We continue our series of personal, impactful stories that have shaped how we practice law.
It happened every fall. There was the State Fair and a few county fairs sprinkled into the festivities. I still remember hint of autumn in the air, like you could smell the leaves just starting to turn into a glorious parade of colors. When I was young, I used to go with my mom. I would ride all the rides that were safe. I always stared at the big rollercoaster, but I never had any burning desire to ride it. Besides, there was no need. My mom was there. No need to impress anyone.
Of course, that changed as I hit my early teens and started going with my friends. They were not so enamored with the safe rides. They had ridden the big coasters before and clearly got a life changing thrill from the experience. It must be good from what I could tell.
The first time I got on one was at the Michigan State Fair. My friends would probably have thought no less of me if I had chosen to go get a cotton candy while they plummeted several stories down a wooden railing (yes, the safety features were a little less back then). Still, I decided to impress everyone by facing that monstrosity with no idea what it actually did.
I stood in that endless line with my buddies, who spoke to me from knowledge and experience “Hey, Rick, do you know how fast this thing goes?” Of course, I had no idea, but it really didn’t matter. “Hey, Rick, do you know how it feels having that G-force rip your insides right out of you?” That didn’t particularly sound like fun to me, but I didn’t need to know. I would find out soon enough. I just continued munching on my popcorn while waiting for our turn. I was paying no attention to how high we were climbing. Again, it didn’t matter. I didn’t need to know – until we actually got to the top.
That was when I looked down and all this sensory information began to drown my senses. What on earth was I doing up here? I didn’t know, but I sure was not going to be the kid who turned around and started climbing back to earth on my own volition. No, I made a decision. I got in that car right along with my buddies. Then that rickety old thing began to creak as it climbed even higher. I wished I had known this before I started this journey. I was not particularly afraid, but this did not seem like a good decision now that I actually knew what I was doing.
The car reached the top, and the reality of my choice hit me. I closed my eyes and prepared to tumble for no apparent reason. I do believe my head and feet switched places on several occasions in the ensuing minutes. I may have passed out at some point, which probably helped me get through this process. Somehow I reached the end, and the car stopped. I vaguely remember trying to make my legs hold me up on solid ground. I don’t really remember if I succeeded. I do remember deciding at that moment that I could see no rational reason to do that again.
Now, I understand that many people love the thrill of a rollercoaster. Believe me, I have nothing against that. It’s just that I would not have chosen to violently rearrange my anatomy if I had all the information needed to make that decision. That much, I was clearly lacking. I try to remember this in representing my clients, as well as in the rest of my life. I try to make sure to get my hands on the accurate information before acting. That is the only way to make a good decision. Sometimes it is the only way to keep yourself in one piece.