Judgement Call

I sometimes watch television with the woman I sit with several hours a week, and the show of choice is Judge Judy. The most annoying things, of course, are the commercials. The political ads were horrific, but thankfully they are done with, and by the time they return, I’ll probably be finished with this job and with television. Almost as bad as political ads are the drug commercials, with all the happy people dancing around gleefully while the life-threatening side-effects are listed. Most annoying are those sleazy lawyers promising to get me big bucks if only I could get injured in a car accident.

I suppose the lawyer ads make sense, since this show is partly about the law. It’s mostly, of course, about Judge Judy and her sharp bluntness. That sounds oxymoronic, but she is so very blunt in her speech and so pointed in her remarks that her bluntness comes across as sharp. Not just smart as in keen but sharp as in cutting.

As I watch her, I wonder what it would be like to be so very direct. I realize she is a judge, and that it is her show and her courtroom, so what is entertaining coming from her mouth would be downright rude and hurtful coming from me. And above all, I strive not to be rude or hurtful or unkind in any way. If people annoy me, I stay away from them. It gains me nothing to get in their face and tell them what I think of them. Besides, it would probably make me feel worse than it would make them feel.

As I watch the people who stand before the judge, I wonder how I would act if I were one of them. Would I be able to stand there and keep my mouth shut while my opposite number is spouting lies? Would I be seething at the injustice? Would I protest out of turn? Would I be too intimidated to speak up when allowed? I have a hunch I’d be one of those who try to explain too much, to give the context and other background information. A lot of what happens to us can’t be fit into a yes or no situation. There are always gray areas. And yet often, those folks, whether defendant or plaintiff, are only allowed a single word — yes or no.

But none of that matters. I truly doubt I would ever go to a small claims court, would ever apply to be on judiciary show, would ever get a lawyer to try to resolve any situation those litigants get into.

If I lend someone money, I assume it’s lost, and if they pay it back, great. If they don’t pay it back, I will nag them, and if I still can’t get the money back, eventually give that up, too.

I have seldom gotten a deposit back from a landlord — they have almost always managed to find a way to keep it — so I made sure any deposit was an amount I could afford to lose. Now that I own a house, I don’t have that sort of problem, for which I am eternally grateful.

I do have a contractor who doesn’t always show up when he says he will, but I couldn’t sue him even if I wanted to (which I don’t) because I don’t have a written contract. And anyway, we’ve become friends. Whenever I need something done immediately (like a leaky toilet) that goes beyond what would be contracted for, he does without question. A friendship like that helps take some of the stress out of home ownership and is not worth jeopardizing.

I’ll probably never have a property line dispute — the first thing I did when I got here was to have my property surveyed, and it is now part of the legal definition of the place.

I’ve been bitten by dogs, my car has been hit by other drivers, and I’ve slipped and fallen and been badly injured, and never have I sued. In fact, that’s a matter of contention between me and a friend because my not doing so comes across as my being contrary rather my making a judgement call. And maybe I am contrary, but I know for sure I’d rather end a fender bender (even when it is the other person’s fault) with a hug rather than an appearance before a judge.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

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