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Most people know of the well-worn hypothesis that an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of keyboards would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Prometheus is no monkey, and I doubt he could generate even one of Shakespeare’s shorter sonnets. Nonetheless, as my wife discovered last night, while our puppy couldn’t type a proper sentence if his life depended on it, he’s already displayed a skill for sending e-mails.

Sophia left her laptop on the couch while we ate dinner yesterday. At the time, she was working on an e-mail to her boss. She returned to the couch just as Prometheus jumped up and paraded across the keyboard. Though she couldn’t tell which key or keys he’d pressed, she found her draft e-mail transferred to the “sent items” folder at the conclusion of his travels.

Our puppy’s demonstrated e-mail prowess may’ve cleared up the mystery nagging Sophia for the past month. Whenever she prepares an e-mail for work, she takes an aggressive approach in her initial effort. She almost never sends out a highly provocative message though. In the usual case, she tones down her transmission so much that her initial draft proves nearly unrecognizable. The greatest exception to date has been the draft she unwittingly and, until now, inexplicably sent her boss several weeks ago. Like last night, she’d typed up an initial version on her laptop and left the device sitting atop the couch while we ate dinner. Unlike last night, she didn’t see Prometheus promenade across her keyboard; and she’d assumed a computer glitch had caused the draft to transmit itself to her intended recipients.

The controversial e-mail was one her boss had asked her to prepare. He wanted Sophia’s take on year-end bonuses for her staff. Undoubtedly, she never would’ve sent the transmission in its original form. Rather, she would’ve significantly diluted its more volatile components before hitting “send.” But she never got the chance. Thanks to Prometheus, it seems, three of her underlings won’t receive any bonuses this year, and all of them blame Sophia. She understands their anger too, since her raw reviews gave her boss little choice in the matter. Here’s what she said, with the names changed to protect us from defamation suits:

    • Jim Doe – Jim put more effort into ordering lunch for the department than performing the tasks for which the company compensates him. My recommendation would be that Jim pay us a bonus just for keeping him on the payroll.
    • Susan Jones – Unless Susan bleeds twenty seven days a month, the time she took off due to menstrual issues vastly exceeded her legitimate needs. My recommendation: offer Susan a blood transfusion in lieu of a monetary bonus.
    • Dan Smith – If laziness were an Olympic sport, Dan would be a six-time gold medalist. I suggest placing his bonus check at the bottom of his inbox where it can and will remain undiscovered and uncashed until the next ice-age.
Apparently, monkeys can type Shakespeare, and Prometheus can send e-mails.

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As has become my habit, I was listening to The Bert Show today. It’s a morning show on the radio, and one of the topics discussed concerned female attitudes in the workplace. Specifically, the crew debated whether women needed to be narcissistic and aggressive in order to thrive in their chosen professions. Some callers said “yes,” insisting only supreme bitches can claim leadership of the pack in a number of professions. Hearing them describe representative examples of the breed called to mind a woman I knew from the years working at my old law firm, Schwartz  Meisner.

I can’t deny that many law firms still remain bastions of the old boys’ network. For a woman simply to make partner, she often has to act more aggressively than the male attorneys with whom she competes. That seemed the case at Schwartz Meisner too, at least back in the day when I toiled there.

“Sally” fit the definition of an egotistic and antagonistic bitch to a tee. While consistently projecting an air of arrogant self-confidence, she engaged in shameless self-promotion, often at the expense of others. She also demonstrated a certain ruthlessness in her behavior. Indeed, if she believed stabbing a female counterpart in the back could aid her climb up the corporate ladder, she’d twist the knife without a second thought.

I witnessed Sally’s Machiavellian maneuverings on a number of occasions. Though I had to admire her drive to succeed, I also wondered whether such extreme conduct was truly necessary, male-dominated law firm or not. Sure, a female attorney might need to ruffle a few feathers to get ahead. But Sally wasn’t a lawyer; and I found it difficult to imagine how far even the greatest of ball busters could advance … among the mailroom’s personnel.

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For the second time this month, angry parents have “suggested” I pay the medical bill for their son’s accident. As before, I refuse to accept responsibility for the emergency room visit. If there’s a culprit here, it’s not me but rather the vow of secrecy surrounding fraternity initiation ceremonies.

My wife’s nephew, Marcello, is a college freshman. During our call to wish him a happy birthday a few weeks ago, he mentioned that he’s pledging a fraternity. When he asked whether I’d belonged to one in college, I exclaimed “God no!” Then I shared the same information which prompted me to spurn fraternity life: my friend’s older brother had told me about his initiation ceremony, where he’d been blindfolded, forced to kneel, and then spanked with a coarsely sanded paddle until his butt cheeks bled.

When I spoke to Marcello, I had no idea he suffers an extreme fear of blindness. Until two nights ago, I’d never heard about his three relatives who lost their sight completely. Nor had anyone previously clued me in that the boy nearly wets himself at the thought of a momentary loss of vision. Even so, phobia or not, someone had to tell the lad what he might be facing, right?

As my fuming sister-in-law enlightened me two nights ago, her son’s fraternity initiation ceremony had begun a couple of weeks earlier. I say “begun” because the ritual terminated abruptly. Due to his vow of secrecy, Marcello refused to tell his parents exactly what happened. All he said was, at some point, the brothers blindfolded him and made him kneel on the floor. The temporary loss of vision alone nearly unmanned him. When combined with a loud thwack nearby and an ensuing yelp of pain, together with the sudden touch of a hand on his shoulder, it proved more than he could bear. With his mind clouded by visions of splinter-filled paddles, he bolted from the room without pausing to remove his blindfold. He ran full tilt into a support column and broke his arm in two places. Understandably, the initiation ceremony was suspended pending his treatment at the ER and subsequent recovery.

Although the strictures of his vow precluded him from sharing details, Marcello assured his parents that no paddles or other implements of torture were involved in his fraternity rite. The clatter and cry of pain he’d heard resulted from the accidental drop of a heavy wooden platter onto a brother’s foot. Had it not been for the fears conjured by my initiation tale, the lad undoubtedly would’ve survived the ritual intact.

Yesterday, I informed my friend how his brother’s fraternity experience had caused me trouble. Ned in turn advised his brother of the situation. Today, Ned relayed his brother’s response: “Didn’t Richard realize I made that stuff up? He should’ve known I swore to silence, so I couldn’t tell him the truth.”

Due to those pesky vows of secrecy, I can’t be sure if paddles 
like this one were ever used at a fraternity initiation.

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Last night, my brother reminded me that I’d failed to write about the rescue of his escaped parrot earlier this month after a night in the wild. Having heard of a similar episode in Georgia this week, now seems as good a time as any to cure the omission.

As previously mentioned, my sister-in-law’s nephew inadvertently let parrot Bob out of the house on the evening of December 1. Bob spent the night in parts unknown. When daylight came, Frank and Ellen found him perched high in a tree behind their house, stubbornly refusing to fly down.

Concerned the parrot would succumb to the cold or eventually starve to death, if not extricated from his makeshift aerie, Frank contacted his local fire department. The chief informed him, however, that the rescuing of treed birds did not fall within the department’s purview.

Given the absence of any lumberjacks in his area, Frank stretched his brain to its limit and thought to telephone an arborist. After three attempts, he located one willing to attempt a rescue. The tree crew propped an enormous ladder close to the branch where Bob roosted. Armed with a juicy Clementine, the arborist tried to entice Bob to leave his perch. But the nervous parrot skittered about and kept avoiding the man’s reach.

If it hadn’t been for one of the trusty phrases he’d learned from my brother while watching football, Bob might never have been saved. I’ve mentioned before how Frank inadvertently taught his pet a number of choice terms while yelling at his beloved New York Giants through the TV set. For years, in Bob’s presence, Frank expressed his displeasure when the Giants’ quarterback, Eli Manning, held onto the football too long and got sacked. Frank typically shouted: “Throw the ball! Stop scrambling and throw it, you asshole!!!” And before long, Bob joined in too.

After fifteen minutes watching the arborist maneuvering atop the ladder, Frank called up and asked how things were going. The man replied: “Not so good. Every time I try to give him the fruit, he scrambles around on the branch.”

Upon hearing the word “scramble,” Bob’s training kicked in. Out of nowhere, he spoke for the first time, screeching: “Throw it, you asshole!”

No one likes being called an “asshole,” least of all a guy fifty-feet up a tree, freezing his nuts off while risking his neck trying to save his verbal abuser. In no mood to accept such insult, the arborist tersely informed Bob: “You want me to throw it; I’ll throw it alright!” Then he pelted the bird’s chest with half a Clementine.

The assault nearly propelled Bob off his perch. Stunned, he failed to attempt evasive maneuvers when the arborist followed his fruit toss with a sudden grab. Before the parrot knew what hit him, he’d been snatched off his branch and carted down the ladder to safety.

Thanks to the arborist’s heroic efforts, Bob was reunited with his family, and my brother once more has a partner to curse out the Giants on Sundays.

Interestingly, nowhere does the site mention 
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Make no mistake. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. And whatever the outcome, neither me nor my client is going to be happy. Damn those ethical rules!

Lawyering ethically isn’t as easy as one might think. You see, two competing principles govern attorneys’ behavior. On the one hand, rules of professional conduct preclude us from promoting or permitting perjury. On the other hand, we’re required to represent our clients zealously. 

Accommodating both concepts means walking a fine line. When I’m evaluating clients’ cases for the first time, I have to state the governing law and then massage the most helpful details from the clients, without putting words in their mouths. I can’t and won’t encourage people to invent facts which establish the defense or claim I’ve described. 

Usually, I employ hypotheticals when interviewing new clients or when preparing them to testify. I tell them that the law provides “x,” so if the facts are “y” and “z” those requirements will be satisfied. From there, it’s up to them to recall whether their particular situations fit the standards I’ve related.

That’s the method I used when agreeing to defend “John” in a lawsuit and when preparing him for his deposition. For reasons soon to be obvious, I’ll omit any particulars about him or his case. All you need to know is, while under oath at his deposition yesterday, he flat out lied. He said things diametrically opposed to the information he’d conveyed when we first met and during our preparation process.

At the day’s end, I pulled John aside and, as calmly as I could manage under the circumstances, asked him to explain why he’d perjured himself. He matter-of-factly replied: “Because you told me to.”

So much for calm: “Whaddya mean, I told you to?! I never said you should lie!!!”

“Well, not in so many words,” he replied.  “But when we went over my main defense, and you explained again how the law works and the kind of facts that fit, you winked.”

As I belatedly explained, I wear contact lenses. And dust or a stray eyelash occasionally becomes trapped beneath a lens. When that happens, I have to either gently rub the eye or at least blink rapidly to ease the discomfort. “So you see,” I said to John, “I didn’t wink; I blinked.”

“Ohhhh, my bad!” John conceded. “What do we do now?”

The pesky ethical rules governing lawyers in Georgia

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It took a month, but my brother’s prank Hanukkah gift finally paid dividends. Thanks to Frank, last night’s gathering at my house won’t soon be forgotten by any attendees.

Sophia and I hosted a murder mystery dinner party for New Year’s Eve. We invited three other couples: her brother Giuseppe and sister-in-law Gina; and our friends, Jimmy and Melinda, and Ron and Tracy. Since the game takes place at an English manor in the Victorian era, everyone dressed in formal wear. To set the proper mood, I purchased a selection of eerie orchestral music. And Sophia complemented her normal array of scented candles with vintage candelabras to serve as lighting for the evening.

The trouble began moments after we ushered our guests into the dining room. Almost in unison, each of the women flashed her partner a venomous glare. Then the whispered accusations commenced, with each wife hissing at her husband: “Is that you?!!” In turn, each husband stridently protested his innocence, while at the same time snickering at what he assumed to be the “work” of his neighbor. A few minutes elapsed before someone pieced together that the malodor of passed gas wafting through the air did not emanate from a human’s posterior but rather from the scented candle Sophia’d lighted upon entering the room.

Though everyone could tell the stink came from the candle, none of us could figure out why. The label on the jar read “French Vanilla,” which the scent most definitely was not. Thoroughly mortified – and baffled – Sophia dowsed the offending flame and apologized to all. Then she went off in search of a replacement unit to “clear the air.” Soon after, she returned from the kitchen with another jarred candle, this one titled “Fleur de Lilac.” She lit the wick and began serving dinner. 

I can’t recall if I’d ever smelled a lilac before. If I hadn’t prior to last night, then my streak remains intact. Whatever the aroma drifting from Sophia’s replacement candle, it certainly wasn’t floral. To the contrary, all agreed that the new scent filling the air reminded them of a decomposing animal on the highway. Not exactly a smell which stokes one’s appetite either! As a result, most of the elaborate meal my wife had slaved over went untouched.

After the last of our guests departed, Sophia and I returned to the scene of the crime and investigated matters. We discovered that she’d drawn both candles from a collection received from my brother as a Hanukkah gift. I’d suspected them as a gag from the outset, but only because the idea of scented candles for me seemed ridiculous. It turned out my suspicions were correct, but for the wrong reason. As Frank confirmed this morning, he’d scooped out the original contents from the jars and substituted items from the “Man Candle” catalogue. The two Sophia happened to choose were titled “Fart” and “Roadkill.” Clever; oh so clever!

Not suitable for every occasion, as our dinner guests can attest.

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My father-in-law drove too far into his garage yesterday and hit the back wall. Luckily, the airbag didn’t trigger and he didn’t get hurt; but both vehicle and wall will need body work. He can’t understand how the device he installed to prevent such a disaster failed so miserably. Alas, I can; which is why I pray he never solves the mystery.

Vito has feared such an accident for a while. As he’s come to realize, neither his reflexes nor his eyesight are what they used to be. He decided to install a safety mechanism after a near miss with his garage wall two weeks ago. But rather than utilize a manufactured device, he decided to jury rig one of his own. He lodged a long wooden dowel into a brick and placed the brick on the garage floor in the spot where he wanted his driver’s side mirror to halt. That position left a two-foot cushion in front of the wall.

Vito’s collision happened on his return from the supermarket yesterday. Apparently, my mother-in-law had found herself short of certain ingredients for Sunday dinner and sent him to purchase them. His forty-five minute trip ended when he pulled his sedan into the garage and toward his trusty marker. Except, before his side-view mirror reached the rod’s position, the car plowed head on into the wall!

The cause of the accident seemed clear enough: the brick holding the dowel rod had moved three feet closer to the back of the garage. The question was “how?” Although human intervention seemed the most obvious explanation, the two prime suspects — Vito’s grandchildren — possessed solid alibis. With no likely person to blame, Vito’s had to wonder whether the brick had migrated on its own volition, and he’s been scratching his head in puzzlement ever since.

I hope the old man stays in the dark, since I’m pretty sure I can answer the “how” of his accident. Minutes after he departed on his shopping expedition, Sophia, Prometheus and I arrived for Sunday dinner. My phone rang and I went outside to take the call, accompanied by our dog.

After a twenty minute discussion with my brother, I hung up and went in search of the puppy. I’d last seen him fifteen minutes earlier, when he’d disappeared around the corner of the house. I finally located him in the garage, where I discovered him ferociously gnawing and tugging on Vito’s dowel rod. In my defense, I didn’t actually see the brick move. And even after the fact, a three foot shift seems beyond the capability of a six pound dog. Nonetheless, the result speaks for itself.

This morning, I magnanimously paid for the installation of a laser guided parking system in Vito’s garage. I supervised the install myself, in part to ensure no mistakes were made but mostly so I could personally remove the ineffective wooden dowel … engraved with telltale canine bite marks at just the height of a small dog’s head.

An effective garage parking system, and one which can’t easily be tampered with.

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The prospective client who met with me this morning clearly wasn’t joking. Nonetheless, as interesting as his situation sounded, I didn’t think I could help him. But since I’m no maven on employment law, I said I’d refer him to an expert in the area for further consultation. I’ll do my best, yet I don’t expect anyone – expert or otherwise – to extract a viable case from this man’s circumstances.

When I first asked “Alfredo” to tell my why he needed legal representation, he asked: “Isn’t it illegal for an employer to discriminate against the handicapped?”

Since Alfredo exhibited no outward signs of physical impairment, I responded with a question of my own: “Why? Are you handicapped?”

“Well, a doctor told me I have a compulsion. Isn’t that the same thing?”

“I don’t know. What’s your compulsion?” I queried.

Alfredo matter-of-factly explained: “I need to take all my clothes off whenever I go to the bathroom, except for my shoes and socks of course.”

“Of course,” I disbelievingly echoed. “In your own home though, I presume.”

“There, and anywhere else I happen to be when nature calls.”

“Even when you pee?” I asked.


Astonished, I sought further clarification. “You mean to say you stand naked at urinals in public bathrooms?”

“God no!” Alfredo insisted. “I’m not some perverted lunatic! In public, I always use the bathroom stall.”

“Naturally,” I agreed. “Did you get fired because of your ‘compulsion’?”

“Not exactly,” Alfredo conceded. “You see, last week I had to go while I was at work. We have a couple of unisex bathrooms meant for single users. Once I locked the door, I took off my clothes and left them on top of the sink while I went into the stall to do my business. I suppose the lock must’ve been broken though, because I heard the bathroom door open and close at one point. When I finished up, I found that all my clothes were gone! I never caught the jerk who took them either.”

“Wow! What happened next?” I inquired.

Alfredo continued his story: “I consider myself a conscientious employee. Since we were really busy at work, I couldn’t abandon my post. So I snuck out of the bathroom, covered myself as best I could, and went back to my job. That’s when I got fired. Do you think I have a case?”

I wasn’t sure of anything, yet. Before I ventured an opinion, I needed answers to a couple of additional questions: “Wait a minute. Didn’t you explain the situation to your boss?”

“Sure I did!”

“And what did he say?”

“He told me Board of Health rules require a restaurant’s chef to wear something more than an apron while cooking lunch.”

Suitable chef’s wear … when accompanied by shirt and pants.

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A stray dog periodically visits our house. I suppose he may not be a true stray, since he sports a collar. But he roams freely throughout our neighborhood, and I have no idea who owns him or where he lives. Because he doesn’t wear an ID tag, I don’t even know his proper name. I call him “Columbus,” after another notable explorer.

Columbus is large, black and of unknown breed. Though his head resembles a Pit Bull’s, he’s not as massive in the shoulders, so I’ve taken him for some sort of mutt. His impressive jaws lend him a terrifying aspect, yet he’s never shown himself dangerous. Even so, I won’t deny nearly shitting myself the first time I spotted him on our lawn. I was searching for a ball at the side of the house when I suddenly heard Prometheus bark madly from the front yard. When I went to investigate, I found my six pound puppy chasing a creature at least ten times his weight. I cringed, awaiting the monster’s inevitable realization that he was fleeing from an appetizer. As anticipated, Columbus soon reversed direction, and predator became prey. Prometheus got cornered long before I could reach them. Yet, rather than swallow my puppy whole, the fearsome looking beast merely wagged his tail happily and sniffed our dog’s ass by way of introduction. Since then, he’s visited our house on a regular basis. He always says hello to Prometheus. He also favors us by crapping on the lawn and peeing all over the bushes, before continuing his travels. 

Interestingly, Columbus invariably acts skittish around me. He doesn’t growl or exhibit any threatening behavior, but he never lets me pet him. Although he’s stood close enough to brush my side while licking Prometheus (as the puppy sat on my lap), he’s run away every time I showed a hint of touching him. We’ve come to an understanding though. As long I make no effort to pet him, he ignores my presence.

This morning, Columbus even followed us on our daily walk. Our subdivision has a leash regulation, which I obey with Prometheus but which Columbus obviously ignores. As our large companion trotted unfettered several feet to our rear, a woman standing on her front porch yelled at me. She brought up the leash law, castigated me for letting “your dangerous animal” roam free, and threatened to call the sheriff! She vanished into her house without giving me any opportunity to explain the situation.

This afternoon, I finally got a chance to clarify the truth of the matter, to the deputy sheriff who knocked on my door. I tried telling him Columbus isn’t our dog. Unfortunately, the fact that the animal at that moment stood ten feet from the officer taking a dump on our lawn didn’t exactly help my position. I can only hope I’m more successful in my next attempt to explain the facts … to a judge, at the hearing on my summons for violating the local leash law.

A suitable leash for a large dog like Columbus, so the Deputy Sheriff informed me.