Coldonada (11)


Manoucher Avaznia
by Manoucher Avaznia


By the passage of time more than a dozen people crammed in the waiting room. Eventually, a short man with sparse hair arrived with a few pages of paper in hand and asked everyone to listen. He was the mediator. He said the whole process was exactly like a trial. He was following the legal system like a judge. Then, he explained some criteria based upon which lawyers’ pays were calculated. The only difference, as Mr. Skeptic understood, was that in mediation there would not be any conviction; and the mediator tried to find a common ground in order to settle the problem before it went to the judge and trial. After mediator’s speech, Maria and Mr. Skeptic continued the conversation.

“You asked me to release your file,” Maria went on, “I would not release your file because you owed me money.”

“The problem is not the file only,” Mr. Skeptic replied, trying to leak the least amount of the information he had prepared, “Look at your affidavit and compare it with the demand letter. The demand letter is three-page-long and you charge me forty-five minutes. The affidavit is one single page; and you have charged me one hour and half?”

Maria did not let Mr. Skeptic continue.

“It is not one single page,” she said hastily, “It’s not short. All this work has been done for that. It is a legal procedure and I am aware of it.”

She showed the bundle of paper and spoke in the air of an experienced lawyer.

Mr. Skeptic was so impressed by the show that he never critically looked at the papers. Indeed, he never thought some of those papers might not have been related to their case and Maria had shown to impress them only. The sheer result was that he never raised the question again and the sequence of his argument was put in disarray.

“For changing number 8 to number 13 in a date you charge me five minutes and you name it revising the letter?” Mr. Skeptic changed the course of the debate, “Is that not true?”

“It takes perhaps more than five minutes to locate a letter in a file and change that date to another,” she said.

“Once you charged me for the first date you had put,” Mr. Skeptic gathered momentum, “Then, you say you spent five minutes to find the letter in the file. But, you have not printed that letter yet and it is still in the memory of your computer and changing that date takes five clicks: two to erase the previous date two to enter the new number and the last one to save it. And still you have charged me for that already. How many times do I have to pay for one service?”

“I was not there,” she responded, “I don’t know.”

“Just a few minutes ago you said you knew everything. My wife heard it too.” Mr. Skeptic retorted, “What happened to your knowledge? I fired you for your lack of progress and repeated billing. The fact was that everything was gone and you were trying to convince us that you were going to work miracles. You were absolutely waist of time and money. Above all, you ruined my trust in you and all your colleagues.”

“There was work to be done,” Maria said, more calmly “We needed documents to support our claims.”

“And when you received those documents you did not show me what you have received,” Mr. Skeptic retorted, “All of those were at my cost. So, I was only to pay you and watch you spending my money and that was the end of the story.”

“We showed a copy of the documents we received,” she replied, “We can not send you every single document we receive. I do not send all documents to my clients. It cost you too much money.”

“You are trying to cover up again,” Mr. Skeptic said, “Your lawyer writes to me that he had received a letter and then he does not send it to me only and only because he wants to put more pressure on me.”

“He did send you the letter,” she returned abruptly without knowing what she was exactly talking about.

“He did not send it,” Mr. Skeptic replied, “And I know you know he did not; and you are lying right in my face.”

“I know he sent that letter to you,” she said more calmly.

“His own letter says he did not send that letter,” he replied, “He attributed the request for a letter to me that I never had asked for. I wrote to him that I had not asked for the letter whose writing he had attributed to me. Then, instead of sending me the letter that he had received from the other party’s lawyer, he re-printed the same letter and mailed it to me. Is there something called honesty among you folks?”

“Yes, I have your letter,” she said and showed him the letter he had written to Mr. Douglass months before.

“Where is the letter the other party’s lawyer has written?” he asked.

“There perhaps was not such a letter,” Maria said.

“You say perhaps there was not such a letter,” he replied, “But he writes he had received such a letter.”

“No,” she said.

“Allaho Akbar,” he said, “Look. It is right here. Please, read it.”

Maria looked at the writing.

“Well, I was not there. I don’t know very much about that,” she said.

“Why are you defending something that you are not aware of?” Mr. Skeptic said accusingly.

Maria ignored his last statement.

“How much are you going to pay?” Maria asked.

“Nothing,” Nelly answered.

“Don’t say this file worth nothing,” Maria said.

“I am not arguing about the value of your work that has no value,” Mr. Skeptic returned, “Not only I am paying for the work that you say you have done for me but also I have to pay for the arithmetic lessons that Douglass did not learn in grade five.”

“I said you have paid several hundred dollars and I have the receipts for those payments,” Maria hastily responded as she was hurt by Mr. Skeptic’s hurting words.

“Let’s not go too far,” Mr. Skeptic said, “Look at the rate for the student at law right here,” Mr. Skeptic pointed to the summation on the paper, “Since the invention of arithmetic no one had come to such a summation as your lawyer has. Just add these figures up. Please, add them up.”

Maria looked at Mr. Skeptic’s reddened and distorted face with awe. Then, she looked at the paper and drew a calculator out of her pocket, entering some figures on the keyboard a few times.

“I really apologize,” she said in a loud voice, “I will take this off the bill right away,” she went on, “This is a mistake.”

“That is not the whole truth,” Mr. Skeptic went on, “He put this amount here only to punish us because we fired him.”





Maria did not expect such a problem to occur.

“I’ll be right back,” she said as she stood up and took a few steps toward the door in order to go to the public phone to call her firm about the mistake, but she returned and put her coat on the table.

“Would you watch my coat?” she asked.

Mr. Skeptic was very wary of Maria’s brisk move. How could he trust the person who had played many roles in a very short span of time? For a second it appeared to him Mr. Douglass was standing there attributing lies to him in front of his face. He assumed Maria was building a case against him by that request.

“No, no, no,” he hastily replied, “Take your coat with yourself.”

Without taking him seriously, Maria took a step aback towards the entrance. But as she saw Mr. Skeptic taking Nelly’s hand in hand to walk out of the room, she understood that he was very serious. So, she went back and took her coat with herself with a loud “notch”.

“Since when I began trusting them again?” Mr. Skeptic growled.

It took Maria a few minutes to return to the room. Meanwhile Nelly and Mr. Skeptic were still sitting in the same place.

“I contacted the firm and they said they would take that amount off the bill,” Maria said upon her return, “By the way, this bill was sent to you by our finance department and not by Mr. Douglass.”

“As I see you receive false revelations all the times,” Mr. Skeptic responded in a tone of mockery.

Maria looked at him filled with surprise at his crude outspokenness.

“I did not know that in your firm people forge one another’s signatures and letters,” he continued, “Here is Mr. Douglass’ signature and you are telling me the accounting department has sent me this god-damned bill?” he articulated the last words.

“Perhaps, they prepared it and he signed it,” she answered.

“Now it is perhaps, maybe, probably, occasionally, and let’s go on and on,” Mr. Skeptic continued, “The result is the same. In short, you are telling me that you know nothing and you are here to defend something that cannot be defended. And your job is to distort the facts to suit your ends. You receive letters at my cost and you hide them from me at my cost again. When I ask you about it, you purposely send me a wrong letter in order to confuse the matter; you show me another wrong response. When I catch your tricks, you conceal the letter under the pretext that I owed you money. And now you are supporting a lie and a false statement. Mr. Douglass and your firm are saints and Mr. Skeptic is the valiant. Right?”

“I am sorry,” Maria said in return, “I was not there.”

“Don’t forget I have been working with similar matters for about half of your age,” Mr. Skeptic continued, “And it is true that I cut vegetables and make salads with a pay close to minimum wage to make a living. The games that you are playing are dirty and demeaning and I am very well familiar with them all.”

As they were still arguing, the assessment officer walked out of his office and told them they were too loud. Both of them apologized. The officer told them if they wanted to continue the quarrel, they had to leave the room. They did not leave the room; and lowered their voice instead. Maria was trying to convince Mr. Skeptic it was to their benefit that Mr. Douglass had not sent the documents he had received or had gathered.

“Do you know how much it would’ve cost you if he sent you all those documents?” she suggested, “I do not send all documents I receive to my clients. It adds up to their bill.”

“So, you mean you leave your clients in dark because they trust you? “Why did he send these documents to me then?” he showed his papers, “At whose discretion he sends these documents to me? Do you release documents selectively?”

He showed his pile of documents.

“I do not keep my clients in dark,” Maria returned promptly, ”I just do not want to load them with more charges.”

“And you want me to believe you?” Mr. Skeptic asked, “You say you selectively release documents. Is this based upon your interests or your clients’ interests? Definitely you always put yourself first.”

“This is the fact,” she said.

“It’s a very distorted fact,” Mr. Skeptic added, “A tough sell, Young Lady. I asked him over the phone to send me the letter that he had received from the other party’s lawyer. He changed my words and attributed to me that I had asked for the letter he had drafted at my request. He did not stop distorting my words until I wrote to him. None of the letters he sent me I had requested. Right now you showed my letter that I had requested that lawyer’s letter.”

“Mr. Douglass has left a memo on the file that you had objected to his phone calls,” she said accusingly, changing the course of the conversation.

“He can claim anything false and write them down to justify his ineptitude,” Mr. Skeptic went on, “My call was about a matter that Nelly had just discussed with him and I wanted to reaffirm if my wife had heard it correctly. At the end I asked him if he was charging me for that confirmation and he said that was the way he was charging his clients and I asked him to send me the bill in order I fully understood the way he was charging us. I got my first bill in this way.”

“I am sorry.” Maria said, “I wasn’t there.”

Then she continued: “He writes Mr. Skeptic angrily hung up the phone. Then, he called me back and spoke about the purchase of the sewing machines.”

“Wait!” Mr. Skeptic exclaimed.

“There is a problem right there,” he interjected, “If I were angry about his phone call, why the hell do I call him right back? Then, he bills me for leaving message on my answering machine. His colleague calls us five times to make one hour of charge. I did not object to any of his legitimate calls. Your bill shows how much you have charged me for telephone conversations. These are just excuses for your failure. Any way, I am not going to pay you anything.”

“So, we are going to meet the assessment officer,” Maria said.

“As you please,” Mr. Skeptic said while he felt uneasy about the outcome of a meeting of which he had no notion.


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