Friday, September 30, 2011

Courtroom Zombies

Not so very long ago, I was desperately bored.  Accordingly, I took some random multiple choice Facebook quiz rating my chances of surviving a zombie holocaust.  I don’t remember what the questions were, but suffice it to say that my scores indicated I would be tasty zombie tidbits less than half an hour after the outbreak. 

I’ve never tested well.

You might not believe this, but I actually kinda like zombie movies.  I’m not into the squishy guts and gore at all, but they are chock full of such hilarious irony and cynicism that even the most squeamish have to appreciate them a little bit.  Zombieland is great fun and Shaun of the Dead has me rolling in laughter every single time I see it.  

Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more offended I became about my “kibbles and bits” score on the zombie test.  I deal with the honest-to-God living dead nearly every single day of my life and I do a damned good job of it if I do say so myself.  If you think that the moaning, blank-faced masses shambling aimlessly day in and day out in the halls of the New Hanover County Courthouse aren’t a scene pulled directly from a George Romero movie, then you need to grow a pair and have a zombie movie marathon weekend.

First off, zombies aren’t the most coordinated folks on the planet.  They tend to lope and shuffle more than run and walk.  The hero and/or heroine in the zombie has to do a lot of tripping over tombstones or get caught amongst a crowd of the living dead in order to meet their doom. 

Lack of coordination could also be hung upon folks having their first appearances on Monday morning after their getaway weekend in the drunk tank at the County Jail.  Of course, leg shackles could make anyone do the zombie shuffle, but the bailiffs don’t do that so much anymore.  To be perfectly frank, their “guests” are so pickled that they don’t have to.  For first appearances, an inmate is brought into the courtroom from the holding cell in the back hall and is placed into the penalty box in the courtroom to wait until the judge calls their name.

When it’s their turn for first appearance, the court zombies get up and walk over to the bench with the bailiff behind them.  Do you think that the bailiff is there to keep them from taking off?  Eh, partly.  Mostly, the bailiff is there to keep them from weaving drunkenly into tables and falling down and hitting their soused noggins.

Once, a court zombie was brought in front of the bench for a first appearance and his big weekend with the pub crawls was giving him a serious problem with his equilibrium.  While the judge was talking to him about his charges and what he wanted to do about representation, the zombie kept leaning to the side.  The zombie’s legs weren’t bending or anything;  he was like a fence post that wasn’t set up right.  Every time he started to tilt, the bailiff would silently reach out, grab him and set him back up straight and the judge continued on as usual.  When the judge stopped and asked the zombie if he had any questions, the zombie said, “Your Honor, you’re making me sick.  You gotta stop and stay still.”

Can I just take a minute here and say that bailiffs are saints among men?

Anyway, another classic marker of the zombie movies is the moaning.  Oh how the zombies love to moan.  Of course, when it comes to the movies, thank God the zombies do love to moan, because they can’t exactly sneak up on you with all that caterwauling.  When it comes to the courthouse zombies...oh the things I would do to shut them up.

Unfortunately, our courthouse zombies can be just as unintelligible as Night of the Living Dead zombies.  One trick is that each attorney has a specialty when it comes to communication.  For example, I interpret “Irate Old Man” and I am often called upon by my peers to translate.  In a pinch, I can help with “Irate Old Woman,” but the cadence is fast and it can be a little tricky, plus it depends if they are wearing their teeth or not.  I typically need assistance with “Teenagers in Gangs” and “Currently Tweaking Meth Addicts.”  Yeah, CTMA’s are a doozy.

Last, but certainly not least:  Zombies—be they actual or courthouse—stink to high Heaven.  I’m sure I don’t need to go into the particulars of why actual zombies stink and I probably don’t need to delve into the washing habits (or lack thereof) of courthouse zombies, but I do have a few tales to tell. 

There once was a fellow—and I feel the need to preface that he wasn’t homeless—who was a return customer of our law firm.  This gentleman loved, I mean tee totally loved to drink.  Consequently, said gentleman would butt heads with the law frequently.  The thing was that the guy smelled horrible.  It’s hard to convey the level of badness, but it was stale drunk smell combined with new alcohol smell thrown together with “I haven’t washed since Nixon was in office” smell.  The guy would come into the office to drop off his latest citation and, even though he was only in the office for less than a few minutes, we would entertain the idea of moving every single time.  There.  Was.  Not.  Enough.  Febreeze.  In.  The.  World.

The gentlemen passed away a few years ago.  We hoped that someone got close enough to check his pulse and that they didn’t rely on the stench alone.

I was in court in Jacksonville not too terribly long ago when a lady came from the cell for a first appearance for what appeared to be one hell of a weekend.  Half of her hair was shaved and the other half of it was dyed a questionable purple and was sticking out in about nine different directions.  Those of us that work at the courthouse are used to the stale booze smell—God knows we don’t love it, but we are used to it.  This dear girl didn’t smell stale in the least.  As a matter of fact, if someone lit a match, all of us could well have been goners.  I will futhermore add that the Purple People Eater’s special scent hit several rows away.

Now, the rule is that inebriated people don’t come to court.  As a matter of fact, the enforcers of said rule are the bailiffs.  It’s one thing when the bailiff drags a drunkard out of the audience for a contempt hearing before the bench, but imagine His Honor’s consternation when the bailiff brings what appears to be a lit inmate before him.  As you can imagine, the judge had a few words to say to the bailiff about his actions and the poor fella replied, “Your Honor, I swear to you that she’s been in all weekend on a 72-hour domestic violence hold and she hasn’t had a drop to drink.”

Bring it on, Romero.  Bring.  It.  On.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Counselor Communications [Snort]

We lawyers are some weird cats.  It takes some mentally scrambled folks to willingly undergo the torture of law school and the Bar Exam just to graduate to suffer still more abuse from unappreciative clients and anyone else who feels like taking a shot at the perceived “bottom feeders of Society.” 

You’ve heard me talk plenty about how attorneys interact with their clients, but those conversations sound like little old ladies at a tea party when compared to how attorneys talk to each other. 

I’m not exactly a bra burning feminist.  I certainly believe that women should be given an equal playing field with equal reward, but I do like having a door opened for me on occasion.  Above all—as in most of my pursuits—I just try to keep a sense of humor about it.  So, when I was a fresh young attorney making my way through the courthouse, I decided not to blow my stack over this slick lawyer dude who persisted in calling me “sugar,” “baby,” “honey,” “darling,” “dear” and any variation, hyphenation or combination of the same.

No, I figured if it was good enough for me, it was good enough for him, so I started calling him “babe,” “cupcake,” “sweetie pie,” and “pet” and any variation, hyphenation or combination of the same.  Did my reciprocity shock our fair gentleman attorney and shame him into appropriate deportment? 

Are you on crack?

Ten years later, we’re still at it and it’s getting more creative by the minute.  I think at our last parting, I was the “pulse in his veins” and he was the “fire on my lips.”

Conversely, I have a tradition with a female lawyer.  Again, many, many moons ago when I was moist behind the ears, I was standing behind a lady in the line of attorneys waiting to talk to the ADA in courtroom 317.  She was talking to someone about how she had just gotten off the phone with her client and he had blown her out for the double offense of waking him up with her telephone call and expecting him to be in court for his drug charge.  She sighed in resignation and said rather sarcastically, “I guess I’m just a bitch for expecting so much from people.”

It probably won’t surprise you when I tell you that—being a somewhat sarcastic individual myself—my antennae perked up when I heard her tone.  It’s always nice to make friends with another smartass so that there’s at least one more person on the planet who gets your sense of humor.  Accordingly, I snorted and said, “Yeah, that was kind of a bitch move.”

Miss Sarcastic turned around and I saw the twinkle in her eye.  She cracked a half smile and said, “And I bet you would know, wouldn’t you?”

“As a matter of fact, I have a Ph.D. in Bitchology.”

The half smile turned in to a full smile as she held out her hand, introduced herself and added, “It’s always nice to meet a kindred spirit.”

I think our initial meeting was the last time we called each other by our given names.  Since then, when we pass in the hall, it’s:

“Hi, Bitch!”

“Hi, Bitch!”


“Howdy, Hag!”

“Whassup, Cow?

...or some variation on the same.  There are many greetings that I can’t repeat to you sensitive souls lest you collapse in fits of vapors.

Then there are the Cheesemeisters.  I really don’t know what their deal is.  These folks love to spout trite phrases or steal movie quotes.  I have yet to determine if these dingbats think that spewing this crap makes them cool or if they actually think that folks don’t know that they’re stealing material.  Some of my favorites:

1.      Spouter:  Don’t let your ego write any checks your body can’t cash!  (Um, Top Gun, anyone???)

Ashley:  That’s what credit cards are for.

2.      Spouter:  You’re about to bring a world of hurt down on yourself, little lady!

Ashley:  I have Tylenol in my purse.

3.      Spouter:  You need to step up to the plate and deliver!  (I swear to God, if I hear that on one more frigging reality show sound bite, I am going to lose what precious little sanity I have left.  I sure to hell don’t need to hear it from opposing counsel.)

Ashley:  Objection as to lack of specificity.  What “plate?”  Home plate?  A buffet plate?  Deliver what?  A bat?  A casserole?  Your statement calls for entirely too much speculation.

I should probably stop now before my eye starts twitching.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Embrace the Evil

Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room:  I’m crazy...but aren’t we all at one point or another?  To be perfectly frank, it takes a certain amount of insanity to navigate through this day and age.  The loony toons just manifest differently in different folks.

How do my crazies come out to play?  In more ways than you can shake a stick at, but the one I am to address today is Multiple Personality Ashley. 

What?  I told you I was crazy.

Believe it or not, I am a nice person.  I adore my children and my husband.  I would walk through fire for my family.  I smile and say hello to folks when I see them (but I don’t always see them because I walk around with horrible tunnel vision) and I’ve even stopped and helped a turtle across the road once or twice.  I do nice things for people without them even knowing about it. 

Although I still persist in my rose colored belief that the world of an attorney is ultimately a noble calling, there are inevitably occasions when attorneys have to do really crappy things.  How do I answer that God-awful, trite, rather rude question that I get asked at every single social function when someone discovers that I’m a lawyer? 

[Gasp!] “How do you represent someone when you know they’re guilty?”

One of these days, I’m going to snap and answer, “The same way I’d represent you even though I know God didn’t give you the sense He gave a paving brick.”

It’s the way I explained it to a friend of mine who knows me well and appreciates my inner villain:  “There are two Ashley’s.  Nice Ashley stops the car for Kitty and even takes the time to try to find his owners.  Lawyer Ashley would aim for mangy thing and toss the carcass into her neighbor’s yard with the intent to frame him for feline murder.”

The thing is that Attorney Ashley started having a really good time.  She particularly enjoyed trying District Court cases against first years and interns.  She objected to absolutely everything they said.  One of them even cried once.  MWA-HAHAHAHAHA!

I will now quit talking about myself in the third person because I have to own my actions.  I must embrace the evil.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I’ve gone over to the Dark Side:

1.      How do I rate folks?  Well, there is the Ashley Council Drowning Scale.  If someone I know is drowning, do I like them enough to (a) jump in and save them, (b) throw them a life ring, (c) walk away, or (d) sit down and watch?

2.      You know how most folks go to the gym and the beach and look at all of the hot bodies while thinking to themselves, “Oh my Lord, look at them!  They are so amazing!  I’ll never compare!!!”  I say, why make yourself miserable?  I go to the beach and pick out the ugliest person I can find and concentrate on them.  I find myself feeling right damned fine about myself for the rest of the day.

3.      Speaking of the beach, there was a recent incident where I rather shamefully included my innocent 7 year-old in my machinations, but—in my defense—she really enjoyed it.  We had our little camp laid out at the beach with our blanket and umbrella and let me assure you that there was more than enough room for anyone and everyone to enjoy a first row seat at the ocean.  Some buttheads came and camped right the hell in front of us and it was just such a low rent move.  When the time came for us to pack up, we had some leftover snack crackers.  Hmmm...

Who would suspect such an adorable child as Baby Belle 1?  My precious child aided us as we scattered snack cracker crumbs liberally around their camp.  The first in what surely became a legion of seagulls were starting to arrive as we scampered, giggling, off of the beach.

4.      Its road rage and it’s bad when everybody else does it, but it’s tactical maneuvering when I do it and it’s perfectly fine.

5.      I will send my insane Chihuahua (Desdemona Muffets Council) out into our front yard to yap her little ass off at window salesmen, snake oil grass repair idiots and religious zealots and I thoroughly enjoy the show.

6.      I will take the last “whatever” off of the shelf at the store because everyone else is dithering about being too polite and I. Do. Not. Dither.  Who has the time?

7.      On occasion (okay, frequently), I aim for pigeons and squirrels.

8.      I’ve acquired a bit of a reputation for scaring first offense teenagers straight.  You know those youthful indiscretions we all made at one point or another where some of us had the good luck not to get caught and some of weren’t so fortunate?  I do jail tours and I occasionally resort to opening the blinds in my little bat cave of an office to reveal the corner store and park across the street inhabited by shuffling and twitching individuals looking to score, looking to hook up or looking for a fight as they mumble incoherently to themselves and I say “LOOK UPON YOUR FUTURE YOU HAVE SET FOR YOURSELF IF YOU DO NOT CHANGE YOUR COURSE” in a very “Ghost of Christmas Future” tone.  I make them cry too.

9.      I ratted out a very bratty UNC-Weed student who was invading my personal space in the grocery line.  She was talking to her parents in a very loud tone as she lied to them that she was already home and she was getting ready to go to bed.  Accordingly, I rather loudly added, “SHE’S LYING.  SHE’S AT THE HARRIS TEETER BUYING BEER.”  Okay, so I embellished the beer part.

 Embrace the evil.