Saturday, February 20, 2010


Last night, arguing with a very talented lawyer friend of mine (we like to posture adversarially, although it's not a fair match, since he does this professionally) I heard a sad and funny story.

We were arguing about Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton, and the Starr commission and framing and responsibility. For the sake of argument, let's say I was taking Clinton's side, excoriating (a word lawyers would never use in a courtroom) Starr for dispensing with procedural justice in his rabid pursuit of some truth with a capital T. It seemed to me that Clinton was simply maneuvered into a position where his answer was guaranteed, and that it would necessarily be at odds with the goods being held in reserve against him.

The other side of the argument in this case being that he was *out* maneuvered, and that Clnton was the one with the brains, the staff, the power to avoid precisely this predicament, and in the end he still lied to the American public, in whose service he had pledged to labor.

Clinton lied, perhaps, because it was a small matter. He lied, perhaps, because the consequences of telling the truth would cause greater harm to the public than the harm of keeping it from them. He'd been cornered, and perhaps he'd proved his mettle?

I don't much care about the proper answer. It makes interesting dinner conversation.

So, there was this judge, having an affair with a university professor. One night, they are caught on tape having "not-sex" (if you speak like Clinton) in the parking lot of a restaurant. There was a small accident - a fender bender in the process of backing out - which entailed a quick "no problem, officer" check written on the spot (not to the officer, to the victim, sorry!). There was a tale of drunken weaving on the skyway bridge, and an arrest for DWI.

You pretty much know which side you should be on, until you hear that the judge's wife was having him tailed, and that the DWI was a setup. A tipoff. The pictures were not captured accidentally. Who knows about the bumper bumping?

Apart from your envy that these participants in an illicit affair could keep it that hot after two years, it's not all that easy to tell where the justice is or should be. At least not for me.

The part that's hard to get beyond though, is that you do know that the scorned wife was the reason that the affair stayed hot. She was being used that way. You also know that these players probably knew that about themselves, and wanted to keep things that way for as long as they could. Well, you don't really know, but you can reasonably surmise.

I don't really know the end of the story, although I have to assume that a few lives were wrecked. Once public, these things make a hard time stuffing them back into the can. It's hard not to see the wife both vindicated and justified. But you don't really know the backstory. You don't really know anything about their homelife, what led up to things. Do you need to? So what if she was just a controlling bitch. Isn't that just a cliche to put down those who outmaneuver you?

I spent part of yesterday in the VW shop. My brakes were always on (take that Toyota!), and it was costing me lots of gas mileage. They'd just completed a total redecoration of their shop, which made the entire customer service experience much more lavish than it used to be. I hardly need to tell you that it made me nervous.

Now, I'm pretty loaded down with technology, and I tend to know how to use it. This was the first time that I remember their quote for the part being so far out of line with the "standard" price on the Internet. They'd suggested I should have the brakes replaced at the same time but I held off, on the reasonable argument that I'm still not working. I made some lame jokes about how they'd better not start serving Cappuccino or I'd start thinking I was among the wrong class of customer anymore. They assured me I'd have to bring my own. (the coffee was pretty good, oh, and I just rechecked and it must have been a fluke, like looking up prices on Travelocity before you move to commit. It no longer looks like they overcharged me.)

Of course it did turn out that there was more wear left "than we'd thought". I couldn't tell if that was said sheepishly. It wouldn't have mattered to me. I've driven this car nearly 300,000 miles, and all the service has been done at this shop, and I'm not about to stop loving them just because they made their showroom and customer waiting area look more like that rip-off place which serves Cappuccino, and which I, of course, eschew.

But there's more to the story, of course. Recently, in Toronto, on a Sunday, picking up my girls from the airport, one of my coils went out. (yeah, I thought there was only one too) The car made it home at potentially great expense to the car, and later on I found that the 'net is full of VW haters and flamers who post about this issue, and how VW sux. But when I'd taken my car in for the brake diagnosis, they just replaced all these coils, no charge to me, fixed the rattle with some duct tape arrangement, and told me how I could get reimbursed for the coil I'd bought myself, on the road, on a guess.

The coil I bought was too cheap to bother searching for its receipt (that plus the time to manage the paperwork). And I know the VW shop was eager to do this for me because the newly official recall would mean that they would be paid for charging me nothing. I'm not stupid. But it felt like I was being respected, treated well, favored. Any damage done to the car was by now ancient history. I mean that rather literally.

But now I have no way to tell which was the bigger factor in my lost gas mileage, and where the permanent injury is. An ambiguity I'll just have to live with.  I think the difference from Toyota is that there was never any danger to life and limb here. Just pocketbook risk. But they didn't exactly come clean about it ahead of time, and who knows if maybe the flamers on the 'net had something to do with forcing their hand.

Trust is rough. The temptations are all over the place - I'm sure the VW shop is hurting as much as anyone else for business.


Sorry, had to take a break. You know how it is when you stay out late, have a few drinks (I walked home!). You're ravenous the next morning.

I made myself an omelette. It was incredible. I don't know if you'd like it, or if it was just incredible to me. It was a garbage omelette, full of too much unmatched stuff that I had by the dregs. Beans. Chorizo. Olives. Broccoli. Brie. Salza. Little bits of stuff. I have no way to know if I liked it because I'm an easy sell, or because I was happy to find use for those dregs. Oh, I forgot to tell you about the potatoes fried in olive oil.

The one thing I do know for certain is that you would never be able to eat such a thing in any restaurant. That I know for certain. What I don't know is whether that is because there can't possibly be that much love in a plate for hire, or if no self-respecting chef would even think of that combination, or simply because there would be some guarantee of returns to the kitchen. All I know for certain is that you'd never get that in a restaurant.

I also know for certain that I'd never have satisfied my particular craving in a restaurant.

Anyhow, where was I? Oh, OK, sure, you're thinking this is pretty clever, right, trying to make it seem as though these things just happen and I don't orchestrate them, and that they will somehow magically fit right into the story?

I'm not that disingenuous. Please! I make shit up as much as the next guy. I edit. I revise. (the omelette story is true though, and even I know I'll have a hard time selling the notion that I revise. I'm not stupid)

I was going to speak, rather, about how, magically, on the news, as if I were the one to cause it, there are these seemingly coincident happenings. Well, their happening is not coincident, it's plain fact that they coincided. But the randomness of their apparent alignment, that's the seeming part.

First, there's Dick Cheney outing himself as a "big fan of torture." Then there's this guy over in England who pretty much confesses to murder right on TV; how he suffocated his "partner" suffering from terminal AIDS and lots of pain. How he thereby relieved the doctors and his lover all, of what he knew they could never do. And how he was interrogated for 30 hours against the likelihood that he was, in fact, guilty of murder.

Here's the shocker. I want to give them both a pass, both Cheney and the lover. Both of them had the decency to speak their "truths" out loud and in public. Now, you might say that they have little enough to lose. They're old, both of  them, on death's door for various reasons. But there's little enough of that truth telling out there. (there are few enough cars that even get that far!) I'd really like for Cheney to be interrogated, on the power of risking his life, but I'm tipping my hat that he at least says out loud what he's doing in private. When it affects us, I mean. I don't really give a damn what he does in his closet.

How are the rest of us supposed to make good decisions, when everyone's making up stories? How, when everyone's got an angle on everyone else's story?

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it. Really the omelette was incredible. I'm not about to open a restaurant, but still . . . .


Shoptalker said...

Sure, saying it aloud matters--but Cheney speaks his "truth" with a chest bumping challenge that is not the case with the lover. Cheney says his truth on a dare to pick up the glove; the lover is saying his truth to himself, to the world, with a quiet sigh. One knows the system, plays the system, is the system. The other knows the system and rolled the dice anyway.

Lex said...

Sorry - had to let the spammer in - something about how worrying can harm you - what lap dancers say - the link says it all - I will never do it again (the lap dancing was sponsored research and not very interesting) this is pretty much the least offensive of the bulk of the commentary this lonely man gets.

Meanwhile, I've signed the petition circulating to prosecute Cheney. That he earnestly believes himself in the right clears him of what Tiger Woods deserves, but not of the jail sentence he, Dick Cheney warrants. Arrest the man, for the sake of decency!