Rick knew the internet world very well. He had worked on the East Coast as a systems engineer before a disease caused the loss of his eyesight. With the aid of larger typeface and other tools, he could function pretty well despite his diminished eye sight. Rick used a walking cane and relied on public transportation.
Rick was no quitter. He formed a successful non-profit providing online medicaid related services to persons with disabilities. He was earning a decent living – no small feat for a person "legally blind." Then, Sammy Cook came calling. Sammy was a sports legend in his home state. Sammy scored the winning touchdown in the 1984 Sugar Bowl. Sammy also had a successful business hosting websites. Sammy asked Rick if he would come work for him and help him integrate his websites. Sammy offered to double Rick’s pay. Rick accepted the offer of higher pay.
The new job went well for Rick, at first. Sammy had a lot of "country-boy"charm. They teased each other. After Rick had worked for Sammy for a few months, however, the general teasing became specific teasing – about Rick’s disability. Everyone loved Sammy. Sammy chatted with everyone. He was successful, but never acted like he was. At first, Rick did not understand the jokes. He was surprised by them. One day, Sammy took his cane and pretended to be blind. Rick told him to stop. But, Sammy did not seem to hear the man’s concern. He did not notice that Rick was not smiling.
Sammy took Rick to the Governor’s mansion to meet the governor. "Here’s Rick, my token blind guy," he would say. Rick tried to tell him he should not do that. But, Sammy just did not hear him. Rick was concerned. He had moved to the Southeast to work closer with Sammy’s staff. Now, he was dependent on Sammy for many things. Rick had to wave a sign to catch the right bus to work. Without Sammy and his co-workers, Rick could not accomplish the many mundane tasks seeing people take for granted. Rick’s job was more than a job. It was part of his support group.
Sammy and the web guys who worked for Sammy wanted Rick to provide an internet platform similar to the one he used for his medicaid business. When Rick balked, Rick was fired. Sammy just sat and watched as his Vice-President fired Rick. Sammy and the Vice-President still did not recognize Rick’s vulnerability. Rick could not stay in the Southeast without a support group.
Rick’s brother came down within a month to help Rick move back to the East Coast.
The EEOC concludes its process with no resolution, as always. Rick files suit. Sammy hires the best law firm in the area. At Rick’s deposition, the lawyer grills Rick, who remains amiable. Rick was angry at first about the firing and leaving him stuck thousands of miles from his support network. But, in the past two years, he has found a new job making fair money, if not the six figure salary he had with Sammy. In two years, Rick was now doing better emotionally.
Then, its Sammy’s turn to be deposed. Sammy has thought about what happened. Something has clicked for him. When he is asked if ever took Rick’s cane, he looks like the little boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar. Yes, he answers quietly. When he is asked if he pretended he was blind, he turns red and mutters, "yes." When he is asked if he thought taking the cane and pretending to be blind was funny, he says "yes." His face says he now knows he committed a grievous error.
Its not that he took advantage of a vision impaired man. He did. Its not that he was insensitive to the sufferings of another. He was. No, the real problem for Sammy is that a good sportsman does not take canes away and tease blind people. Sports have a sense of ethics, too, Sammy violated those "rules" and he knew it. Sports legends are supposed to be above those things. Great men should be above picking on vulnerable persons. On that day, when he poked fun at a blind man far from his home, Sammy was just human, like the rest of us.
But, seeing his weakness and his mistakes, Sammy emerged once again the better man, the sports legend. In answering truthfully about things he could have denied, he admitted his weakness. He was himself again. He was the sports legend, after all. Sammy never used the word "apology." But, his body language did. Rick saw it. Rick saw the change. In leaving the room, Rick asked his lawyer to see if they could settle this case.