Saturday, February 25, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: Re-liability

I am being restricted to 750 words, as you may know, but I have fallen into the habit of providing the same material on both BLS Advocate and Flying Houses. This is unacceptable. From now on, flying houses will include what parts I "left out" of the column.

SO what was left out this time?

-That I was unreliable by not showing up to a SALSA dance event at Geraldo's on Friday night where the Harvard transferee would apparently be in attendance and where I might be able to get the answer to my question.

-That my back was in truly awful pain, that I spent 3 hours trying to move across the room to unlock my door, and then reach my cell phone, and then did not wake up until 3 PM--though I wrote this column in between 11 AM and 1:30 PM or so.

-That it is probably the worst article so far in the sense that it does not make a strong legal argument. This (along with the severely redacted Facebook Etiquette post on BLS Advocate - which, by the way, I consider the best column I have done in its full 2,900 word form here on this blog, and the worst column in its redacted form) is my second worst column - but I think it could also be considered the best for its poetic quality, reference to Marx, and random tangential quality. This is not just about reliability, but cell phones, answering machines, social life, and default judgments. Maybe I lost some of my focus along the way, but believe me, it could have gotten much, much worse. Enjoy.

It is with great irony that today I opine about reliability, as it marks the first time in my life I have ever committed the sin of the unexcused absence. I woke up at 7:30 AM and could not support and lift myself off of my mattress until after 10 AM because of horrible, horrible, back spasms. 75 minutes after I was supposed to show up, I finally got in touch with several people that work at the library. They understood, did not accuse me of lying, and covered for me.

I have noticed a lot of complaining of late about the alleged scarcity of jobs. Indeed I have written about it before. And perhaps it is no longer just an allegation – but a fact. But I would like to offer an alternative to self-pity: just show up.

A very famous man once said 90% of life is showing up. And when it comes to the practice of law, the statement is accurate (more or less). The only time you don’t show up in court is when you know you have nothing, and you would rather take a default judgment than waste your time fighting a losing battle. But when there is no more than a scintilla of hope, and you still show up, you set a good example. People will respect you for doing that. Unfortunately most of my argument rests on social and not legal grounds.

A spectre is haunting America—the spectre of communication breakdown. We have more tools than ever before to communicate with one another, but people have lost their love for the phone, and fallen for the text. Of course, everyone has cell phones, and few people have landlines, and it would follow that, a person keeps their phone on them at all times – so how come they’re more difficult than ever to reach?

Maybe they just don’t like you, or think you’re ugly. Maybe they’re “shy on the phone” and prefer to send e-mails. Whatever their excuse, it’s troubling. Every cell phone has caller ID (I think). Do you remember the days before caller ID? I do. It was a wilderness. Prank phone calls abounded. Answering machines were the preferred defensive method. I ask people, “Why don’t you ever pick up? Are you screening your calls?” They reply, “What do you mean by that?”

I may be two or three years over the median age, but I am not that old. Still, I have to say, these kids today drive me crazy! Oh, how pathetic it becomes! When, for example, I met with a certain committee a couple weeks ago, and we were waiting for all the other members to show up, and every single person was looking at something or texting something on their cell phone. I don’t have a Smart Phone and people make fun of me for only having 250 Text Messages a month to use.

Answering machines were vastly superior to voice mail because they allowed for a great deal of creativity. Your greeting could be a work of art, if you so chose. Once I left an incredibly long greeting on our family answering machine, and several of my parent’s friends thought it was just about the cutest thing in the world – could they record it and save it as their own? I have heard ONE “creative” voice mail greeting, and it sounded very dumb. The medium is not conducive.

Not only was there creativity – but there was screening. You could have that desperate moment, when you are listening to someone leave a message, and maybe they are saying, “I know you are there. Pick up.” And perhaps you do pick up – in 1993. But if it were 2012, you wouldn’t. You would be too intimidated by the prospect of telephonic conversation. You would write back a text, saying, hey I saw you called, what’s up? And then you are forced to fit your thought into 160 characters. You’re forced to be much more efficient. You’re also forced to ignore the finer details of the matter. Lose your feelings, just state the facts.

Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. He has written two novels, a book of short stories, and a memoir of his 10-month-stint in L.A. He enjoys studying bankruptcy law. He ranks in the upper 54% of his class. You may find his blog by visiting

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