Life Lessons Learned Along the Way: Rollin, Rollin, Rollin
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.
In our second article this month, Michigan Gives Wide Berth in Legal Malpractice Cases to Attorneys who Exercise their Judgment in Good Faith, Steven M. Wolock discusses protections afforded attorneys under Michigan law.