Monday, 04 June, 2012 22:02
Also known as Common Law vs Civil Law.
There is wonderful coffee in Ecuador. It’s grown here and also imported from Columbia. As a matter of fact, I’m enjoying some pretty tasty Columbian coffee right now in my apartment on Simon Bolivar.
However, this isn’t really just about coffee. It’s about coffee and holes and utility line poles and handicap ramps (or the lack thereof) and a whole bunch of other stuff.
The other day I was cogitating on the utility line “poles” at the bottom of the steps that lead down from Calle Beningo Malo here in Cuenca. They are completely different from the ones I’ve seen just about anyplace else because they have these conveniently spaced holes up the posts that are perfect footholds.
The thing that struck me is that if I were a kid, I’d climb that “pole”. And I’d probably get electrocuted because there are more wires running from pole to pole than I’m used to seeing. Check out the picture I took in Quito of what a typical utility pole looks like – truly boggles the mind.
Back to the poles and coffee. A major difference between Ecuador and the US is that in the US we have Common Law and in Ecuador it’s Civil Law. Basically, what that means is that if I climb that pole and electrocute myself in the US, the lawsuits will fly. Everyone from the city fathers and mothers to the utility company to the manufacturer of the pole will be sued and possibly even the hospital if I’m rushed there and die within their facility. (Well, this is a bit of a reach because my family would think I was nuts to have done that in the first place and wouldn’t sue.) But you know what I mean. It happens ALL THE TIME in the US.
And that’s where the coffee comes in. We all know about the McDonald’s hot coffee suit that was found in favor of the plaintiff. She was not responsible for handling the hot coffee (that she ordered of her own free will and ask for it ‘to go’) and spilling it on her hand and then on other parts of herself because it was so hot when it hit her hand that she splashed it around.
But I digress. The point is that in Ecuador if I climbed that pole and electrocuted myself, Civil Law would determine if there was cause for me to climb that pole and, if so, was there any reason for me to get up close and personal with the hot wires. If not, then it’s my own fault and we’re really sorry for your loss everyone but this was a really stupid thing to do.
And getting burned by your own hot coffee – forget about it.
Same goes for stepping in a hole (and there are some amazingly big ones), or just about anything else. Go to someone’s house and trip on the step…well, you should have watched what you were doing, doofus. End of story.
So if you get your kicks by placing yourself in harm’s way and then suing the hell out of as many people as possible, don’t come here. In Ecuador you actually have to take responsibility for yourself, especially if you perform some truly brainless action.
One last comment – the people here are so incredibly kind that if you should trip and fall or step in a hole, they will rush to help you and be very concerned that you’re okay. Just don’t ask anyone to be a witness for you. It’s not part of their culture.
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