Wednesday, January 17, 2007

So sue me (or don't)

I don't get This.

Insurance covers someone's fuck-up? Seriously? And he has the balls to sue because they aren't paying off his stupid mistake quickly enough for his taste? He's damaged a piece of art causing its worth to drop by millions. So he won't make as much of a profit off of it now that he's selling it. Too bad, so sad. He fucked up! Why is he being rewarded? Where has personal responsibility gone?

When I was young and working in retail, I stepped backwards in the stockroom and snagged my brand new suit on a rack of clothing. I didn't have a lot of money then, so it was a tragic error. I went to the operations manager and asked if I could have the store tailor fix it for me, since the accident had occurred while performing a work task, in a work location. He asked me to describe the incident, then informed me that no, the store wasn't responsible. Because I had "zigged where I should have zagged," I'd made a personal choice that resulted in my hitting the rack and tearing my clothes.

I've never forgotten that. "Zigged instead of zagged." It feeds my constant bewilderment at how quickly people will sue one another, personal responsibility be damned. When I stepped off a curb into a slushy puddle and sprained my ankle, I was dismayed by the number of people who suggested I sue. For my own clumsiness? For zigging instead of zagging?

A long time ago, I was sitting in a park near my Albany apartment, reading a book, letting my cat enjoy a rare opportunity for outdoor sunshine. She was on a leash, and after a bit of wandering about, settled into my lap for a snooze. We were almost completely alone in a quiet grassy corner of the park, just across the street from my apartment door. Suddenly a dog rushed up to us, barking madly. The cat, startled, did what came naturally - looked for an escape route, which turned out to be up my face and into the branches of the tree above us. As the dog continued to bark, a man with a leash came running up to us. He grabbed the dog and offered to drive me to the emergency room but I told him I needed to rescue the cat first. He seemed puzzled by that, but went and put his dog away while I coaxed down the cat. He pulled up in a car without the dog and came into my apartment with me, waiting while I went into the bathroom to wash up. In the mirror I could see that blood was pouring down my face and I understood his sense of urgency for the first time.

He drove me to the emergency room, waited until someone could see me, and then took my name and phone number and left. I was somewhat in a state of shock, but remember being glad that he had taken care of me. I received 26 stitches in my face, which sounds more dramatic than it really was, as they were split between four spots - my chin, on my upper lip, along the inside of one eye, and on my hairline. (You can almost visualize the journey of her claws up to safety.) When the doctor was stitching up the cut near my eye he told me to lay absolutely still, as it was dangerously close to my eye and a slip with the needle could be disastrous. In the bed next to me was a boy who had stepped on a nail attached to a board, and just as my doctor was telling me to not move, he was screaming as they pulled the board from his flesh.

The dog man called me the next day to make sure I was okay. He asked if I thought I'd need plastic surgery, but I assured him it wasn't that bad. He apologized, and said goodbye. I never once thought to ask his name or phone number and he never offered it. It never occurred to me that he was fearful that I'd sue him, but after all, there was a leash law in that park, so he was clearly at fault. But, you know, it happened and it was terrible, and I couldn't go to work for a few days (I had black threads sticking out from my face, which was swollen and puffy - my boss asked me to come in on the second day, took one look at me and sent me home again) but I had available sick time, and I had health insurance to cover the medical bills. Why would I need a lawsuit? To punish him?

I've already gone way off track, but there is more to the story, as when I was very young I was the victim in an incident that resulted in a lawsuit that turned out to be a farce. I'll tell that story another time.


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