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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hoosier Humor?

I attended a risk management seminar this afternoon - it was strongly encouraged by the powers that be at my firm because the more attorneys who attend, the more of a discount we get on our malpractice premiums.

It was what you'd probably expect: boring but somewhat informative. Early on, however, one of the not-so-dynamic speakers made a thankfully infrequent attempt at humor. He was telling a malpractice horror story, the details of which I missed. Something about an attorney accidentally letting his policy lapse and then getting in trouble and ultimately receiving a stiff fine and a six year jail sentence as punishment. "This is the way Texas treats their own," the speaker said. He got a couple chuckles and forged ahead with the kicker, "You have to be careful; they have tall oak trees in Texas."

I sat nonplussed for a couple minutes. Then I whispered to the attorney to my left, "some people might not think that's funny." I got a blank stare. I tried again, writing a note to the attorney to my left: 'Was that reference to tall oak trees a reference to hanging?' He agreed that was the most likely point. At the break, I double checked with another friend of mine sitting several tables away. "Did you catch that bit about the tall trees in Texas?" I was not alone. His immediate response was, "Nothing says humor like a lynching."

I left this comment on the evaluation form:
Off-the-cuff humor IS appreciated, but a passing reference to "tall oak trees" in Texas was in poor taste. If hanging/lynching jokes have an appropriate place, it's probably not in a crowd of strangers, even in Indiana.


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