Dear Public Adjustor:
Mom taught me not to lie, so I can’t say I’ve had a good time in school. My family is more religious than most, which made it hard for me to fit in. Plus, I matured later than some of the girls, and they teased me about it after gym class. Then there’s this whole telekinesis thing, about which the less said, the better.
So I was equal parts delighted and shocked when I learned I’d been elected Queen of the Prom. I guess the other kids kind of want to make it up to me. But Mom says proms are sinful, and I shouldn’t go. I know it’s just a high school party, and high school isn’t a very important place, but I’d really like to wear that crown Saturday night. What should I do?
I know your mom’s made a lot of mistakes before, but I’d like to encourage you as strongly as possible to just go to the movies this weekend. Proms are lame artifacts of 50s culture, and their rituals implicitly adopt much of the intolerance characteristic of that era. They often take place in stuffy old spaces that can’t easily accommodate excited crowds. I really don’t think you’ll end up enjoying it.
And anyway, reconciliation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Consider Joshua Jiles, another teen with a special talent: he “could drive anything with wheels.” In December 2010, after sharing a few drinks with his classmates, Josh began driving a dump truck that didn’t belong to him. The police of Stow, Ohio, asked Josh to pull over, but he led them on a 50-mile chase at speeds up to 70 mph. When one of the cops positioned his cruiser behind the dump truck, Josh reversed gears and knocked him aside. He continued to drive in reverse for at least two full minutes, until he reached an intersection, pushed two private vehicles out of his way and sped off for another hour of hi-jinks. By the time it was over, Josh said he had “used every one” of the truck’s 16 gears.
You’d have thought the police would be upset, but listen to what they said. Sgt. Brian Snavely testified, “Josh handled the dump truck very well, taking deliberate actions and demonstrating an exceptional level of maneuverability.” Sgt. Steven Dunton agreed: “Joshua appeared to be in control of the dump truck at all times, even while driving backwards and after he collided with and pushed the civilian vehicles out of his way.”
This praise led an Ohio appellate court to decide, in State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Jiles, No. 26841 (Ohio App. Ct. June 11, 2014), that “Joshua demonstrated a high level of competence in controlling the dump truck throughout the entire chase.” The court singled out for particular commendation the “deliberate and calculated” manner in which Josh managed to get those private vehicles out of his way.
But the court was ruling in a subrogation action brought by the insurers of those private vehicles under Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.09(B), which makes parents liable when a minor damages property “willfully.” Thanks to the gold stars awarded by the Stow constabulary, the court ruled that Josh’s parents were on the hook.
All of which is to say, encomia aren’t always unmixed blessings. You know you’re the Prom Queen; let that suffice.
But if you feel you absolutely have to go, read this first.
The Public Adjustor [Location Withheld]