back home to us.