Friday, June 26, 2009

Warning: Asshole is mentioned 14 times in this post

In law school I took an Arbitration and Mediation course. About 1/3 of our entire grade in the class was based on a “conflict diary” we were required to keep. The Prof wanted us to THINK about conflicts. We were to write about conflicts in our everyday lives, discussing what caused them, how they got resolved, how we felt about them, etcetera etcetera. Most people blew off this assignment, and the day before it was due, sat down to write out 25 instances of conflict – therefore filling their psyches with anger, annoyance, dread… a sort of negative mental itchiness that made everyone act like major assholes the next day.

I, however, was better organized than that, and kept my diary all semester long. I was able to choose 25 of the best entries out of about 45 total. I filled my psyche with anger, annoyance and dread on a regular basis, and was a major asshole the entire semester, albeit on a more watered down basis. It was worth it for the GPA pumping A- I earned in the class.

This all came back to me today, as I struggle with my desire to verbally tear someone from asshole to ear lobe. I’m not the type who has to worry about violent physical urges. I’m smaller than most folks, and I don’t run very fast, so I’ve developed the useful skill of tearing someone down in such a sweet, Southern Belle way that they don’t realize they’ve been insulted until later. I’m incredibly patient with most people – ask anyone who has seen me with my rotten children – and I’ve been incredibly long suffering with today’s asshole. I will continue to refer to this person as Today’s Asshole, as I don’t want to identify this person, have you insult him/her too, and thus water down the disdain I plan to continue heaping on him/her today.

If I were writing out this conflict for a graded “conflict diary”, here’s what I might say:
I approached Today’s Asshole this morning in an attempt to collaborate on a project, despite the fact that I was not at all looking forward to this prospect. Today’s Asshole didn’t even pretend to be happy – or even tolerant – of me standing there in the doorframe suggesting a course of action. Today’s Asshole then ignored my suggestions in favor of insulting the quality of what s/he assumed was my past performance. However, the critique turned out to be about someone else’s work. It was then that I realized that the authorship of that criticized work was obvious to anyone who had paid attention , and that Today’s Asshole seemed to be looking for a way to attack my confidence, thus establishing her/himself as holding a higher position in this anticipated “collaboration” – in effect turning the collaboration into Me doing what Today’s Asshole wanted me to do. I declined her/his interpretation and informed Today’s Asshole of what s/he was to do instead, given that collaboration seemed impossible (due to her/his negative attitude). I assumed the leading role that Today’s Asshole had tried to wrestle from me, but in the future will attempt to avoid collaborating with this individual, as it is bound to be unproductive.

If I were standing outside chain smoking cigarettes and blowing off steam with my girlfriend from down the way, here’s what I might say:
B*&%h – don’t even! Can you believe this (&#%? We’re almost done with this freaking thing – and So and So tells me to sort out the remainder with Today's Asshole. So I suck it up and go down there and she’s all like “What the (^$& – I’m trying to get my (*%^ done and you’re all, like, &%$@ing it up!” And I’m like “that wasn’t me – pay attention Ho-bag. That was So and So." I’m all biting my tongue cause I wanna roast her and I’m like “just give me half this *!@$ and shut up.” And she’s all “I don’t think so cause look what happened last time!” and I’m all, “okay, thanks for cooperating – I’ll take the second half” then I rush down the hall and email So and So and it’s a done deal. Pissy little know it all! Like I haven’t been doing this so much longer. What the hell is her problem?

I have kept my mouth shut about all of this so far. But I am planning my revenge in a very feminine, sneaky way. Perhaps I will purposely burn popcorn in the microwave. Which is in the kitchen right across from her office. Perhaps I should compliment her – “Honey, you look like you’re losing weight! You almost fit back into those skinny pants you’re wearing!” I could suggest to the gossipy chick that Today’s Asshole must be having a rough time at home – she’s looking kind of sad. That way it’ll get around and everyone will treat her with kid gloves and she’ll wonder what the hell is going on and be uncomfortable all day in a vague “I can’t put my finger on it" kind of way.

Or perhaps I should just grow up and do what I’m supposed to do – ignore the nastiness, get my job done and forget about it. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll grow up. I’ll do my half of the work quickly and well. And I really will. But I’ll vent about it over the internet in a completely catty way first.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jihad for my Peeps.

I didn’t intend this blog to be about stupid lawsuits, but I can’t ignore the gold mine that ends up in my email box, you know. So here’s another, along with another free bit of advice: PAY YOUR RENT.

Here’s the news clip I read on MSN:

Are Easter decorations trash? Colorado’s Carol Burdick was evicted after leaving “small Easter-theme stickers, plastic grass, Peeps marshmallow candies and a cardboard cutout of a chicken in a colorful egg” on her apartment door 17 days past the holiday. Fancy or folly? It’s up to a jury to decide. “You can’t evict somebody for Easter bunny decorations,” her lawyer tells the Daily Camera. “An Easter decoration is a religious statement and should be protected — even if it is just bunnies.”

It’s terrible isn’t it? Getting evicted for exercising your 1st amendment right to free expression? I LIKE BUNNIES AND CHICKIES AND PEEPS! (Take that, establishment!) Well, if you click the news link and read more about the story, you’ll see that the woman is not being evicted for leaving her Easter decorations up for 17 extra days. She’s being evicted for not paying her rent. And she says she refused to pay her rent because the apartment violated her rights by taking down her bunnies and chickies and peeps.

OK, law 101 – you don’t own your apartment or the outside of it. While you have significant rights to display bunnies and chickies and peeps inside your apartment, you have considerably less rights to display them OUTSIDE your apartment. If you read your lease carefully (oh, joy. More fun that a root canal…..) you will see that the apartment complex has an interest in keeping the outside of things looking nice, uniform, uncluttered and clean – ie – free from melting peeps sliding down front doors, and the ants that frequently accompany such displays. You are quite welcome to file some sort of suit to protest that your door display is not what your lease calls “trash”. However, while doing this, you must still pay your rent, and will most likely be required to take down the bunnies and chickies and peeps while you wage this intense battle in municipal court.

If you take this battle to court, which Carol Burdick is doing via her confused lawyer, you might base your argument on the fact that your display is a religious display. Do they mean that bunnies and chickies and peeps are a stand in for the cross that her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was crucified on? Bunnies and chickies and peeps represent the resurrection of said Savior and his subsequent ascension to Heaven to sit at the right hand of his Father? And if so, um... can you explain why these things are appropriate standins? You really have to take a close look at this argument before you decide whether to use your Columbus day decoration fund to file a lawsuit instead. You gotta ask "what is religion?" "What is religious expression?"

This is a question I have already confronted in my own personal life. You see, I am a member of the Park Anywhere Sect. I drive around in my car and sometimes I feel a calling from God. When that happens, I get out of my car, and I leave it parked wherever it is that God tells me to leave it. You laugh? Yah, well… they laughed at all the prophets.

The Court didn’t buy my argument about my religious expression. Are you buying Carol Burdick’s?

Here is the photo of her door. Notice that it looks like she has licked peeps and stuck them to the outside of her door and the wall next to it:

Friday, June 19, 2009

I'll give you a MILLION BUCKS if you read this post!

You know all those ridiculous, “frivolous” lawsuits you hear about? And about 10 seconds after hearing about them, you usually utter “damn lawyers” or some such thing? (don’t worry, I do it too). As a lawyer, I can see why it is that the parties involved think they have a suit. Sometimes they really do. The granny who got hot coffee spilled on her lap at a McDonalds drive thru? Sounds crazy – like a clumsy blue-haired move – but looking at the facts of the case, McDonalds was pretty clearly wrong about some stuff. I could try to defend these cases out loud – but I’d rather not be the archetype you have in mind when you mutter “f***ing lawyer” in the future.

So a case came along today that even *I* have trouble believing. The names have been changed to protect the imbeciles.

Years ago, Connor Victor, or ConVict was accused of murdering his business partner and two other dudes. Defense Lawyer argued that for ConVict to be on the scene of the murder, he’d had to have been able to travel from Orlando to Atlanta and to the murder scene in 28 minutes or less. Well, ConVict was found guilty, and the indignant Defense Lawyer stated on national television (paraphrased): “no one can make that trip from Orlando to Atlanta in 28 minutes. I’d give a million dollars to the person who could.”

So flash forward to some Law Student’s first year Contracts class in a Houston law school. He hears about this case, the Defense Lawyer’s remarks, and with dollar signs flashing through his mind, he hops a plane to Orlando. He proceeds to make the same trip that ConVict was supposed to have taken, and videotapes it the whole way. And he actually goes from somewhere in Orlando to the murder scene in Atlanta in 28 minutes.

Law Student then proceeds to write a demand letter to Defense Lawyer, and includes a copy of his videotaped evidence as proof. Defense Lawyer gets nasty and tells Law Student to bug off, stop extorting me, I’m gonna sue you for mail fraud and all that. Law Student hires a firm in Houston, and files a suit. Really. I am not kidding you.

The suit says that Defense Lawyer, when he muttered “I’d give a million dollars to someone if they can make that trip in 28 minutes” in a fit of righteous anger over his client’s conviction…. Well, the suit says that the Defense Lawyer issued an offer, and when Law Student took him up on that offer, a “unilateral contract” was created. And when Defense Lawyer failed to pony up, he was in violation of that contract. When you contract with someone, you can say “I’ll do this and you do that” or you can say “If you do this, I’ll give you money”. Action is required from both parties to execute the contract in a bilateral contract, but action is only required from one party in a unilateral contract. The old “if you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, I’ll give you $20” thing. No apparent benefit to the offeror, but hey, that’s none of your business. You just start walking, and collect your $20 at the other side.

This is a grossly simplified version of contracting, but it’s all we really need for this particular post.

The trick with a unilateral contract, however, is that you must ask “would a reasonable person believe that the offeror was making a real offer?”

So we ask that now… If you were watching CNN, and saw this footage, would you run out and hop a jet to Orlando to make an easy million bucks? Would you REALLY believe that this guy was making a proposition to the entire country? Or would you throw it in the pile with all the other million dollar offers you’ve gotten over the years: “If you go hit that chick at the bar on the ass, dude, I’ll give you a million bucks!” or “If you say that to the boss’ face, I’ll give you a million bucks.”

I’m thinking this law student was a real smartass, and likes to have people look at him. He’s got a great pick up story he can use when he goes to the wine bar trolling for other single lawyers/Executive Vice Presidents/ part time models.

So what do we take away from this? A little contracts lesson…

What you CAN offer and rest assured you’ll never have to pay:

“If you put on this leather gimp mask and hump the back of Rush Limbaugh’s head on national TV, I’ll give you a million bucks!”

Why you’re safe with this one:
because you can’t contract with someone to do something illegal. The court will not uphold this contract, provided they got past the whole “a reasonable person would believe a contract had been created” thing. You’re basically daring your buddy to assault Rush Limbaugh (I do this one all the time) and you can’t contract for an assault. Well, you CAN but then you’re probably gonna get nabbed on conspiracy charges.

What you can offer and will have to pay:

“If you have this picture of Pat Robertson’s head on an alien’s body tattooed on your chest, I’ll give you a million dollars.” And you show him the check made out in his name…..

Why you’ll have to pay:
A reasonable person would believe you meant it – hey, you’ve had the check made out. Despite the fact that the act of putting Pat Robertson’s ugly mug anywhere seems unreasonable, the only test of reasonableness is whether someone would believe a contract was created.

I think the best advice I can give you is to not joke around with obnoxious law students who do ridiculous things to get noticed. And this advice – because I want to break down at least a bit of the stereotypes about us attorneys – is absolutely free for you today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Cassanova - MacGuyver Tophat

Previously pasted on Facebook, but my blog looks lame with only one post so far....

My son Ransom has always been a lover. His fondest wish is to be a Daddy and a husband, and then perhaps an engineer or a mathmatician. It's one of the things I love most about the boy - his earnest desire to have a loving relationship with a woman. During my most recent dating days, it was comforting to know that at least ONE member of the opposite sex felt that way, even if this particular one collected crickets in his pockets to give to pretty girls as gifts.

Ransom also has a poor sense of judgment after immersing himself in videogames for any length of time. If the kid is gonna get in trouble, you can bet it's somehow tied to videogames. For instance, last week, as Danny tried in vane to get the cranky baby settled, he asked Ransom to answer the phone that was ringing incessantly. Ransom paused briefly from his videogame to announce "I don't know where the phone is". When Danny urged him to get off his duff and find it, Ransom replied "Get off my back Danny". Danny asked "EXCUSE ME??" and with pure disregard for his own life and limb, Ransom said "oh, sorry... Get off my back PLEASE."

So, banished to his room again, Ransom was looking for something to do. Once Danny left the house to run an errand, he snuck downstairs, raided various junk drawers, scrapbook boxes, bathroom cabinets and the freezer to gather materials for a project idea he had. Armed with electrical tape, batteries, a paperclip, fingernail clippers, christmas lights and a tophat, the boy proceeded to piece together his own Valentine day accessory. Now, let me pause a moment to relay a key tidbit which makes this story so much more poignant - Ransom does wild stuff on Valentine's day. He's a man ahead of his age group. last year he wore his suit, complete with self knotted silk tie, to elementary school on Valentine's Day. He's also been known to make up poems, make his own Valentine's cards, and rub his body down with his sisters' lotion - to be soft for the LAY-DEEZZZZ....

So, the kid took the tophat (you can imagine a kid like this owning a tophat, can't you?) and proceeded to make a few modifications. He took two Christmas lights and stripped the cord cover off them with cuticle cutters. He then made a circuit from brads, a paperclip, two batteries and some electrical tape. He inserted the lights in the top of the hat, and rigged up a battery holding contraption with popsicle sticks and a few of mom's hair bands (mom helped a bit here), and VOILA - a light up Valentine's tophat!!

He learned how to do this on the internet, he said. He's already a veteran at playing with electricity and power, but this is the first time he's ever combined this particular set of skills - science and lllluuuuvvvvv......

yes, he wore this hat to school on Valentine's Day. He also paid to have a carnation delivered to his crush at school. When she sent a friend over to ask if he sent the carnation as a friend or something more, he totally froze up and stuttered... "uh, as a know... like a friend.. type... thing..." meanwhile, his Casanova McGuyver tophat blinked away happily from atop his little 10 year old noggin.
Ladies, THIS is your man!

I'm a loser. May I have a house please?

Nothing makes you feel inadequate like applying for a home loan. And it’s no surprise. The loan officer doesn’t need to hear about your triumphs – that information is completely superfluous. The loan officer is, however, intensely interested in your f*ckups.

“What about this Verizon bill here for $2200?”

The truth: uh… yeah.. well… See, I use AT&T now, because my ex husband called me a controlling shrew and ran away overseas and used the phone and I can’t find him to pay the bill and am resisting paying it just for the principal of it.

What I say: “I’ve been making steady payments on that debt and it will be paid long before closing.”

“Ok, and how about this Aspire credit card bill?”

The truth: those freaking *ssholes. That debt got passed around like a hot potato and even though I paid the last owner of it, the others are still sitting there on my credit report making everything else smell like tacos and gym bags. I feel completely powerless.

What I say: Yeah, I settled that. And I’ll call them again to make sure they update that information.

“and how about this debt to Chase”

The truth: CHASE? What the hell is that?? I have no account with Chase!

What I say: I will protest that debt, as I have never had an account with Chase bank. I believe that is a mistake, and I’ll get it cleared up immediately.

You get sized up during the process, and inevitably, there are many things you have to fix before you get your loan. I think many folks feel like they just barely squeaked by – that the bank is doing them a favor putting them in that house. You bust your nuts trying to get everything nice and pretty for the unseen, evil monster that is UNDERWRITING, and then you get a call the day before closing that things aren’t quite wrapped up because someone to whom this process has no meaning hasn’t even looked at all your hard work until the DAY BEFORE your closing. And you settle back down onto your bed of pins and needles to wait till the next closing date.

It must be worse for men, with the whole “provider” thing – your worth as a man is being summed up by a salesperson who probably still lives in an apartment. Or I like to think he does.

And his couch is old and smells like cat urine, and his stove is broken, so he puts garbage in it. He sleeps on a twin mattress on the floor because he can’t afford anything better because bank standards are so high and judgmental that he can’t ever get anyone qualified, but he keeps trying because this is not the economy to be job hunting. He also cooks everything in a 1994 microwave, and one day, while exhausted from trying to get me qualified, he forgets about the metal/microwave thing, and he puts a can of tuna in to heat, and his apartment blows up.

In his memory, the bank president decides to honor this young man’s fondest wish, which he’s written on a post it note and taped to his computer monitor: “Please qualify this woman for a loan so I don’t have to ever deal with her again.”

p.s. – we are financed, and the loan officer, as far as I know, is just fine. I imagine he’s currently searching under his pissy couch cushions for quarters so he can wash his 2 pairs of jeans at a crappy Laundromat.