A Slippery Slope

Or: What my bloody, newly mangled face taught me about our litigious society

I have been commuting to New York for the past few weeks and so I am now one of the train people. Amtrak is my tribe.

On Monday night I made a mad dash from the edit bay to Penn Station in New York to make the 9:05 train to Trenton. I got to the station at 9:01.

“The train is on the right,” the Amtrak lady said at the top of the escalator that descends to the tracks. [SIGNUP]

I made it. But there was something wrong. I was on a ghost train. There was no one from the tribe on board, just a bartender in the café car who may or may not have been real. I felt like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. “Is this the 9:05?” I said as my mysterious friend wiped off the counter top. She smiled and said, “No, it’s across the platform, but you better hurry.”

I turned from Jack Nicholson to O.J. Simpson. Not the bad O.J. Simpson who we know from the court room, the good O.J., who jumped suitcases to catch a plane in Hertz Commercials. (But I did just give myself a chill as I was forced to think of the comparison between The Shining’s Jack Torrance and the bad O.J. Simpson. It was unintended, but I’ll leave it in so you can share the chill.)

So now I am running with dress shoes across a slippery platform. (If you think I am already trying to make excuses for what is about to happen next — you’re right.)

I tried to turn in full run when my face got a closer look at the slippery platform. My face met the platform hard. If NFL Films had a parabolic mike nearby, the announcers would have paused for the sound of the crack.

I turned once again, this time from O.J. Simpson to Chevy Chase.

Being a good TV anchor, I checked my teeth first. They were all there and un-chipped. But when I stood up blood shot from my nose like I was the dessert fountain in True Blood. (Finally, a pop reference from this century.)

I made the train. But when I tried to hand my blood-stained ticket to the conductor he said, “I don’t want to touch that. You are going to have to throw that out.” He never even looked at the ticket and did not mark my seat with a receipt. He just stared at me.

At this point I didn’t realize that my nose looked like a foot.

He said, “Do you want the first aid kit?” That may have been the dumbest question I heard since a Philadelphia anchor asked an expert on the Catholic Church, during the coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II, if anyone has ever been canonized a saint after they died. He answered, “That’s kind of a prerequisite.”

I wasn’t in the position to make any sarcastic comments. I just said, “Yes, please.”

After I cleaned myself up and put a band aid over a gash on my nose. I walked out of the train restroom to find four conductors in a huddle outside the door. Two hundred years ago they would have had torches and pitch forks.

The biggest of the conductors asked, “What is your stop?” When I told him Trenton, he looked at the other conductors and said, “Two stops.” I then realized that had I been going any further I may have been tossed from the train. “Do you need an ambulance?” the big conductor asked me. “No, I may need a couple of stitches, but if I broke it, I think it would hurt a lot more.”

The next day I got 15 stitches on my nose, which was broken. The nose straightening process is something that would have made Dick Cheney very happy.

And now after reading the details of this entire ordeal, you are thinking, “”He’s got a great lawsuit.” Congratulations. You have joined the majority of the people who have heard this story. One person I told even said, “Oh man, you are so lucky.” This is as he is looking at the bandaged foot on my face where my nose used to be. “You are going to make a fortune.”

Even my health insurance provider asked if I was going to sue. When I said, “I don’t think so,” the woman on the phone said, “Well, we might sue on your behalf.”

It was then that I realized how lawsuit crazy we have become. (Sorry it took so long to get to the point, but I had to set this all up with my hilarious turning my nose into a foot story.)

So many people brought up suing, so matter-of-factly, that I started to think there was something wrong with me. My answer went from an indignant “No!” to an “I don’t think so” to “I just don’t know.”

People think I should sue Penn Station, Amtrak and the makers of my shoes.

All of this because I slipped and fell.

I just don’t think I can do it. Maybe that foot on my face is supposed to come with a Golden Slipper, but I just can’t pull the trigger. If I do, then I am part of the problem.

We live in a society of people who seem to take everything but responsibility.

Maybe my thinking is as old-fashioned as my references, but I am not going to look at my misfortune as a possible payday. All of us end up paying because of that kind of thinking.

I think my tribe of train people will be proud of me.

I’ll find out later today. I’m going to New York to do a national commentary on our litigious society complete with my broken nose. Why do I think that most who watch are going to say, “What a shame! That guy with the foot face could have made a fortune.”

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post on Monday and Thursday. Watch his video commentaries at wpix.com.