Friday, July 27, 2012

No BMW's, Just TMI on Human Cremains

Lawyers rarely mean well, so it’s quite comical when a wave good intent overtakes us.  We hardly know what to do. 

That’s why it’s particularly funny when a fresh faced law school intern starts a rotation at the courthouse or a glassy-eyed tagalong comes in with visions of BMW’s, Aspen ski vacations and fancy suits dancing in their heads.  We form an orderly line in our desperate attempts to scare the little lamb straight:

·         “Save yourself!  Run! Run and don’t look back!”

·         “See this twitch in my eye?  I’d only been practicing law for a couple of weeks when I got it and now I’ll have it for the rest of my life.”

·         “All 4 of my ex-wives cite my profession as the main reason that they couldn’t live with me and they hate my profession even more now because it means that I can’t afford to pay them alimony.”

·         “Wal-Mart greeters have meaningful lives.  I mean, yeah, they have to wear those funky-assed vests, but they know the names of their children.”

·         “I’m less than half a day’s pay away from having to ride a mule to work.”

I’ve officially been practicing long enough for younger attorneys to come up to me and say, “I remember you telling me not to go to law school and I wish I’d listened!”  I also get the folks who bellyache and conveniently forget that I tried to steer them from their stubborn course and that is one of the many reasons why I make written record of the freaky shit that I have to do as an attorney.  Evidence, you see. 

I’ve had to watch hours of porn on fast forward, I’ve had to wrestle cats, I’ve been chased by ducks, I’ve had a dog try to hump my leg during a deposition, I’ve had a man bring a Glock 22 to a deposition, I’ve had a lady snorting cocaine during a deposition, I’ve had clients come to court drunk as skunks, I’ve been peripherally pepper sprayed, I’ve had to break up fights between people whose knees I came up to...the list could go on for days, but here’s today’s example, boys and belles:

It started out as the textbook case of why I went to law school.  A distraught older man came into the office on an otherwise quiet Friday morning and I could hear in my office from the waiting room that he’d been to several law offices that morning and no lawyers would see him.  His problem was that someone was holding the ashes of his dead wife hostage.

I was going to see the man even before he brought up the thing about his dead wife.  No one (determinably sane) is going to stand in the waiting room of my firm that upset and that maltreated by my profession.  (See above in re craptacular professional reputation.)  Of course, I’m not going to lie and say that the possible kidnapping of cremains didn’t push my curiosity right on over the edge.

I invited the man into my office and to say that he was in a dither is to say that Michael Jackson was a bit quirky. 

Apparently, his wife’s sister—in what at first appeared to be an effort to help clean up after the funeral service—took the urn containing her sister’s ashes home with her and failed to give said remains back to her sister’s husband (my client) in spite of his repeated requests.  At the point the gentleman had come to see me, the funeral service had been over for a year—there wasn’t much room for equivocation as to her intent by then.

My heart broke for the elderly gentleman as he sat there in my office crying and telling me he’d tried to honor his wife by working with the bitch sister from hell, but he wanted the love of his life back with him and it was time to hire another bitch.  Seriously, this was one of those cases that I went to law school for.

I wrote a nice letter.  Nothing.  I wrote a letter in her native bitch language.  Nothing.  I sued her ass.  I won.  Ha.

The Clerk ordered that the sister was to deliver her sister’s ashes to my office the next morning.

I was still in the courtroom riding high on my victory when the clerk who held the hearing came up and said, “Mrs. Council, a word of caution.  I have seen more of these cases than you would imagine and I caution you to verify that human remains—and more importantly the ashes of your client’s wife—are in the urn.  You would be amazed at what people try to substitute for human ashes.”  Then she just walked away, leaving me standing there like a deer in headlights.

Excuse the hell out of me?

They most certainly did not teach that in law school.  Believe me, if I had the stomach for stuff such as that, I would have gone to medical school and I would be writing this blog from my vacation home in Aruba.

I got on the internet and discovered that teeth don’t burn like the rest of the body, so it is possible to verify that ashes are, in fact, human remains. (Your science lesson for the day, boys and belles.  You’re welcome.)  As to how I was supposed to determine whether or not said ashes were my client’s wife, I had no clue whatsoever.  I didn’t really think she was going to get up and introduce herself and, if she did, I wouldn’t survive the heart attack to attest to the identity.

The next morning came a lot sooner than I would have liked.  Actually, the next morning came a lot sooner than the entire office would have liked.  I go by the rule that, if I suffer, all must follow.  The senior partner was conveniently out of the office for the day.

I brought a pair of my scientist hubby’s lab gloves and showed up to work only to meet the sister’s designated “Bringer of the Remains” standing in the middle of my waiting room holding the urn.  I still don’t know if he wouldn’t hand them over to anyone but me or if everyone in my office was too chicken to take them from him.

I liberated the urn from his grasp and took the old gal back to the conference room.  The conference room is right next to the desk of one of the most fabulous paralegals you will ever meet and that is one of the many reasons I chose that particular location for my inspection.  If I bitched loud enough, she would eventually come in and help me.

I put on my nifty gloves and stared at the urn for a bit.  There was no getting around it; I had to open the damned thing.  I started to unscrew the top and it wouldn’t come off!  It was at that point when I started grumbling and mumbling about not being able to open the urn.  Fabulous Paralegal (FP) ignored me. 

I continued to genuinely try to unscrew the lid and stayed on good and tight.  I started to cuss and FP started giving me pointers from the other room:  “Try turning it the other way!”  “Take off your gloves!”

Then I just engaged in full on whining:  FPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!  I can’t get it!  It won’t open!  I don’t know what to dooooooooooo!

I heard a little huff and then her chair rolled back from her desk.  Heeheehee!

She came into the conference room and, rather than turning the top like I had been doing for the last 5 minutes, she pulled it off and it popped right off releasing a CLOUD.  OF.  ASH.

Would you like to know how to inspect human cremains, boys and belles?

You run around your conference table flapping like a chicken screeching, “OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!!!  I think I've got dead people in my eyes!  I  may have just snorted my client’s wife!  Holy shitshitshitshit!  Water!  No, spit!  I don’t want to drink her!  Is it sacriligious to spit her?  I can’t help it!  Thpppt, thpppt, thpppt.

Fun fact:  When someone is cremated, the funeral home puts them in a plastic bag with a zip lock and a medallion with their seal and verification of the remains.  They are apparently just a little sloppy about it—thus the extra ash.

To top it all off, the one thing I most looked forward to doing was to return my client’s believed wife to him.  He had been so distraught throughout the whole thing and I felt like I finally had one of those rare reassurances in my profession that lawyers can help people.  When he came into the office, I handed him the urn, he snatched it from my hands, turned around and walked out of my office without so much as a kiss my ass.

I’d like to tender this exhibit to the Court.   

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