Well, boys and belles, after Ashley's Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Words of Comfort posted yesterday, I was called and reminded of this little nugget:
9. To the young lady sobbing in my office, convinced that her husband was having an affair: Honey, take a step back here and look at your situation for a second. You're hot. He's not. You're really hot. He's really not. I know, I know--you say that he looks much better since he shaved off his moustache, but let me put it to you this way: You can shave a gorilla's ass, but it's still ugly.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
You may or may not have guessed it from my previous posts, but I’m not perfect. Were you sitting down? I hope so. That may have come as bit of a shock to some of you.
As a matter of fact, I am a most imperfect Southern Belle. I am glaringly missing a key element usually present in the DNA of every properly reared Southern woman: Tact. My usual coping skill is to simply keep my mouth shut in touchy situations, but there are certain instances where I have no choice but to attempt to utter a coherent string of words in sticky situations.
Now, I can tell somebody off or shut somebody up lickity split. Tact isn’t required in a fire spewing transaction. What’s my kryptonite? For the love of God, no matter what you do, please, please, please, in the name of all that is good and holy, don’t cry.
I know that men are supposed to be the ones who freak out at tears, but I somehow missed the mushy gene. I hate tear-jerker movies and I would much rather sit through an action flick. Oprah gives me hives. The Hallmark Channel makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Typically, if someone starts to cry in my office, I flap my hands around like a chicken, throw a few tissues at them and screech for a warm and cuddly paralegal to come in and fix it, fix it now!
You see, boys and belles, I have tried. I have tried to bestow words of comfort upon the tearful and—although I occasionally I knock one out of the park—I usually tend to just make things worse.
“Oh poo,” you’re thinking, “she can’t be all that bad. It’s not rocket science to just pat someone’s hand and tell them that everything’s going to be okay.”
Right. Well, I choke. Not to mention, things aren’t always “going to be okay,” no matter how much I wish I could make the promise.
Need examples? Okay then. Here, in no specific order are:
Ashley’s Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Words of Comfort
- To the middle-aged lady who was sobbing at the notion of signing her Will: Signing this Will won’t kill you. I mean, your husband might want to since he’s the sole beneficiary and all, but North Carolina has a Slayer Statute that would keep him from inheriting your estate if he did. Well, don’t worry. It’s nothing. I certainly don’t have any plans to kill you. That I know of.
- To the boy in trouble for harassing his former girlfriend who lived in his dorm: Look, the good news is that you get to stay in school, but you’ve got to leave the girl alone. If it’s any consolation...look...have you had your eyes checked? I’m just gonna come right out and say it: She’s homely. You’re a good looking fella. There are jillions of prettier ladies out there and you’ll see that once you go get and you some glasses.
- To the gal in tearful distress at the news that her probation was being revoked because she’d failed three drug tests in a row: Look, the good thing about prison is that it’s free rehab and I would hope that you harness the wisdom to see it that way. Just avoid the heroin dealers and shit. The other plus is that the women get to wear pink instead of orange now, so yay!
- To the girl who came in for her first appointment, sat down and started crying without uttering a single word: Oh my good God. I haven’t even said anything yet. Are you ok? Do I need to get a paralegal? Are you crying because of the situation you came in to see me about or did I do something to make you cry? You’ll need to stop that now.
- To the lady that always ended up crying after every single conversation I had with her on the telephone: (Slow and even-toned as though talking to a gunman in a hostage crisis) Okay Mrs. X, I need to have a conversation with you and I promise that it’s nothing to get upset about. The only thing in the world I need to know about is whether you were referred to Dr. So-and-So by Dr. Whatshisname. What? Wait! No! Nonononono! Stop! Stop crying right this minute! There is no reason in this world to dissolve into tears about a physician referral! Unless it involved a spinal tap or a rectal exam, I’m really sorry, but I think that you need to pull yourself together!
- To the tearful gentleman about to plead to shoplifting at the Wal-Mart: If having to stand in open court and plead guilty to swiping Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen lip gloss doesn’t cure you from shoplifting, then there’s no help for you whatsoever.
- To the hysterical drama queen who wanted a restraining order taken out on her ex (who she perceived to be stalking her) when they ran into each other in the middle of the canned goods aisle at the Harris Teeter: Personally, you couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to go back and relive the pre-pubescent world of junior high school. Did you actually enjoy it?
- To the sobbing mother of twins who just discovered that her traveling salesman husband was, in fact, unemployed and using the “traveling” part as an excuse to roam around all over and fornicate with various women: I am so sorry, but I don’t do domestic work. I am a criminal attorney, however, so if you decide to kill the motherf***er, please don’t hesitate to call upon me.
Yeah, I don’t think Hallmark is going to be coming at me with a contract any time soon.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
A Southern Belle can live anywhere. We can adapt just as well as any highly trained spy or soldier. You can put us in the jungle and we’ll be just fine. Drop us off in the arctic cold (if you must) and there will be no problem whatsoever.
Yeah. So what? I’ve done the “Ava Gabor” and traded in the big city life for Green Acres. Whoopity do. I am a Southern Belle and I am adaptable. Great balls of fire, even the Original Southern Belle (O.S.B.), Scarlett O’hara, was born and raised in the country—although I’d love a tip on how she dealt with that damned red clay getting all over her frilly ruffles and finery.
Good ol’ Johnston County!
It’s true that I was a resident of Johnston County when I was in law school and to say that I was less than happy about it is a gross understatement. As Barbara Mandrell croons, “It was country when country wasn’t cool.” I cried at least once a day for reasons such as: (1) Going to vote and standing behind a man in line who was wearing nothing but a pair of overalls and a Richard Petty hat; (2) Reading that the White Swan BBQ Shack was voted the best place to propose marriage in Johnston County; and (3) Getting stuck on the 2-lane road to school behind a giant, noxious-smelling truck carrying pigs so that I had to look at pig asses all the way to my Constitutional Law class (I’m sure that there is symbolism in there somewhere.)
I’m much better about it this time around. Maybe it’s because I’m not ensnared in the sucking black hole of doom that was law school. Maybe it’s because I live in Clayton and Clayton has basically become a bedroom community to the evermore sprawling Raleigh.
Of course, just when I get a little bit too comfortable, something happens to remind me that I am still in the land of pork rinds and moonshine.
Take, for example, an innocent trip to the pool this summer. Baby Belle 2 and I were lounging in the shallow end of the pool. An adorable little girl who looked to be about my child’s age got into the pool with Mermaid Barbies and that was pretty much as good as catnip to Baby Belle 2.
The girls got together and decided that they wanted to play with each other, so introductions were in order. Baby Belle 2 told the little girl her name and the girl introduced herself as Jolene. “Jolene” isn’t exactly your everyday name, so Baby Belle 2 asked her name again. The girl said, “You know, Jolene! Like the song!” and then little Jolene proceeded to sing the entire Dolly Parton ditty wherein Dolly pleaded with Jolene not to take her man.
I talk about the importance of manners and how the fierce retention of manners can help you out of socially awkward situations, but I am ashamed to report that the bottom of my mouth dropped to the floor of that pool and I wordless gaped at little Jolene for quite a while. I am, however, pleased to report that my little Baby Belle 2 smiled and clapped and said “What a pretty song!” and they immediately commenced playing the Barbies.
I was yet again shocked out of my comfort zone a couple of weeks ago as I drove to get my girls from school. I was barreling down Highway 70 and I passed a little white church that was packed to the gills for what was obviously a funeral. How was it obviously a funeral? Well, there was a hearse.
The thing is, this wasn’t your average, everyday hearse. It was a black Dodge dually with a giant black camper shell that sported some nice and shiny landau bars on the side. It’s horribly tacky to laugh at a funeral (even if you aren’t technically in attendance), but I am yet again ashamed to admit to a quick and uncontrollable snort. Of course, now I kind of want the black Dodge and all its glory for my funeral, too.
What was the coup de grâce? Well, so far, the coup de grâce occurred as I stood in line at the drug store. As usual, the line was taking forever with all of the price checks, special cigarette purchases and signups for special store cards and such. When my eyes quickly tired of the various half-naked Kardashians flashed across the day-glo trash magazines at the counter, I looked over at the flyers pasted around the wall behind the cash register.
Lo and behold, my gaze fell upon a poster titled “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHICKEN?” with a picture of the apparently A.W.O.L. poultry at the top.
I’m sorry, but I thought it was a joke.
When it was finally my turn to buy my toothpaste, I chuckled and mentioned the amusing sign to the cashier who promptly and seriously informed me that I was in a farming community where folks never joke about their livestock. I was tempted to ask if the chicken had any distinguishing characteristics, but I felt that I had pushed my luck more than enough by that point.
I have since named the chicken Jolene in my head and I do sincerely hope that she gets home. Lawd have mercy.
Monday, September 17, 2012
I don’t know about you, but teaching manners to my children often feels like I am fighting a tidal wave with a paper towel. If one of my Baby Belles voluntarily employed a “ma’am” or “sir” while addressing an adult, I honestly think that I would expire right on the spot. Honestly, if my children can remember which fairy is who on Twinkle Pix Town (or whatever it’s called) I don’t see why they can’t remember to throw in a little courtesy in their dealings with others. They are Southern Ladies and that title is a lot to live up to for heaven’s sake!
Please. I think we all agree that “please” is a critical word. Baby Belle 1 rarely employs this word on her own, but Baby Belle 2 will throw it in every now and again to make me skip around and feel like a decent parent. Of course, I am also forced to employ that soul-crushing parental exercise when my children demand something without using the Magic Word where I stand or sit stoically ignoring them while waiting to hear their request politely rephrased. The soul-crushing part of the exercise is when I sit there forever and they hang off of me nagging horribly and loudly for what they want without ever catching on. Really, one would think that they would figure out my tactic and intent after all these years. It makes a Belle want a mint julep.
On the other hand, “please” can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Once the precious little ones learn the Magic Word and that their use of it can often get them what they want, they begin to think that their employment of the word should get them absolutely everything they want:
Baby Belle 2: Mama, I want that pink Barbie Jeep.
Baby Belle 2: BUT. I. SAID. PWEASE!!!
Me: I know and your manners are great, but that Jeep costs as much as a real Jeep.
Baby Belle 2: BUT. I. SAID. PWEASE!!!
[Cue the poked-out lip, the crossed arms and the sit-in protest at Target.]
I just imagine going to the jail to visit one of my clients for grand larceny, asking why they did it and hearing them say, “BUT. I. SAID. PLEASE!!!” Well, then it makes perfect sense that you should take that shotgun from the pawn shop. Nice manners!
Thank you. Once again, I can only hope that Baby Belle 1 simply likes to drive me crazy by withholding the thank-you’s at home while employing them out in the world as she should. (Good Lord, give me strength with that child!) Baby Belle 2, on the other hand, is better thanks to what I like to call “The Tickle System.”
When Baby Belle 2 was smaller, I gave her a little tickle and said, “You’re welcome!” whenever she said thank you. She giggled and thought it was fun and it reminded her to employ good manners. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, one day whilst in a public place (doesn’t it always happen whilst in a public place?) Baby Belle asked for something and I gave it to her. I was involved in a conversation, so I wasn’t really paying attention, but my precious little thing thanked me for my service.
All of a sudden the entire crowd heard, “I SAID THANK YOU, DAMMIT!”
It was an example of manners gone horribly wrong.
I’ve been pondering the subject and, now that my children are getting older, I’m thinking of new and cooler ways to advocate politeness. I hate to go there, but it’s true that manners can cover up a wealth of sins and get you out of some pretty tight spots. It’s the Eddie Haskell Rule: If you’re polite to other people’s parents—and adults in general—you’re golden.
When I was in high school, Mr. Moore was my principal. He was a great guy in a thankless job. To tell you the truth, I felt kind of sorry for him, so I went out of my way to speak to him. Mr. Moore always remarked on my manners and said it was so wonderful to hear such graciousness in a crowd of rudeness. (Call me a suck-up if you want, but he really did get crapped on all the time and it was pitiful. The inmates truly ran the asylum.)
Anyway, my high school had a sadistic “on-campus” lunch policy. Blech. On the days when rebelliousness kicked in 3 or 4 of us would jump in a car that was hidden off behind campus and go get better food for lunch. Our plan was foolproof until one of us accidently bumped up against a piece of crap El Camino and set its car alarm off.
The first member of faculty we ran into was Mr. Moore:
Mr. Moore: Hello Miss Culbreth. Did you have a good lunch?
Me: Yes, sir.
Mr. Moore: I’m sure you ate in the cafeteria like you were supposed to.
Me: Yes, sir.
Mr. Moore: Because you know that you aren’t allowed off campus for lunch.
Me: Yes, sir.
Mr. Moore: Such nice manners. Enjoy the rest of your day.
Me: Thank you, sir. You too.
Mind you, the entire conversation was conducted with me holding a giant soda cup from Taco Bell.
Yes, manners cure many, many, many shortcomings. I don’t suppose that I’ll use the aforementioned example as a lesson for my Baby Belles, but I’ll think of something. The important thing to remember is that politeness is critical for Southern Belles and, quite frankly, please’s and thank-you-dammit’s can get you a long way no matter who you are.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The good Lord knows that there’s a need for folks like domestic attorneys, real estate attorneys, tax attorneys and the like because I wouldn’t touch that stuff with a 1,000-foot pole. Mind you, it’s not that I feel that those areas of practice are beneath me, but the intricate skill and INFINITE PATIENCE required to be an attorney in those forums would have be picking people off with a shotgun from a bell tower less than half a day into trying.
There’s also one little plus in favor of being a general practitioner over a sole practitioner: You don’t have to miss all the fun.
Yes, I am a criminal defense attorney and I see plenty of...um...interesting things in that line of work, but I get to work in other areas of the law that present different and very, very, very unique challenges. What in the great wide world am I talking about?
The Last Will and Testament
Bless Your Heart
Ah yes, Wills. The crazy shit people want to do when they go on to the Hereafter. Folka blow me away with their post-mortem preferences.
For those of you who have yet to enter into this “Final Contract,” allow me to assure you that your signature on said contract will neither cause nor speed up the process of your death. I get an alarming number of quite distraught folks coming in to sign their Wills—seriously, we’re talking a 5-10 Kleenex situation. I guess it’s the thought of their death that gets them in such a froth, but why should they give a shit? They’ll be dead for crap’s sake! They’re going to die after they sign at the same time that they’re going to die before they sign. (My paralegal suggested that I not use the aforementioned argument as a tool of comfort for crying clients.)
Bequests are always interesting. The husband leaving everything to the wife and vice versa is always nice and one or two specific bequests (Cousin Tom gets my shotgun) aren’t that big a deal either. It’s when you get the client who wants to inventory their entire house right down to the dust bunnies and leave every single thing to a different person that makes one’s eye start that nervous twitch. I’ve done Wills 80+ pages long that looked like lists for garage sales. You get the:
Random: The doilies on the red armchair to the left of the fireplace in the front sitting room go to Sister Gladys at the church.
Bequests that lower value: One of the pair of antique silver candlesticks on the dining room table goes to Cousin Hilda and the other candlestick goes to Cousin Martha.
Bequests that make no damn sense whatsoever: The size XXL red and black checked flannel shirt with three of the buttons missing goes to Uncle Ned.
A particularly fun characteristic of folks who draw Wills with 4,342 bequests is that they constantly want to change who gets what. They also need to update their Wills frequently when they acquire new items. Whatever floats their boat, God bless ‘em.
Another interesting aspect of Will preparation is the passive aggressive Testator/Testatrix. This is an individual who will put up with someone that they despise for their entire lives in order to give them the ultimate post-mortem middle finger in what they view as their final manifesto, i.e., their Will.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times folks have come in wanting to leave out a child or their brother or sister. What’s more, it wasn’t enough to just leave them out—the Testator/Testatrix wanted to tell them why: “In case George is wondering why he’s not getting any of my earthly belongings, I know he’s the one who got drunk and messed up my pig cooker and he was too cowardly to tell me and too cheap to replace it.” I usually manage to convince them that leaving So-and-So out of the will is more than enough of a slap in the face.
Still, I had one gentleman go completely crestfallen at the news that he wasn’t legally allowed to disown his wife. A legally married spouse is automatically entitled to 1/3 of their spouse’s estate in North Carolina and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. While she was going about her business at home, he wanted it put in his Will that he was forced to leave her a portion of his Estate and he didn’t want to leave her anything because she’d kept him miserable for 47 years. According to Darling Hubby, she never let him go to the Moose/Elk/Buffalo/Whatever Animal Lodge, she made him go to church, be nice to the neighbors, she kept him constipated and he actually wanted to marry her sister and carried a torch for her all his life. I couldn’t even get him to tone it down, so I sent him to another attorney.
What’s the craziest request? Lord have mercy—Cocoa Puffs the cat. No, this isn’t one of those urban myth deals where kitty inherits a massive fortune and everyone suddenly has to be nice to the little bastard. To this day, I will never understand if Cocoa Puffs was a beloved pet or a reviled pet, but he sure to hell was unlucky.
Cocoa Puff’s owner wanted it in her Will that, upon her demise, the gardener was to report to her house, whack Cocoa Puffs with a shovel—yes, she was specific about whacking the cat with a shovel—and bury the carcass of the less than dearly departed Cocoa Puffs between the pool house and the shed. One of the very many things that gave me pause about this highly questionable plan was that she didn’t even want Cocoa Puffs buried with her, so it wasn’t like the owner was desirous of having her feline companion with her for all eternity. I have no idea whether or not the gardener was on board for this plan, but I have the distinct feeling that Cocoa Puffs was most decidedly not. I hate cats, but I wasn’t on board either.
Believe it or not, one constant truth in this legal universe is that something even crazier is guaranteed to walk through the door just when you think you’ve seen it all. If it trumps whacking Cocoa Puffs the Cat, you might just have to visit me in that padded room we all know I’m destined for sooner than later.
Monday, September 10, 2012
I am from New Hanover County, North Carolina. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, there are two types of hills within the confines of the aforementioned county: (1) Sand dunes; and (2) putting greens. On the astronomically rare occasion of snow, children all over Wilmington sneak onto golf courses for the sorriest excuse for sled rides that you ever did see.
I am a flatlander. My ears pop when I go over bridges.
A little over a year ago, my family went on a trip to the Lake Lure area of the mountains. Beach folks are supposed to go to the mountains for vacations and mountain folks are supposed to go to the beach, right? Huh.
Scott and I packed up the Baby Belles and we all set out in the family SUV and headed for the western portion of the State. After a while, the straight paths of the interstates turned into the winding little pig paths that snaked up and down mountains and around waterfalls and creeks. The scenery was beautiful, but we were 2 hours past ready to be out of the car.
Then it started.
Baby Belle 1: “Mama, I don’t feel so good.”
Truthfully, I thought she was bellyaching because she was tired of riding. Baby Belle 1 does a scene worthy of any Shakespearean tragedy when she gets so much as a paper cut. Nonetheless, she claimed that she felt queasy and God knows I never take the threat of barf in the car lightly, so we rolled down all of the windows and I told her to stick her head out like a dog and breathe deep. (Ah, the tender mercies of a mother’s healing hands.)
We made it to the resort successfully, checked in and drove up the ol’ mountain to our cabin. Up, up, up the winding mountain to our cabin. We arrived and stared in abject disbelief at what was allegedly our driveway. I won’t say that it was a 90 degree angle, but it was at least 100 degrees. I totally sucked at geometry in school, but I swear I could prove myself with a protractor on that one.
Scott seemed determined that he could get our cram-packed Suburban up the black diamond slope, but the Baby Belles and I were all for sliding back down the mountain and sleeping in the lobby of the check-in center. In spite of the fact that he was resoundingly outvoted, Scott turned the truck and took it on. He was treated to shrill, eardrum-bursting screams of holy terror from the three females in the car, but he made it. I will furthermore add that those screams occurred every single time we went up and down that damn driveway for the duration of the vacation.
Naturally, everywhere we wanted to go was a Von Trapp Family Alp Trek. We careened to a crafty country store hanging on a precipice over river rapids where Baby Belle 2 got out of the car and announced that she was going to throw up. Throwing up is Baby Belle 2’s super power. That kid can throw up at the drop of a hat and let me assure you that it is a spectacular show each and every time. She yakked right at the front doorstep of the store and I had no doubt that the culprit was car sickness because she used to get queasy when I tried to put her in the little bitty baby swing as an infant.
Unfortunately, the kids weren’t alone. I was about to suffer a serious blow to my pride. I have been on tiny little boats tossing around out in the ocean where everyone else on board was as sick as a dog and I was perfectly fine. I was skipping merrily around the Queen Mary 2 in the icy and churning waters of the Atlantic Ocean between New York and Portsmouth, England while hundreds of other passengers couldn’t lift their heads out of bed. Wusses one and all.
Ashley. Doesn’t. Get. Motion. Sickness.
Ashley got motion sickness.
Naturally, it was all Scott’s fault.
If he hadn’t been tearing around those winding-assed roads like he was on some German car Autobahn commercial, his wife and children wouldn’t have had to suffer on their vacation! It wasn’t like we were on the clock or anything! We could get there when we damn well felt like or we didn’t have to go in the first damn place. Good God Almighty. Great balls of fire. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
Up to that point, I’d insisted that Scott drive because the hills and the angles and general nightmare of the mountain roads was not something that I wanted to tackle, but the time had come: Scott was relieved of his command. I drove like a tranquilized octogenarian. Yep, our Suburban ripped along those roads at a roaring 19-20 miles per hour. Folks on my back bumper just loved me and—oh yeah—I still screamed like a banshee every time I drove up and down the driveway to our cabin.
Of course, when I drove the family to Asheville for a day trip, Scott got carsick.
Now we’ve left the flatlands of the coast and moved to the Piedmont. Honestly, those rolling hills might as well be mountains. To top it all off, we live down a steep slope. Yet again, I screech in horror every time I put the car in reverse, turn off the emergency brake and the car starts to roll toward the house before the gas kicks in. The Baby Belles think I’m hysterically funny and Scott thinks I’m hysterically crazy.
Baby Belle 1 has gotten carsick on a couple of trips to the grocery store.
If you’ve read my other entries, you know that I don’t do snow and ice, so we are tee totally stranded when it comes to winter weather events. I already need a pick and a rope to climb to my mailbox, but I will have to call helicopter rescue if I want to check the mail in slick conditions.
Someone laughingly told me that I would get used to it. All I can say is that I lived in various parts of the area for a total of 7 years for college and, if I didn’t get used to it then, I’m screwed now. Bless my heart.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Oliver Wendell Holmes. Thurgood Marshall. Atticus Finch. Yeah, I know Atticus Finch isn’t real, but such a legendary character joins the other great attorneys in history as the raison d'être for starry-eyed applicants to law school. The powerful personalities and victories of these heroes of the legal world even manage to overshadow the tsunami of lawyer jokes, ambulance chasers and general ill will toward the legal profession.
Yep, every attorney and prospective attorney is certain that they can withstand any storm or circus by reminding themselves of the dignity that great men like Judge Holmes, Judge Marshall and Mr. Finch bestowed upon the practice of law.
Dignity. Such as when you find out that the client you’ve been zealously representing in his personal injury case has what one might call a...side job. Yes, your Plaintiff has a bit of a habit of standing on the corner of notorious traffic intersections and jumping into the back seats of cars post-collision. Imagine the whiplash he imagined!
I know that many of you are asking, “Wait a minute, the driver would notice someone they didn’t know in the backseat of their car! Duh!”
All I can say to you is that you wouldn’t believe the amount of detail—or glaring inaccuracy—that gets overlooked in a wreck.
Dignity. Such as when an incredibly angry forty-ish year-old hooker storms into your office with a shotgun threatening to kill her most recent john because he had the nerve to try and steal her Cinderella doll.
Dignity. Such as when you are in court and one of the prisoners in the jail box either needs to come off his meds or get his meds because he is convinced that you are one of the hookers in his stable. Accordingly to Mr. Loud Pimp Daddy, your name is Jeanina, you owe him money and you aren’t earning anything by keeping your “lazy ass” in the courtroom instead of on the street. What’s super fantastic is that L.P.D. won’t shut the hell up and just gets louder as he is dragged out of the prisoner box to the cells in the back hall.
Dignity. Such as spending three days of your life that you will never get back arguing a personal injury case that essentially boils down to whether or not your client is truthful. That’s not exactly one to cause great shock and awe, I know. The mortification of the matter is that the truth centered around my client’s bodily functions.
In the moment in time my Plaintiff had to see the car careening toward him, he had a booboo in his britches. The question hinged on whether or not the booboo was a Number 1 or a Number 2. My client had been inconsistent in his statements as to which bodily function had actually occurred and the defense had jumped all over it—figuratively speaking—to show that the frequent changes in statements proved that my client lied like a cheap K-Mart rug.
You actually have argue to a jury about poops and tinkles and the various names for the same. A true highlight of your career.
Dignity. You have a client who is secretly videotaped in her apartment by her pervy troll of a landlord. As the result of the supremely disappointing resolution of the criminal court case, you work with the client to get a bill passed in the Legislature making it a felony to secretly peep on another person. Yay! A rare and satisfyingly successful outcome!
Less than a month later, you are court appointed to this little buzzard who is charged with...guess...secret peeping! There is no way in ten kinds of hell that this appointment is random. (I would like to interject briefly here and add that I didn’t call him a little buzzard at the time of the appointment. He was simply my client just like everyone else. Since that time and the resulting events, I have called him everything under the sun.)
The allegations were that the young gentleman had a video camera in his bag and was filming up girls’ skirts in the library at UNC-Weed.
He was an insistent little bugger and, holy crap, he was indignant about the charges leveled against him. He didn’t come in for an appointment so much as he stormed in and paced around your office claiming entrapment and vendettas and everything other than culpability for the charges. You buy the spiel.
You fight tooth and nail for the kid and then someone finally recovers the data from the damaged DVD in question. The first part of the disc shows a bunch of extremely stupid skateboard stunts that look like an audition for “Dumbasses on Film” or some other reality show on Spike TV. Some of your brain cells manage to survive to about three quarters into the video when suddenly you find yourself looking up the flowered skirt of a young lady as she stands in line to check out a book.
As the DVD progresses, you go on to see the nether regions of females as they climb stairs, study in cubicles and stand around for no particular reason.
Then your client skips bail. Then you have to tell all of that to the Assistant District Attorney with whom you have argued most...um...zealously...about your client’s angelic innocence.
Dignity. Ain’t it a bitch?
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Lawyers are such weirdos. Of course, it doesn’t help when we answer the “So what do you do?” question at parties and our reply either makes people’s eyes widen in horror or causes them to ask for free legal advice about Uncle Bernie defaulting on a loan.
Still, it’s true. We think differently than other folks and I can tell you why: Law School is like boot camp from hell. They break you down into sniveling bits of nothing during your first year and then they build you back up to what you signed on to be: A cyborg-ish individual with statutes and case notes programmed into your brainwaves who sees the potential for liability at every single turn in both your professional and private lives. More fun than a bag of tacks.
If I am at the grocery store and see something spilled on the floor, I take the time to alert a store employee of the problem so that the business is “aware of the clear and present danger” in the event someone falls and hurts themselves. Thanks to the dumbass Legislature, such “irrefutable” knowledge of the danger is a prerequisite to a successful slip and fall case, so I go out of my way to leap that hurdle. I even hover around until they take care of things so that I can make myself available for testimony in the event that something happens.
I also don’t flash my lights at oncoming cars to warn about speed traps because that’s my bread and butter. Sorry.
The main problem about this lawyer programming thing is that it doesn’t turn off and that’s when you run into what I call:
The Legalization of Motherhood
- Nesting: It’s that adorable and cozy little thing that expectant mothers do right before they check into the hospital (or go batshit crazy and get some midwife to help them drop a baby in a kiddie pool in their living room). They put sheets on the crib, wash and fluff the blankets, fold clothes, match all of those microscopic socks and put them in their special microscopic sock drawer and do whatever else comes with the unbelievably massive undertaking of having a child.
How did I nest? I wrote my Will, my Health Care Power of Attorney, my General Power of Attorney and my Declaration of My Desire for a Natural Death.
- Lullabies: We’ve all been there. It’s 3:00 AM and you’ve gone through the entire iPod in your head. You’ve sung Jimmy Buffet, Bob Marley, The Drifters, The Chairmen of the Board, Ozzy, Guns ‘n Roses, Harry Belafonte, Willie Nelson, David Allan Coe, Broadway Hits, Broadway Flops and even that “Dooby Dooby Doo” song those penguins did in that beer commercial. You start making shit up.
What do lawyers make up?
Hush little baby, don’t you cry,
Mama’s gonna buy you an alibi...
- Chores and Allowances: As the rugrats get older, they give the appearance of being able to act responsibly and handle chores. Of course, all parents know that this is complete bullshit and if you depend on the children to actually feed the dog, the ASPCA will be banging your door down for willfully starving your animals to death. Nonetheless. parents and children continue to engage in the time honored fallacy of giving money to children for doing pretend work.
This is where being a lawyer actually works out. I drew up an Allowance Contract. There are forum clauses, non-compete disclosures, unilateral penalties—hell, the contract has been underway for a year and Baby Belle 1’s been in breach so many times that we’ve only distributed 5 or 6 payments.
- Sibling Arguments: The bane of parenthood. They fuss from the time they get up in the morning ‘til the sun goes down at night. Sometimes I think that I even hear mine carrying on in their sleep. When the planets align just perfectly and one of them feels like being nice, the other one is a complete shit and vice versa. Some parents try a points system, some parents try a more fascist straight punishment system. Let’s face it, no matter what sort of approach parents try, they still end up leaving head dents in the walls.
What does a lawyer do? I choose to amuse myself while confounding my children:
Baby Belle 1: Mama! Baby Belle 2 won’t share Daddy’s iPad!
Me: Objection sustained. Baby Belle 2, hand it over!
Baby Belle 2: Huh?
Baby Belle 1: Mamaaaaaaa! Baby Belle 2 said that I’m being Miss Bossy Pants! Make her apologize to me!
Me: Objection overruled. You were pretty darn bossy to me right there. Tone it down, young’un.
Baby Belle 1: But Ma—
Me: Your objection is noted for the record, but my ruling stands. If you wish to file your appeal with Daddy, he gets home at 6:00.
Baby Belle 1: Huh?
Me: Baby Belle 2, I’m giving myself permission to treat you as a hostile witness. I did, in fact, give you 3 chicken nuggets for your lunch, did I not?
Baby Belle 2: Um...
Me: And I did tell you that you had to eat all 3 chicken nuggets if you wanted to have a popsicle for dessert, right?
Baby Belle 2: Um...
Me: I see that your plate is empty, is that correct?
Baby Belle 2: (Smiling because she thinks she’s got it now) Yes!
Me: But isn’t it true that you only took one bite of one of the chicken nuggets and fed the rest to the dog when you thought I wasn’t looking?
Me: Isn’t it?
Baby Belle 2: Um...huh?
Am I using my using my powers for good and not evil in the world of parenting? Debatable, but occasionally enjoyable.
Friday, August 31, 2012
There may be folks out there who were raised by wolves, but I think it is otherwise safe to say that most folks were taught at least a teeny weeny little bit of manners in their childhood. (Of course, whether or not they choose to employ those manners in their adulthood is an entirely different kettle of grits.) I furthermore think it safe to say that children of the South are taught more manners than most, otherwise visiting Yankees wouldn’t get so annoyingly tickled about it when we are so courteous as to say “ma’am.” (Dear Lord, please give your servant Ashley, the strength not to introduce one to the business end of her fabulously high heel the next time a Yankee laughs condescendingly at her impeccable upbringing.)
I’ve written about the horribly awkward cotillions I endured. Additionally, my mother preferred to reference Amy Vanderbilt, but I am also quite familiar with the work of Emily Post. Furthermore, when writing responses or addresses and such on my plain ecru Crane’s cardstock, my motto is “When in doubt, write it out.” If any of you don’t know what in the hell I’m talking about, go forth and Google.
Here’s the thing, you’ve heard it before, but I do so love to beat a dead horse: The Misses Vanderbilt and Post weren’t familiar with this crazy notion called Women’s Lib. God bless ‘em. Certain situations come up in these “Modern Times” that would have the dear ladies reaching for the smelling salts before they could even begin to come up with a way to contrive a way out with manners and grace.
To make a long story short: What do you do when you are a mannerly female attorney and your client smells like they could knock a buzzard off a gut wagon?
Lord have mercy on my soul. Please understand that I’m not talking about the needy or homeless individual that doesn’t have access to a shower or toiletries. I’m talking about the dumbass who needed some liquid courage for their court date, so they started drinking the shelves dry at the ABC Store and/or smoking entire plants of weed sometime last month and just quit a couple of hours before they were supposed to answer District Court Calendar Call.
My first story is a cautionary tale to any new lawyers out there who I have failed to dissuade from changes their majors: It’s rather obvious that you should never show your weakness to other attorneys, but you really need to watch the bailiffs.
I don’t think I’d been practicing a month when I got my first really stinky client. Shockingly (dripping with sarcasm) he was charged with some sort of offense involving a mood altering substance and he had liberally indulged in said mood altering substance the night before. He didn’t appear to be inebriated for legal purposes, but I swear we all would have gone up in flames if someone lit a match in his vicinity. It was pure tee coming out of his pores.
Now, we all have certain smells that we can handle and certain smells that we can’t. I realize that it’s a handicap in my profession, but one of the smells that really gets me is that day-old stale-drunk-mixed-with-cigarettes smell. When we pled the guy up and the bench and,..well...I guess I didn’t do as good a job as I hoped about my complete aversion to the odor seeping from every single pore in his body. The bailiff at the bench delighted in telling me later that I crept about as far away from my client as I possibly could while still defending him.
And that’s when the word got out...
About a week later, I got a call from the Bailiff’s Office that a client of mine had shown up for Court lit as a firecracker and that they were holding him in the cell behind the courtroom. Let’s just say that I didn’t fall out of my chair from shock. Imagine my joy when I found myself locked in a cell with a man (most assuredly not my client) who smelled like George Jones went on a bender and died the week before, The bailiffs giggled outside while my faux client proceeded to barf all over the floor. There are no dignified exits from a scene like that, but I held my head high like a good Southern Belle.
A bit later in my career, I found myself trying a property damage case in civil court. I represented the Plaintiff (for once) and she was a perfectly nice gal, but she apparently needed a damn sight of liquid courage at night to make it to court in the morning. Sweet baby Jesus. She was a one-woman Alcoholics Anonymous newcomers meeting.
Did I mention that I was pregnant?
Oh yes, Baby Belle 1 had been partying hard with my innards for a good 4 months by that point and those of you who have lived the...um...experience of pregnancy know that smells you can’t handle when you’re not pregnant are smells you need to get the f**k away from when you are. (My post-mortem apologies to Ms. Vanderbilt and Ms. Post for my language, but if they were ever pregnant, I honestly feel that they would forgive me.)
To top it all off, my client really liked to add commentary to the testimony being presented at the time. She’d get right up to my face, cup her mouth and whisper. I tried. I offered her mints, but the booze was coming out of her pores. I suggested that she write her comments down for me, but that apparently wasn’t fast enough for her. I scooted my chair away from her in the hopes that she couldn’t reach me, but she would doggedly chase me around the plaintiff’s table if she had to.
Then it happened.
It was a particularly bad morning. My usual go-tos of Saltines and fizzy drinks weren’t getting the job done. My client whispered in my face way too vehemently and the cheap fruity cocktails had been on the menu the night before. I wasn’t going to make it. I asked for an emergency recess as I was already halfway out the door and the trashcan in the Bailiff’s Office was closest. Karma, you know.
These days, I don’t have time or patience for polite. I’m in court for a very limited amount of time and I’m in a hurry. A couple of weeks ago, I was in District Court for one case when I somehow caught the attention of a dude who looked like an extra in a George Romero movie and smelled even worse. There had been a deep love affair with Mad Dog 20/20 the night before and I’m not entirely sure that the breakup had actually occurred. Whatever—it wasn’t my problem because he wasn’t my client, but he suddenly seemed very convinced that I was his probation officer.
In his dream world, I violated him because he missed a couple of office visits and showed up drunk for a couple more. Shocking. Back in reality, he was trying to argue with me that I had screwed up and he was committing an egregious violation of my personal space rule while doing so. I told him that he was confused, he was drunk, he smelled like a still and he needed to go sleep it off.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that Mad Dog didn’t take my advice. Instead, he continued to follow me around and argue with me about the probation violation that I gave him. I already had the beginnings of a migraine and I was looking at a 2 hour drive back home. I turned around and violated his personal space with my pointy finger: “Look Slush Puppy, I’m not your probation officer. I’m pretty sure that P.O.’s get to carry guns and I would have so shot you by now. Go home. Sleep it off. BUY AN ASSLOAD OF BLEACH AND WASH IT OFF! If you don’t get the f**k off my back, I WILL FIND MYSELF A PROBATION OFFICER IN THIS DAMNED COURTHOUSE!”
Again, my apologies to Ms. Vanderbilt and Ms. Post.