Johnson & Johnson executives tended to use Dad as their personal attorney for their legal troubles. He settled one executive’s divorce. Another asked Dad to get him acquitted from a mandatory-suspension speeding ticket. Dad quickly got the lay of the night court land, and announced to the tired judge that his client wished to plead guilty, without trial, to speeding one mile per hour below the mandatory suspension speed. The judge readily agreed, but the executive was furious at the guilty plea, until realizing that Dad had saved his driver license and only a fine was due. Another executive had employed a maid for many years, who by this time was retired and widowed, living in a run-down project in New Jersey. She opened her power bill one day to find an invoice for several tens of thousands of dollars. She did not know what to do, so did nothing, and the power company shut off her electricity, with winter coming fast. Her former boss asked Dad to see what he could do about the situation. Dad discovered, upon investigation, that all of the building’s tenants had connected their power lines to the woman’s meter. The entire building’s electrical usage was being billed to the poor woman. When the power company shut off her power, the whole building went dark, and cold. Dad wrote to the power company, summarized the situation, and asked them to forgive the bill. At first the company refused: the woman’s meter showed that she had used that much power, so the bill had to be paid. And they would not restore power until the entire bill was paid. Dad wrote again to the power company, this time explaining the situation in detail, including the woman’s age and frailty, her poverty, the prospect of her facing winter without electricity, how the other tenants had stolen electricity, etc. He told the company that their posture over the situation, which was none of the woman’s making, would surely result in her untimely death. In exchange for forgiving the bill, Dad offered to have the woman pay $1 per month toward the excessive power bill for as long as she lived there. The power company accepted her offer, restored her power, and corrected her meter situation. Soon after, Dad helped his new friend move to a retirement community, where she lived happily with her friends for the rest of her days. I am proud of Dad for standing up for the little person against the corporate bully, and making a difference for the one.
Entering the garage from the house on my way to work, the sky still dark, I saw the garage door open, and the doors of the cars closed but not latched shut. I knew instantly what had happened, and my heart sank into my stomach. Inside the cars, the center console lids were open and the console contents scattered on the seats. After the chili chocolate party at church, mom had led the way into the house, carrying the leftover chocolate cake, followed by me and Dad; I had carried the crock pot. Dad and I turned off the garage light, but we forgot to lower the garage door. And our cars had been burglarized in the night. The burglar left the car doors unlatched to avoid the noise of shutting them. They knew what they were doing—not their first burglary. As a city attorney, I am well aware of how many hundreds of cars are burglarized in my town every year, always by drug addicts looking to finance their next fix—they care about little else. As a rule, I always lower the garage door, and I always lock my car, even in the garage. But this time I was lazy and neglectful, and paid the price. I checked both cars, and nothing of importance was missing, because we kept nothing of importance in our cars. And the contents of the garage were all accounted for. But I felt so angry at this person who tried to take from us something that was not theirs, that entered our personal space, the interior of our cars, uninvited. I felt violated and vulnerable. I felt sick at my simple but stupid mistake, which had allowed a neighborhood troller to skulk into the sanctity of our home. We will never make that mistake again. Fortunately, we had locked the door into the house. Fortunately, we kept nothing valuable in the cars. Fortunately, the burglar did no damage to the cars and stole nothing from the garage. The only important item missing was my library card. But I still feel angry.