Sometimes people ask me why, as a playwright, I ever worked as a paralegal. Well, I had four years of pre-Law undergrad at City U. There was that interest, which reached back to the 9th Grade. Some intern experience. But is any of this the answer? No. By the time City U. cut me loose, my legal saliva dribbled no more than a paraplegic on a basketball court. I wanted to be somewhere where the law would almost never come into play. And I figured if anyone could screw up the study of the law, it would be a law firm.
Hence that day: June 21, 2008. Sitting in a conference room, overlooking Third Avenue. Never was a view so inducing of power and suicide at the same time. I wrote plays every chance I got, but, by far my greatest piece of fiction was tucked under my left elbow:
"Resume?" asked Lynda, a half-fossilized paralegal who acted like a stegosaurus in the office on the last day of the Jurrasic Period - she just didn't care.
"Right here." The thing could have won a Pushcart Prize, no joke.
I slid the paper over to her. Of course, this was one of those things they wanted you to e-mail, and I did. But you'd never bring that up. The economy was in the toilet. You kissed the ass of any job you could sit for.
The dinosaur eyed the paper. You might even think she coud read.
"Hmm. The attorney will be in soon."
And she left. As if this were a scene from "Law & Order." I, the perp, was to wait in the interrogation room, alone, until my lawyer finished his bowel movement and decided to kill a few minutes with me.
I just did what I always did in times like this - I read. (Well, I didn't do that every time I was left alone, but I assessed the situation as too dangerous to masturbate.)
Within a half-hour, I met Terrence Rodwell. With glass coasters over his eyes, and a rug on his head, I nearly mistook him for a wrinkled version of my living room.
"You interned at McStevenson, I see."
"I did." They were the law firm to whom I donated a semester my Junior Year.
"Those guys are assholes. No balls. All pussy."
And did I mention I was interviewing at a firm that handled gender discrimination cases?
"Well, I was only there for a semester."
"Why'd you leave?"
"I was about to take the LSAT, and I really wanted to focus on that."
"How'd you do?"
"A bit above average."
I got somewhere in the 140s. Basically a score that might reflect the legal savvy of Lee Harvey Oswald. But you can't say that.
"Are you going to law school?"
"It's in the picture, but I'd like to get more real-world experience first."
It was about as in-the-picture as a giraffe in the Mona Lisa.
"Hmm. You know Lexis?"
Whether he meant the search engine or the car or his wife's sister, the answer was the universal "Unemployed 'Yes.'" The Unemployed Yes was invented because saying, "I have no idea what you're talking about, but I'm just going to nod profusely in the affirmative because eating catfood is getting too expensive" took too much time for too little results.
"Yes, sir." (The "sir" was my own personal touch.)
"When can you start?"
"As soon as you need me."
"Okay, I'll have Lynda show you around."
Lynda waddled in after Terrence - Mr. Rodwell? - exited. As we toured the U-shaped office:
"Ovuh theah's Bill's office, he's out today."
"That's Rick. He's on a conference call right now. That's Melody sitting next to him. She's an associate."
Head raced back to my five minutes of web research I did on the firm while my porn was loading: Rick Barney, named partner. Terrence Rodwell, named partner. William Krups, partner. Melody Barnes, associate. Lynda Smith, paralegal... Got it.
"Back heauh's thuh kitchen. You put somethin' in the fridge, you gotta label it so ya don't get confused."
I had a B.A. Theoretically I've remembered more complex things. Though Lynda did have a lot more memories. Like Lincoln's inauguration.
"If youah hired, you'll sit here. It's moi desk nao, but it's where thuh para sits. If they hire another one, that para will sit theah."
Two desks embraced by the "U" of the offices. Made sense.
"Do ya have any questions?"
"Oh you should know by this aftahnoon. You'll get a call if you got the job. We got one more person tah intahview. Then we'll have seen everyone. Gotta good pool this yeah."
That was horrible. I had to do something, fast.
"Well," I began, "I'm just very eager to work here. I mean, not to jump the gun, but it's not even about the money, for me. The feeling of making a difference, that's why I'm here."
"That's wonduhful," she said, as if I had just brought her roadkill and told her to enjoy her lunch.
The sad thing was that there was an ounce of truth to that, once. After reading "To Kill a Mockingbird," I couldn't help but think, "Yeah. This is it. The law. I can save people's lives as a lawyer." Of course, all the while, I was writing fiction, which later evolved into plays. Somewhere along the line, I realized "To Kill a Mockingbird" was also fiction, and maybe I should just stick with that. I just kinda wished I realized that before I took the LSAT.
"Well, g'boi. We'll be in touch if you got the job. If ya don't hear frumus by the end of the day, we've gone with someone else."
Before I knew it, the prehistoric para had shown me the door.
"Thank you so much for the interview," I said, humbly.
With that, I went home. I was still living with my parents, after I decided money was just something you bought DVDs with. To get my mind off the job, I popped in a Cary Grant movie. It wasn't much help, though. They had a great pool, just like dino-bitch said. They were probably Ivy Leaguers, with better degrees, higher educations, and more pullovers than me. I went to City U. They probably went to Yale. Yale. City U. YALE. city u. Then thoughts like, "Well, I could do without this job," were planted. Then it was, "I'd be better off without those slimey lawyers around me all the time!" Then it was, "Yeah. The hell with this. I'm going to get myself a job in the theatre and be really happy!" (I was delusional by this time.) Then it was, "I'll make it through this just fine. So I don't get a job straight out of college. It's the 21st Century. Who does?"
And then the phone rang.