Dealing with a Slam-Dunk Lawsuit.

Through much of the 1970s, I ran the Office of Information and Complaint for the City of Honolulu. We were actually part of the Mayor’s Office—in fact the mayor himself was the head of our department—so when we called one of the City departments with a problem that needed immediate attention, they hopped to it!

I was often asked what was the worst complaint my office ever dealt with. That’s easy. It was the day when a 78-year-old man got into an argument with the driver of one of the City buses. The argument ended when the bus driver physically threw the rider off the bus and drove off.

That would be bad enough, but in addition to being 78-years-old, the man was legally blind and was taking the bus to the hospital for treatment for a bad back. Adding insult to what could have been a severe injury, when he was shoved off the bus, he fell on and broke his white cane! 

We brought the man into my personal office and sat him in my most comfortable chair. He listened as I reported the incident to the head of the city’s bus company.

We knew the route number, of course, and the old man had seen the actual number of the bus itself, so while he waited in my office, a bus company supervisor and a replacement driver caught up with the bus, removed the driver and formally suspended him on the spot pending a civil service hearing.

In the meantime, we called the hospital to reschedule the old man’s appointment to treat his back pain. I personally drove him back to his apartment and as he was getting out of my car, I told him I would call him with the outcome of the bus drivers hearing and asked if there was anything else we could do for him..

Would it be possible, he asked, that the city could buy him another white cane? Of course we got him a new cane on that very same day. And the slam-dunk lawsuit never came.