I was suffering from writer's block this week. The subjects and subject matters were flowing freely, but the lead up to the main event seemed to be rather flat. Wednesday and Thursday evening were spent writing and deleting, writing and deleting. It had been a reasonably busy week at work, and my concentration started to wane
by the time I managed to stop and access my computer. The weather had been very cold, and walking into a warm house from sub zero temperatures tended to cause drowsiness. The combination of the former and latter made for a very incoherent me. Of course, there are some that argue that I am often incoherent, and often at my best in that state.
However, once again, the weather started to improve, the temperature rose, and the brain started to defrost. Several topics came to mind and I was, fortunately for me, able to form several outlines. I do enjoy seeing my 'audience' chart flowing and ebbing, but having written stories from a very young age, I am my own best audience. I am also my own fiercest critic, and I think that may be a good combination.
I received a call on Friday, asking for an update on two papers that we had received, to serve on a mother and daughter. Unfortunately, the mother had passed away earlier in the week, a fact the person delivering the papers had discovered when attempting to serve the writs. I informed my client, who seemed to be a little disappointed. I was rather taken aback, which was probably a good thing, as had I been allowed to continue, I fear I would have said something slightly inappropriate. My way of thinking was that it really wouldn't have mattered whether the lady was given notice of an action taken against her, as she would be unable to attend any hearing due to her demise. Having 20 days in which to either answer the charge against her, or to employ an attorney to do so, would also be of no consequence. 'Hmm', was the response of the client. 'Oh well!', she continued.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with a young legal professional a few years ago. I was advising him of the untimely exit from this world of a defendant. So focused upon having the lawsuit engaged, he asked if there was any way we could get these papers 'served'. Presumably the Estate of someone's dearly departed would be responsible for any debt that was owing. However, not being an attorney, but being so well educated in sarcasm, I retorted with what I thought to be a reasonably amusing remark. 'Perhaps we can get an order for alternative service, and pin it to the tombstone'. This comment could have been received in one of two ways. The first, of course, could have been complete abhoration for my lack of professionalism and chastisement for such recklessness behaviour. The second, and more hoped for conclusion, was that he would 'see the funny side'. I was not expecting a third alternative. 'Can we do that?', he asked, in all sincerity. I sighed. Once again, I had put myself between the proverbial rock and hard place. I continued, loosely quoting from the rules, 'Alternative service is to deliver the document to a place where the recipient is most likely to receive notice of the suit'. I sounded very knowing. I was fairly confident that my young legal eagle would realise that sticking the court document to a piece of granite would not be considered a viable option by most judges. Again, I was wrong. 'Let's do that, then!' It was not easy to explain why this was not a good idea, without making the poor man seem rather stupid. I, too, have lost loved ones, and when visiting the burial site, I think I would be rather insulted to find a notice of a law suit stuck to my relative's headstone. Admittedly, I may later find it to be rather amusing, but probably perversely so. It seems that no matter what I said to the legal representative, the first solution had been one with which he was most comfortable. I resorted to my usual method of compromise, and told him I would refer the matter to Dana for a final decision.
Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned that Wyatt Erp's method of justice caused less paperwork.
It would appear that even death is not an excuse for being absent. Not all our clients are so aggressive with those that could not fight the grim reaper. Some are sympathetic, others apathetic, but whatever the emotion, they accept the finality.
I do not find death a funny subject, yet I do use humour when trying to defuse tension relating to the subject. In my experience, I have found that if the notice of death is given in very direct terms, rather than trying to use softer ways of announcing the fact, the recipient of the news tends to be more tongue tied, or responds in a most irrational, out of character, way. When I took ownership of my blackberry, I was given a number that had previously been in use. I received several text messages advising me of an overdraft to an account which I do not hold, along with various calls from medical professionals and pharmacists. I was able to make a reasonably accurate guess as to where the former owner of the number had lived, based on the area codes of the calls. I then 'googled' the name of the person for whom they were asking, and found many entries pertaining to obituaries. When answering the next call, I politely suggested that the doctor check to see if his patient was, indeed, still alive. With an automatic disclaimer, presumably to deter any thoughts of malpractice suits, I was given probably more information than I needed as to how the onus was on the patient. Without yet knowing of my relationship to Mrs X, they asked what was my reasoning for suspecting she was not longer 'with us'. Thoughts of Haley Joel Osment saying, 'I see dead people', did cross my mind, but I suspected that may embroil the poor lady's family in a law suit, and they may end up finding a document with the words, 'you have been sued' upon her final earthly resting place. Instead, I stopped the flow of repudiation and explained that I have no interest in whom was at fault, although the patient could be considered to be the victim of extenuating circumstances, and would appreciate it if the phone calls would cease and desist. I further reported that I had 'googled' Mrs X and found her to be very well loved and respected.
Once I had made it very clear that I was in no way related to the deceased, I was asked, 'Do you really think she is dead? How awful! Was she ill?' Taking a deep breath, I retorted, 'That is client/patient confidentiality'. I did not expect the response. 'I completely understand', she said. I did not receive another call.
No doubt I will receive more calls that will bring a smile to my face. With the Texas Legislature now in session, spring starting to show it's face through the clouds, and the expectation of visiting a few more states, I am looking forward to putting writers block to bed for the foreseeable future. I have entered several more competitions. Perhaps I will win, perhaps I won't, but the full story of why I enter will be .....another story.