Mark Borkowski finds that when a robin dive-bombs you at a garden centre your claim is just a cry for help

' Sometimes I think we laugh too readily at the fabled lunatic litigiousness of the American-in-the-street.

In their society, based as it is on guns, the adulation of independence and the generation of wealth, anything which impedes either of the last two is justifiably asking for trouble.

As to the first, a gun would certainly have come in handy for a certain Rhonda Nichols, who says she was shopping at a garden centre somewhere in Illinois, when a wild bird "attacked" her.

"This was no sparrow," pronounced her attorney Zane T Cagle. "The bird was described to us as being about the size of a robin or pigeon."

Remember, what they call a robin in the US has more in common with a Stuka dive bomber than our polite spade-perching British robins.

With Cagle's aid, Nichols filed a lawsuit alleging the garden centre "allowed wild birds to enter the gardening area in which customers travel and that the said wild birds created a dangerous condition",

Cagle refuses to say where she works or what she does, but says that injuries have reduced his client's earning capacity by "in excess of $3,000". The suit asks for "at least" $100,000 in damages. Sound reasonable? Read on.

The store's spokeswoman pointed out that its garden area is outside, and they have no control over wild birds flying freely in the air.

Yes, you read that right: Nichols was OUTSIDE the confines of the store, in the open air, yet she claims it's negligent for the store to "allow" birds to fly around in the open.

Thinking about this story, I reached the conclusion that Nichols was probably frightened more than anything else. She felt that nobody cared about her, that the accident (for what else could it be, outside an Alfred Hitchcock reprise?) had been unsympathetically treated, and that she'd decided to be difficult and had sued them for not looking after her properly.

Being difficult is one of the last refuges of independence in our homogenised world.

Being difficult is the only response to that call-centre mentality where nobody has a view, and no variation from the instructions on the screen is permitted.

Being difficult is the attitude we should all adopt, faced with 'customer service' which provides no service whatsoever and simply processes us like the mute income source we are supposed to be.

For 'being difficult' read 'being human'.

Threatened with being instantly hauled across the coals for any hint of mis-selling policies, the insurance industry is stricken with paranoia, and rules and small print that nobody reads until it's too late. All the internet wants is your card number and its pound of flesh, it doesn't want to have a chat about your car or your daughter's wedding.

So there seems to be a prime market position open to any insurance company which decides to accept the challenge and begins training its people how to care about customer worries; how to proffer a sense of giving, of really providing a service in return for the payments, instead of just something called 'convenience'.

Such 'convenience' is an artificial construct, not something grown naturally and organically out of the traditional and increasingly rare customer-insurer relationship.

As for the bird woman, whether she wins or loses her case she's struck a small blow against bureaucracy by being difficult, and that's always encouraging news. IT

' Mark Borkowski is head of PR agency Borkowski