- Good morning, Julien — not wearing a costume today?
I think I need a coffee.
Jolted into my senses by the liftoff of the elevator, I realize my companion is a newly hired lawyer, looking at me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, like a schoolgirl from a 1970s Japanime. I stifle a laugh: Someone at the office has fooled him into believing that we’re all supposed to wear costumes to work the last Friday before Halloween.
- Of course, I am — I’m dressed as a boring lawyer.
The gremlin thinks that’s a good one, and it’s true to boot.
Bing! The elevator doors open. Under his shamrock-green top hat, Mr. Un-Lucky Charms’ face turns white when he sees that everyone else in the office is dressed as if it was just an ordinary day — how magically delicious!
But for me this day is anything but ordinary: I’m going to assist in an examination conducted by none other than The Gentle Dragon.
The Gentle Dragon is a lawyer five years out, with a soft voice and straight-laced look. She’s probably never done anything wrong in her life, except maybe for that one time at the chalet. Nonetheless, she apparently has the uncanny ability to destroy witnesses. I’m itching to see her in action: Knowing her as a colleague, it’s hard to imagine her breathing fire and devouring witnesses.
Que les masquent tombent!
- So, Mr. Crock, how long have you been a construction site supervisor?
- Going on 25 years now, ma’am.
- My goodness, that’s a lot of experience, Mr. Crock.
- Yes, ma’am!
- And in 25 years, how many times have you been reprimanded, or been the subject of, a complaint?
- Not a one, ma’am!
- Wow, a model employee!
- If you say so, ma’am!
- Where were you last April 24h, at around 11:30 a.m., Mr. Crock?
- At my post on the job site, of course!
- You were supervising the site?
- You bet!
- You weren’t in your office?
- Of course not, little lady, my office is not on the job site; you should know that . . .
- So you witnessed the accident?
- Course I did — sure as I’m sitting here talking to you, ma’am.
- I’ll repeat my question, Mr. Crock, since I’m not sure you understood it: Where were you at around 11:30 in the morning last April 24?
- Like I said ma’am, at my post on the job site, like every other day.
- Mr. Crock, here is a record of the telephone calls made from your office last April 24.
- Ahhhh . . .
- Do you see there the calls that were made between 11 and noon?
- Calls? I didn’t . . . how can there be . . . I can’t read . . . I don’t have my glasses, ma’am.
- They’re around your neck, Mr. Crock.
Back in her office, elegantly perched on her chair, The Gentle Dragon explains her examination technique to me with Olympian calm. Still stunned by the annihilation of poor Mr. Crock (who nearly fainted, by the way), I listen like I’m spellbound.
- When I examine someone, I make sure I know the facts better than the witness, even if he’s a specialist in his field. Rather than being arrogant like so many lawyers, I ask my initial questions gently and politely and let the witness start to feel at ease. This is my stealth-bomber approach. My preparation means that I can lead my witness into a maze that only I know how to get him out of. Initially, the witness thinks I’m his friend and that this is going to be a walk in the park. But I’m actually leading him down the garden path, and then into a maze. Suddenly, I slam shut one of the maze doors, and he’s trapped. And then I crush him like a bug. SPLAT!
I’ve got goose bumps and eyes as wide as loonies. Horrified, I realize that there’s a monster lurking behind the Miss Goody Two-Shoes mask of hers. She must eat Mr. Crocks for breakfast with her cereal, which is probably Count Chocula.
As I’m leaving her office, she says:
- Oh, here’s a new file. Could you take it upstairs and give it to Un-Lucky Charms?
- Sure. By the way, I was wondering who it was this year that pulled the Halloween costumes con — it’s always kind of cruel!
- That was me — couldn’t resist. Mwahahaha!!!
Somewhat shaken, I leave her office with the new file, thinking that having a mask like that is a definite asset in this profession.
There’s another reason why for me today is not just another ordinary day: Tonight I’m going to a networking cocktail reception upon the invitation of . . . Melissa.
Deep in conversation with her, I can’t help observing the fauna surrounding us.
I immediately peg one group as financial analysts: They’re all wearing bow ties. And I know for sure that on the stroke of midnight they’re all going to undo them and let them hang casually around their necks.
So cool. Then they’ll form a circle and watch each other dance hip hop, just like in the video clips. This is the first night of the year they haven’t been at work.
I can also spot the engineers, from their checked shirts. They’re pretty sedate right now, but they’ll start to liven up when they hear the talk-box intro to Livin’ On A Prayer, which the DJ will put on just for them.
As for the accountants, they’re all sitting in a corner watching everyone else mingle, through their Coke-bottle glasses. They look nonchalant, but I know they’re all crunching numbers in their heads.
That’s why they can’t interact with other human beings.
And I can also spot the doctors . . . but just not yet, because they still haven’t arrived. They’ll show up half an hour before closing and then talk about this evening for months. “Best time we’ve had all year!” they’ll say.
And the lawyers? Well, they just look at everyone else and judge them.
- Sushi, sir?
An appetizing tray interrupts my observations. I randomly select one.
- That one’s sea cucumber, sir. It’s the house specialty.
Despite my close personal history with this undersea creature, I immediately pop it in my mouth.
Melissa gives me a look that could kill:
- I’m a member of OPUF (Organization for the Protection of Undersea Fauna). I’m part of the team pushing for a prohibition on sea-cucumber consumption.
The exquisite flavours tickling my palate have me tongue-tied.
She goes on:
- I did an internship with an NGO dedicated to protecting undersea fauna in Southeast Asia
I freeze. Flash back to my first trial. The judge. My introductory remarks about sea cucumbers. Her reply about . . . her daughter!
I start to choke — the sea cucumber has gone down the wrong way. Luckily, the doctors have just arrived.