Confessions of a rat
PEOPLE KEEP asking me ‘how’ and ‘why’. Why give it all up? Why live for the last 20 years in relative obscurity? Why share a 13-year-old car with the Old Ball and Chain? Just get a bank ‘borrows’ and own a criss CR-V! To that last, I remind them bank loans must be repaid.
Very few of my professional colleagues (those closest to me personally; some followed in my footsteps) understand why I walked away from what seemed like professional utopia after 1997. Then, as a senior partner of a leading law firm for 15 years, I had a pretty good reputation as a civil advocate but also as an administrator (in public and private sectors), led a litigation department team that was second to none, and introduced many innovations into how law was then practised that streamlined and increased production. I was the poster boy for what most would call ‘success’.
Then, on December 31, 1997, I called it a day and have rarely left my home since. I do putter around the law still, but as senior counsel only on projects I find attractive when instructed by one of the instructing attorneys still alive (number dwindling daily) who understand my idio(t) syncracies and quirky operating systems. I have no office, no staff, no listed telephone number. Many months pass with me earning zero income. Yet, I’ve never been happier or healthier. Fat? Yes. Ugly? Hell, yes. But no doctor has built a big house with my cash.
Why and how’d I do it? I had two reasons, one method. Reason One: I was sick and tired of the rat race. It’s dehumanising and demeaning. I realised that, spiritually, even when you win that race, it still means you’re a rat. Uh! Ya too rude! Uh! Eh! Oh, what a rat race! Oh, what a rat race! Oh, what a rat race! Oh, what a rat race! This is the rat race! Rat race! (Rat race!)
I spent most of my early lawyer years representing various insurance companies and drank the spiked Kool-Aid that taught personal-injury lawyers were ambulance chasers, repairmen crooks, doctors facilitators of malingerers. I had many scintillating successes crossexamining high-profile doctors, but, over time, recognised it was my skill, NOT claimant malfeasance, that cost many their chance at compensation. The lengths to which insurance companies would go to avoid settling legitimate claims began to curdle my blood. Some a gorgon-a, some a hooligan-a, some a guinea-gog-a in dis ya rat race, yeah! Rat race!” The straw that broke the camel’s back was a case in which I recorded one of my biggest and most celebrated ‘successes’. A worker for a JPS-contracted tree trimmer fell and was paralysed. He sued JPS and the contractor. Retained by insurers, I appeared for JPS and won.
Afterwards, I learnt of the claimant’s circumstances. He lived on a Port Maria Hospital ward with only intermittent care. His physical condition was too desperate to be detailed in a family newspaper. The penny dropped. I realised the law was an ass and insurance companies heartless, inhuman parasites.
What would it cost an insurer, having collected JPS’s premiums for years, to offer a gratuitous settlement to the claimant (who was put in harm’s way by a JPScreated scheme of work for JPS benefit) so he could live in reasonable comfort? I was ashamed of myself for using my talent to help reduce a human being to an animal. I vowed that, thereafter, I’d act AGAINST, rather than for, insurers. Don’t forget your history. Know your destiny. In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty. Rat race; rat race; rat race!” Rat Race appears on Bob Marley’s Rastaman Vibration album written by Bob, but iconic footballer Allan ‘Skill’ Cole (Bob’s ‘bona fide’) claims co-writing credits and sued Island, Universal and Tuff Gong for breach of copyright. Arsenio would say, “Things that make you go hmmmm ... . ”
Reason Two: I was missing my sons’ childhood. And for what? The pursuit of filthy lucre? I still get Rodney Dangerfield treatment from Old BC’s greedy sons and Old BC herself, while ‘juggling’ non-existent finances, often insists I ‘get a job’, but I just roll over and watch Flash on cable. Oops, I forget, FLOW cancelled Flash’s channel! But my bill remains untouched.
The ‘how’? Simple! Whoever asks, I answer, “I’ve embraced poverty.” They all laugh and mutter sarcastically, as Noah did when a loud voice interrupting his home-improvement work identified itself as God, “Right!”
P.S. Apologies to education icon Sister Maureen Clare, who I prematurely sent to the great beyond. A torrent of calls from past Immaculate students assure me that she's not only very much with us but still a member of the Immaculate executive. No wonder that school continues at the highest standard.
Peace and love.