Attu Sees All
Res Ipsa Loquitur
Rachel Lucas (on hiatus)
a small victory
Curmudgeonly & Skeptical
The Laughing Wolf
Not Quite Tea and Crumpets
On The Third Hand
Right We Are (Closed)
The Country Store
Single Southern Guy
The Spoons Experience
Jay Solo's Verbosity
Sketches of Strain (Closed)
In Sheeps Clothing
The Accidental Jedi (on hiatus)
Straignt White Guy
The Cheese Stands Alone
Trying to Grok
~ Sunday, March 30, 2003
MASTER SGT. JOHN “JACK” STEELE, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF LAW
First Installment – 1/26/03
Second Installment – 2/7/03
Third Installment: -- 3/5/2003
Fourth Installment -- 3/11/2003
Fifth Installment: Jody
Paul Green and Tod Barringer were walking towards their seats in Steele's torts class. Green, looking over his shoulder, asked Barringer, “Did you get to see the Dean yesterday to complain about ‘General Patton'?”
“No, and I'm pissed about it. His secretary called me on Friday to tell me that he would not be in on Monday. I’m beginning to think the guy is ducking me.”
“That sounds crazy to me. How could he know what you want to see him about? Besides, even if he knew why you wanted to meet with him, why would he duck you?”
“I don’t know, but it seems strange to me that he was not available the two other times I tried to see him. I know where he parks his car, and on a day that he is here, I'll just camp out in his office until he sees me. I think that the Dean is more likely to fire the guy now than he would be three weeks from now. And, make no mistakes about it, I want this GI-Joe Nutcase fired now.”
Tod Barringer noticed Paul Green looking down at his wristwatch, and said, “Relax Paul; the crazy bastard won’t be here for another five minutes.”
Loretta Kelly, having overheard the conversation, turned toward Barringer and Green and said, “Tod, this is only the third class. Why don’t you give it another week or so before you go running off to the Dean?”
“Holy Christ, Loretta. The guy’s gotten to you! You survived the last class and even got a bit of an ‘attagirl’ so all of a sudden this asshole’s your hero? Or, maybe you figure that you won’t get called on again for months, and now he's everyone else's problem. What a load of shit.”
“Gimme a break, Tod. All I'm saying is that, sure, the guy has an unusual style, but he does seem to know the stuff.”
Barringer and Green both laughed out loud. Barringer chided Kelly, “Unusual style??? You really slay me, Loretta. One minute you’re about ready to puke with fear of being called on by the guy, and the next minute you’re ready to sign on to his crazy chicken shit. You may buy into all this military baloney, but I don’t. And, as far as knowing his stuff, I seriously doubt it.”
Josh Schulman, a student seated several seats away, overheard Barringer and offered, “The guy is a bit of a mystery. I looked for him in Martindale, but I couldn’t find him. I also Googled him, but there were so many John Steeles that I gave up. I finally found his name in a Georgetown newsletter on the net, but it only showed him as a contributor to the alumni fund. Other than that I can’t find anything on him.”
Barringer replied, “I don’t much give a damn what Steele’s background or credentials are. I don’t think any of us has to put up with his brand of shit or as Loretta would say, 'his unusual style'.”
At exactly 8:30, Steele walked into the lecture hall. “Atenn-HUTT!”
Everyone ceased talking and snapped to attention.
As was the case in prior classes, he stepped to the center of the classroom, put the casebook on the lectern and stood at a brace while he passed his gaze over the students. He seemed to spend a full second or two concentrating on each student’s face. It was absolutely unnerving.
While they were still standing at attention, he carefully removed his drill sergeant’s cap, using two hands so as not to bend the brim, and placed it on the desk. He performed this ritual in a deliberate – almost reverential way. It reminded some of the students of the manner in which a priest handles the communion chalice during a Catholic mass. It was eerie.
He turned back towards the class and yelled, “SEATS!” He was happy to hear one loud thud as all the students sat at exactly the same time.
“Well, I see that you are managing to learn to properly stand at attention and to sit down. Now, if I can just get you to pull your head out of your asses just a little further, you might even learn a little gott-damned law in this class.
Seth Tomkins noticed for the first time that Steele did not bring notes with him to class. Had anyone else picked up on this? All of his other professors used notes. He concluded that he must have been too rattled during the prior classes to notice. What is the deal with this guy?
Seth turned to the page in his notebook on which he had previously sketched the patches that were sewn onto Steele’s sleeves, and he began to draw a schematic diagram of the ribbons on Steele’s uniform, noting the colors and distinctive patterns of each of the decorations. Tomkins reasoned that, if Steele’s background was not in Martindale- Hubble or available in Google, (he also had tried both sources), his uniform might tell his story.
Steele began, with his booming voice, “All right, people. Listen up. Last class, Kozloski and Kelly dragged you sorry asses through the process of figuring out most of the things that go into making up a tort. That will be our jumping-off point today."
Steele looked at a student in the second row and said, “BERTELLI, Joseph! On your feet!” No one missed it. Steele did not bring the seating chart with him. He had memorized the damned thing!
Joe Bertelli was shocked to hear his name, having been lulled into believing that, given the absence of a seating chart, Steele didn't intend to have people recite that day. Nevertheless, he quickly rose from his seat, and while doing so, he felt that this was as good a time as any to be called upon. He had read the assignment, and he had thought about it. In fact, he and his study group had extensively bullshat the assignment over the weekend. They had even gone so far as to try to predict how Steele would handle the material. He honestly felt that he was fully prepared and, besides, maybe getting it over with now would keep him out of the bull's-eye for several weeks, or maybe even longer. He took a deep breath, sucked in his gut, threw his chest out, and carefully lined up his thumbs with the seams of his trousers.
Steele eyeballed Bertelli and said, “Not bad, Bertelli. You almost look squared away. All your dipshits, take a look at Bertelli here. He’s looking like, with a bit more practice, he might actually be able to be a raw-CROOT in my beloved Army.”
The students looked at Bertelli, again not quite believing that someone was being praised in a law school lecture hall for properly standing at attention!.
Bertelli, interpreting Steele's remark as actually resembling something like faint praise, stood even straighter.
“There’s one gott-damned problem, Bertelli. Do you know what that might be?”
“Bertelli’s short-lived wave of pride and relief faded, as he answered, No sergeant.”
“It’s your ‘gig line,’ Bertelli – your gott-damned gig line!”
Bertelli, not having any idea what Steele was referring to, did not respond, but remained at attention, looking straight ahead.
“Bertelli, did you hear me? Your gig line is screwed up. Fix the gott-damned thing!”
Class had been underway for only a couple minutes and already Steele had everyone, not just Bertelli, in a state of nervous confusion. A gig line? Not one of them had any idea what Steele was talking about.
Steele did not speak again. He stared at Bertelli, until Bertelli could no longer stand it. He mustered up his nerve and responded, “What’s a gig line, sergeant?”
“Gott-dammit, Bertelli, what the hell took you so long to ask? I knew gott-damned well that you wouldn’t know what a gig-line is. You know how I knew that, Bertelli? One, because you’re a gott-damned civilian, and I never – repeat – never met a gott-damned civilian who knew what a gig line is, and two, I sure as shit didn’t tell you in either of our past two classes what a gig line is. I was really interested to see whether you paid attention to what I said in the first class, and do you remember what that was, don’t you Bertelli?”
Bertelli went into brain-lock. He remembered that Steele said all sorts of things in the first class, most of them downright crazy - stow your gear, authorized equipment, stand at attention, at ease, but none of them seemed to be what Steele had in mind now.
“I don’t know what you are referring to, sergeant.”
“You don’t? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? Do you remember that, during the first class, I made myself clear that if you didn’t understand something, I gott-damned well expect you to sound off and ask me. Does that ring your friggin’ bell, Bertelli?”
“Yes, sergeant, I remember that you said that.”
Steele didn’t say anything. He simply stared into Bertelli’s eyes. Bertelli felt himself becoming unhinged.
Steele knew that often a fixed stare and protracted silence was the best way to get everyone’s attention. He played the silence like a maestro.
Assured that he had everyone’s undivided attention, Steele shouted, “SO ASK ME, GOTT-DAMMIT!”
“Oh…I…..didn’t realize that that’s what you wanted. You want me to ask you what a gig line is?”
“Bertelli, I’m beginning to think you have the brains of a piss-clam.”
“What’s a gig line, sergeant?”
“Well, EEEU-FRIGGIN’-REEKA, Bertelli. You finally got it. I was starting to think that maybe you’d been beaten with the Stupid Stick when you were a kid. Your gig line is the imaginary straight line that should run from the edge of your shirt seam, where the buttonholes are, past the edge of your belt buckle, down through edge of your zipper seam. And YOUR gig line looks like shit!”
Bertelli looked down, and his shirt was only partially tucked in, and the part that was tucked in was rumpled over his trousers. What did he say about zipper seams and buckles? How nuts is this guy?
Steele surprised the class by quickly opening the buttons on his “Class A” jacket, exposing his starched shirt, and holding the edge of the casebook to his stomach to show the class how a proper gig line looks. Damned if there wasn't a perfectly straight line that ran from the edge of his shirt, past the edge of his brass belt buckle through the edge of his zipper seam.
“This is a squared away gig line, Bertelli. You look like a gott-damned unmade bed!” The students couldn’t believe what they were seeing or hearing. It was just too crazy.
Bertelli fidgeted with his shirt, trying to tuck it in with his thumbs, which was not working. He knew that the only possible way to do what Steele seemed to want would require unbuckling his belt, unbuttoning his pants, unzipping his fly and starting from scratch. He wondered, could this crazy bastard want me to drop my drawers right here so I can tuck in my shirt to create a goddamned gig line? Gig line!! This is insane.
Steele returned the casebook to the lectern, re-buttoned his jacket and stared at Bertelli.
Bertelli, not knowing what else to do, began to unbuckle his belt. Steele yelled, “Bertelli, are you out of your gott-damned mind? If you’re thinking of “dropping trou” right here, spare us. Next time you come to class, I would like to see a gott-damned squared away gig line. Just a suggestion. You read me?”
“Yes, sergeant, Bertelli replied, wondering when this would be over. His back began to ache from standing so long at attention.”
“All right, Bertelli. At ease.”
Bertelli welcomed the opportunity to “relax,” to the extent relaxing was possible once Steele had your number.
“You remember what we said about what kinds of things were necessary for there to be a tort?”
Bertelli thought, finally, we’re getting to the assignment. Dammit, I’m ready.
“Outstanding. Give me a one sentence summary.”
“Bertelli collected his thoughts and replied. A tort results when a person’s negligence causes injuries to another person, and it gives the injured person the right to seek damages in court.”
“Well done, Bertelli. And negligence is…?”
Directly quoting Steele's words from the previous class, Bertelli said, “Negligence is some dumbshit doing something a reasonable person wouldn’t do, or failing to do something a reasonable person would do.”
Steele, having recognized his own words being played back to him, smiled inwardly, and barked, “Now you sound like a gott-damned scholar, Bertelli. OUTSTANDING.” This produced a muffled chuckle from a few students. Steele did not let on that he heard it. He pressed on.
“OK, we’re off to a pretty good start here. Now listen up, Bertelli, and think, gott-dammit.
Steele began, "Let's say that you’ve stopped at the supermarket to pick up a few things. You’re standing just off the produce aisle, behind the canned peas, but you can clearly see the entire produce aisle. You following this, Bertelli?”
“OK, so you’re standing there, and you see Jody walking down the produce aisle, and you’ve been wanting to kick Jody’s ass ever since you returned from duty overseas. No matter that Jody happened to be a well-respected man in the town - the town librarian, for Chrissakes - you just want to kick his ass, and you have no doubt that this shitheel has it coming.”
"You with me, Bertelli?"
Bertelli sensed another trap, and he was determined not to fall for it again. “I don’t think I completely understand, sergeant." His mind raced. He mentally ran through the assignment, and he was certain that there was no mention of any Jody, and none of the cases dealt with anyone who had an ass-kicking coming. Where the hell was this going? “It sounds like I need to know about this fellow Jody.”
“Excellent gott-damned question, Bertelli. You’ve just proved that learning can take place, even with only a half a brain. ‘Jody’ is the name we use in my beloved Army to refer to the son of a bitch who is romancing your girl or your wife, and driving your gott-damned Cadillac while you’re away from home on duty. So, you with me now, Bertelli?"
“OK. So, this son of a bitch Jody is walking down the produce aisle. He doesn’t see you. He comes closer. You’re waiting for just the right moment. When he is about five feet away, you step in front of him and hit him with your best shot, breaking his nose and knocking him flat on his ass. You got that, Bertelli?”
“Yes, sergeant.” Bertelli still wondered where this was going.
“Is that a tort, Bertelli?”
Bertelli thought, Jesus, I read all the stuff carefully. I know damned well that these facts are nothing like anything in the assignment. This isn't fair. "Well, sergeant…I think…."
Steele cut him off in mid-sentence, "Don't answer this second, Bertelli remain at ease, and think about it."
"STEVENSON, Edward! On your feet.” Ed Stevenson, the student a few seats down from Bertelli, thought, oh shit, as he heard his name called without warning. Stevenson stood at attention, at the wrong end of Steele's glare.
"At ease, Stevenson. You heard the facts. Is knocking Jody on his ass and busting his nose a tort?"
Stevenson had read all but a few pages of the material, and, as was the case with the previous assignments, he was having some difficulty seeing the point of some of the cases. That said, he didn't recall anything in the assignment that was anything like this. He felt himself beginning to sweat.
"I'm not really sure, sergeant." Hoping with all his being that the key to all this was not in the few pages he had skipped, Stevenson continued, "I read the cases, but I honestly don't think any of them dealt with anything at all like this."
"Stevenson, gott-dammit, this is not like the gig line question. You should be able to answer this question. But, guess what, Stevenson. You just might have to think!"
Stevenson knew that he could guess and have a fifty percent chance of getting the right answer, but he also knew that any answer he gave would be followed by a barrage of questions. He froze.
“Stevenson, we don’t have all gott-damned day for you to think about this, so let’s start from the end and work forward. You think we can do that, Stevenson?”
“OK. Was Jody injured when Bertelli knocked him on his ass in the supermarket?”
“Yes, sergeant. He got a broken nose.”
“And, that broken nose will require a doctor’s care. Jody might even have to miss some work at the library, and he may well be in a good deal of pain for a while, correct, Stevenson?”
“And, all those things amount to damages, right Stevenson?”
“Now, was Bertelli’s knocking that son of a bitch Jody on his ass something a reasonable person would do?”
“Well, I would do it, sergeant.”
“I didn’t ask you whether you would do it, or whether I would do it, or whether the man in the gott-damned moon would do it. I asked you if a hypo-gott-damned-thetical reasonable person would do it.”
Stevenson followed Steele’s lead and answered, “No, a reasonable person would not knock Jody on his ass.”
“So, I ask you again. Was Bertelli’s punching Jody’s lights out a tort?”
Stevenson felt he might win points by thinking out loud and proving that he had mastered the analysis. He began, “Well, we have damages that were caused by someone doing what a reasonable person would not do, therefore, we have negligence, and ….”
“NEGLIGENCE?? Did you say negligence?? What the hell are you thinking about? Does that mean that Bertelli did not carefully slug Jody? Maybe he should have hit him harder? Softer? In the family jewels? Jesus Christ, Stevenson, just when I was beginning to think that you might have your shit together, you prove that you’re dumb as a bag of rocks. Take your gott-damned seat.”
Not surprised by being placed back in the line of fire, Bertelli answered, “Yes, sergeant.”
“See if you can help Stevenson here. Do we have a gott-damned tort or not?”
“Yes, sergeant, we have a tort.”
“How do you figure, Bertelli? Because I believe it is clear to everyone in the class, other than Stevenson over there (who should save daddy’s money and apply for a job as a pop-up target at Fort Dix), that we don’t have negligence here.”
Bertelli responded, “We don’t have negligence here, but I think this must be a tort, because intentionally hurting someone seems to me to be even worse than negligently hurting someone, and if negligence is enough for a tort, then purposely hurting someone also has to be enough.”
Steele looked from one side of the class to the other, while saying, “Did all you mutton-heads hear what Bertelli said? SOUND OFF!”
“YES, SERGEANT, the class bellowed.”
“Good, because that’s the correct gott-damned answer! And guess what we call the brand of tort the results when someone’s intentional conduct causes damages? I know that this may be hard for some of you knuckleheads to understand, but we call that an intentional tort. Now, spare me the bullshit. I know damned well that the reading assignment did not specifically deal with intentional torts – those are covered later in the book, but I want you dipshits to learn to work with what you know and use that to figure out the right answer. Hell, if you’re out in the bush and the enemy tries to kill your ass in some way you’ve never seen before, you damned well can’t get him to stop trying to kill your ass by telling him that what he’s doing was not covered in your reading assignment!” ARE WE CLEAR ON THAT?”
The class responded, ‘YES, SERGEANT.”
“Excellent. Give me a gott-damned ATTITUDE CHECK!!”
It took a second or two for this to register from the previous class, but the entire class seemed to get it all at once. They responded, in loud unison, “WE LOVE THIS SHIT!”
“Very well. Take your seat, Bertelli.”
“HOFFMANN, Roger!! On your feet!”
Hoffmann rose and assumed the position of attention, this coming easier to him than it did for some of the students, owing to his having been a Boy Scout for five years.
Steele began, “Hoffmann, let’s put you back in the same supermarket – next to the same produce aisle, behind the same canned peas. You read me, Hoffmann?”
“Yes, sergeant, I do.”
“What’s different this time is that someone accidentally broke a bottle of cooking oil on the floor in the produce aisle. It’s slippery as hell. You know that, because you damned near slipped on it yourself. Got that, Hoffmann?”
“Yes, sergeant, oil on the floor, really slippery.”
“Now, here comes that son of a bitch Jody walking down the produce aisle directly in the path of the oil. The dumbshit is not looking down, and you know that he will damned sure slip on the oil and break his ass. Furthermore, you know that all you would have to do is call his attention to the oil on the floor to permit him to walk safely around it. Still with me, Hoffmann?”
“But you have no intention of warning Jody. In fact, you want to see that rat bastard Jody slip on the oil and break his ass. In fact, you’re enjoying the little drama unfold as Jody the shithook briskly walks closer and closer to the oil. You think, I hope the bastard really hurts himself. Still reading me Hoffmann?”
“So, you remain silent and sure as shit, Jody goes ass over tea kettle, slams his face into the floor and breaks his gott-damned nose. Jody catches a glimpse of you walking out of the supermarket laughing your ass off.”
Hoffmann began to feel the heat, for just the thought of the question he knew was coming tied his brain in knots.”
“So, Hoffmann, is that a tort? Can Jody successfully sue your ass for damages?”
Hoffmann sensed yet another Steele trap, but this seemed like a no-brainer. He responded, with surprising confidence, “Yes, sergeant, that would constitute a tort.”
“Hoffmann, we all know that Zippy the chimp would have a fifty-fifty chance of getting the right answer, so why don’t you tell me (and your buddies in the class, who better gott-damned well be paying attention), how you came to that conclusion. We’ll skip the injury and damages part, because I think it is clear that Jody was pretty well banged up after the fall. I think we can also agree that it was your not warning Jody about the oil that caused him to slip on it, because you are to assume that if you warned him, he would not have fallen. Can we agree on all that, Hoffmann?”
“Yes, sergeant.” Hoffmann’s knees were becoming weak. Every other student in the class was suffering vicariously with Hoffmann, as Steele relentlessly pushed him into a corner.
“In fact, Hoffmann, let’s get right to it. Seems to me that we are down to your decision not to warn that bastard Jody about the oil. If that decision amounted to negligence or an intentionally bad act calculated to hurt Jody, seems to me that he can sue your ass off in tort. So, what is it, Hoffmann?”
Hoffmann was so tense that he was developing tunnel vision. He struggled to gain control of himself, but his voice still shook when he answered, “Well, I think it is an intentional tort, sergeant because I intended for Jody to fall on the oil.”
“An intentional tort?? And just what intentional act did you commit that caused Jody to fall? Did you spill the oil on the gott-damned floor?”
“No, sergeant, but I didn’t warn him.”
“So, Hoffmann, you’re standing there and doing and saying absolutely NOTHING amounts to a gott-damned ACT??. Get your head out of your ass, Hoffmann!”
Hoffmann felt sick. “I guess it was not an intentional tort, sergeant.”
“Good gott-damned guess, Hoffmann. Now, how about negligence?” Steele could see that Hoffmann appeared to be about to crater. “Hoffmann, you look like hell. Take ten seconds to get your shit together, and then answer the gott-damned question.”
Ten seconds passed, and Hoffmann answered, “I think that I should have warned Jody about the oil and not warning him amounted to negligence.”
“So, you’re saying that you had some kind of obligation to warn this rat bastard, shithook about the oil?”
“Yes, sergeant, an obligation.”
“Would you say that you, therefore, had a DUTY to warn this louse?”
“Yes, sergeant, a duty.”
Steele bellowed, “Duty? You didn’t spill the gott-damned oil, did you?”
“You’re not an employee of the gott-damned supermarket are you?”
“So, what’s the basis for this so-called duty?”
“Sergeant, I just don’t know the answer. None of this is making much sense. I’m confused.”
The class expected this remark from Hoffmann to trigger a shit-storm from Steele. That’s why they were all surprised when Steele said, “Well, I’ll grant you this Hoffmann. I guaran-gott-damn-tee you that you’re not the only in the class who is confused by this, so let me lay it out for you and your fellow confusees.”
“Here’s the bottom line. The law does not require that you do anyone any gott-damned favors. It does not require you to ACT, unless you have a legal DUTY to act, and the law (not common-gott-damned-sense) that determines under what circumstances you have a duty.”
Steele continued, “Hell, suppose you’re sitting with your feet dangling in the pool at some hotel, and a toddler falls into three-feet deep water right next to you, and is in the process of drowning. All you would have to do to save the kid is to reach down and pull her out of the pool. You know what your legal obligation is? Let me answer that for you. You have no gott-damn obligation. You have no gott-damned duty. Hell, you can just sit there, finish your beer and watch the kid drown, and no one can sue you for anything.” Steele felt himself losing his temper talking about this, just as he did when he was a 1L at Georgetown when his professor posed the drowning toddler problem to his class. Back then, he ended up apologizing to the professor for having blurted out in class, “You gotta’ be full of shit. That’s the dumbest gott-damn thing I have ever heard!”
“So, in the supermarket example, Hoffmann didn’t have any duty with respect to Jody, but the store owner and the store’s employees had a duty to warn about the oil and to clean it up, because Jody was a customer. In the toddler example, the shithead sitting by the pool drinking his beer could let the kid drown because he had no duty, but a lifeguard or the kid’s parents sure as hell would have a duty to save the kid. The bottom line is that, before you can even think about whether you have a tort you have to first make damned sure that the law creates a duty on the part of the dumbshit you’re trying to sue. Then you have to see if the dumbshit breached the duty, and if so, whether that breach caused the damages.”
“THAT, you lagerheads, finishes up the four ingredients you need for a tort. LISTEN UP!!!” Steele stood erect and in much the same manner he would use to instruct a bayonet class, he barked, “The four elements of a tort are: DUTY…BREACH…CAUSATION… and DAMAGES!!!”
“What are the four elements of a tort? SOUND OFF!!!”
The class responded, “Duty, breach, causation, and damages.”
”GOTT-DAMMIT, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!! WHAT ARE THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF A TORT?”
The class hollered back, “DUTY, BREACH CAUSATION and DAMAGES.”
“And what do you have it one of the elements is missing? I’ll tell you what you have. You have SHIT.”
“What do you have if one of the elements is missing? SOUND OFF!!!”
Some of the students were openly smiling when the class responded in unison, “YOU HAVE SHIT!!”
“I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!! WHAT DO YOU HAVE IF ONE OF THE ELEMENTS IS MISSING?”
“YOU HAVE SHIT!!” Now, a few of the students actually seemed to be enjoying themselves.
“If you dim lights can remember that every time someone dumps a boatload of confusing shit in your lap, you’ll be more than half way home. DO YOU READ ME?”
“Very well. Now, listen closely to me, because the following is NOT Law 101; It’s gott-damned LIFE 101.” Steele paused for effect, and then stated, “If this drill sergeant ever sees any of you sit back and let a kid drown, this drill sergeant will do two things. I’ll save the kid, and then I’ll kick your ass. DO YOU READ ME?”
“Excellent. If you remember one gott-damned thing from this class, remember this. And, I am as serious as a gott-damned heart attack. And, that is, just because you have the right to do something, does not make it the right thing to do.”
“Have I made myself clear?”
“OUTstanding! Read the next 50 pages in your casebooks for next class. ATENN-HUTT!”
Everyone in the class sprang to their feet.
“Give me a gott-damned ATTITUDE CHECK!”
The class responded, “WE LOVE THIS SHIT!!”
“Nicely done. “DISMISSED!”
As Steele turned away from the exiting students to put his drill sergeant’s cap back on, he overheard several conversations. They were buzzing about the drowning kid. Things are working out just fine, Steele thought.
(to be continued)
~ Saturday, March 29, 2003
Words of Wisdom.
I was checking out a long list of bookmarked links so that I could organize what was becoming a bit of an unwieldy mess. Some of them did not seem as interesting or as funny as they must have seemed at the time I created the bookmark. However, "Everything I Really Needed to Know I Learned in a Bar," originally seen months ago via The Presurfer, was funny the second time around. Cheers!
~ Thursday, March 27, 2003
Civilian Targets and Bullshit Meters.
I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to the sound of the Iraqi Minister of Health speaking at a press conference. It took only a minute or so for my Bullshit Meter to begin beeping furiously. It peaked when he charged that Americans were "targeting civilians." Surely he knows that if the US were truly interested in "targeting civilians," there wouldn't be very many of them left alive in Baghdad today. Perhaps it's wishful thinking on my part, but, I had the sense that this man was having a difficult time spewing the ridiculous party line. I wonder if, before the press conference, the Health Minister set his Bullshit Meter to "vibrate."
~ Wednesday, March 26, 2003
~ Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Sorry. I tried to write something funny, but I can’t. I tried to read other people’s thoughts, but that’s not working either. The thing is -- this photograph ruined my day. I was rendered speechless. Was it anger or sadness? It was probably a generous helping of both. Link via Balloon Juice.
~ Saturday, March 22, 2003
And Now for Something Really Important.
Somehow this really HUGE story got lost amidst the war coverage. The Fox Newtork has announced that, that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, will be hosting a new "reality" show. Put a sticky on your TV screen to remind yourself to tune in once the real reality subsides. Fortunately, I'm fresh out of stickies. Link via My So-Called Blog.
~ Friday, March 21, 2003
FURIOUS! Balloon Juice posted the Final Vote Count in the House of Representatives for House Congressional Resolution No. 104, Expressing the Support and Appreciation of the Nation for the President and the Members of the Armed Forces Who are Participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom. 392 representatives voted "yes," Eleven voted "no" (none of those names would surprise you). MY Congressman (10th District, NJ) was one of the twenty-two creeps who voted "Present." The following letter will be placed in the mail tomorrow. (Pardon the poor formatting here. It is correct in the letter.)
March 21, 2003
Congressman Donald M. Payne
House of Representatives
2209 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Re:House Congressional Resolution No. 104, Expressing the Support and Appreciation of the Nation for the President and the Members of the Armed Forces Who are Participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Dear Mr. Payne:
I just learned that you are among the 22 Members of the House who chose to vote “Present” on the above-referenced Resolution.
Quite simply, you are a disgrace. You have effectively spit in the eyes of those in your district with friends or loved ones serving in the military. Do you think so little of your constituents to assume that we would not notice? Maybe, at the moment, many of them are too worried about their loved ones to pay attention to your utter disrespect. However, I assure you that, starting today and through the day you run for re-election, I intend to remind them and others, including the veterans in your district, of your shameful vote today.
Very truly yours,
When the Deadline Ended. Wednesday evening at 8:00 p.m., like many other people, I wanted to be seated in front of the television to see what, if anything, might happen in Iraq when the President’s deadline to Saddam Hussein ended. However, I had to forego television viewing at eight o’clock and for a couple hours thereafter, as I had made a previous commitment to my American Legion Post to serve as a judge to select delegates to New Jersey Boys’ State. While driving to the Post, I found myself thinking, Damn, why does this have to be tonight? I’m going to have to miss something important.
When I arrived at the Post, I saw the eleven boys, each having been selected by their respective high schools, who were there to seek to be among the five delegates that our Post will be sending to Boys’ State. Each boy was accompanied by at least one family member, and in some cases, three or four family members. The boys sat in the front row of chairs, with their family members seated behind them in the audience. The boys and the audience faced the front table, at which the five judges sat.
Those five who would be selected as delegates will be sent, at the Post’s expense, to a college campus in New Jersey this summer to spend several days learning about state government by actually “doing” government. The boys from all over New Jersey are broken up into “cities,” and from there, they form governments and hold city elections. The city governments gather together to form county governments and ultimately choose a state legislator and a state “governor.” Two delegates are chosen by their members to serve later in the year in Washington D.C. to represent New Jersey in “Boys’ Nation.”
Each of the boys had to select a question from a bucket full of questions, all of which had been written in advance by the judges. The questions are designed to be open ended, such that there is no “correct” answer. Some questions are easier than others (e.g. “What is your favorite subject in school and why?”), while some are a bit more weighty (e.g. “Do you favor laws that limit the amount a person may contribute to an election campaign? If so, why? If not, why not?”).
If a boy chose a question he did not feel comfortable answering, he could return that question to the bucket and choose another one, and continue choosing until he found one he wanted to answer. The bucket contained numerous slips that said, “Choose another question,” so that the audience and the judges would not know whether the boy was blowing through many questions or was picking “Choose another question” slips.
After selecting a question, each boy had to walk to a podium that faced the five judges and respond to the question extemporaneously. The boys were judged based on their speaking ability, the clarity with which they expressed themselves, and their persuasiveness.
I recall reading a survey somewhere that showed that the only thing many people fear more than death is public speaking. So, it is not surprising that all the boys were predictably nervous, particularly since they had to speak, in front of an audience of parents and their peers, to a panel of Vietnam-Era guys wearing American Legion Caps. However, each boy was supportive of the others, and all of them rose to the occasion. Judging was not easy.
Afterwards, we mingled a bit with the boys and their family members, and it was obvious that each of the boys was blessed with a caring and supportive family. While the boys and their families covered the spectrum of races and, quite likely, more than a few religions, what bound all them together was a love and respect for the United States and a desire to learn about American government by actually participating in the governmental process. It was a pleasure and an honor to meet them.
I realized that I had been very wrong earlier that evening. Sure, I missed some television news, but I got to participate in and witness a small slice of this country’s greatness. I cannot imagine a more fitting thing to have been doing at the time the deadline ended.
~ Thursday, March 20, 2003
San Francisco Pukers. I just heard on the radio that protesters have taken to vomiting in front of a federal building in San Francisco to demonstrate that war makes them sick. If that is true, no further comment seems necessary.
Update. Details on the "Vomit In." via a small victory
~ Tuesday, March 18, 2003
A Bit of the Blahs. I sat down intending to help Sgt. Steele prepare for an upcoming torts class, but I ended up spending most of the time reading other people’s stuff. I think that my increasingly frequent thoughts about the impending war tend to occupy large amounts of space in the part of my cruller that is necessary to write anything worth a damn. I did, however, find that playing a little bit of electronic Trivial Pursuit provided a pleasant diversion. You might want to give it a try, if you think you too could use a short respite from wondering what the next few days will bring. (Trivial Pursuit link via Newmark's Door)
~ Monday, March 17, 2003
The Things People Say. Un-great minds think alike. Check out Hollywood Halfwits. A sample - Julia Roberts' Deep Thoughts: "Republican comes in the dictionary just after reptile and just above repugnant. I looked up Democrat. It's of the people, by the people, for the people." via Attu Sees All.
Update a Small Victory has the details on the "Vomit In."
~ Saturday, March 15, 2003
Linkage. The other day I added three new links to my blogroll (I’m still learning the jargon). Within a week’s time, one of them, Phact Patterns, decided to pack it in. That wasn’t the first time my linking to a site was followed by its demise. Shortly after I linked to The Spoons Experience, a well-written, no baloney blog, the author closed up shop. (I have since de-linked his site, but I will happily add him to the list again, should he decide to resume blogging.) I was beginning to think I was the creator of jinx links when literally, the day after I got around to finally linking to Rachel Lucas, she said that she was taking an extended vacation (happily, she has already returned). It certainly could not have been something I said, as I never communicated directly with any of them (except for being one of a zillion people responding to Rachel's request for suggestions for a new name for her blog). What’s up? Gott-damned spooky, if you ask me.
I suspect (but I am not certain) that I treat links like many people do. That is to say, I link to blogs that I like to read and that I think that those people who read my blather might also like to read. Almost always, I read them for some time before I add them to the list (I sense that de-linking someone is serious business). I have about three times as many sites bookmarked as those in the blogroll that I look in on just about every day, some of which I will eventually add to the list.
Anyway, for what it's worth, and because I am too fried from the week to do any heavy mental lifting, I thought I would share some thoughts about each of the blogs listed in my blogroll, understanding completely that none of them needs an introduction from me.
Twisty: TJ and I are most definitely related. Indeed, I will be the proud father-of-the-bride proudly walking her down the aisle in a month or so. So, is should not be surprising that she gets top billing, and I make no apologies for that. As it happens, she writes well enough to occupy that spot anyway. In addition to working and closing in on a Master's Degree, she’s also a talented singer and actress. She and I (I’ve been banging around the music business all my life) have been known to tear up a Karaoke bar or two just for shits and giggles. In fact, one time on a cruise ship, we did a couple duets on “talent” night, and the people in the audience thought we were members of the ship’s stage show cast pretending to be passengers. Shows you what a couple extra-dry martinis can do.
Jack Bog’s Blog and Yakety Yak. As many of you know, Jack and I are cousins. Last Fall, I sent him a few post-election political rants and, an e-mail, prompted by a post he wrote about the 50’s and 60’s group, the Coasters, describing an opportunity I had to play drums one time behind the Coasters. I suspect that he got tired of hearing from me, so he suggested I do a blog. Blame him. He is, and always was, scary smart. How else could one be a tax law professor? He also writes his ass off, and, as a Jersey native who has not lost his Jersey edge, Jack keeps the politicians of Portland grinding their teeth.
Ultimate Insult. One of the first link-portal sites I ran into when I started the blog, and I’ve been reading it every day since then. Great stuff.
How Appealing. The definitive appellate law blog. Having had the good fortune to have served as a law clerk in a federal appeals court, I find this site to be extremely interesting and informative. I do, however I wonder where Howard Bashman finds the time!
Instapundit. THE blog. We’re not worthy!
Ipse Dixit. A lawyer-blogger who is always interesting as hell. One of these weeks I’ll win the damned caption contest. I just know it.
Attu Sees All. Another link portal site, this one originating from outside the U.S. Arthur always manages to find interesting and offbeat things. I also must compliment him on his eye for excellent looking women.
Hanlonvision. Leigh Hanlon is nice guy and a talented writer from Chicago, with a keen artistic sense and who regularly, and in a most engaging way, calls our attention to things worth thinking about. He also takes great photos.
The Presurfer. The third link-portal site on the list, also from outside the U.S. I often wonder how he finds all those things. Great place to spend time.
Res Ipsa Loquitur. Rita is just plain special. She is an Arkansas lawyer who spends most of her time rescuing abused and neglected children from their “dysfunctional” parents or guardians. She then represents the interests of the children in ensuing court proceedings. When she is not doing that, she manages to find time to write an extremely interesting and entertaining blog. Definitely a class act.
Rachel Lucas. This is one smart, talented, take-no-prisoners woman who lives in Texas and has a bullshit tolerance of zero. I figure I am but one of zillion people who link to her site.
mtpolitics. Really sharp guy from Montana, who is politically perceptive, and who is the proud owner of a big sky sense of humor.
a small victory. Another well-known, ass kicking female blogger. The East Coast’s answer to Rachel Lucas, she’s not one to be trifled with. She is linked to by a cast of thousands.
i hate stupid people. An obviously very bright law student, who writes extremely well. As she is about to complete law school, she reports having learned the most important lesson – “don’t be an asshole.” (Sounds like she could be one of Sgt. Steele's students.) That basic lesson is lost on too many members of the profession. I have no doubt that she will do very well.
Phact Patterns. Another seriously smart law student, who writes particularly well. What I really admire most is how he and “k” from “i hate stupid people” disagree on difficult issues in a most civil way. There is not enough of that going around. He’ll also do well after graduation. I’ll keep him on the list a while, in hopes that he will blog a bit when time permits.
Life After Fifty. I learned of this site from Rita’s blog and, after reading a particularly touching post, I linked to his site right away. Besides, I figure that the author and I were born in the same decade, and, as bloggers go, we are a both little long in the tooth and, therefore, a bit of a rarity. He also served in the Army and, in the touching post, related a story about a stuttering drill sergeant. What’s not to like?
~ Friday, March 14, 2003
EWWWWW. Leigh Hanlon over at Hanlonvision asks us to consider the marketability of dog treats that taste like shit. Leigh's post caused me to remember that I once worked for a man at a pharmaceutical company who claimed to have a friend who was the marketing manager for a company that manufactured "feminine hygiene sprays" (Are they still manufactured, I wonder?). He reported that the the company hired professional "sniffers" to make recommendations about various scents. As it was described to me, the test subjects would use the products and, at the appointed time, show up and stand on a platform built and shielded such that only the "relevant bits" were visible and sniffable. I assume the "sniffers" were paid more than the "snifees," but one can only speculate.
Dixie Disappointed. It seems that Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the fabulous Dixie Chicks, one of my favorite groups, felt she had to run her mouth - in London yet - by saying, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." I sure wish she wouldn't have done that.
~ Tuesday, March 11, 2003
MASTER SGT. JOHN “JACK” STEELE, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF LAW
First Installment – 1/26/03
Second Installment – 2/7/03
Third Installment: 3/5/2003
Fourth Installment: The Class Continues – Loretta Kelly Has a Rough Day
Oh my God¸ Loretta Kelly thought. It was as if someone had hit her in the chest with a sledgehammer. She had been terrified at the prospect of being called upon even before she watched Stan Kozloski be badgered mercilessly by Steele. Now, as she attempted to rise from her chair, she felt a rhythmic pounding in her temples and sweat begin to form on her forehead. Her legs were weak and were barely able to push her body out of the chair. Finally managing to get on her feet, she struggled to assume the position of attention. Her hands were visibly shaking.
“At ease, Kelly,” Steele said.
She was frozen with fear. She did not respond to his command.
“Gott-dammit, Kelly, I said, AT EASE!”
She moved her left foot to the left as previously instructed, but faltered momentarily because her legs just would not work properly. She regained her balance, placed her hands behind her back and assumed the proper position.
“Kelly, did you hear my gott-damned question?”
She tried to speak, but she hesitated a split second too long.
“Jesus Christ!! What the hell is the matter with you people? First Kozloski and now you. I’ll bet you have no problem running your mouths outside this class when you're in the “Five to Four” telling all the townies that you’re on the way to being the next Clarence gott-damned Darrow! Dammit Kelly, SOUND OFF.”
Her voice cracking, Loretta Kelly responded, “Yes….sergeant….I heard the question. You asked me what a tort is.”
“Well, well, Kelly. You do have a voice, after all. I was beginning to wonder if maybe you should drop out while you can still get most of your tuition back and go join one of those silent religious orders.”
Kelly felt the sweat running into her eyes. The pounding in her head grew louder.
“So what’s the answer, Kelly?”
Her throat tightened again, but she managed to say, “It’s negligence, …but… where someone gets hurt.”
“You’ve got to be jerking my chain, Kelly. ‘It’s negligence where someone gets hurt??’ In the last example, when Kozloski, the ‘Five to Four’ swashbuckler, fell over his shoes, he broke his nose didn’t he? I'd call that getting hurt, wouldn't you? And just two gott-damned minutes ago we agreed that that was not a tort, didn’t we Kelly?”
“Yes, sergeant, but…I mean….it’s where somebody else gets hurt.”
“Oh, I see, Kelly. So every time there is negligence and someone other than the negligent numb-nuts gets hurt we have a tort? Is that what you are saying?”
Kelly was beginning to feel lightheaded. At that moment, she wanted to be anywhere on the earth but standing in Steele's crosshairs. Say something, she thought, and maybe this torture will end. Just say SOMETHING. “Yes, sergeant. It’s where someone else gets hurt.”
“You read the material, Kelly?”
“Were you also looking for a little multi-colored definition section in the book? Maybe next to a picture of gott-damned Big Bird?”
Steele interrupted, keeping her completely off balance, “Listen up Kelly, and that goes for the rest of you dipshits. Pay gott-damned attention and do your very best to think.
OK, Kelly, suppose you and one of your gal pals are taking a ride to the beach for the weekend. You’re in her car, and she’s driving. You’re riding down the highway within the speed limit, but the only problem is that your dizzy pal is changing the radio station, talking on her cell phone, lighting a cigarette and putting on her makeup while looking in the rear view mirror. In other words, Kelly, she is not watching the road. You with me on this, Kelly?”
In barely more than a whisper, Kelly replied, “Yes, sergeant.”
“Very well. OK, you’re in the passenger seat, your pal is not paying attention, when all of a sudden, the right front tire rolls over a small nail in the road that no one, not even an Indy 500 driver, could have seen. The tire blows; the car instantly spins out of control and rolls over a couple times and you wind up with two broken legs. Are you still with me on this, Kelly?”
“Yes, sergeant,” she managed to reply, but now her panic was replaced by a wave of emotion. Her voice quivered, and she experienced the tightness in her throat and the pain between her eyes that she always felt just before she would begin to cry. God, why won’t he let up?
“So, Kelly, let’s walk through this.” Steele could see the signs that she was about ready to cry, but he pressed on. “Do you agree that your dizz-ball pal driving the car while changing the radio station, talking on the cell phone and putting on her makeup in the rear view mirror was not behaving reasonably?”
Now, barely able to hold back her tears, and audibly sniffling, Kelly said, “No…she wasn't. I mean….I agree that she wasn't…behaving…..”
“Do you agree that, in fact, she was gott-damned negligent?”
“Yes….sergeant, she was.”
“And you wound up with two broken legs. I'd call that getting hurt, wouldn't you, Kelly?"
“Yes, sergeant,” by now clearly crying.
“So, what we have here is ‘negligence where someone else gets hurt,’ right, Kelly? And, according to your half-assed definition, that means we have a tort here, and you can sue the ass off your negligent girlfriend and win a boatload of cash, right, Kelly?”
Kelly didn’t answer. She couldn’t. She couldn’t think straight. She was uncontrollably sobbing.
“Kelly, gott-dammit, answer me!”
Kelly’s crying became more intense. She shook her head from side to side, as she placed her hands on the desk and slowly began to sink back into her chair. She sat, put her head in her hands and wept.
Except for the sounds of Kelly’s sobbing, the room was silent as a tomb. Everyone was dumbstruck by what was happening.
Steele walked from the center of the room and stood directly in front of Kelly’s seat in the first row. The students held their breaths waiting to see what Steele would do, and his walking to within two feet of Loretta Kelly only served to heighten the already-unbearable tension in the classroom.
Steele looked down at Kelly and roared, “Kelly, I did NOT give you permission to sit down. Get on your gott-damned feet and stand at attention! NOW, Kelly!”
The students were horrified. This was not supposed to happen in a law school class.
It took her a few seconds, but Loretta Kelly managed to stand up and even place her hands at her sides, but now she was crying harder than before. Tears were streaming down her face.
Steele placed his face even closer to Kelly’s and he bellowed, “Kelly, let me tell you something, and you gott-damn well better listen. I’ve had 250 pound college football superstars and tough, knife-scarred gang bangers from L.A. and New York in basic training companies stand in front of me and the other people in the company and do exactly what you are doing now – crying. And you know what, Kelly? I didn’t cut them any slack and I’m damned sure not going to cut you any slack either.”
“Jesus Christ,” came a voice from the back of the room. It was Tod Barringer.
Without ever taking his eyes off Kelly, Steele said, “Barringer, shut your gott-damned mouth and KEEP IT SHUT!" Steele’s tone was different from anything they had heard before. It was downright menacing. Barringer decided to remain quiet and to add this incident to his list of complaints to the Dean.
“No, Kelly. You get no slack from me. You can stand there and cry for the remainder of the gott-damned class if you want. But, be advised, Kelly, that we’ll ALL spend the rest of this gott-damned class waiting for you to get your shit together. You WILL advise me when you’re ready to proceed.”
Everyone in the room was transfixed by the bizarre scene – a six foot three Army drill sergeant towering over a 120 pound sobbing woman, who was trying to maintain the position of attention. He never stopped staring directly into her face. No one in the class moved a muscle, wondering when it would end.
Kelly’s crying gradually diminished, as she struggled to gain control. The clock in the front of the room ticked off another three minutes.
Four minutes. Steele never flinched.
Finally, Kelly took a deep breath, stood more erect, threw her shoulders back, and said, “I’m ready, now, Sergeant.”
“Very well, Kelly. At ease.”
Kelly assumed the position of ‘at ease.’ One could almost hear the class resume regular breathing.
Steele returned to the lectern, and said, “So, Kelly, in my example, did your negligent friend commit a tort because ‘someone else’ was injured?”
Her voice returning to normal, Kelly replied, “No, sergeant. She did not.”
“And why is that, Kelly?”
Her voice now strong and confident, Loretta Kelly looked directly into Steele’s face and answered, “It is because it was the car’s running over the nail in the road that caused the blowout that resulted in the accident and the injuries. It was not the driver’s negligence that caused the problem. Even if she had been paying attention, she would not have seen the nail in the road.”
Steele said, “I hope the rest of you dim bulbs were paying attention, because she’s gott-damned right. The idiot driver in my example was a massive accident waiting to happen, but her negligence did not cause the accident – something else did.”
“OK, so, let’s get a fix on our position so far. Pay attention. You asswipes just might learn something. What’s negligence? Negligence is some dumbshit doing something a reasonable person wouldn’t do, or failing to do something a reasonable person would do. If the dumbshit’s negligence causes damages to someone else, we have just about all we need for a tort. There is still one piece missing, and we’ll get to that in the next class.”
Steele looked over the class and saw that the students still had not gotten over the effects of witnessing the exchange between him and Loretta Kelly. He said in his best, drill sergeant voice, “You people look like warmed over shit. It’s time for a gott-damned attitude check!”
Attitude check?? It was obvious that the students had no idea what Steele was talking about, and he enjoyed seeing the puzzled looks on their faces.
From now on, when I call for an "attitude check," the correct response is, “We LOVE this shit!”
“DO YOU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THAT?”
“YES, SERGEANT,” the class responded.
“Very well. ……ATTITUDE CHECK!!”
Like a well-rehearsed chorus, the 1L’s shouted back, “WE LOVE THIS SHIT!”
“Outstanding, people. Now, for next week, I want all you horse’s asses to read the next 65 pages in your casebooks. Is that clear?”
‘YES, SERGEANT.” Steele noticed that, for the first time, Kelly’s voice was louder than most.
“Atenn-HUTT.” Steele roared. The class sprung from their seats, and was actually beginning to look sharp.
As the students were filing from the room, Steele, meticulously placed his drill sergeant’s hat on his head and walked smartly out of the room, satisfied that everything was going just fine. He loved this shit.
A group of 9 or 10 students, led by Tod Barringer remained behind. Barringer said, “Do you believe that shit? The way he treated Loretta? The son-of-a-bitch is a goddamned bully. He’s also completely nuts. ‘Attitude check?’ What kind of stupid bullshit is that?”
Paul Green, one of the former backbenchers, asked, “Yeah, the guy is a major asshole, but what can we do about it?”
Barringer replied, “I’m going to the Dean’s office first thing Monday morning, and I’m going to tell him the kind of crap this crazy bastard is pulling. Can I count on you guys to back me up if necessary?”
“Absolutely,” Green replied. The others agreed.
Barringer noticed that Loretta Kelly had already left the room.
(to be continued)
~ Thursday, March 06, 2003
More Hair! TJ at Twisty has posted Part Two of the story of her involvement with the "Hey gang let's put on a show" production of "Hair." Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland ain't got nuttin' on this crowd. Believe me. I know. (Part One is here.)
~ Wednesday, March 05, 2003
MASTER SGT. JOHN “JACK” STEELE, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF LAW
First Installment – 1/26/03
Second Installment – 2/7/03
(Thanks to Jack for telling me how to do permalinks.)
Third Installment: Sergeant Steele Introduces Torts
It was Tuesday morning, approximately 8:20 a.m. Just about everyone enrolled in the class was already in the lecture hall. Although few of the students would admit it, their uncharacteristic punctuality resulted from having been put through the wringer the previous Friday by Sgt. Steele and having been warned about arriving to class on time.
Steele was the subject of virtually all the separate classroom conversations taking place that morning. In fact, the students had talked about little else since last Friday’s class. Even in the “Five to Four,” the local pub frequented by haggard law students, the weekend’s topic of discussion had been Sgt. Steele, or “General Patton,” as he was angrily referred to by some of the students, but only after being fortified by a half dozen Coronas and a peek over the shoulder just to rule out the one in a million chance that Steele would be in the bar.
The consensus that had formed over the weekend was that Dean Maxwell’s decision to hire Steele to boost the school’s lagging performance on the torts portion of the bar exam was a horrible mistake. Surely the Dean would not tolerate Steele’s running the class as if it were a basic training company. The students reasoned that this is, after all, a law school and they are law students; this is not an Army base and they damned sure had not enlisted in the Army. This problem had to be nipped in the bud. To that end, several students vowed to complain to the Dean about Steele first thing Monday morning.
“I tried to see the Dean yesterday,” Tod Barringer said, “but his secretary said that he was away and would not return until tomorrow. Look, the guy is a maniac, and none of us have to put up with that crap. ‘Stand at attention, at ease, sound off, stow your gear’…It’s all bullshit! I’m here to learn to be a lawyer, not to learn to be a damned grunt.”
Loretta Kelly, who was seated two seats away from Barringer, said, “I spent the whole weekend worrying about this class. I had a difficult time sleeping. The guy scares the hell out of me. I read the assignment twice, and I’m still not sure I get it all. And, if he calls on me, I think I might just puke.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Barringer said, I’ll talk to the Dean. Once he learns what is going on in this class, he’ll get Steele out of here in a New York minute.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Loretta replied. “Steele said that he was in service with the Dean. Maybe they’re good friends.”
“Come on, Loretta. Dean Maxwell is a smart and classy guy. You think he would be friends with an Army blowhard asshole like Steele?”
It was exactly 8:30, and Steele walked through the door to the lecture hall. “Attenn-HUTT!” he roared. All the students immediately stood and assumed the position of attention – even Barringer.
Steele, again wearing his perfectly pressed Class A uniform, strode across the front of the room, and stood behind the lectern. The brass insignia on the front of his Drill Sergeant’s cap seemed to be even more highly polished than it had been last Friday. On his left sleeve, near his shoulder he wore the insignia of the 101st Airborne Division, a black patch on which was the white eagle’s head, and over which was the word “Airborne.” The patch on his other sleeve was a red and yellow shield, with a sword in the center, signifying that Steele had served in the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.
Steele set the torts casebook on the lectern and carefully removed his hat, placing it on the desk next to the lectern. He looked over the class, all standing silently at attention, and said, “Well, well, people. You look a little better than you did on Friday, but that is not saying much. Concentrate, people. Chest out, gut sucked in, and line up your damned thumbs with your trouser seams.”
“You. Second row, fourth seat in from the end. What’s your name?”
“My name is Stanley Kozloski, Sergeant."
"Well, Kozloski, you must think I’m pretty, staring at me like that. Maybe you think we should pick out furniture together? Why else would you be looking at me?” Kozloski was speechless.
“Get your gott-damned, greezy eyeballs off me, Kozloski!!! You are supposed to be at attention, and your gott-damned greezy eyeballs are supposed to be looking straight ahead.”
Steele looked at the class, “Does everyone understand where your greezy eyeballs should be when you’re at attention?”
About ten students answered, “Yes, Sergeant.” Instantly, the remaining students realized their mistake. Steele’s reaction was instantaneous and loud.
“Jesus, you people are real dumbshits. We went over this a couple times last class. I just asked the class a gott-damned question that calls for a yes or no answer. Does that mean anything to you muttonheads? Let me try it again, so that I can determine whether there is something wrong with your memory, something wrong with your ears or some gott-damned thing wrong with your voices. Listen closely.” Raising his voice even more, Steele repeated, “Does everyone understand where your greezy eyeballs belong while you’re at attention?”
“Yes Sergeant” the class responded loudly, in almost perfect unison.
“You people had better get your heads out of your asses. How do you expect to learn torts if you’re too gott-damned stupid to learn to properly stand at attention?”
He stared at them. He had a way of making each student feel as he or she was the one being glared at. Without warning, he hollered, “Seats!”
The students all sat down at the same time. Every one of them looked nervous as hell. It was obvious to Steele that he had made exactly the impression during Friday’s class that he had intended. He most definitely had their complete attention.
Barringer silently fumed.
“All right, people. Here’s what I want you to do. When I give the command, ‘Move!’ I want you to fill in all the empty seats in the first five rows. I want a tight formation in the center of the classroom. There will be NO empty seats between students.” He focused his attention on the back row and said, “I want you five knuckleheads in the back row to make sure that you take seats in the center of the formation where I can really keep my eye on you. There will be no back-bench bullshit in this class.”
The students scrambled to gather up their belongings from the desks and under their chairs so they could change seats. There was more than a little confusion, as students bumped into one another as they tried to work their way to new seats while carrying all their things.
Steele did not let up. “Move it! Move it! Move it, people. We don’t have all gott damned day. How hard is this? Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go!!” Steele could see clear signs of anger on some of the faces. For him, that meant that everything was going just fine.
In a few minutes, the chaos ended and everyone was seated as Steele had ordered.
“These will be your assigned seats for this semester. He walked to the student in the front row in the end seat and handed her a piece of paper. People, this is a seating chart. When it comes to you, you will print your last name first, then your first name, then your middle initial.”
“Are there any questions from last class?”
Barringer thought, Yeah, you miserable bastard. I have a question. What are you going to do when the Dean fires your ass?
“OK, so there are no questions. Fine. Let’s begin.”
“Before we get into the cases, we’ll spend a little time talking about torts in general.”
Kozloski immediately stood at attention and this time made sure that he stared directly forward. “At ease, Kozloski.” Kozloski, remembering from Friday, moved his left foot to the side and placed his hands behind his back.
“What the hell is a tort, Kozloski?”
Virtually every other person in the class viewed Kozloski as the first combat casualty and thought, Thank Christ it’s not me.
Kozloski was momentarily speechless with fear. At that very moment, he would have had a difficult time spelling his name, let alone answering Steele’s question. His mind raced as he thought, I don’t remember a definition in the reading assignment; the damned book was not like a regular textbook; it only contained those confusing cases.
“Cat got your gott-damned tongue, Kozloski? The name of this gott-damned course is ‘Torts,’ so I think it’s a helluva good idea to know what a tort is. I’m waiting for an answer, Kozloski.”
Kozloski’s voice shook as he timidly responded, “Well, … it’s like…uh….negligence.”
“That’s your answer, Kozloski? ‘It’s like negligence'?”
“I’m not really sure, Sergeant. I read the assignment, but I don’t remember seeing a definition.”
“This is a gott-damned law school, Kozloski, not an eighth grade social studies class, where the text books contain little definition sections and pictures of the friggin’ Lincoln Memorial.”
“You read the assignment, didn’t you, Kozloski?”
“Yes, sergeant, but I just don’t remember seeing a any of the cases giving a definition of a tort.”
“There’s a lesson for all you blockheads. You can’t just read the cases. You actually have to think about them. I sense that may be hard for some of you lemons, but to make it in this class and to make it as a lawyer, there is no substitute for gott-damned thinking.”
“Kozloski, for your benefit and the benefit of the rest of the sorry asses in this class, let’s take a couple minutes to see if a tort is ‘like uh…negligence,’ shall we?”
“Yes, sergeant.” Kozloski could feel himself beginning to hyperventilate.
“OK Kozloski, pay attention. Let’s suppose you wasted an entire night in the 'Five to Four' saloon drinking and trying to romance one of the young ladies in the joint. You have been to the ‘Five to Four,’ haven’t you Kozloski?”
“Yes, sergeant; I have been there.” Kozloski, fearing the worst, thought, Oh God, could he possibly know that I referred to him as ‘General Patton’ at the ‘Five to Four?’
“You a beer drinker, Kozloski?”
“Well, what do you drink at the ‘Five to Four’?”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Steele, “What’s your drink?”
Kozloski, answered, “When I have a little extra money, I drink ‘Maker’s Mark,’ but I also like ‘Jim Beam’ just fine.”
“Maker’s Mark? Jim Beam? Damn, Kozloski, there may be hope for you yet.”
After the class there would be a good deal of discussion over whether Steele had actually smiled at this point in the exchange. Some swore he did, but most were convinced he did not. Kozloski had been too frightened to notice.
“Let’s get back on track, Kozloski. So, let’s pretend that you spent the night at the ‘Five to Four” drinking Maker’s Mark. Is it Maker’s Mark on the rocks, Kozloski?”
“Yes, sergeant, on the rocks.”
“Fine, you come home late, after a night at the ‘Five to Four,’ with a belly full of bourbon and no date. You sit on the bed and take your shoes off. You’re too tired to put them away. You leave them on the floor next to the bed. You toss your clothes in a corner, and you hit the sack.”
“You following me, Kozloski?”
“A couple hours later, you wake up because you need to take a trip to the latrine.”
“The gott-damned bathroom, Kozloski!”
“Yes, sergeant, the bathroom.”
“OK you wake up, not feeling too well, and you walk in the direction of the latrine and you trip over your gott-damned shoes, fall down and break your pretty nose.”
“You getting this, Kozloski?”
“Yes, sergeant. Broken nose.”
“Would it be a smart thing to leave your shoes where you might trip over them in the middle of the night, particularly when you know a long night at the ‘Five to Four’ damned near always requires a middle-of-the-night trip to the latrine?”
“No, sergeant, that would not be a smart thing?”
“Would it be a reasonable thing to do, Kozloski?”
“No, Sergeant. It would not be reasonable.”
“Do you think it would be NEGLIGENT of you to leave your shoes where you could trip over them?”
“Yes, sergeant, I think that would be negligent.”
“So, we agree, Kozloski, as you would say, what we have here is ‘like…uh… negligence,’ isn’t it?”
“Yes, sergeant, we have negligence.”
“BUT DO WE HAVE A GOTT-DAMNED TORT, KOSLOSKI?”
Steele’s sudden outburst, startled virtually everyone in the class, after having been listening to what had become an almost conversational exchange between Kozloski and Steele. As for Kozloski, he later told his friends that, at this point, he almost shit himself.
“I guess that we don’t have a tort, sergeant.”
“You guess?” Well, let me assure you and the rest of you that we absolutely do NOT have a tort here. People, you can find yourself up to your ass in negligence and not have a gott-damned tort. You need other ingredients. Negligence by itself may create a tort waiting to happen, but it is not a gott-damned tort.”
“Does everyone understand that?”
“Yes, sergeant” the class responded together, obviously getting better at this with practice.
“All right. Take your seat, Kozloski.”
Momentarily taking the seating chart from a student as it was being passed around, Steele looked down, then looked up at the class and shouted, “Kelly!”
It was as if someone had punched Loretta Kelly in the chest. She was struck with an instant wave of nausea and dry mouth, as she stood and tried to assume the position of attention.
“OK, Kelly, now it’s your turn. Just what the hell is a tort?”
(To be continued)
Boston. Just returned from three days in Boston. I’ve lived in New Jersey all my life, and this was my first trip to Boston, and it’s only a 45-minute plane ride away. Go figure. I didn’t get to see that much of the city, but what I saw I thought was great (even though my site seeing was limited to an early morning walk in four degree weather). I stayed at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Now, that is one terrific hotel. I’m definitely going back, but I think I’ll wait until it is just a tad warmer.
~ Sunday, March 02, 2003
Blogtied! When I started blogging (thanks, Jack, I think), I did what zillions of others do. I clicked on the Blogger icon, picked a template and a name, and I was off to the races. After a while, I wanted to add links and a hit counter, and ol’ Jack came to the rescue. I realize now how nice it would be to have permalinks, and also to be able to do “the rest of the story” thing. Some of the stuff I spew into cyberspace is longer than the average post, and some people may not (gasp!) want to read it, forcing them to scroll their heineys off through a long post.
Upgrade to a fancier version of Blogger? Wait to see what Googleized Blogger will offer? I don’t think I pack the gear to tackle the “hosting” and web page thing.
While writing this, I thought I would see if the Blogger help page would tell me if one can add permalinks to the steam-driven version of Blogger I am using. Surprise. The Help feature is down!
Thinking about this is making my hair hurt.
~ Saturday, March 01, 2003
Hair! I urge you to click over to Twisty and take a read through TJ's recounting of her experiences in putting together and performing in a local (very local), fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants production of the 60’s musical Hair. It is a great story and well told.
I make this recommendation with all the objectivity I can possibly muster, given that TJ and I are…well…related.