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Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006 | I stood up to answer a knock at my door, taking my time because the knock had far too much “Come out with your hands up” in its sound for my taste.
I opened the door to a woman who said “Ernie McCray?” in a voice that matched the sound of her knock at the door. And before I finished nodding “Yeah,” she was on to her next line: “You and your wife are being summoned” and as proof she handed me papers titled SUMMONS.
I had no idea what was “summonable” in our lives and I did a double take like a cartoon character when I saw that we were being sued by Hamilton’s Tavern. For half-a-million dollars. And I thought: Keeping me awake at night with their noise isn’t enough? They’ve got to sue me too? For defaming their character? Give me a break.
I open to a page, page seven, and there in front of me on line 18 is an accusation that my wife and I “have on occasion verbally accosted and spit upon delivery truck drivers.”
At that point I guessed that they had the wrong people.
But then I wondered, wait a minute, are they talking about that driver the other day, the one who rolled up in a beer truck with music blasting like a concert at Coors Amphitheatre with a bass pulsating a beat up and down the street that could mix cement? No, it couldn’t be him because my wife asked him to turn his music down and he complied with a wee frown without making a sound. Problem solved. No name calling. No spitting. And I just happened to come along with a note for the owners of the bar and opened the door for the truck driver. Our moment together in time was like a Norman Rockwell drawing. Besides, if I had spit on this dude, who pulled cartons of beer off the truck like they were boxes of feathers, he would have kicked my 68-year-old ass to the moon.
As “occasions” go, that was the only time that either one of us can recall even talking to a beer-truck driver other than exchanging a brief “hello.” And it’s hard to say “hello” and spit at the same time.
Hey, my wife and I have a few flaws but verbally assaulting and spitting on people isn’t on the list. If the truth be told we are “Do-unto-others-as-you-would-like-them-to-do-unto-you” kind of folks and we would definitely not want to be spat upon. And we don’t even slightly resemble people who would make defamatory statements about other people as the SUMMONS alleges.
It’s not with “defamation” in mind that I have expressed in various publications my wife’s and my frustrations about what bars bring to a neighborhood. Saying that over the years bar patrons have peed and vomited in our yard, had sex in our yard, had fights on our street, is not defamatory. These are truths. Fearing that these things will continue with yet another bar across the street from us is not a defamatory expression. It’s a concern of the most serious kind. And basically all we’re asking of Hamilton’s Tavern is for them to conduct their business quietly so we can sleep in peace at night. All of my writing has highlighted this as our major concern.
But if this lawsuit says nothing else, it says that none of our concerns are being taken seriously.
Rather than addressing our concerns the lawsuit tries to make a case that we’re intentionally and negligently interfering with their ability to make money. Yeah. Right.
I’m not a legal mind but this lawsuit has frivolous written all over it. It’s a miserably failed attempt at depriving us of our freedom to speak out against what we see as an injustice: having to go to sleep against a background of noise coming from a bar across the street night after night.
If they really want me to shut up, all they have to do is shut their patrons up.