On Wednesday morning, I was served with papers at my residence by a county sheriff. I didn't immediately look for hidden cameras or a punchline. It was 7:00 am. What I did do was promptly, in my own reserved, laconic way, freak out.
I showered early, ate breakfast numbly, and dressed hastily. When my hands were free, they were attached to the document. In the beginning, because the pages were filled with unwieldy, archaic language, the only thing that made sense was the dollar amount that I was being sued for. I thought about losing my grip while climbing out of the hole I was already in, and falling even deeper; I thought about those numbers plus the numbers I already owed for student loans like decreasing altitude. I felt guilty, not guilty like I had done wrong, but guilty in that the verdict had already been delivered. I was at the point when an author might write: "things had come to a pretty pass."
Eventually, I got around to calling people, scrolling through my phone list at 8:00 am while sitting outside the courthouse. And that helped. The accident, my friends pointed out to me, was back in May. If they were citing medical expenses, said my boss, this would have come up much, much earlier. The hospital, she told me, doesn't wait to send you a bill for services rendered. And other things which helped buoy my confidence about the situation. The day took on a kind of equilibrium, but I still felt beside myself.
Because through it all, I thought about the plaintiffs. They had sued the wrong guy. I'm not out for revenge, or litigation proof; I'm just not rich. I don't own any amount of resources even comparable to the money they were asking for. I remember them, a timid little couple, first staring at the back of their car, searching carefully for damage that wasn't there, then refusing the paramedics' assistance, looking at the police report and my insurance information like they were strange artifacts, then driving off. What had happened in those 9 months since?
The solution seems to have been to call my insurance agent, who made copies of the complaint and hired a law firm, assured me things were going to be okay, and asked that I only comply. You'll be fine, a friend of a friend had assured me. You're covered by one of the big boys; all they got is lawyers. So, I guess that poor couple will be drowned in lawyers who look after big businesses, and I suppose when all this dust clears they will have moved no closer to taking care of their own problems.
And I can't be sure why I assume them not to be nefarious, why I see them grasping at whatever they can to keep from drowning, and through it all, happened to have snagged my shoe lace. After all, one of the problems is that no one knows what evil looks like. I feel like if I were rich, I might have just paid them the money. But they did what they did, and now I've done what I've done, and all of it is defensively aggressive and ferociously greedy.