I’ve never performed as miserably taking a deposition as I did today. Then again, I’ve never seen a witness throw me off my game as thoroughly as the deponent did this morning.
I arrived at opposing counsel’s office at 9:00 a.m. to depose Tracy Mathers, the plaintiff in a defective workmanship lawsuit against my client, the contractor who’d renovated her home. Though I didn’t recognize the plaintiff by name or appearance, I did think she looked vaguely familiar. The fact was, she sported one distinctive feature reminiscent of someone I’d encountered in my younger days.
More than twenty years ago, while impaired by six or seven gin and tonics at a New York nightclub, I obtained a woman’s phone number. We went out the following weekend, and I drew my first sober and adequately-lit view of the female I’d confused for a goddess. Confronting me was a pair of spectacular buck teeth obscuring any beauty the lass otherwise might’ve possessed. Try as I might, I couldn’t get beyond those choppers. As a result, when I accompanied my date back to her apartment and she became frisky, an image of me screwing Bugs Bunny implanted in my brain. I panicked, told her I had a headache, and bolted out the door. I never saw her again.
Tracy Mathers owned the same gigantic central incisors I’d witnessed on my long-ago date from New York.
At the deposition’s start, I delivered my usual instructions on the nature of the proceeding. Then, as always, I asked: “Do you have any questions before we begin?”
In all my years of practice, I’d never heard a witness answer anything but “no.” Tracy, however, said “yes.” Then she announced: “I have two questions. First, when we went out twenty years ago and I came on to you, did you really have a headache? And second, why didn’t you call me again, like you said you would?”
I don’t know what frazzled me more: Tracy’s inquiries; me fumbling to reply without insulting her further; or the court reporter querying whether my responses should be “on the record” and Tracy shouting “yes!” Suffice it to say, matters went downhill from there. Knowing the tooth-rich lady before me for the same woman I’d previously treated so shabbily kept me flummoxed. After Tracy referred to my client as the “builder,” my fixation on her facial skyscrapers led me to refer to him instead as the “beaver.”
Initially, neither Tracy nor her attorney made the connection between the dam-building semi-aquatic rodent and her enameled protuberances. Maybe they never would’ve, if I hadn’t compounded my error. Though I meant to begin a question with “Tracy …,” I inadvertently substituted “Teethy.” The connection was made, and the outraged witness stormed from the room.
I’ve apologized to everyone concerned, profusely; and I’ve promised to be on my best behavior when the deposition resumes tomorrow. Let’s pray I can keep that promise.
The prominent choppers of a dam-building semi-aquatic rodent … and others