Monday, May 6, 2013

Shame, great & small

May is Get Caught Reading Month.  I love the silly months but I think I particularly love this one, not the least because I am often caught reading.  & for reasons I am not clear on, if I am sitting reading a book-in the doctor's waiting room or on a plane or wherever way-too-many people see this as an invitation to start a conversation. 

Last year I was sitting, waiting for my husband who was having outpatient you know I was there for a while.  I was reading Julie Zickefoose's The Bluebird Effect, sitting quietly in a room where re-runs of Different Strokes played in an endless loop.  & every person who walked into that room tried to strike up a conversation about how lame it was that that is what the channel was set to & did I know how to change it.  My answers ran the gamut from "If I knew how, I would turn it off" to "Maybe next time you should bring a book".  & every single person to whom I did not say a plain old "NO" & just "NO" wanted to keep that conversation going.  Some of the recipients of "NO" tried as well.  Sooner or later they all stopped trying, more than you think muttering about how unfriendly SOME PEOPLE can be & shouldn't I be just a little bit ashamed.  Because it is my job, as a person in a waiting room to keep them amused? 

In the next few days, I will be sitting in that same waiting room while my husband has the same procedure on his other eye.  I have been thinking a little bit about what to bring. I had thought a Travis McGee book (I am up to Pale Gray for the Guilt), but I live in fear of someone striking up a conversation about the book I am reading & this is Travis McGee country, so it could happen.  Next, I thought maybe Amy Stewart's The Drunken Botanist as it looks easy to pick up & put down. & I might still go that way.


this past weekend I started looking at To Kill A Mockingbird.  Yes, I have read it before.  Many times.  But I was talking about it recently with my niece who is reading it for the first time, in high school.  I guess it has been on my mid since we talked, so I caught a new story that might otherwise have missed:  Harper Lee is trying to get the rights to her one & only published book, quite possibly the most important book of the 20th century, back from her agent. 

The gist is that her "new" agent took over when her original agent, his father-in-law, had to stop representing her because of his own poor health.  As part of the take over, the young-un seems to have acquired the rights to the book, not something her previous agent had needed or, as far as anyone can tell, ever sought.  Now Lee is suing to get the rights back, as well as unpaid fees Pinkus has collected since 2007. 

I can actually see how this happened:  Harper Lee is today in her mid/late 80s.  She has no direct heirs & has lived largely out of the public eye in the same town she grew up in.  I have been present for other discussions when the administrators for more or less lucid elderly people thought the time had come for "some one" to step in, before "something bad" happens.  Sooner or later, the temptation to preserve something for the estate starts to outweigh the understanding that whatever money there is belongs to the elderly person.  & most of the time, the person involve does not live long enough to realize their estate has become more important than what they might want, right now.

I am not even saying this is wholly unreasonable.  In the past few years I have sat not-quite-ringside at some very ugly reading-of-the-wills.  Having no stake gives me a certain perspective, but even I could not say what the right thing to do might be.  In one case a good sized estate had dwindled considerably owing to the estate holder (the newly dead guy when I heard about it) refusing to convert any assets to more conservative investments or anything that might be easily accessed.  He specifically said he was not expecting to need in-depth medical care less than a year before he died.  He was in his 90s.  & the last month of his life cut his estate quite bit what with early withdrawal fees, etc. to pay for not-covered medical procedures & a wheelchair & a therapist to come to the house... 

In another instance an acquaintance was the executor overseeing an elderly relative's estate.  Her will specified the exact amount in a particular account go to a particular person.  But by the time she died, that account had considerably less than she had named.  It was a whole debacle, should money be moved from other accounts & other heirs?  The short version is it has been a while since that account had anything close to that balance & she was certainly opening the statements, if not reading them so the executor decided not to move funds around.  I am sure you can guess who is & who is not speaking to him almost a decade later.  Yes, the money was theirs to do with as they liked...but was that really what they liked?

So let me suggest that you get caught reading Harper Lee's to Kill A Mockingbird & when someone tries to start a conversation you can say "See this book?  Would you believe I am actually reading it?"  & if they still won't leave you alone you can start up a whole in depth tirade about the irresponsibility of the sons-in-law of publishing agents.  Different Strokes might start looking pretty good.

//& in a complete sidebar:  my sister, my mother & her sister (my aunt) all used to carry a remote in their purse that allowed them to lower the volume on any television most waiting rooms.  As far as I know, they still do. 

No comments:

Post a Comment