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In a pickle over wife's lack of consortium

April 18, 2001

In a pickle over wife's lack of consortium



While we're on the subject of pickles - we were on the subject of pickles, weren't we? - did you notice the story last week about a Knoxville, Tenn., woman who reached a settlement with McDonald's after claiming that she was "permanently scarred by a hot McDonald's hamburger pickle."

Well. I hope this proves to all those PETA folks that meat is no more hazardous to your health than the average brine-soaked vegetable.

The woman said in her lawsuit that she suffered a second-degree burn on her chin after an extremely hot pickle fell from one of the hamburgers she and her husband had ordered in 1999.

Excuse me, but "an extremely hot pickle?"

Lucky she didn't get scalded by the milkshake or suffer frostbite from the fries. I should have paid more attention in high school, because I never noted the kindling point of kosher dills.

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I remember that book "Fahrenheit 451" in which the government went around burning books - 451 being the degree at which the printed page would burst into flame.

There may be room here for a sequel: Fahrenheit Heinz 57. The story of a race of people who have to walk around remembering what relish tastes like.

The other book I'm going to write is a primer on how to sue fast food companies for culinary indiscretion, and the first lesson in Chapter 1 is that if you are going to claim you are scalded, you do not start with the pickle. A lawsuit should have a thread of plausibility, and contending that a disk of preserved vegetation served as a piece of chin tinder just sort of transgresses belief.

Unless the woman is using reverse psychology. After all, scalding coffee, fingernails in the salad bar, glass in the beef patty - those stories are so boy-who-cried-wolfishly overused as to have become clich.

You march up the counter and dramatically exclaim that you found a tooth floating around in the secret sauce and you are likely to be greeted with a yawn and instructions to fill out a McLawsuit and get in line.

But a pickle. It must be true, because no one would be so stupid as to claim second-degree burns from a pickle. It's something, as Don Imus says, you couldn't make up.

Still, it lacks the "visual aid" of a rolled up Band-Aid or a deep-fried chicken head. Yes, that actually happened in Newport News, where a woman got a perfectly preserved, breaded and deep-fried chicken head in an order of wings.

This had the advantage of not only some handy catch-phrases ("Chicken McNoggins" and "You deserve a beak today") but makes for great visual evidence, should this ever go to trial.

On the other hand, there is nothing terribly photogenic about a pickle. I mean, what could the woman do, pinch the offending dill slice between thumb and forefinger, run up to the cashier, shove it in the teenager's face and scream "Well? What to you intend to do about THIS?!"

"That would appear to be a pickle, ma'am."

"Your darned straight it's a pickle. And I'm going to sue you for $110,000!"

If I were the clerk, I'd have been looking around to give this woman an order of McSedative.

Oh, and this is good. The husband is suing too, not because he was party to the attack of the world's most dangerous pickle, but because he lost "the services and consortium" of his wife.

Consortium? There's a new one. What is she supposed to be, a woman or a business-and-education partnership?

"Do you take this woman for better or worse, in sickness and consortium . . ."

The services part I don't even want to get into. How a chin injury deprives a person of services - aha, I've got it: Doubtless she is a violin player in the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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