Monday, May 28, 2012

Hardware removal

Some folks have told me I have a screw loose. Well, make that 2 screws loose.  And a pair of washers.  Check them out:

 I'm still trying to figure out how best to display them.  Glass showcase above the fireplace mantle?  Mounted criss-cross atop a wooden board, like a medieval family Coat of Arms?  Or lying parallel across some toothpick stand, samurai-style?  Please add your thoughts in the Comments.

The surgery went well, and quickly.  I was in the waiting room twice as long as the operating area.  The anesthesiologist and nurse wheeled me back shortly before 3pm, and I woke up in the recovery room at 4.  The actual operation lasted around 15 minutes.  2 incisions, 2 screws yanked out.  No post-op nausea.  After a dozen Graham crackers and a Ginger Ale, time to go home. 

According to my wife, Dr. Scheinberg said my tibia was solid.  No issues or complications.  No need for new screws or bone graft material.  I’ll find out more details next week at my follow-up visit, but, in short, the operation apparently went swimmingly (I never got a chance to use that word. Swimmingly).

Anyway, here’s his handiwork.  With the knee shaved, you can really see the original scar. And my hair is already growing back.

I used crutches the night of the surgery, and again at breakfast the following morning.  But that was more out of precaution than need.  I’m walking around just fine now.  I took half a Vicodin the night of the surgery, the following morning, and again before bed the following evening.  I added the remaining 28 pills to my home pharmacy.

I was told I could drive when I felt “ready.”  For the past 3 days, my wife chauffered me around, Driving Miss Daisy-style.  Her driving was scarier than the actual surgery.  Just kidding, sweetie! I should be ready to drive to work on Tuesday.

I also couldn’t shower for 48 hours after the surgery.  I don’t know how Europeans survive without daily showers.  Good lord.  I almost passed out from my own stench.

Amputees often describe the phantom pain they feel in their newly amputated limb.  We have something in common.  In the first 2 days after the surgery, I still “felt” the screws inside my tender leg.  It wasn't pain, but nonetheless a very odd sensation.  I suspect that as my leg heals, that phantom discomfort will disappear.  At least I hope it does.  Each day the leg shows daily improvement.  It's probably 70% normal 3-4 days after the surgery.  For now, the leg feels a bit like it did after a particularly grueling workout when the hardware was still in.

I meet again with Scheinberg 10 days after the surgery.  I’ll probably get a more detailed summary of the surgery.  Hopefully he'll clear me to resume exercising.  I’m anxious to “test” my leg. I don’t plan on completing a triathalon or entering the Octagon any time soon, but I'd like to pick things up a notch.  The screws had limited how vigorously I could exercise, which, in turn, limited how far I could push my knee.  By year's end, I hope to get a fuller picture of how well the ACI surgery worked.

Enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day Weekend.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Hardware Journey - A Brief Detour

I’m about to have surgery to remove the screws.  Well, at least I hope the leg has healed enough so the doc can simply yank them out.  I can’t imagine waking up post-surgery, and learning, “sorry, we had to insert new screws,” or worse, “we had to pack in some bone graft stuff.”   Talk about a major buzzkill.  Anyway, send your positive vibes my way.  I’ll share the details and perhaps post some pictures afterward.

Meanwhile, enjoy one of my favorite “legal victories.”

Before joining the government, I worked for one of those mega law firms with a gazillion lawyers and offices all over the world.  The Uganda office was spectacular.

One of the best parts of being a lawyer is the ability to represent yourself.  It rarely happens, but when somebody tries to screw you, it comes in handy.  Like my dry cleaner tried to do.  Emphasis on “tried to do.” 

My wife and I used the same, local dry cleaner for several years.  They did an admirable job.  Friendly people.  Not too smelly.  The right amount of starch.  Exactly the type of relationship you want with your neighborhood dry cleaner. 

I wore a suit every day.  When you take that much stuff to the cleaners, you understand the cleaner will eventually screw something up.  Death, taxes and lost/ruined shirts.  Not a big deal, but you expect the laundrymat to make things right when it happens.

In August of 1999, the dry cleaner lost 7 of my shirts.  Unfortunately, this included 3-4 brand new custom-made shirts, which cost double or triple a normal men’s dress shirt. In total, the 7 shirts cost $650.   

(These were the fancy, high-thread count shirts.  In a shocking coincidence, I was somewhat of a douchebag back then). 

As a regular customer, Christina was on a first-name basis with the store clerk/manager.  When she first arrived to pick up the 7 shirts, the manager couldn’t find them.  With a somewhat stupefied look, she told her, “huh, I remember you dropping them off yesterday.  Maybe they’re still off-site.” 

No big deal, Christina replied.  I’ll come back tomorrow. 

When Christina returned, the shirts were still AWOL.  Christina even helped the lady look for them – they examined every plastic-bag on that electric clothesline in the backroom.  Nothing.  The clerk called the sister dry cleaning franchise.  Still nothing.

After confirming there were no delivery issues, the conversation shifted toward reimbursement for the lost shirts.  The clerk told Christina she needed to confer with the owner. 

The owner was a bigger douchebag than even me.  But he was far dumber. 

And this is when being a lawyer helps.

When Christina discussed reimbursement with the owner, the clerk was there, too.  The conversation did not go well.  Instead of apologizing for losing the shirts – and upsetting a long-time customer – the owner called Christina a liar and claimed she never dropped off the shirts.  Not a good start. 

As a long-time customer on a first-name basis, we stopped receiving and turning in laundry tickets on our orders, leading the owner to automatically accuse Christina over trying to screw him.  Shocked, Christina turned to the clerk who had admitted to receiving the order and spent several hours over the past week searching for the shirts.  Instead of correcting the owner, the clerk slinked away from the conversation.  Apparently job security trumps honesty.  The owner then berated Christina for 5 minutes, like Kobe Bryant scolding Pau Gasol.

Frustrated at the tongue-lashing, Christina turned things over to me.

I met with Mr. Patel (which may or may not be his real name).  I was polite.  I also might have been wearing a custom made shirt. 

I told him I didn’t appreciate him calling my wife a liar, especially since we’ve been customers for many years.  Regardless, I told Mr. Patel that the shirts cost over $650, but in the interest of putting this matter behind us I would accept a $400 check.  Mr. Patel was defiant.  He refused to pay a dime.  I’m sure Mr. Patel’s response usually dissuades most disgruntled customers from pursuing things further.  But I wasn’t like most customers.  Instead, I shared with him that I was a lawyer who would gladly sue him for losing my shirts.  He chuckled and told me to go for it.  I think he grew up watching Rocky.

Egging me on was not a wise move.  I was Drago, and he was Apollo, only not nearly as pretty and charming.

I gave him one last chance.  I pulled out my fancy law firm business card, which listed our offices all over the world. 

“Mr. Patel,” I began, “I don’t think you understand.  If I sue you, I won’t be asking for just the $650.  Oh, no.  I will also ask to be reimbursed all of my attorney’s fees, too.”

He seemed confused, but I continued.

“And see all these offices?  This means I’m very expensive.”

“Besides,” I told him, “you’ll have to hire your own lawyer, and you’ll wind up paying him far more than you would pay me to settle this matter.”

I reiterated my generous offer to accept $400 to avoid a fight.

And then Mr. Patel uttered his famous last words.  “Go ahead and sue me.”

So I did.  And boy, did I f*ck him up.

Under the legal rules, defendants have to respond to a lawsuit within a certain time frame.  Of course, he didn't bother to hire a lawyer -- they cost a lot of money :-)  He missed the deadline and never filed an answer. 

I immediately went to court to obtain what's called a "default judgment." This means the court accepts everything in my lawsuit as true, including the fact that Mr. Patel lost my shirts and owes me $650.

But the fun doesn't end there.  Just like I warned Mr. Patel, the judge also awarded me my attorneys' fees: 12 hours of my time x $185/hr = $2,200.  Grand total -- $2,830.

(This happened 13 years ago.  $185/hour is about as outdated as a rotary phone.  I’m pretty sure my billing rate today would be over $500/hour, perhaps more).

But the fun doesn't end there, either. 

I called Mr. Patel, told him about the judgment the court awarded me and asked for my money.  With some swagger, he said, “yeah, the check is in the mail." 

The little f*cker still refused to pay me!

Mr. Patel obviously didn’t learn his lesson the first time.

When defendants refuse to pay, folks are forced to seize assets to satisfy their debt.  Again, being a lawyer helps navigate this process.

I left Mr. Patel a voicemail delicately telling him that if I didn't hear from him within 24 hours, the next thing he'd see would be me, a Dallas sheriff, and a U-Haul loading away sh*t from his store. 

(My lawyer colleagues gave me their shirt sizes in case I confiscated other people’s dry cleaning to satisfy my judgment.  I told them they would look odd if their monogrammed shirts listed somebody else’s initials.  Or if they showed up to work wearing Prom tuxedos).

The threat worked.  Mr. Patel returned my call about an hour later and promised to mail the check.  Because I wasn’t going to fall for the banana in the tailpipe, I insisted on picking it up. 

And I did.  $2,830.  The check didn’t bounce.

Final score: Jim 1 – Weaselly Dry Cleaner 0.