Have you ever noticed how those who have done you the most wrong, or those who loathe you the most, when they come onto hard times will often come back to you asking for assistance. This often happens to me with former colleagues. I can't always differentiate between whether the colleagues are in such bad straights that they will go to their most unlikely and ill wanted savior, or whether they wish to take their worst enemy down with them once more before they finally go under. I believe it is a variant of rats deserting a sinking ship. The British Navy and I believe all navies have a standard order from their captain "every man for himself " when the ship is sinking. And there is doubtless maritime law about when it is legal to put the captain in chains, (albeit this is somewhat a different situation). I believe the idea has many market implications, especially when markets have gone to the nadir like last week, but more important is how to protect your life in such situations I think.

One finds that there are only 25 suicides a year at Niagara Falls these days, and The Golden Gate has much more, but one can't speculate as to whether the sight causes the suicides or whether people with suicide on their mind tend to go there to do the deed. As for market moves, they must cause many more such catastrophes but again whether the person seeks out the opportunity or the opportunity causes the action, or both, it would be hard to unravel and a quantitative study of the types of moves that induce same would be helpful for saving lives and profits. 

Russ Herrold writes:

I've had this happen a few times. I think the reason is that the former colleague or friend is sufficiently 'intimate' with the weak spot that their former friend had, and so can 'get past your guard' more easily.

Factor in some perverse pathological character trait, and they may even feel justifies in taking advantage of someone they feel has 'done them wrong' in the past. Indeed, it may be that there was an intent to deceive (conscious, or latent) from the onset of them approaching you, 'the mark'.

The best approach is to probably to buy the lunch, but to keep one's checkbook firmly locked up.

Polonius: (to his son)

Neither a borrower nor a lender be, For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 75.77

and later


This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Laertes: Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78.82

The thought expressed by Vic is that there should be some heightened sense of gratitude if one is dealing with a moral person and 'offering the hand up' and a hand-out. But Twain echoed the Bard on this topic as well:

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.

- Pudd'nhead Wilson

Steve Ellison writes:

 When my children were 5 and 3, we hiked across the Golden Gate Bridge. There had recently been a freak accident in which a small child had somehow fallen through the small gap between the bottom of the railing and the sidewalk to her death. There were plans to replace the railing with one that went all the way down to the sidewalk, but the work had not been done yet, so I was keeping a close eye to make sure the children did not go too close to the railing. While my attention was diverted in this direction, I was almost caught off guard when the 3-year-old climbed on top of the one-foot high barrier between the sidewalk and the speeding traffic.

T.K Marks writes:

I, too, have walked across that bridge on numerous occasions. I'd walk over to Sausalito and take the ferry back. A spectacular stroll. One is still struck mid-span by the ease at which a despondent person could reach their goal. The curiously low railings prompt one to macabre thoughts. Who was the civil engineer involved with this project, Derek Humphry?

Stefan Jovanovich answers:

 The answer is Charles A. Ellis. Joseph B. Strauss did everything he could to claim credit for it (Strauss was to architects and engineers what Douglas MacArthur was to the Army and Navy - even when he was wrong, he was right - just ask him). Ellis reworked Strauss' initial proposal for a cantilevered suspension bridge - which would have been the mating of the Forth bridge with a ropewalk - and produced the design one sees today. Ellis did almost all the actual work - the calculations required for the computation of stresses, the specifications, contracts and proposal forms - singlehandedly, working non-stop for 2 years. After Ellis completed the work but before the final designs were submitted to the Bridge District's Board for its review and final approval, Strauss fired Ellis. There was no mention of Ellis in any report by Strauss, including the final report upon the bridge's completion in 1938. Ellis was the equal of Louis Sullivan, and like Sullivan he spent half his working life in total obscurity, unable to get any further commissions. Moisseiff gets credit for the development of deflection theory; but, as events proved (see "original bridge" section of Tacoma Narrows bridge), Ellis was the person who fully understood the necessary relationship between span length and flexibility. He is literally the father of the modern suspension bridge and the engineering theory behind it.

Bill Rafter comments: 

There was a psychology professor that published a study showing that the vast majority of Golden Gate jumpers took the leap on the side facing the city (facing East) rather than the ocean (West) side. The article then attempted to theorize why this might be the case, and he concluded that it was an attempt by the jumper to say goodbye one last time. Nice thought, but it totally ignores the reality that it would be damned hard to jump on the ocean side as that pedestrian walkway is almost always closed.

It must be particularly interesting to be on the bridge when one of the big carriers goes under, as they have to time it with low tide to clear.





Speak your mind

3 Comments so far

  1. arthur on September 19, 2011 12:09 am

    These “friends” of yours who think they are too good to drive cabs and be waiters, should thank God for even having those opportunities while they are still available.
    But, for them $/standing=life and they would rather forgo any pride(I remember in 2009 one trader became a host in the restaurant, that made a major news story!).
    One of the best traders I trad with who now became sort of “Jim Kramer” on Russian TV, was washing animal litters and drove a cab when he immigrated to US and was studying for his S7 14 years ago.
    I am always scared for Americans that are nursed by their government and actually think they deserve the salaries they get, in the event of FUSA (F as former) they would not be prepared and many will end up IN (not at) Niagara Falls. Lets not forget that in Vietnam GDP per capita is yet to break $2000 a year, we have a long way to go (and by speaking to both groups (I could be wrong), I can’t say Vietnamese are 20 times stupider or less knowledgeable or not as hard working than an average American). But lets hope for the best and I could be wrong, I’ve been wrong before and is the first to admit it.

  2. arthur on September 19, 2011 4:45 am

    Russ, your explanation is much better and more eloquent than mine.

  3. douglas roberts dimick on September 25, 2011 7:10 am

    For Consideration

    As a teacher, I attempt to help when I see the need. A quote reminds me, though, thus so…

    “Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful.” ~Author Unknown

    The issue of those from our past approaching one for a helping hand appears to beg Victor’s query about our greatest detractors reappearance seeking help. From horses, I have learned it often best to move toward the danger instead of away from it.

    When that one-time foe or prior unfriendly soul approaches, why not offer before waiting to be asked (or so positioned)?

    By offering one is already “doing good” by offering to help.

    Giving to another, materially speaking, be it food or clothes or shelter or money, may or may not be doing good. When I gave material assistance to one with an addiction, where from it (the addiction) appeared to be the cause of the need at hand, the act of giving by virtue of one “being good” was not necessarily “doing good.”

    Are we enabling another to continue doing what may be or become bad for oneself or for others?

    Answering this question contains that two-part — being and doing — paradox presented by the Chair’s scenario.

    I have concluded that helping others does result with one jumping…

    Being a leap of faith in both oneself and those whom seek out your help…



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