A happy lawyer, and a seat belt design flaw

The problem with the belts in the fleet

Caused me my neighbor to greet

We talked for a spell

Doing good, she does well

Those problems she seeks to delete.

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. I followed 3 years Community Health Center work with further travel and adventures in temporary positions in Arctic Alaska, rural Iowa, suburban Pennsylvania, western Nebraska, Canada, and South Central Alaska.  I split the summer between hospitalist work in my home town and rural medicine in northern British Columbia.  I have been vacationing in Israel and San Francisco.  Any identifiable patient information, including that of my wife, has been used with permission.

I paid extra for a bulkhead seat to San Francisco.  The seatbelts for Row 7 have thick padding over the fabric leading to the male part of the buckle.  The window and aisle seats fastened down ok but the passenger in the middle could not get her belt fastened.  Nor could the flight attendant until he used the demo belt as a splicer.

My fellow traveler took the problem in stride and did not lose her smile.

I struck up a conversation.  After we’d both talked about our spouses (hers is a chiropractor), I asked her profession.

Her legal firm investigates supply chains, looking for sweatshops and other social problems.

She started in the field while working for Reebok.  One day in 2003  the company president came into a meeting and tossed the New York Times on the table.  The lead article broke the Nike sweatshop scandal.  He said, “We’re next.”  He turned to her and said, “Fix it.”

She started by investigating the company that made the labels sewn into the garment.

Since then she established her own law firm.  Investigating human problems in the supply chain has become a legal specialty and a $1.5 billion industry.

Clients come to her to help with due diligence, when shareholders ask tough questions, or when they just want to make sure they’re doing the right thing. The firms involved range from clothing to electronics, but all outsource to 3rd world countries. The end result of her investigations might be new schools or higher wages.

Those companies come voluntarily.  I have talked with a lot of lawyers who left the legal profession because of the way it has changed and because they burned out on conflict.

But this lawyer thrives on her work and she beams when she talks about it and she got me to feel passionate about it as well.  She does well by doing good.

I didn’t mention my grandfather, who worked in sweatshops in Ukraine and Irkutsk and New York.  But get out of New York as fast as you can, people said, before tuberculosis kills you.

It would not be till the return trip home that a flight attendant showed me how to properly fasten Row 7 seat belts by rotating the offending piece 180 degrees.  I emailed American Airlines about the design flaw, but, because I’m not a lawyer, I don’t think they’ll listen.


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