Recently, a federal jury in Billings, Mont., awarded $1 million to a woman who said she suffered from post-traumatic stress after her Delta Airlines jet made an emergency landing in November of 2011. The case gained 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 the driver flipping the bird to other taxi drivers with both hands as he navigated through Madison Avenue traffic using only his knees. Even today, I’m sure that his back seat still has a perfect impression of my hands — in the form of a death grip — which he can use as a nice conversation piece. When you stop and think about it, most of us deal with potential traumatic stress 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 traumatic stress potential, especially when you consider I’ll be reminded of that horrific experience in three weeks when I get my bank statement. Ever find yourself in a hurry opening 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?
Though 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 rather than crashing 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 we face every day that could be the catalyst for traumatic stress: The ingredients label on a package of hot dogs; that funny sound your car only makes on long trips; a carton full of eggs with rippled shells; beer caps that look like the twist-off kind but aren’t; having a surgeon whose last name is “Newbie,” “Flatliner” or “Snippit”; thinking about what’s actually in a McNugget; getting an enthusiastic kiss from your dog and then watching him clean himself with the same enthusiasm; FOX News; pharmaceutical ads with symptoms so general you could have any number of conditions — all of these are legitimate stress inducers.
That said, if you found any of this to be traumatic, I apologize.
However, if you’re still thinking about it tomorrow, that would be post-traumatic — and I’m sure lawyers in Billings, Mont., would like to hear from you.