Here I stand, prostrate, holding a piece of paper in my hand which says I’m to appear in court for overtaking a car and passing the white line that demarcates one lane from another. Unfortunately no one was coming from the other lane, otherwise that would have given my visit to this Babel some sense.
I wonder what they tell the aspiring lawyers on their first day here. “Good luck, welcome to Hotel California” would be apt. Or maybe they would tell them, “go boy/girl stand behind me, say nothing, do well, and tonight you’ll be allowed to join us for drinks at [some ludicrously priced diner].” I could recognise a few ex-mates from sixth form here, most of whom I had then passed off as belonging to the “cunt” category but are now actually paid to act like one. Watch them scuttle by from hall to hall, a tiny wad of papers or files tucked under their dry, Arbre Magique smelling armpits like they’d be damned to break into a sweat. They give the odd nod here or there. One even swung down to look me in the eye and mutter a patronising “Hi!” like a sleepwalking Florence Nightingale in Crimea, before darting off to yet another hall, for yet another sitting.
I thank God for keeping me away from studying law at University. Do I want to become like one of these bent moneysucking leeches wearing large wristwatches? Absolutely. Not.
I would encourage you to carry out some sort of civil offence so you can enjoy the benefits of standing in the waiting area. My traffic blunder had me pitched together with the likes of a con artist, the husband/boyfriend who got too close to his girl’s mum, countless other traffic offenders awaiting their electric chair, and many others whose lawyers never turned up, neither today, neither in the two previous sittings, and nor in the next and final one. So, three strikes from the lawyer and you, dear client, are tightrope walking the fine line between the magistrate’s sternness, and his anger.
Back to the waiting area, where I wasted two glorious hours of my life waiting my turn. There are folks here who have never donned a suit in their life. You get quite a few people with untucked collars, jeans and suit combo’s, and a few people helping each other with their ties. Let’s not even trudge into the colour combinations.
Beside the reek of onion based breakfasts and the occasional whiff of fresh Chanel Nr 6 (Organique d’Gharaque), the atmosphere is pretty dour. You can pace around like Mourinho waiting for the tram at 3am or just sit down and pretend you’re dying. You’re a nobody here, so might as well bring a book or something to kill time. There’s a young snotty policeman rocketing in and out of the hall hollering out names three times in a row. Bet he would give fishmongers some stick. Most of the time nobody walks in when summoned, meaning they will be served with an arrest warrant. How some people manage to get away with not turning up beats my cerebrum into a mash.
Other people coming and going have had their brains mashed much earlier on in life, however. I am now sitting in the courtroom, finally, at what must be 12.45pm. My legs are aching from standing outside since 9.45am, a lot of time has passed since then as I contemplated with contempt the past, present and especially future of our juridical system.
So, there’s a very arrogant and well known lawyer and MP who has held up the courtroom with his cases for a whole morning, before fucking off for lunch at 12.30 sharp. His cases involve townsfolk mostly, the first one I followed involved a moustachioed car dealer clad in a huge white suit that made him look like a giant walrus, and at the same time, rather ridiculous. This guy is trying to wrangle €60 from the defendant, after both of them had signed an illegal contract that meant to cover previous financial misdeeds. No wonder the magistrate didn’t enjoy it. And there, among the wild clearances into row Z I started to wonder whether the lawyers did know a thing or two about the cases they were disputing (invoicing aspects aside).
Cocky lawyer and faithful student out, you have to wait for the other lawyers to finish the cases. So, I deduce, the list starts off from people who are defended by a lawyer, and then continues via those common mortals like me who aren’t.
There were a score of people who were summoned for the same offence I did. Those who had a lawyer were found guilty of two accuses out of three. The others got off with one instead of three – a hundred fourty something euro more than I got fined.
I wanted to spit at a lawyer I happened to know who wheeled off in delight after a farmer he was representing left the court €70 poorer. The magistrate closed an eye maybe, but surely, no, believe me, a haystack falling off a pickup in a scarcely trafficked road where occasional tarmac patches adorn the dirt isn’t deserving of the energy I put into writing this sentence, let alone waste this poor chap’s day of work while his greedy lawyer smiled like he managed to put him off the firing squad.
I got off relatively cheap without a lawyer. Fourty seven quid and a day of work. Crime pays.
Out of four lawyers I know only one proffered advice which leads me to the irrefutable statistic that 25% of all lawyers are decent. So, I’m off to start my day at work. At 2pm.
Had I killed somebody it would have taken me less time to learn my destiny.
Special thanks to Dr Antonio Tufigno whose brief intervention served as a reassurance that no, my licence will not be suspended.