Saturday, August 22, 2009

Latest WTF Moments

The world is a strange place. When I read my regular blogs, it's obvious that the media is just hyping things up to make life more of a freak show than it is in reality. Most articles sound like repeats of the same story I've read a hundred times before. Lately though, I've encountered some stories and other things that make me say, "WTF?"

First, the subject of the litigious. America has always been a litigious country. The case of the woman suing McDonald's because she spilled her coffee on herself while holding it between her legs open in the car, and they didn't tell her it was "hot"--and WINNING the lawsuit--is now part of legal mythology, and the "poster child" of idiot lawsuits. Another winner is the burglar who broke into someone's home--and then broke his leg while in the home--and successfully sued the people whose house he burgled. Here are a couple of other recent asinine lawsuits, both courtesy of

Police standoff in Ventura sparks $680,000 damage claim

So, a guy gets into a standoff with police, tries to shoot them--and then sues them for the holes he made in his own window. Ah well, you say--it's Southern California. It's like another planet there, in terms of brain functioning. Now consider this case in New York:

Instructor Saves Skydiver, She Sues Him For 2 Broken Fingers

In a world where we're lamenting the unwillingness of people to help other human beings in need, stories like this are supportive of that unwillingness. Yes, I can see you're in a life threatening situation, and I save your ass--and you thank me by suing me because you had a minor injury. I'm glad this woman not only lost, but that she has to pay all the defendant's court costs.

To be fair to Americans, a lot of lawsuits occur because of insurance companies and insurance law. Insurance companies, whether medical or property/casualty, want to pay out as little as possible. As a child, if I was injured playing in a neighbor's yard, my mother would always say it happened in our yard. Why? Because she might be required to sue the neighbor for my medical bills, per insurance company rules. If I trip and break my leg in my mother's driveway, I'd probably have to sue her, or at least her insurance company, which would jack up her premiums. Countries that provide healthcare to their citizens don't have to worry about such a rash of lawsuits--citizens aren't expected to pay these big-ticket medical bills. But that's a different can of worms...

About 10 years ago I had a co-worker who moved to the United States from India. She told me that when she first arrived here, she went into a grocery store, and saw orange cones and tape around an area that had a spill, and a "caution" sign. She said, "My first thought was, 'Wow, Americans must really care about their people to do such a thing. But later I realized it was only to avoid a lawsuit.'" She learned pretty quickly. It is a similar avoidance of litigation that breeds idiotic warning messages on products. Like buying a chainsaw and having a warning label that says, "do not use on genitals." Or purchasing an iron and being given the warning "do not iron clothes while on body". Or a hairdryer warning that says, "Do not use while sleeping." The list goes on, and the scary part about it is that someone must have done some of these things for the warning to be generated in the first place. Either that or lawyers are weirder than I thought.

Also around 10 years ago--I was on an administrative retreat in Northern England. (Those were the days...). We had been discussing some of the differences between British life and American life. The director of the college noted the lack of litigiousness in Britain. He said, "If you trip on the sidewalk in front of someone's house and break your leg--in America, you would sue the property owner. In Britain, you would be told to be more careful next time."

Well, I think the above comment about healthcare applies here. But the remark also prompts the third posting I've read this week, this time from England:

Pensioner Sues After Pineapple Falls On Her Head

She must know an American lawyer. Moving on to other weirdness, the next two links are commercial--one for a service, one for a product:

Eternal Earthbound Pets

Mercury Retrograde Spray

With regard to the said it best when they called it "one of the best Rapture scams out there". I'm always amazed and amused by religious groups that make definite predictions about the end of the world. These always involve something Book-of-Revelationish (unless we're talking Heaven's Gate), and they always have some bizarre way of calculating an exact date. Naturally, they as true believers will be taken to heaven and the rest of us will rot here in the chaos of earth, and probably Hell. The Jehovah's Witnesses are a good example of a group that is frequently re-calculating end-of-the-world dates on a regular basis. You'd think they'd just drop it from their theology already. In any case--these apocalyptic doomsayers believe that animals cannot go to heaven, so some smart atheists came up with a service that directly challenges them. If the world ends and they are raptured in the next ten years, for a $110 fee, animal-loving atheists will take care of their pets left behind. So cruel, but so smart...

As to the second, if this wasn't a total marketing sham, I'd be all for it. Mercury Retrograde is frequently the bane of my existence, and it would be nice to be able to just spray something and make its effects go away, kind of like spraying yourself with "Off" before a barbeque to keep the mosquitoes away. More than likely it's just some aromatherapy thing made with herbs associated with the Air element. But what a tempting way to market it.

Lastly, for the heck of it, I'm including this link. You can file it under "Things I'd Only Ever Think About if I Was Trapped in My House For a Year":

Does Traffic Noise Ruin the Sex Lives of Frogs?

Poor frogs. Aren't you glad to know this?

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