Mind your own business, Mr. Goodman!

Recently the eminent corporate lawyer Mr. Screwham put through a telephone call to the notorious busybody Mr. Goodman. The conversation between them was leaked by an anonymous whistleblower in the National Security Agency and reached us through the usual labyrinthine channels.

“Mr. Goodman?”


“My name is Screwham. I have the honor to represent the Wheeze Ventilator Company.”


“It has come to my attention that you have been carrying out unauthorized repairs at the Marigold Hospital to ventilators manufactured by my client.”

“Ah yes. You see, some of their machines had a defective valve. I produced replacement valves for them using my 3D printer. That did the trick and the ventilators are now working. They are flooded with coronavirus patients, you know, and have few enough ventilators as it is.”

“The point is, Mr. Goodman, that my client has a patent on these ventilators. No one can carry out repairs on them without authorization by the manufacturer.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think of that. Well, I request authorization. Perhaps authorization can be made retrospective, in view of the emergency?”

“That is not the correct procedure. The company has its own skilled repairmen. The hospital should ask for a visit by one of them. These are very delicate machines, you know! We cannot have mere amateurs like yourself messing around with them!”

“Surely the results show that I know what I am doing. I don’t like to boast, but thanks to my efforts at least ten patients have already pulled through – patients who would otherwise be dead. And I didn’t charge the hospital a cent.”

“Is that so?” (in a sarcastic tone)

“As for asking for a company repairman, the hospital put in a request two whole weeks ago. Time passes, people are dying, but still no sign of a repairman.”

“I expect they’ve been busy lately. Someone will come eventually. By the way, Mr. Goodman, what position exactly do you occupy at the hospital?”

“I don’t have a formal position there. I’m just a neighbor. One of their nurses lives up the street from me. She knew I have a knack for fixing things, so she asked for my help.”

“Sounds highly irregular, I must say. If you’re just a neighbor, this really has nothing to do with you. Nothing at all. I advise you to mind your own business. For your own good.”

“Well, that isn’t how I see it. Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.”

“Excuse me? Is that Spanish? I have a colleague with me here who speaks Spanish. I can ask her to speak to you in Spanish if you prefer.”

“No, it isn’t Spanish. It’s Latin. It means: ‘I am human. I consider nothing human to be alien to me.’ From the playwright Terence.”

“We seem to be getting rather off the point, Mr. Goodman. The point is that my client has a patent on these machines and your amateur repairs infringe that patent. I am instructed to warn you that if you continue with them my client will sue you for damages. I hope that is clear.” 

A few seconds silence, then Mr. Screwham hangs up.

This dialog is invented. So are the names. The story on which the dialog is based, however, is true. To learn more, please read the study “Why the shortage in medical supplies?” on the website of the World Socialist Party of the US.

Stephen Shenfield

Born 1950 in London. Joined SPGB at age 16. Several years in Government Statistical Service, then Soviet Studies at University of Birmingham. Taught International Relations at Brown University, Providence, RI, USA. Author of 'Russian Fascism' (2000). Translator from Russian. Currently general secretary of World Socialist Party of the US.