Keyboard Cowboys, Outrage Fetishists, Three Foot High Flames, and Bourbon - The S.E. Farris Law Firm
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Keyboard Cowboys, Outrage Fetishists, Three Foot High Flames, and Bourbon

Gentle Reader, this is one of THOSE columns. The ones where Middle Aged Lawyer man controls my keyboard and my more reasonable voice is silent. Young folks either can’t relate or compare me to their dads. Or granddads.

I have been more cranky than usual. I never thought I would be a grumpy old man, especially so young, but here I am killing it. It is apparent that I am not young anymore, but as grumpy old men go there is ample room at the top of the age bracket.

I can’t blame the summer heat as it has been abnormally cool in these parts. In fact, we are experiencing a monsoon season- so much rain that I am growing webs between my fingers and toes and they have almost stopped itching. Still, there are some things burning my rear end, three foot flames being the only metaphorical one.

There is an old saying (middle aged lawyers know all the old sayings) that the smallest cases bring the biggest problems. Every case is important to the client. Smart lawyers treat their clients the same regardless of the size of the case, but clients who have more at risk don’t need much “hand holding” from their lawyers. I am sure there is a scientific basis for this. I am not a scientist. If I was better at math and science I wouldn’t be an attorney, and my annoyances would consist of converting metric measurements and driving back to work to turn off the Bunsen burner. Or something like that.

One of my cases with relatively little at stake fits the adage perfectly. My client isn’t the issue, it’s my opposing counsel. He is both dumb and difficult. Those who think that someone who made it through law school can’t be dumb have not dealt with very many lawyers. If dumb is relative, this guy is a double cousin. Difficult lawyers suck up my energy, dumb lawyers are a burden and the two combined are a very heavy load to bear.

This particular attorney makes my teeth hurt. He complained that a deposition was taking longer than I told him it would and he was going to miss his flight home. It is hard to take a short deposition when your opponent thinks he is getting paid by the word. His objections were both unnecessary and longer than my questions.

He is a keyboard cowboy to boot, which makes the simplest correspondence unpleasant. Every email from him is laced with insults and the kind of statements you would expect from a diminutive 14 year old bully with a big friend. Think Grover Dill, but without Scut Farkus as an enforcer. He is more tolerable in person, but any distance between us awakens his inner Grover.

Younger me would have answered insult with insult, even upping the ante. Middle aged lawyer man resists the urge, albeit with some effort. Maybe I have mellowed with age. More likely I am too tired or too busy to expend the energy. I take a page from “Getting to NO, the Art of Passive Aggression” when I deal with him. It isn’t nearly as satisfying but doesn’t raise my blood pressure as much, either. I would rather hit him in the head with the whole book. 

My other major annoyance these days are outrage fetishists. These folks spend every waking minute complaining about the smallest offenses. They get incensed at friends and foes alike. The insults and slights they identify may be real, but are so minor that most humans would just roll their eyes and move on.

You can spot an outrage fetishist in the shopping checkout line because their carts are full of poster board and markers. They don’t aspire to solve problems, content to highlight them and maybe start a petition. It even takes a long time to agree on a petition, lest they select an oppressive typeface.  They don’t follow through to get signatures for the petition because they are on to the next offense in short order. 

I don’t mean to minimize the struggles that people face. Thoughtfulness in our words and deeds is required of an evolving society, even if complete political correctness goes too far. The problem with outrage fetishists isn’t just momentary annoyance when they make mountains out of molehills. The constant stream of outrage tends to cause outrage callouses and we lose the ability to get, well, outraged.

Change starts with outrage at the status quo. It took long term outrage to end the war in Vietnam, ban DDT and institute food safety laws. It could be that outrage fetishists are just plagued with attention deficit disorder, and the cure is as simple as putting Adderall in the water supply. I leave that to the scientists.

I am fully aware that my annoyances are minor items and confess that I could be overly sensitive. I got a letter from the IRS on Monday, telling me they are going to levy my property because my business tax returns were late. My accountant requested an extension – well within the prescribed time and by certified letter with a signed receipt- yet the IRS claims that we never requested more time to file the returns. No doubt my accountant is tired of my nervous phone calls, and my constant harping that Amazon and GE didn’t even pay taxes doesn’t make things better. I am certain this will get resolved and I need to remain calm and be patient in the meantime. Instead, I am annoyed. At everything.

Middle aged lawyer man is going to take up meditation to cope with life’s challenges. If that doesn’t work, there is still bourbon.

©2019 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. He wants to market Meditation brand Bourbon.  Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent to Under Analysis via email at