Moldy Blueberries

I sometimes watch Judge Judy with the woman I help care for, and one thing I’ve learned from the show is that often the people on both sides of the case deserve each other. If the person at fault would simply own to up to the fault, or if they’d at least offer to help defray the costs of their part in the fiasco, there would be no problem. And if the person who thinks s/he was wronged would be willing to compromise, then again there would be no problem. But if both blame the other, if both want what they think they are owed (rather than what they really are owed), then there is a problem. So parents sue their offspring. Grown children sue their parents. Friends and roommates sue each other. All because they can’t sit down like the adults they pretend to be, and figure things out. So they go before Judge Judy and let her harangue them.

Another thing I’ve learned is that when money is involved, people always believe they deserve it. If someone lends a friend or relative or significant other a sum of money, whether or not actual terms of repayment are discussed, the lendees (at least the ones on the show) believe they don’t need to pay it back. Often the friend or ex-lover or whoever doesn’t actually ask to borrow the money, but he or she whines piteously to the lender, and because the lender either wants to help or wants the lendee to shut up, the friend offers to lend the money. And because the lendee didn’t come right out and ask for the money, the lendee thinks s/he has no obligation in the matter. (I have had experience in this sort of thing. A relative used to call me up and whine and whine about her financial problems, and because I felt bad for her — and wanted to shut her up — I’d lend her money, and she was always shocked when I asked her to repay it because, as she said, “I never asked you for it.”)

Then there are all the tenant and landlord disagreements. So often I find both people in the wrong, even though I should side with the tenants because I’m one of those who seldom got my deposit back — the landlords always took out money to pay for normal wear and tear rather than for anything I did. (I mean, if you live somewhere for twenty years, as Jeff and I did, there will be a lot of wear and tear, as well as a carpet that needs to be cleaned, rather than actual damages.) Since I’m not litigious, my modus operandi when dealing with landlords was to make sure the deposit was never more than I could afford to lose.

Some of the issues on the show have to deal with products bought or sold, such as vehicles or collectables: a case not just of “buyer beware,” but also “seller beware.” Which is why I have a garage full of things I should/could sell, but I don’t trust people enough to do a long-distance transaction.

And of course, there are a lot of problems with contractors, mechanics, and other fee-for-service businesses who take the fees and don’t do the service. The hirers might not have a choice who they get to work for them, especially in areas with limited services, but there has never been a single one of these cases where I would have ever hired the worker. Their shifty-eyes and fake smiles, if nothing else, would make me back away, though I have been cheated by car mechanics, and as anyone who has read any of my posts about fixing up my house and yard knows, I have a contractor who sometimes comes to work for me, sometimes doesn’t. Mostly I try to make sure I never pay him too much in advance, not because I don’t trust him, but because I don’t trust life. If something happens to him, and he still owes me work, I would never, could never go to his widow and the mother of his small children and demand a refund. She’d have more than enough to contend with in that situation.

There was only one show I saw where neither party was to blame and both were victims. The defendant was driving by the plaintiff’s house when the defendant was shot by an unknown person, and because he lost control of his car, he rammed into the plaintiff’s vehicle and totaled it. The plaintiff sued the defendant because he needed a new car and the defendant’s insurance company refused to pay on the grounds that the driver wasn’t the proximate cause of the accident. Yikes.

As you can see, I cannot even watch a silly television show without trying to learn a life lesson, and what I’ve learned — as I said — is that so often people deserve each other.

After all, moldy blueberries tend to attract other moldy blueberries.

It’s the moldy blueberry analogy that I’ve been smiling about lately and what actually prompted this post. In that particular case, a mother gave her teenage son a car for his use, and because the son was drinking and getting high with some buddies and was too wasted to drive, he lent the vehicle to a still-sober friend so the friend could go and get some treats. It was snowing, the streets were slick, and the driver got in an accident. The mother was suing the friend for damages to the car.

You’d recognize the friend — oh, not by name of course, but by type. He’s every ostensibly clean-cut, self-righteous rich kid in every teenage movie you’ve ever seen. He of course didn’t think he was to blame; after all, he wasn’t the one drinking or taking drugs.

So Judge Judy compared his situation to moldy blueberries. She mentioned that when customers are looking to purchase blueberries, if they see even a single moldy blueberry in the carton, the customers won’t buy the carton because they know that mold spreads.

The rest of the show, she never called the co-defendant (the son who lent the car) by name, only called him “the moldy blueberry.”

That, in the end, is the main thing I’ve learned from watching the show: stay away from moldy blueberries.

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What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

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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