Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Courthouse and the Icy-Hot back patch

There is one thing you find out pretty quickly doing your first work as a Law Clerk:  Law school has taught me absolutely nothing about being a lawyer.  It is true.  I remember being so lost my first week of clerking for a firm downtown that I thought my face might show up on a milk carton.  Fortunately, I was in a smaller firm with a few great attorneys who were extremely patient with me in guiding me through the process.  Most notably Dan Canon, Laura Landenwich, and Garry Adams.  Those 3 were the attorneys I worked most closely with.  It is interesting how you react when you know that out of everyone in the room, you know the very least.  Some people fake like they know whats going on (don't do that), others simply clam up and offer nothing, and some people just try to offer what help or assistance they can.

I am number three on that list.  When I feel like I am not able to offer excellence, I try my best to offer pure effort.  I become Johnny Hustle. 

I tell you that story to tell you this story.  My internship was unpaid, and as a result the law firm was very flexible with me in terms of the hours I would work.  Most days I did not even arrive until about 10 or so, with the exception of the week we were in trial.  The best thing about the flexibility was that it afforded me the opportunity to spend a lot of time at the gym.

Here is where I got a practical lesson in lawyering.

I don't remember what day of the week this happened on, but I want to say it happened on a Friday.  I had just gotten done lifting weights and I decided that I would go play some basketball.  Now this is a pretty serious decision if you are playing at the Downtown Y in Louisville, but not for the reason you may think.  The Downtown Y (for whatever reason) is sort of a haven for guys who never really played basketball, but have played a lot of pickup.  Oh right, most of these guys also fancy themselves as being some pretty tough customers. 

I honestly think I have played with all four of these gentlemen

Now this would not be a big deal, if it were not for the fact that oftentimes this results in some fundamental misunderstandings about the game.  For example, there is a fine difference between a 'hard foul,' which prevents a person from shooting an easy ball, and 'assault' which is a misdemeanor in the state of Kentucky.  Basketball provides an interesting sort of setting for the fake tough guy to act tough.  Because there are a lot of people around, it is unlikely that if a fight should break out it will really go too far.  Secondly, it provides unlimited opportunities to take shots are people who are not in a position to really defend themselves.  There are always two or three of these guys playing Downtown.  Ergo, if you choose to play pickup at the Downtown Y, gird your loins for battle, because 'chippy' is the name of the game. 

That looks about right

I don't really mind the physicality.  I'm not a little guy, and in reality competitive basketball is far more physical then most people realize.  But it's certain kinds of physicality that the Y brings that make it an interesting venue for 'hoopbang.' 

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with basketball.  I have never really been that good of a player compared to the folks I played with, but I was always good enough to contribute something.  Normally rebounds, assists, the random breakaway dunk, and sometimes I would make a shot.  But as much as I love the game, the game does not always love me back.

Pictured:  Me and Basketball

I have had some pretty serious injuries in the past, the worst one while I was trying to make it work at Itasca Community College (I didn't), and my knees and left ankle are still basically a mess.  The combination of globetrotting and the attendant pressure have pretty much sapped my competitive basketball juices.  I play to have fun and stay in shape now, and really hate when people start getting too serious.  But every now and then, someone will do something, or say something, that makes me start playing 'for real' again.  And that is how I inevitably will injure myself.

On this particular afternoon, I wound up being guarded by one of the gentlemen pictured above.  He was probably about 5'8 and maybe 140 lbs.  So I had around 7 inches and 50 pounds on this little piece of stool.  He decided that in guarding me, he would keep me away from the basket essentially by just trying to physically push me out of the lane with his hands.  I found this humorous, and pushed back to get myself into the lane, and scored our teams first couple of baskets.  This particular gentleman also decided he wanted to bring the ball up for his team, and did not realize that as an ex point guard, I am not particularly slow.  Because the guy could barely dribble, I managed to strip him on a possession, and thought I was taking it to the other end for an easy two.  And then the easily predictable happened.

My opponent in honorable athletic contest had decided that he could run me down and block me.  What he didn't realize is that I can jump decently high.   He also didn't realize that he was rather short.  And rather slow.  The end result was that while I was in the air, dropping the ball in, he ran directly underneath me.  Suddenly, I am aware that the world was upside down.  In a fit of brilliance (or utter panic) I tried to tuck my head up as fast as I could hoping to prevent the inevitable whiplash head slam that normally accompanies this situation.  So what I discovered instead was a new and exciting way to injure yourself in this predicament:  You can curl into the fetal position mid-air, and land almost exclusively on your lower back.  Don't worry, I informed N.A.S.A. of this development.

I may or may not have then called this person a 'stupid little bastard'

The whole gym uttered a harmonious 'oooooooo' as I hit the floor like a sack of nickels.  The next sensation I had was a tingling all over my legs, followed by the realization I was having a hard time moving them.  As a few of the other players helped me up, I felt a pain in my back that forced me to walk hunched over, and at a snail's pace.  Every step was agonizing.  Walking the block home to my apartment from the gym was a nightmare, compounded by the fact that no one leaving the Y parking lot seems to understand that pedestrians have the right of way when the little walking man symbol is on.  I spent the next two days at home, laying on the couch, with a heating pad and Chardonnay.

But then came Monday.  I had told the firm what happened, and that I may not be able to come into work.  Everyone was fine with that, and told me to take all the time that I needed.  But Johnny Hustle plays hurt.  Because playing hurt is better than not playing at all right?

Maybe not.

On Monday, I was walking around the office like a zombie trying to balance books on his head.  Any slight bending on my part resulted in pain shooting through my lower back and hips.  Getting into and out of my desk was a ten step ordeal that required significant planning and preparation. One misstep would result in me falling down face first in front of several lawyers I respect and their suddenly confused and mortified clients.  Not to mention that this likely would have resulted in some muffled wailing as I expressed my dissatisfaction with the situation and attempted to roll over like a mentally slow turtle.  I was in this state for a few days.

During the week I discovered the miracle that is the Icy-Hot back patch.  While I have never discovered the exact nature of the injury I received (what's a hospital, by the way?), I did discover that the Icy-Hot back patch made me slightly more mobile.  With the patch on, I could walk like a rather spry elderly woman, which was infinitely better than the first option.  With my new found swagger, I bounced around the office like Betty White, as opposed to one of the extras from Thriller.  Before the dance, not during the dance.

So with my newfound mobility, I was looking forward to again adding what I could to the logistical aspects of the law.  For example, moving boxes around and running stuff to other offices and the courthouse are really an actual necessity that sometimes becomes troublesome.  I genuinely did not mind when I was asked to do these things, because I felt like as a very physically able person, I should be ready and willing to do them.  It was rare that I was enlisted into these jobs, but I was from time to time. Around this point, one of the other attorneys in the firm announces he needs someone to 'run something to the courthouse real quick.'  For me, that was like the Bat Signal going up in Gotham.  I was on that job like a drunk 8th Grade Gym teacher on Snooki's face. 

It is very important, before you take on a task, to ensure that you have all of the necessary information before giving the thumbs up.  I forgot that truism during this misadventure.  After I excitedly accepted the job, the attorney then said, "oh yeah, we need to have that there in 20 minutes.  At the most."  Given my physical condition, he may as well have said "can you possibly carry this sack of bowling balls over there as well?"  But remember, I was playing hurt, and I was hiding the pain.  And I had just slapped on an Icy-Hot back patch.  So what did I say to myself?  "Johnny boy.....you can make it.  Be a hero, son."

(Do you know what the difference is between a hero and a complete idiot?  Two things:  The outcome, and the stake.  If a person dives in front of a bus to knock a watermelon out of the way and is killed in the process, he isn't a hero; he's a moron.  Just an aside, not germane to the story......)

So there I am, waddling at the speed of smell down the streets of downtown Louisville, with a motion in hand.  What its for?  I have no idea.  To this day.  Johnny Hustle does not stop to smell the roses, or read the motions when the clock is a factor.  It is sometime after I walk across Fifth Street that I realized my particular 'gait,' and my attempt at speed made it look as though I had just shit myself.  And it is also around this point that my Icy-Hot backpatch goes from 'Icy' to 'Hot.'

Oh right.  Its also around 100 degrees outside and I am wearing a shirt, tie, and khakis.

Needless to say, by the time I reach the courthouse, I am sweating like a fat guy in the sauna.  Combine this with the way I am walking, borderline delirium from the pain, and the fact that I'm waving around a motion like its an American flag and I'm at the Daytona 500, and you may imagine that I am drawing some attention.  A person I knew from the Y who works at the County Attorney's Office saw me and waved hello, to which I quite calmly responded, "*GASP* I'VE GOT TO FILE A MOTION!" and waddled away post haste.

I stormed up the stairs like the French peasantry storming the Bastille.  In the process, I very nearly ran over a District Court judge (who probably mistook me for someone late for the Drug Court hearing).  When I filed the motion, I looked at my cell phone.  The trip had taken 18 minutes.  The trip back took about 40.  When I got back, I was greeted with some bemused looks, and an invitation to take the rest of the day off.  I did.

That's the kind of thing they don't teach in law school. 


  1. I'm definitely going to start referring to an individual who displeases me as a "little piece of stool." Thank you.

  2. That's a classic John Friend story right there