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Friday, November 26, 2010

The ridiculous and the sublime

Exhibit A: In Connecticut, a man driving 80 miles an hour, hit and killed a 14-year-old boy riding a bicycle. That man, currently serving a 10 year prison term for manslaughter, is suing the deceased boy's parents for "contributory negligence." He says that because the boy was not wearing a helmet, his conviction is causing him "great mental and emotional pain and suffering."

Exhibit B: Jeff Tally, a homeless Arizona man who had just spent his last dollar, found a backpack containing a laptop computer and $3,300 in cash at a light-rail station. He took the backpack and its contents to his boss, the  manager of the Tempe Community Action Agency, which provides the city's homeless with meals and shelter, to help find the backpack's owner, which they did.  The owner, a student at Arizona State University, reported the good deed to The Arizona Republic, which ran the story. Tally, who has debts and a bank account that is $67 in the red, says he never thought of keeping the money. "It wasn't my money. I didn't earn it. I'm the one that has to lay down every day and deal with myself. If I'd done anything different that what I did, I don't know if I could handle that."

Exhibit C: A Florida man who ordered an artichoke at a restaurant is suing the restaurant because eating the entire artichoke caused him "severe abdominal pain and discomfort." He says "he had never seen or heard of (an artichoke) previously." He blames the restaurant for failing to tell him that he shouldn't eat the whole thing... only the tender inner leaves.

Exhibit D: Violet and Allen Large of Nova Scotia won $11 million in a lottery last July and they have since spent every penny... but not a cent on themselves. They donated the entire amount for various causes including their local fire department, hospitals and organizations that fight cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Said Violet, age 78, who is undergoing cancer treatments, "What you've never had, you never miss." Her husband Allen says, "That money that we won was nothing. We have each other."

Exhibit E: In Wisconsin, a man watching Bristol Palin and her partner continue their advance week after week on TV's Dancing with the Stars, became so fed up that he shot the family television which precipitated a standoff with local police. According to the complaint against him, he did not think that Bristol "was a good dancer"... and, he had been drinking.

Exhibit F: When small business owner Lola Gonzalez realized that, because the company she founded (Accurate Background Checks in Ocala, Florida) and ran successfully for years was in financial straits because of the economy, she knew she would have to lay off one of her nine loyal employees. She gathered her small staff together and announced, "I want you all to know I have to lay somebody off and it's been a very difficult decision." Her staff took a deep breath... but before anyone had a chance to say anything, she continued... "And that person is me." The boss and founder had laid herself off to keep her employees working. Gonzalez says "employees are the ones who are doing the legwork." She also felt that with her background in social work, she could more easily find another job. And she did... one making about half her current salary. But, she added, "I don't need a Mercedes." Business, she reports, is picking up but, until the company is on more solid footing, she will not return... and she will see that her employees get a Christmas bonus.

Now I ask you, which of the exhibits represent the ridiculous and which the sublime in this human experience we all share?

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