Court Encounters of a Rude Kind

So, today I had court in a rural Missouri County.  It is a court I attend semi-reguarly, and the only negative experience I’ve had there was the sighting of a female attorney who appeared in front of the court wearing jeans, a sloppy untucked polo-style shirt, and flip-flops (with, as my BFF pointed out, unpolished toenails), a few months ago.  It was shocking to me, since I appeared that day (and every day) in a suit and heels — I didn’t get the memo that it was “casual court day”, most likely because, oh, yeah… IT WASN’T!! — but surprising is all that was; it wasn’t offensive.

If you know me, you know I am not someone who is terribly easily offended.  As a former deputy prosecutor, I spent enough years working with and around cops that it really takes something to offend me.  That hasn’t lessened in the years since my job title changed.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I could hold my own against a sailor in a cursing contest.  I’m not bragging about that, because I understand the use of such language is not particularly polite or ladylike, and I pride myself on my ability to censor and not abuse my profane vocabulary, but the fact is I do possess it.  What I heard today, however, was offensive.

I appeared for hearings on several files this morning.  My interaction with the opposing parties who were present went fine.  Polite and respectful behavior was in use by both sides.  The Judge was in a jovial mood, which is pretty much the norm (and one of the reasons I enjoy that court so much), and my portion of the docket ran smoothly.  Then I walked out of the courtroom.

When I left the courtroom, I walked over to the elevator to head to the first floor.  (Yes, I could have taken the stairs, but I made a rule for myself after I caught my high heel in my pant leg and pretty much threw myself down about six stairs at a courthouse a couple of years ago.  If I am wearing pants and heels, I take the elevator if it is an option.  I was, and it was, so the rule was invoked.)  I had just punched the call button when I overheard a conversation taking place in the corner maybe 5-6 feet to my left.  

There was a gentleman (utilizing the word extremely loosely) and his female companion seated in the floor in the corner, and there were a couple of other people seated at a table immediately adjacent to the corner peeps, and another couple of people standing in the vicinity as well.  The gentleman seated in the floor made the statement that “It’d probably all be fine if I’d just get the f*** out of the house.”  From the context, I gathered that he was there on an unlawful detainer action, meaning he had stopped paying rent, but refused to vacate the residence.  A couple more similar comments were made — did I mention I was waiting on one of the slowest elevators ever??? — and then I heard one of the females in the group say, “Shhh! She’s an attorney. You’d better be quiet!”  That was followed by the male’s dismissive comment, “S***! I don’t know her. She can suck my d***!” 

A quick glance around the area told me I was both the only attorney, and thus the only female attorney, in sight.  That pretty much eliminated the possibility that this crudity was in reference to someone other than myself.  I was shocked.  I was stunned.  I was offended.  I was borderline speechless (which is pretty rare for me).  As I was picking my jaw up off of the floor, the elevator doors opened.  I went to step inside, but before I did, I looked over at the offensive jerk in the corner and said, in just the right tone, “Seriously?!”  Yeah, that was all I had.  You have no idea how badly I wished I was the attorney on the other side of his case.  In fact, I’m pretty sure there are not words to tell you how badly I wished that.  What. A. Jerk.

Look, there is a time, a place, and a circumstance for everything, but that? Was entirely the inappropriate time, place and circumstance for that sort of statement.  I literally had nothing to do with those people.  No one that I spoke with today emerged from or retreated to that section of the hallway.  I was merely standing there waiting on the elevator, and in what I am going to interpret as an attempt to show what a bada** rebel thumbing his nose at the process he was, this jerk decided to spout off crude and vulgar language in reference to me.  

Yeah, I was offended.  I was stunned.  I was horrified.  I’m pretty sure that was one of the most inappropriate things anyone has ever said about me, at least within my hearing, at a courthouse.  I think that’s saying something since I used to be a domestic violence prosecutor, and literally used to try to provoke a violent outburst from defendants during cross-examination.  (One former judge still talks every time I see him about how he thought one of the defendants was going to get up and hit me.)  At least an outburst in that situation wouldn’t be uninvited.  This nonsense today?  Was uninvited.  Are people just not taught manners or common decency or respect anymore?  Nothing about me should have brought on such crudity or disrespect. 

I’m glad my sense of, “Oh my gosh, he SO did NOT just say THAT!!” took over and I was not possessed with the ability to run off at the mouth in that moment.  (The guy was a little scary looking.)  At the same time, I am glad I didn’t just step on the elevator without letting him know I heard him and was disgusted by his statement.  I’m pretty sure the full magnitude of my contempt was contained in the one word I uttered and anything else would have been wasted syllables.  Any further comment on my part might have been too much for my own good.  But wow.  What a jerk!

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