This Land is Your Land
A utility easement crossing several of Bart’s neighbors’ properties was deeded several decades prior. It was nonexclusive, unambiguous, and specific in its scope, so Bart never worried about its validity, but he was nonetheless careful to mow the weeds or drive across a certain unused portion of it from time to time to avoid giving the impression that it might be abandoned. He had no particular need for it but he often thought as he drove across it that it could be altered to make its eventual use – particularly the Ingress/Egress part – less invasive to that property owner. On one occasion, the other owner objected to his efforts, at which time he offered to cooperate fully to move the easement to be more convenient. So this is a story of the response he received from three owners over the years, in three parts, named for the group (Peter, Paul & Mary) that popularized
Peter, had purchased the property from Bart’s friends Ron & Joanne a few years prior, and rather than following up on Bart’s exceedingly generous offer to help him move the easement, he claimed that it was not valid. This led to an extended debate, finally ending when Bart paid his attorney over $2,000 to conduct an on-site visit to explain to Peter how the law works in such matters. Peter’s problem was that he was inherently argumentative, belligerent, and dumb. He was likely also a bit unsettled with his “station in life”, given that his wife eventually divorced him and his kids disowned him.
Paul was the next to challenge the status quo, but by the time he came on the scene, Bart had begun a project to use the easement to connect water and power lines to another property. Paul was an attorney but we shall not let uncomplimentary stereotypes prejudice this discussion because Bart had known lots of attornies and most of them were good, honest, hard-working, citizens – as Bart’s grandfather often referred, “God-fearing folk”. Like Peter, Paul wanted to convince Bart that the easement was invalid, but unlike Peter, Paul was not dumb.[i]Not smart enough however, to be as clever as he wished he could be. The one important thing he overlooked, however, was that on the day he was born, Bart had already finished law classes in business school, had been a licensed agent in California, and had bought and sold real estate in four States over as many decades. When Paul’s hot air and foiled attempts at intimidation failed, he turned the mess that he had created over to his wife.
Mary seemed personable, competent, and single-minded. So the two quickly came to a “meeting of the minds” on the objective, albeit not completely on the details. Following a brief meeting on the site, after which nothing seemed to be happening, Bart began to suspect that there was not a complete understanding of the details, so to speed things up, he pointed out that “Anyone can draft the legal description. You don’t need to be a lawyer or surveyor to do that”, offering “I could save you a lot of time and headache if you get that [plat] to me sooner, rather than later. Or, I would be happy to draft it [legal description] for you”. When she ignored his advice and months passed with no progress, his next suggestion to her was to, “send me whatever you have ASAP to see if we can get back on track before we run out of time.” At one point he advised her that it would be prudent to have him review whatever documents she had paid to have prepared, before contacting the neighbors – ignored once more.
As time passed, Bart lost much of his enthusiasm for cooperation. Having spent another $5,000 or so on lawyers to fend off Paul’s barrage of horse-shit, he reluctantly abandoned his normal “good neighbor” policy in favor of proceeding with the project based on the easement as originally written, but only after drafting the details of a final offer, similar to his original one from years earlier. Bart probably missed or ignored some communications after that, believing that there was no way either Paul or Mary could be satisfied.
Months later, when the “final” documents finally arrived, the result was sloppily prepared with multiple blank pages, duplicate pages, and inaccurate details[ii]One person’s name was in error, and another property was completely missing. She had sent the documents to all the other neighbors for signatures, seemingly expecting them to proofread and correct her mistakes. Bart’s response was, “the map showing the change is not correct”, suggesting that the other errors could be easily fixed.
The email exchange that followed can be summed up with Mary’s quote, “I can not trust that even if I were to make another change, that you wouldn’t change your mind” – an inflection point to be sure.[iii]In calculus and differential geometry, an inflection point is a point on a smooth plane curve at which the curvature changes sign.
In business, it is a time of significant change in a situation; a turning point. In other words, the misunderstanding that lingered for many months after their brief verbal exchange in the field had manifested in her mind as Bart not being trustworthy. Her comment was reminiscent of a lesson Bart had learned many years earlier, the essence of which is summarized in this footnote[iv]The first time Bart heard a concise explanation of why the two political parties rarely agree on important things was from Rush Limbaugh in the early 2000s. He learned later that Charles Krauthammer had actually made that observation some years prior, and it reminded him that he had seen inklings of the phenomenon following the turbulence in Berkeley in the 1960s. That is; Conservatives see Liberals as GOOD people with BAD ideas, while Liberals see Conservatives as BAD people.
In the context of the few decades following Berkeley in the 1960s “Free Speech” came to mean, “since my speech is VALID, and you don’t agree, yours must be EVIL”. Debates are won and disagreements settled when the parties argue the merits, and as Dr. Dean Edell often remarked, “personalizing those arguments eliminates any possibility of compromise”. When someone accuses another of flawed character, there is nothing more to be said.
So what has been learned from those several years, ending in failure?
- For Peter, the answer is most likely nothing. Second-hand reports have him stumbling through life with no particular place to go.
- Paul, on the other hand, merely needs more practice to become successful the next time. It would be helpful if he learned that the pushy, is not always the best way to solve problems, nonetheless, he seems to have adopted a strategy and set of tactics that will serve him well in his chosen profession.
- The jury is still out on Mary. We don’t know if she learned anything from it, but we can wish her nothing but the best for her future.
- As for Bart, a few lessons were learned or relearned.
- Don’t try to help someone who does not want to be helped.
- If the recipient of your generosity wants to add conditions, withdraw your offer.
- If a person lacking “legal standing” wants to argue, walk away.
- As Andy Grove taught him at Intel, it is OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
- . . . and relearned that when occasionally someone blames him for their mistake, he needs only to smile knowingly.
Written: August 27, 2023
Published: August 28, 2023
Revised: August 30. 2023
Reader feedback always appreciated[v]. . thoughtful commentary perhaps more so than shallow thoughts
|↑i||Not smart enough however, to be as clever as he wished he could be.|
|↑ii||One person’s name was in error, and another property was completely missing.|
|↑iii||In calculus and differential geometry, an inflection point is a point on a smooth plane curve at which the curvature changes sign.|
In business, it is a time of significant change in a situation; a turning point.
|↑iv||The first time Bart heard a concise explanation of why the two political parties rarely agree on important things was from Rush Limbaugh in the early 2000s. He learned later that Charles Krauthammer had actually made that observation some years prior, and it reminded him that he had seen inklings of the phenomenon following the turbulence in Berkeley in the 1960s. That is; Conservatives see Liberals as GOOD people with BAD ideas, while Liberals see Conservatives as BAD people.|
In the context of the few decades following Berkeley in the 1960s “Free Speech” came to mean, “since my speech is VALID, and you don’t agree, yours must be EVIL”.
|↑v||. . thoughtful commentary perhaps more so than shallow thoughts|