What a happy surprise I had this week! Thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with two ladies I’d met when I lived in Vermont in 1994-96.
We worked in the same law firm: Sallyanne was office manager and Debra was secretary/paralegal extraordinaire. They offered these valuable words of wisdom to me when I came on board:
“We practice country law here; we’re informal, not like New York. You’ll like us!”
With help and guidance from Sallyanne, Debra and other partners and attorneys, it wasn’t too long before I felt comfortable and part of the team. On Fridays, we’d order lunch and sit in the conference room and discuss some of the cases, but many times we’d just have lots of fun and laughs. One Friday I mentioned to John that I’d like the opportunity to see him in action, to be in court when he tried a case. He smiled:
“It just so happens that on Monday I will be cross examining the wife of our client in that messy divorce case. Would you like to sit in during the morning session?”
I walked to the court with John and our client and sat behind them. John was extremely intelligent and thorough; tall and lean, he was a good-looking man with piercing blue eyes and a full head of wavy dark hair. He spoke quietly and firmly. His questions were sharp and incisive. The wife began answering questions in a strong, boring voice, as if she had better things to do. However, as the questions became sharper and at a faster pace, she stumbled over her answers, became flustered and broke down. John never raised his voice once. He was that good!
As I was getting ready to go back to the office, our client thanked me for being there.
“None of my family could be here today; with you sitting behind me, I didn’t feel alone. Thank you, I’ll never forget this.” Later that afternoon, the receptionist brought a huge bouquet of yellow roses with a card of thanks to my desk.
One morning, John’s composure was tested beyond a reasonable doubt—by me. He had dictated a document—both sides of the tape—and needed it transcribed. I went to my desk and set up the machine; I took a quick phone call and finally was ready to get started. I pushed “play.” Nothing. I pushed it again. Nothing. I fast forwarded the tape. Nothing.
I felt the heat rising to my face. What happened? Did I get distracted by the phone call and push the wrong button? I had erased the tape. No, I couldn’t have done something so stupid. But there was nothing on it. I was horrified. I quietly told Sallyanne and Debra. They tried also. Nothing.
“What are you going to do?”
“I have to tell John.”
I entered his office and closed the door. In a shaky, just-managing-to-hold-it-together voice I told him what had happened.
“You’re being a comedian, right?”
I assured him I was not. He looked at me intently, swallowed a few times then stared out the window. I was waiting for a reaction: yell, scream, something. Nothing.
“John, I am so sorry. I don’t know what else to say.”
“I’m going to need a couple of hours without interruption. Please hold my calls and close the door behind you.” To say I was horrified is a gross understatement. I could feel the blood rushing to my head, my heart was pounding and my legs were like putty.
About two hours later, John called me into his office. He was worn out, disheveled and in need of a huge mug of strong coffee.
“Here you go,” as he handed me the tape. “Watch carefully what buttons you push, I don’t have it in me to do this again.” Tired smile.
“I am so sorry. Why didn’t you yell or bang on the desk or throw something?”
“I saw the look on your face and I couldn’t do that. I thought you were going to crumble—you had suffered enough.”
The plan is now for me to spend a few days in Burlington in October. That is my favorite time of the year—I can be the “flatlander” who comes to the Northeast Kingdom to wonder at the foliage! Sallyanne, Debra and I will have our own reunion and catch up on all that has happened over the last 20 years. Maybe I can touch base with John and test his memory!
A tip of the hat to Facebook!
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