A hair trigger with a lawsuit

Kevin Cowherd

March 17, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

The light was dim, but from the glow of the Bud Light sign in the window, I could tell my attorney was excited as we discussed the matter of the defective hair dryer sold to me by that crook Herbert.

"We'll sue him," Sorrentino was saying now, the words warming me all over.

"Another drink for this man!" I shouted to the bartender. "Sorrentino, you are a credit to your profession!"

As the waitress arrived with an order of mozzarella sticks, I felt it necessary to point out that the store that sold me the defective hair dryer was, in fact, owned jointly by Herbert and his mother, an evil old shrew named Mattie.

"Then we'll sue him and his mother!" cried Sorrentino, stabbing a mozzarella stick in my chest for emphasis. "We'll take them for everything they have!"

God, I loved the sound of that! At this point, it was all I could do not to hug Sorrentino and plant a big kiss on his cheek. Except he had already turned away and was hitting on a sad-faced young woman, who looked like she was resigned to going home soon, putting on the rubber gloves, and spraying the oven with Easy-Off.

So I entertained myself with delicious thoughts of Herbert and his horrible mother, penniless and out on the streets, hustling spare change with a small tin cup. It would serve them right for the anguish they caused me.

Maybe I would even walk up to the flimsy refrigerator carton they were huddled in and kick it and say: "Hey, Herbert and Mattie, remember me?" When they poked their heads out, I would begin to twitch grotesquely, simulating a man being electrocuted, which is damn near what happened to me because of their stupid hair dryer.

Buying the hair dryer was a huge mistake, I see that now. I don't even use a hair dryer myself. But one day my wife called and said: "On your way home, pick up a hair dryer, OK?" Like it was a loaf of bread or something.

So I stopped at Herbert's little store and found exactly one hair dryer, which was located in the back near a sign that said: "More Americans than you think worry about constipation!"

"That's quite a selection of hair dryers you have, Herbert," I said.

Herbert was in a mood and said nothing. Mattie was sweeping behind the register and didn't even look up. When the Chamber of Commerce hands out its awards for Friendliest Merchant, there's no danger of Herbert and Mattie appearing on the list of candidates.

As I said, I don't use a hair dryer. But that night I stepped out of the shower and saw the new dryer near the sink, and I thought: What the hey.

So I plugged it in and everything was going along fine until I looked in the mirror and noticed my hair was on fire.

Tiny wisps of smoke were curling to the ceiling and a burning smell filled the bathroom. Luckily, my wife happened by and began beating me over the head with a towel to snuff the fire.

"There were flames shooting out of that thing!" she said.

"Nonsense," I said, switching the dryer on again. "I must have held it too close. Herbert would never sell a . . ."

The rest of the sentence broke off in a strangled cry, as I commenced to twitch violently from the shock of God knows how many volts coursing through me. Yes. There was a short.

So the next day I brought the hair dryer back to Herbert's store. I didn't want to cause a scene. So I stood quietly in line behind a man buying a roll of antacid tablets.

When it was my turn, I said: "Herbert, your hair dryer almost killed me."

Herbert was in a mood again and simply growled. Mattie was sweeping and said nothing. When I got to the part about my wife beating me over the head, Mattie smiled softly. Funny, I watched a documentary the other night about former members of the Hitler Youth Corps. I'm surprised Mattie wasn't interviewed.

"Anyway, I want my money back, Herbert," I said.

"Write the company," was all Herbert said. " They have to refund your money."

"I'm notifying my attorney," I said.

Herbert was so unnerved by this that he called out: "Mom, do we have any more Pampers? That shelf up front needs re-stocking . . ."

So the way things look right now, we are going to sue Herbert and Mattie -- or we might not, depending on how much of last night's conversation Sorrentino remembers.

God knows how hammered he got after I left. There exists the strong possibility that when I recount again how my hair burst into flames and I ended up twitching grotesquely at the bathroom sink, Sorrentino will shrug and say: "Why don't you just buy another hair dryer?"

Which is another way to go, I guess.

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