By Ned Hickson
Recently, a federal grand jury in Billings, Mont., awarded $1 million to a woman who said she suffers from post-traumatic stress after her Delta Airlines jet made an emergency landing in November of 1996.
The case gained national attention because it opens the floodgate for other post-traumatic stress lawsuits, which includes anyone who has ever ridden in a taxi in downtown New York.
Though I never suffered anything as severe as post-traumatic stress from my own NYC taxi experience, it was many weeks before I could free my mind from the terrifying image of my taxi driver yelling out his window while navigating through Madison Avenue traffic using only his knees so he could flip off another taxi driver with both hands. Even today, I'm sure that his back seat still has a perfect impression of my hands -- in the form of a death grip -- that he can use as a nice conversation piece.
If you think about it, most of us deal with potential post-traumatic situations on a daily basis without giving much thought to lawsuits.
Just this morning, for example, I filled the gas tank.
It's a situation rife with post-traumatic stress potential, especially when you consider I'll be reminded of that horrific experience in three weeks when my statement arrives.
Ever get in a hurry and open a can of soup, then a can of dog food, spoon both of them out, heat the soup, then realize as you're eating that you don't remember which of the two cans you measured the water with?
While it's the kind of thing that lingers on your mind, I have no plans to appear on the witness stand in the case of Ned vs Alpo.
It's not that I'm trying to belittle how frightening the experience of an emergency landing must have been for the woman who sued Delta Airlines. I just happen to think the alternative -- actually plummeting to the ground at 800 mph -- would be much more stressful.
In fact, polls show that four out of five travelers actually prefer landing safely during an emergency than to a crash landing in a non-emergency situation (It's important to note that the fifth traveler who was asked happened to be a retired Kamikaze pilot).
The truth is, depending on your frame of mind, there are lots of things that we face every day that could be the catalyst for post-traumatic stress. The ingredients label on a package of hot dogs; that funny sound your car only makes on long trips; children; a carton full of eggs with rippled shells; beer caps that look like the twist-off kind but aren't; children; having a surgeon whose last name is Thrasher, Flatline or Bungler -- all of these are legitimate stress inducers.
In closing, let me just say that if you found any portion of this column to be traumatic, I apologize.
And if you're still thinking about it tomorrow, that would be post-traumatic -- and lawyers in Billings, Mont., would like to hear from you.
You can write to Ned Hickson at:
The Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR 97439.