Lawyers are boring

I don’t often say this, but I screwed this one up. The September 2011 Last Word, The Foot-in-Mouth Yawn, is a one-line joke that I take 750 words to get to… and when I get there (“But… you see… lawyers are boring…” it’s just not good enough. Every time I re-read it (which, admittedly, isn’t often), I’m more disappointed with it. It was a good idea. The set up was good. The back-pedalling I did after the punch line was good. It should have worked. It didn’t. I blew it.

This is the only redeeming paragraph (full text, if I haven’t thoroughly managed to discourage you from reading it, follows):

Right now, she’s trying to storm my citadel, but she doesn’t yet know how, so she asks a question I don’t hear, and (damn these high EQ people—I’m used to dealing with insensitive, narcissistic lawyers, it be ever-so-much easier for insensitive, narcissistic me), things spiral downhill. If you’ve had the misfortune to meet me in person you know that I have an expressive face that does a pretty lousy job of concealing the train of thought behind the mask—there is no mask—and so writ upon my visage is the message “I have no clue what you’re talking about because this conversation is boring me to death” and, the Olympians forgive me, she is naive and earnest and oh-so-sensitive, and while tears do not shimmer in her eyes, I think they’re about to, and so…

I blew it because I committed the cardinal sin of putting too much “me” in the opinion piece. In the best op/ed pieces, the writer is, if not precisely absent, in the background. The voice can be dominant–has to be dominant–but the writer herself should not intrude. And I shove myself into this piece. Repeatedly.

I should have known better.

19th century painting of lawyers, by French ar...

Lawyers, by Honoré Daumier

LAST Word: Boring? Well, maybe…
by Marzena Czarnecka

I did a terrible thing the other day. I mortally offended a future mover-and-shaker, someone who will one day sign the pay cheques of the people who sign the pay cheques of the people who sign my pay cheques. Today, she’s fresh-faced, unwrinkled, inexperienced, terribly naive and extremely earnest. Tomorrow—well, a few tomorrows in the future, I’m giving a decade before the rest of you hear about her, and add to that another half, before she’s really atop her game—she’s going to be a hard-nosed dealmaker and kingmaker.

I sure hope she doesn’t hold grudges. Most uber-talented people don’t. (That’s how I know I’m only half-talented—the only one who holds grudges with more oomph than I do is my mother. And my daughter. Maybe it’s a Slavic woman thing. But I digress.)

Anyway—here is what I did. A throw-away sentence. You know—it was one of those moments. There was a conversation happening, but I stopped paying attention. Frankly, it just wasn’t that interesting. Shallow social chitchat, a get-to-know gab session of the sort that’s bearable and perhaps even entertaining with a glass of wine (or two) in hand when you’re in the mood to play, but that’s a gob-darmed waste of time when there are more important things in the go. And I had this tetchy business problem I was trying to solve, and the “bla bla bla isn’t that interesting bla bla bla something” wasn’t holding my attention and I, what’s the technical term for it, I, um, spaced out. Withdrew into the inside of my head, furrowed the outside of my head (i.e., the brow), started following threads of this thought and that (ever so much more interesting than “oh, I’ve never golfed there, I’ll need to check it out”) and then… blam. Silence. A horrible lull in the conversation—silence so silent it’s deafening—and I’m back in the conversation circle and everyone is staring at me.

Including her. She’s looking at me most earnestly—did I mention? she’s extremely earnest, and it’s one of the reasons she will be a roaring success—because she, hyper-EQ being that she is—did I mention? extremely attuned to people’s emotions and responses—noticed that while physically within the circle of conversation I was otherwise outside of it, and, wanting to bring me back in, she asked me a question. Kind of her, considerate of her—one of the reasons she will be a success, because she will keep those skills as she develops a bit of a harder edge, and she’ll glue teams together and inspire juniors and help them storm citadels.

Right now, she’s trying to storm my citadel, but she doesn’t yet know how, so she asks a question I don’t hear, and (damn these high EQ people—I’m used to dealing with insensitive, narcissistic lawyers, it be ever-so-much easier for insensitive, narcissistic me), things spiral downhill. If you’ve had the misfortune to meet me in person you know that I have an expressive face that does a pretty lousy job of concealing the train of thought behind the mask—there is no mask—and so writ upon my visage is the message “I have no clue what you’re talking about because this conversation is boring me to death” and, the Olympians forgive me, she is naive and earnest and oh-so-sensitive, and while tears do not shimmer in her eyes, I think they’re about to, and so…

You thought that was the terrible thing I did? God, no. Exiting boring conversations, that I do every day (so do you—unless you’re getting paid for it. See? We understand each other perfectly). The terrible thing is coming. And see, I wanted to do the right thing, the nice thing, and being an insensitive clod, I totally screwed up. So where were we? Ah yes, wine, social chit chat, social faux pas, the woman who is going to rule this city in 15 years about to burst into tears in front of people whose opinion she cares about… I don’t want you to think I did what I did next out of any apparent kindness or misplaced sense of mercy. Self-interest only. A high EQ I do not have, but man, I can smell power 2706.87 km away, and this earnest, naive, tear-eyed woman positively reeked with it. I may have spaced out for a while, but I wasn’t completely oblivious. And I have a thing for power, and a nose for allies, and in a desperate mood to divert the waterworks, and suspecting that the question I didn’t hear would be perfectly well-served by this flippant answer, I said…

Are you ready?

I said… “Well… lawyers are boring.”

Bang. Mission accomplished. You’ve never seen tears transform into daggers faster, or a faltering spine stiffen. “I’m a lawyer,” she said, teeth set. “And I’m not boring.”

Yup, I did a terrible thing. A terrible, terrible thing. The morale of this story (share with your spouses and non-lawyer friends, please): never, ever tell a lawyer she’s boring. Just don’t do it.

Marzena Czarnecka lives 2706.87 km away from Bay Street.

Thomson Reuters article record

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