Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Courthouse Poets

Tact.  Some folks see tact as just another four letter word, but I personally feel that tact is critical in today’s society.  Here’s the ugly truth, we’re in an economic depression and we’re at war in about four different countries including one on our own soil—tempers are at a boiling point.  The mere act of expressing how you feel to a pair of unsympathetic ears can at the very least cause you to be rudely ridiculed and, if things get really squirrely, treated violently. 

Yes, tact is an absolutely fantastic societal tool.  I desperately wish that I had some.  Let’s face it, when God was handing out the diplomacy gene, I was on a little baby Sun Drop break.  I also come by it—or the lack thereof—honest. 

Fortunately, I work in a place where tact isn’t quite as...necessary.  In the criminal court arena, one could use hand puppets and graphs as illustrative tools and still not spell it out enough.  Just recently, I tried my darnedest to explain to a client that all he had to do was give one clean urine screen and he would be off probation.  One screen.  One Clean Screen = No More Probation.  Done.  Finis.  No mas.  Done-diddy-done-done-done-done.  He looked at me as though I’d suggested bagging up kittens and sending them to the bottom of the river and said, “But smoking weed is my frigging way of life, dude!”

My advice for him:  Give one clean screen so as to legally move to California. 

In District Court, folks say things that would make Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post spin around in their graves like rotisserie chickens, they say them in the spirit of well meaning. 

After a long, grueling day sitting in the audience and watching trials and pleas, a kind of camaraderie is born.  It actually kinda makes sense when one’s dirty laundry is aired out in front of a hundred spectators who aren’t allowed to sleep or read a book to pass the time.  People feel perfectly at ease weighing in with words of comfort or well intentioned tips:

  1. To the gal who put dog poo under the door handles of her cheating boyfriend’s prized Hummer:  “Honey, I wouldn’t touch that man with a ten-foot pole and I’ve been a truck stop hooker for 3 years.”

  1. To the dear lady who got into a bar fight with “the other woman:  “Shug, you’ve got to be satisfied that you have more teeth than she does and then move on with your life.”

  1. To the man who broke back into the house that he shared with his wife after she threw him out over an argument about dinner:  “Son, I let the batteries die in my hearing aids so she can bitch at me all day long and I only hear about 10% of it.”

  1. To the grown woman put on probation for shoplifting Hanna Montana panties (and, no, she didn’t have kids):  “Good Lord!  Having to admit to that is punishment enough and probation is just overkill!”

  1. To the young gent who went on a shoplifting streak to pay for his drug habit:  “Dude, you got skills.  If you get rid of the drug problem, you’d be good enough not to get caught.”

  1. To the utterly exhausted single mother whose son was adjudicated delinquent for preferring to hang out with his gang buddies rather than come home at night:  “Darling, even in this day and age, it’s ok to spank ‘em, you just can’t get carried away with it.”

and one of my personal favorites for its simplicity alone:

  1. To the guy who cheated on his devastatingly gorgeous fiancee with a lady of the night who—well, let’s just say that there was a compelling reason for her working under the cover of darkness:  “Boy, you’re dumber than a bag of rocks.  Someone ought to push you over a ledge and put you out of your misery.”
Poetry.  Sheer poetry, each and every one.

I have a lot of respect for courthouse poets and that’s probably because I can relate.  Flowery prose rarely cuts the mustard.  It’s better to send the bush up in flames rather than dance around the damned thing on tippy toes.  Thank God it’s a good thing to get on down to the point in my line of business.  If I was a therapist, I’d probably have folks lining up to jump off bridges.