There was no wind at Sarasota Sailing Squadron yesterday morning. I was hoping to have two more sailing races to improve my position to a tie for 6th place when the race committee canceled one of those hopes. Minutes later, attorney Jeff Carter texted me a photo from Panama City, Fla., of the St. Andrews Yacht Club on fire. It burned early Sunday morning. There is a part of me that was lost in that fire. I blame myself now for not doing something I tell everyone to do.
I was twelve years old when I first went to the St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club. We lived in Waveland, Mississippi. Traveling to Panama City with my dad to be part of Woody Stieffel’s crew at the Flying Scot Mid-Winter Championships was a big deal for me. We finished second in this regatta. I wasn’t a very good crewman, but it was exciting to sail so many boats at my age. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Three years later, my father, a Coast Guard officer, was transferred from Los Angeles to Panama City to become captain of the Coast Guard Cutter Dependable. I was fifteen years old and had the idea of making money by offering sailing lessons at the St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club. I put on a white shirt and jacket and contacted the yacht club board with a proposal to split all sailing lesson fees 50/50. They approved the deal. It was my first business.
Every day in the summer, except the weekend when I was racing a sailboat elsewhere or Monday when the club was closed, I was at this yacht club for three years. I liked it. When you do something with passion, day after day, for several years, it’s hard not to become really good at what you’re trying to do. I think this is true in any endeavor we dedicate ourselves to.
I also enjoyed having my friends race with and against me. Even today, I appreciate the truly talented insurance defense attorneys who try to compete and beat us. I think my appreciation for “the battle” comes from the competitive nature of the race that I enjoy so much. Sailboat racing and insurance litigation have very similar competitive aspects that must be embraced to be successful.
Following Hurricane Michael, the yacht club suffered extensive damage. Ultimately, disagreements with the insurance company led them to retain the services of our company to help them recover what was owed. As a result, I spent a lot of time at the club and eventually discovered old albums from the 1970s containing photographs and old newspaper articles of me and my friends and family. I wrote Memories of Living in Panama City, Florida and Tips for Damaged Photograph Claims about that.
I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had continued to race sailboats at such a serious level instead of focusing my efforts on becoming the lawyer I am today. In retrospect, my competitive skills are much better put to use as an advocate for policyholders than in such a frivolous but fun quest to see who can make one sailboat beat another in a race. But God knows I like to win in both areas.
So what is the lesson to be learned from the loss caused by fire? Modern technology allows us to scan almost any photograph, video or document and make a visual digital reproduction of these physical objects which are the memories of our lives and then upload them to the cloud and other storage areas. Do it!
I can’t believe I haven’t scanned and duplicated these albums, trophies, photographs and news articles. I should have placed them in a safe zone. Although they stick with me and my friends, we would all be better off if we had followed a step that I tell others to do.
I also think I am a better advocate for this sad loss. This has nothing to do with proving cases and beating insurance company adjusters and lawyers. Empathy is a core value of our law firm. Every time I can feel what our customers feel, I feel better for it. My sincere rhetoric is better. My ability to put myself, however imperfect, in the place, mind and feelings of my client will allow me to do my job better.
I am choked up by the burning of this building and its contents because I have essential memories of my life that have been lost. What if it was my home and my business where I spent my life?
I also say this because the vast amount of memories of a total loss cannot be recorded. Most are recorded only in our minds. Categorical physical objects that are destroyed simply help us remember these unrecorded life events. I think this is why there is so much emotional trauma for everyone in a community devastated by a disaster. It is not only a financial loss, but also a loss of heart.
This realization must frighten insurance company lawyers. I say this because all they want to argue is political language to prevent payment and keep their client for the next trial. The best they can do is offer insincere excuses like “we’re sorry for their loss, but…” for not promptly paying the full amount owed. If they were really sincere, they would not agree to this matter due to conflict of interest.
Their comments are often nothing more than to encourage them to please the lawyer or jury so that they and their client are not seen in a negative light. This is rarely true. It’s the same way my competitor in a sailboat race said he was “sorry” for putting me in a losing tactical position in a race: he’s not sorry, he’s just doing what it takes to win.
The point of this blog is to stop and act to record those physical things that help keep your memories alive and in a much more positive light than being lost forever if a surprising and never anticipated disaster occurs .
I almost wrote so much to share from my memories in this blog post. That’s not what it’s about. Instead, I’d like to hear from readers about what you’ve done to take steps to save your memories. Please take action.
Thought of the day
The way to start is to stop talking and start taking action.