Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Talk Thursday: Settling on the Courthouse Steps

Well, I don't have a topic yet, so that one'll do as well as anything else. This afternoon, just slightly after I got all the trial binders put together but before I went to Kinko's to pick up the nifty graphical maps, our case abruptly settled. This is kind of like winning the bronze medal before you actually get to ski down the giant slalom course (and I'm using a skiing metaphor because, frankly, the giant slalom course scares the crap out of me; I mean seriously, hurtling down a hill at seventy-plus miles an hour, strapped to a couple of boards, with only a silver unitard between you and certain destruction? No helmet even? Ye gods...). So everything came to a screeching halt in a way that can best be described in this haiku by that famous legal poet, uh, me:

Litigation train
Jumps the tracks before the trial
Sudden settlement.

If you've ever been about to fly to, say, El Salvador for the vacation of a lifetime, and you've got all your bags and your surfboard and your copy of "Let's Go! El Salvador" and your Dramamine and your private pass to the Zona Rosa annual art festival and your bottle of celebratory champagne to drink in first class, only when you get to the airport you find out you can't fly to El Salvador because a war has broken out and not only has the State Department ruled the place off limits to Americans but the pilot is refusing to even fly there, it might knock you off your stride the same way settling on the courthouse steps knocks me off of mine. It felt exactly like somebody had reached up and unplugged me from my wall outlet. Instantly I went from full speed ahead to no speed whatsoever. I sat down in the middle of my cube and took a look around at the stacks of stuff for the trial, the neatly arranged binders (also for the trial), the list of phone calls I had to make for the trial, the number of to-dos I still had to do for the trial, and wondered if there was any continuing purpose to my existence whatsoever. It takes talent to turn a settlement--and a pretty good one, I might add--into an existential crisis, but hey, I got talent in spades. Trust me, it would take 900 trained monkeys hundreds of years to pound out this blog in the form of random typewriter keys. I type, therefore I am.

Honestly, I'm not sure if I should be relieved or disappointed. Relieved because that's a whole bunch more work I don't have to do, but--heh heh--you should see all the work I've not been doing because I was doing all this trial stuff. Disappointed, because we didn't get our big cathartic good guys v. bad guys showdown in the halls of justice, with a jury of our peers riding point. But then, I probably wouldn't have been there for most of it, and heard about it mainly in war stories after the fact. Plus, there's one thing about settlement that's hard to argue with; it may only be a bronze medal, but at least you get one. If you go to trial, you may get the gold--or you may get nothing. And nothing is a heck of a thing to be stuck with after all that work.

In the olden days, the proper way to handle the post-settling-on-the-courthouse-steps blues was to go out to the nearest watering hole and drink until one felt better. Tragically, that is no longer an option for yours truly (if indeed it ever was), and snarfing down pita bread and hummus at Afrah, while it's excellent hummus and probably the best pita bread west of Baghdad, is a poor substitute. There are times when I find being sober quite annoying, and this is one. But I am going to eat every scrap of both of these pieces of pita bread, just for spite, and take home all the leftover garlic sauce. So there.

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