This true story, the second of two parts, was posted at Octopus Overlords over a period of months in 2005. I’m modestly pleased with it. Since recent events have called to mind how impermanent the websites we surf can be, I’m taking the opportunity to preserve it here. All names, including my own, have been changed to protect the guilty. As the most guilty party, my last name is rendered here as “Smith.”
The earlier portion of this story can be found here.
Where were we?
Yes. We had determined that Junior Bug, the sole unbiased witness to Andre's misfortune, had died under mysterious circumstances, with his pants pulled down to his ankles. My intuition told me that, Andre's affinity for pants aside, this was all Andre could tell me about Junior Bug's demise.
I let the matter rest.
When one is attempting to resolve a conflict, one must determine not only the two, three, four, or more sides to every story, but also how the conflict affects those involved. I had already learned how this argument affected the lives of my friends at Defendant's Department Store and the Mall. It was time to hear Andre's side of the story.
How had this situation affected Andre? I'm sure he'd told his friend, but if we were going to achieve resolution, achieve healing, I had to hear it as well.
"Mr. X, what injuries, if any, are you claiming as a result of this incident?"
"They took away my manhood."
"They took away your manhood?"
"Could you clarify that for me please?"
"I was humiliated."
"I can't provide for them."
"For my family."
"Mr. X, you have five children by four mothers. You've already told me that you don't pay supprt for any of them. How were you providing for them if not by monetary support?"
"I can't be a father."
"I can't be a father to my boys."
"Because they took away my manhood."
"We're not talking about reproductive troubles, are we?"
"You can still father a child, can't you?"
We determined that Andre's injuries are primarily psychic in nature. We moved on to other topics. Andre's jailing, his freedom, his grievances, his injuries. His injuries.
"Did you have any medical treatment that you attibute to this incident in the Mall parking lot?"
"Tell me about that."
Details, details. Andre's back hurts. Andre requires the intevention of a chiropractor. Andre can never foresee a time in which he will not need the help of a chiropractor. Andre needs glasses. Andre had 20/20 vision prior to this incident. Andre will go blind one day.
"Have you seen an orthopedist as a result of this incident?"
"A bone doctor?"
"I saw Dr. Brown."
"Dr. Brown is a chiropractor, correct?"
"I mean an M.D. A medical doctor?"
"When did you see an orthopedist?"
"When I broke my knee."
"Did you break your knee as a result of this incident?"
"When did you break your knee?"
"When I was moving furniture."
"Mr. X, have you ever had any surgery?"
"Well, none that you'd call authorized."
"You have had surgery?"
"But it was unauthorized?"
"What do you mean by unauthorized surgery?"
"I got stabbed once."
To make a long story short, I failed. Andre and I were unable to solve his problems with customer service, with Defendant's Department Store, or with the Mall.
I blame myself.
But I don't give up easily. Andre, Andre's friend, and I have promised to meet again. Soon. Next September, as a matter of fact, with a bunch of our friends. Hopefully our friends will help us to solve this problem.
I will improve myself in the meantime. I will do better. Andre and I will solve all these problems.
TO BE CONTINUED…
As I mentioned earlier, Andre's friend and I received a strong suggestion from a wise and powerful mutual friend in Wilmington. He suggested that all of us meet together, that we discuss what has so alienated Andre from customer service at Defendant's Department Store and the Mall, and whether an apology would be in order. If we did not hold this meeting, our wise and powerful friend would be upset, thinking we were ignoring him. No one wants that to happen.
To make sure that things went well, our wise and powerful friend suggested that we all meet with Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones, like Andre's friend and like me, specializes in the arts of dispute resolution.
I met my friends from the Mall at Starbuck's. We drank coffee. We discussed how Andre felt wronged, and what we could do to make things better. A verbal apology? A written apology? Some small gift? Yes, a gift of some sort would salve Andre's feelings.
So refreshed, we drove to the office of Andre's friend. Andre was present with his friend. Greetings were exchanged, but donuts were not offered.
Mr. Smith introduced himself and asked us all to explain the problem.
Andre's friend spoke up. He told Andre's side of the story, the shopping, the first pair of pants, the second pair of pants, the high school friend, the beating, the spraying, the manhood, the wounded feelings, and what we could do to make things right.
As I suspected, Andre's feelings could only be assuaged by a gift. But what sort of gift? Andre wanted the equivalent of three thousand, three hundred, thirty-three pairs of pants!
Where we would we get so many pairs of pants? Clearly, Andre's expectations were unreasonable.
Mr. Jones turned to me.
I introduced myself to Andre once more, introduced my friends from the Mall, and informed Andre that heretofore I had only asked him questions. Now it was my turn to give him some answers.
I explained to Andre that, while I knew him to be a man of upstanding character, and had no reason to doubt his word, others who did not know him so well might. That, from a certain point of view, certainly not my own, Andre's actions might be construed as those of a thief, a man who takes pants without permission, without intending to pay for them. That Andre's subsequent treatment at the hands of customer service, while admittedly harsh, was well-deserved. That indeed he was correct in his belief that customer service does not afford this harsh treatment to all customers, but only to thieves who attempt to engage in fisticuffs with the representatives of customer service, who are merely asking the customers in question where are you going with those pants, and wouldn't things be better if you just came back inside?
So from a certain perspective, this whole dispute was Andre's own fault. Nevertheless, we were prepared to discuss some small apology. Perhaps the equivalent of seventeen pairs of pants?
Well, I didn't actually say all of that. Specifically, I didn't actually tell Andre that I knew him to be a man of upstanding character, or that I had no reason to doubt his word, or that I didn't believe Andre to be a thief. But Andre and I go back. I'm sure it was understood.
Mr. Jones suggested that Andre and his friend go to another room, while my friends and I stayed in the conference room. I believe that Mr. Jones intended to act as an intermediary, going back and forth between us to discuss the magnitude of the apology. But before we did so, did anyone else have anything to add?
Mr. Jones: "Mr. X, is there something you'd like to tell us?"
Andre's friend: "We'll reserve that for the private session, Andre, would you come this way?"
"Naw, I got something to say."
Me: "We'd love to hear it!"
What follows is an approximation, reconstructed from my notes.
"I just want yall to know, that yall treated me like a dog. That yall can't go round beating on peoples. Yall treated me like an animal. I ain't no animal! My daddy never beat me like yall people beat on me. I can't hardly see cause a yall. And yall sprayed me with pepper spray? Yall can't do that."
"You sittin there with a possum-eatin grin on your face, yall laughin at me. Well I'll be laughin at you when it's all over!"
"I ain't no damn thief, and I ain't no joke. YOU THE JOKE!"
We all agreed it would be best to separate.
Unfortunately I had no authority to issue an apology of the sort that would satisfy Andre. Mr. Jones visited us from time to time, with varying proposals. Perhaps the value of fewer pairs of pants, and a written apology?
No. Seventeen pairs of pants.
Perhaps many fewer thousand pairs of pants, a written apology and lifting the trespass order barring Andre from visiting the mall?
No. Seventeen pairs of pants. Pants don't grow on trees.
I grew tired. I'd been awake since 5 a.m. After a time even Mr. Jones, a most indefatigable man, grew tired as well. He sent us home. He will recommend to our wise and powerful friend that it would be best if we all meet in September.
At which time this problem will be finally and irrevocably solved.
TO BE CONTINUED…
As matters turned out, weeks later Andre accepted our offer of the equivalent of seventeen pairs of pants, minutes before a jury was to be empaneled.