Knowing when to accelerate and when to brake….

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A few weeks ago, on a balmy and grey Sunday morning, I was using one of Brookline’s new electric scooters on my way home from a brunch. It was my 4th or 5th time using the scooters, and I found them really fun and easy to use. You can pick them up anywhere, leave them anywhere, and they are relatively inexpensive and super convenient. I was coming down a hill in Brookline when I started to brake as I approached Washington Street - but the brakes didn’t respond at all. When I depressed the brake it made a terrible noise but there was no mechanical response. I had a few seconds - I’m not sure how many - two? three? ten? In which to decide what to do, and looking around, I didn’t think I could safely come to a stop. I veered quickly to the left so that I wouldn’t careen into Washington Street and could at least avoid the passing cars. 

 

I met the blacktop and, needless to say, the blacktop won. After some kind pedestrians helped me to clean up a bit a friend drove me to the hospital, and after a few hours I left the ER with my arm in a sling and a few stitches on my forehead, feeling mostly very grateful that there was nothing more serious. Over the course of the next 10 days or so, a pretty noticeable black eye developed - the bruise moving slowly further down the left side of my face, my kids noticing and commenting to me how it was changing each day. 

 

In my encounters over that time I received a lot of advice about my response to the scooter company. This happened at the grocery store, at my kids’ school, and at work, of course. As a mediator surrounded by other mediators, the professionals around me are oriented towards facilitating conflict resolution. I started to gear up for a fight - and I sensed I had at least a decent chance at one as someone who was correctly using the scooter and who got hurt because of a malfunction. 

 

But - I have seen, both personally and professionally - how significant the emotional and resource costs are to a fight like this. I feel incredibly lucky that nothing worse happened to me, and the idea of going back and forth with a big, well-resourced company with a lot to prove struck me as just not worth it. I would love to have gained a small settlement - either for myself or for some charitable cause in protecting others from a similar fate. But the way I anticipate feeling after having opened myself up to the process, especially if I did not get the outcome I was aiming for, just isn’t good. I fear that it would transform this from kind of a crazy thing that happened to me, to the bad feeling of having failed at something that I would have cared about more and more as I put more time and energy in. It simply doesn’t seem worth it to transform this from an unfortunate accident, in which I was an unwilling player, to a full-on dispute in which I would intentionally become an active participant. It turns out I didn’t have much control over the course of the scooter, but I do have control over how I choose to let this take shape.

 

So ultimately, after a few initial emails and messages with the scooter company, I’m backing off. I have a small scar above my left eye, which I hope will be the only remnant of this experience, along with the story, and the reminder of how important it is to wear a helmet. 

 

So, this mediator is stepping on the brakes this time; hopefully they’ll work.