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What's It Worth To You?

by Stephen Lautens

July 30, 1999

Everyone these days is looking for compensation. There is no wrong too small or too far in the past to keep people from demanding what they think is rightfully there's.

Today we don't just demand compensation for outrageous wrongs and genuine injustices. People want it for not being smart enough, or lucky enough, or appreciated enough.

Get passed over for a promotion? Demand compensation. Grandparents get beaten up by someone else's grandparents seventy years ago in another country? Demand compensation. Don't qualify for the Olympics just because you get winded walking to the store ... well, you get the idea.

Every hurt feeling has to be fixed, and making people feel better always comes with a hefty price tag.

In our criminal justice system judges are now being encouraged in some cases to be lenient with Native offenders at sentencing. They are being asked to take into consideration the "historic wrongs done to their people." It's sort of compensation on the intergenerational installment plan.

If I ever get arrested, I'll have to remember to mention that my great grandfather was an orphan. It has nothing to do with me, but I'm sure the judge will want to be lenient to compensate me for it.

It used to be common knowledge that hot coffee was hot. Now you are entitled to hefty cash compensation if you spill the hot coffee on you and it turns out to be hot. I think this is the real reason why all the coffee chains are now pushing iced coffee.

With everyone trying to claim their piece of the compensation pie, I thought I'd compile a rough guide to what kind of cash people can expect to get:

  • Unhappy childhood: $ 0.
  • Unhappy childhood that results in an appearance on Jerry Springer: $ 99.99.
  • Unhappy childhood that results in an appearance on Jerry Springer and your cross-dressing half brother tears off your shirt: $ 1,000.
  • Unhappy childhood if you end up a drug addict who murders his parents but gets Oliver Stone to do the movie: $1 million.
  • If your lawyer keeps you waiting at reception for hours: $ 0.
  • If you keep your lawyer waiting: $ 300 per hour.
  • If you keep your lawyer and your wife's lawyer waiting: $ 600 per hour.
  • If you do your job right 25% of the time: $ 0.
  • If you are a baseball player with a .250 batting average: $ 3 million.
  • A happy marriage: $ 0.
  • An unhappy marriage: seven years in court and half the stuff.
  • An unhappy marriage that ends in murder: seven years in jail and all the stuff.
  • Failing university: $ 0.
  • Failing university if it hurts your self esteem and sense of self as a person deserving of unconditional love: $ 50,000.
  • Failing university if it hurts your self esteem and sense of worth as a person deserving of unconditional love and you are a member of a militant minority: $ 1 million, an honourary Ph.D., and a scholarship named after you.
  • Passing university and actually getting a job: a lifetime of clock punching, tax paying and at the end an inadequate pension.

I guess some kinds of compensation are better than others.


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