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.

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