Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Curse of The UpScale Address

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published January 27, 2011] © 2011

Recently, the Curse of the Upscale Address struck again.  A friend was driving down Nautilus Street after dropping off her kids at the top of the hill when the ancient pickup truck in front of her inexplicably slammed on its brakes. She hit him. 

She jumped out of her SUV and ran to see if the other car’s driver was hurt.  Fortunately, he didn’t appear to be.  “Don’t worry,” he said, as he got out of the truck, “I’m not going to sue you.”  My friend found that comment – the first words out of the man’s mouth – oddly unreassuring.

She asked him why he had stopped so suddenly.  They were nowhere near a cross street or schools.  “Oh,” he says, “I meant to put my foot on the accelerator but I put it on the brake instead.” 

This sounds like a set-up to me, although as my friend points out, set up or not, she did, alas, run into him.  Still, it seems to me that he should at least be cited for a DWI (Driving While an Imbecile).

It was only days later that the injury claim was filed.  

I guess one of the costs of living here is being well insured so that you can pay off people who sue you because you live here.  In bad economic times like these, it seems to be a growth industry. 

In my nearly four decades in Lets Sue-Ya 92037, I’m afraid I’ve known waaaay too many cases like this.  In the most popular scenario, there’s a minor fender bender but the fendee suddenly finds himself in the deliriously happy circumstance of having been hit by a La Jolla zip code.  Although there wasn’t so much as a scratch on the either car, the victim is suddenly plagued by headaches, vision problems, back issues, and a neck in need of a brace.  His grunge band, he maintains, was about to hit the big time and now he can never work again.

The last time I was called for jury duty was just such a fender bender case.  I should mention I’ve been on jury duty eleven times.  That computer just loves my name.  Or maybe, since I went back to my maiden name after my divorce and then changed it again when I re-married, it thinks of me as fresh meat each time. 

I was seriously tempted to stay on this last jury just so I could be sure this young-20-something perfectly healthy looking creep (who appeared to be wearing a tie for the first time in his scraggly-haired life) wasn’t awarded a dime.  But it was also going to be three weeks out of my life (again) and in my heart, I know that you shouldn’t stay on a jury unless you can be open-minded and decide on the basis of the testimony.  When the judge read the long list of experts who would be testifying – a flakoid brigade of chiropractors, acupuncturists, new age-y vision therapists and a couple of holistic healers at least one of which was likely the plaintiff’s drug dealer – I was out of there.   SO been there, so done that.  Somebody else’s turn. 

My husband, Olof, is a little more philosophical about The Curse of the Upscale Address.  Frivolous lawsuits are just a fact of our society, he says.  It’s one of the prices we pay to live in this beautiful place.   But I do confess that I wish my friend who rear ended the guy on Nautilus had hit him a little harder.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

**He'll Be Home For Christmas (Or Else)

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published 1/13/2011© 2011

Olof and I are almost frighteningly compatible with the exception of one issue:  Work crises that compromise major family occasions.  So I had a familiar sinking feeling when he reported last month that his business trip to Saudi Arabia had been extended a week to December 23. But not to worry, he said, we’d still leave the next morning for Christmas Eve with the kids in L.A. as planned.

Olof does not have good airline karma.  In fact, the airline gods lose no opportunity to poop on his head. It took him three weather-snafued days to even get there.  Which is why I suggested he say, “In deference to my adoring and endlessly supportive wife, I must regretfully insist on leaving The Kingdom by December 21 so as to guarantee my arrival and appear at least marginally conscious on Christmas Eve.”

“No can do,” said the ever-dedicated Olof. 

Business is business.  But blowing Christmas – the wife’s favorite holiday - crosses a line.  I tried to express this as best I could. 

“Not to put too fine a point on it,” I said, “but if you don’t make it back, by the time your wife lets you come home from the La Jolla Marriott, you’ll be a Platinum member.”

Olof maintains that I have no understanding of the realities of the business world, having spent my career in what he maintains is a university welfare environment where firing an employee for gross incompetence would be considered “mean”.

Be that as it may, I couldn’t help but recall the vacation that was cut short by the crisis in Montgomery or the son’s college graduation that was bollixed by the crisis in Dallas.

But even more, I was recollecting Olof’s rolling in from Stockholm on December 23 a few years ago and our leaving the next morning for the Bay area.  Olof slept entirely through Christmas Eve at his mother’s, and through Christmas day and dinner at our son’s in Santa Cruz.  The only time anyone saw him was when I woke him up to go to the airport. 

“Olof,” I said to him at the time, “we are NEVER doing this again.

But here we were, doing it again.

A week before Christmas, I learned that almost everyone else on the Saudi project was leaving by December 22. 

Hence, the weekend was spent sticking pins into little effigies of Olof, the CEO, the CFO, the customer, and the travel agent who would book a four-flight three-connection itinerary on December 23 through two major winter weather stops including an hour and twenty minute connection to clear customs and change terminals in Chicago.

I admit it was a little unfair to be sticking pointy penetrables into the CEO and CFO who are great guys and travel a ton.  But they rated their own effigies by virtue of the fact that their families, unlike me, could reasonably expect a sentient human on Christmas Eve.

“Olof,” I said during our Skype chat that night, “What will you remember at the end of your life:  all the company crises, or time spent with family?”  I have no idea what he replied because the bandwidth was so perennially bad that I was never sure I wasn’t having Skarnal relations with some guy in Dhahran.

The short connection through Chicago was able to be changed to a longer one and a direct flight to San Diego instead of the idiotic layover in L.A.  But as Christmas approached, the Riyadh to Frankfurt flight, originating in Qatar, was routinely running late.  Worse, the Frankfurt Airport was shut down. 

But I was going to be in L.A. watching my tiny granddaughter open her presents whether my likely-to-be-ex husband made it or not.

Logistics were problematical.  I don’t drive on freeways anymore and the train was out with all the gifts.  And even if Olof miraculously washed ashore on the 23rd, he would be on an 11 hour time difference, would have logged a grueling month without a day off, and would be working a final 20 hour sprint before embarking on some 30 hours of travel.  Did I really want to be chauffeured by someone with the alertness of a root vegetable?

At the last minute, I booked a town car for the trip to L.A.:  $300 (huge holiday surcharge).

Against all odds – and it was – Olof did arrive on the night of December 23.  He kissed me hello and fell face down on the bed where he slept for 13 hours straight.

The next morning, the town car took me and the decerebrate Olof to L.A. where we had a nice lunch with the kids and he then napped until 5:00.  But he did manage a very respectable four hours on Christmas Eve and even valiantly hung in there until 6 p.m. on Christmas day before crashing for another 12 hour snooze.

“See?” he said brightly when he next surfaced on the 26th.  “I told you this would all work out.”