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October 19, 2017

Why you should be absurdily ambitious

A couple weeks ago, I read an article on Reuters about a man named Dalton Chisholm.  Aside from his fairly awesome namesake, he doesn’t really have much of a reason to be a newsworthy figure, except for one particular datum: Chisholm is suing Bank of America for $1,784 billion trillion, or, in more compressed form, $1.784 septillion.  For those of you like me who didn’t know (I’m no rocket scientist, but I had never even heard of that word before, mathematically or otherwise), it’s a one with 24 zeros behind it.  Yeah, let’s take this all in for a second.  This guy is suing Bank of America for a number that probably takes longer to write down than it does to produce one of the “Saw” sequels.  For comparison sake, the article also says that if Bank of America were to consider paying this amount out, it would have to pay its entire worth of $196 billion about 9.1 trillion times over.

I don’t know about you, but regarding this suit, here’s the first word that comes to mind: ambitious.  And by ambitious, I mean that’s the first word that pops into my head when I wonder, “What in the name of Ringo Starr is this guy driving at?” 

The actual complaint that Chisholm is suing on the grounds of, according to another article on DailyFinance.com, is that, “…Bank of America would not deposit some of his checks due to problems with their routing numbers,” which made him “unhappy.” 

I can maybe see this causing some “unhappiness” in one’s life.  I have never, however, been unhappy enough to prompt a civil suit in which the damages requested are most likely sufficient to buy Jesus with a two-year warranty. 

I might have understood if he claimed the minor checking account mix-up resulted in psychosis, because that’s what this is.  This is pretty much his logic; you guys didn’t deposit my checks correctly based on a clerical error, so, counting the bills I wasn’t able to pay, the necessities I was unable to buy, etc., coupled with mental anguish, let’s see… by my math, that adds up to more money than Stephen Hawking’s and Chuck Norris’ combined efforts could count to.  Check, please.  I’ll take the first $100 billion in cash, and you can give me the rest in shell companies off the Southeast coast of China and a lifetime supply of green-and-blue-only Jolly Ranchers. 

But as I was thinking more about this insanely ambitious lawsuit, another a-word came to mind.  If I may pull your mind out of the gutter, the a-word I was thinking of was “absurd.”  No one can doubt that this particular effort to collect more than $1 septillion dollars is obviously ambitious.  But what if a secondary, if not similarly imperative factor of this lawsuit is indeed absurdity?  And if so, is it absurdly ambitious, or ambitiously absurd?

When I thought about it long enough, I eventually realized this story of a ridiculous lawsuit was a belated reaction to the general social atmosphere created by the havoc that was wreaked upon the economy.  In one fell swoop, this guy was able to poke some absurd fun at the aspect of the economy, get his name in the news and probably kill some time one boring weekend pursuing the lawsuit, time which he could have passed by doing something expensive like going to see a psychiatrist. But waging the world’s most ambitiously absurd lawsuit?  Priceless.  And for anyone who’s going to whine, “But the court costs and what not, boo-hoo-hoo,” you need to take a minute and unthink.

I highly recommend following Chisholm’s lead on this one.  Everyone likes some good, cheap fun and everyone likes to get his or her own 15 minutes of fame.  But don’t just copy Chisholm’s idea of world’s craziest lawsuit.  Make up your own fun.

For example, claim that you watch the hit medical drama “House” so religiously that you inherently deserve a tax break on your property, which is to be referred to officially as the “First Orthodox Church of Hugh Laurie.”  Or, buy the album “Dark Side Of The Moon” by Pink Floyd, and shortly thereafter sue the tight, leather pants off Roger Waters for the costs of a hallucinogenic drug habit and one copy of “The Wizard of Oz” on DVD.  Or, if you’re feeling particularly absurdly ambitiously absurd, while filling out your annual income taxes, fill in your occupation as “Love Machine”, and subsequently write off your annual cost for prophylactics and/or birth control methods. 

The bottom line is, we have to try our hardest to push the envelope on ambitious absurdity – or whatever phrase I made up a few paragraphs ago – to see that the absurdity is heard by the people.  Because if we don’t, our headlines will merely be filled with real news, and who here wants that?  Nobody, that’s who.  Hearing about some boring G20 summit that Obama and other world leaders attended in order to address the growing issue of the international wealth gap and the severe situations in third world countries across the world is just that: boring.  And frankly, it’s not as interesting as hearing the outlandish “septillion” demands of that what’s-his-face guy that I mentioned before.

Dave Coffey is a Collegian columnist.  He can be reached at dscoffey@student.umass.edu.

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