At around ten o’clock in the morning a big woman, in her late fifties with her black veins jutted under her khaki stockings, reached the door and turned a key in the lock. The door opened and the waiting people walked in. Mr. Skeptic and Nelly followed the crowd into the room as he thought the room was too small for that many people. The sight of the people who were placidly taking some seats was prompting the thought that they might be working for the court. They might have been lawyers and judges.
The room was eventually jammed with people. Nelly found an armchair to sit in and the young woman took a seat facing her. Mr. Skeptic stood behind Nelly, keen to learn about the procedure.
A few pieces of paper were on a desk. People were looking at them; marking the number beside their names. Mr. Skeptic followed suit. He walked to the papers; pointed at Nelly’s name and the big woman circled the number in front of the name. It was number nine.
Time was quickly passing ten o’clock. Thus far, half an hour had passed their appointment. Nothing was moving. It appeared everyone was awaiting someone to arrive. Perhaps, the judge had to be there to begin the procedure. Beside Mr. Skeptic stood a desk with the only vacant seat behind it. This might have been judge’s seat. He thought the next person who would walk in would be the judge.
The next person who arrived, shortly after that, proved Mr. Skeptic wrong. With a briefcase in hand, an old man with eye glasses with short hair dyed blond somewhat taller than him walked among the people and went straight towards him. He did not sit in the chair behind the desk. Instead, he stood beside him, leaning against the wall.
In a minute, Mr. Skeptic felt the man’s heavy breathing. His heart was beating so wildly that he could hear the man’s heartbeats. Now, Mr. Skeptic understood he was not the only fear-stricken person in that room. He looked at Nelly. She showed him a faint smile. She was rather pale. At least, he felt she was. She had gone through too many problems after all.
“This room is too small for these many people,” the old man’s word brought Mr. Skeptic back to himself, “They definitely need a bigger room. Way bigger than this. It’s getting worse every day.”
Mr. skeptic nodded.
“You must have a problem with a lawyer,” the man went on.
Mr. Skeptic nodded again.
“I had heard stories about them,” the man went on, “I did not believe them until I faced this one: a really bad one. There are many people with these kind of problems nowadays,” he went on as he was calming down and Mr. Skeptic could not hear his heavy breathing and heartbeats any more.
“They throw at you anything they like,” Mr. Skeptic added. “You need a lawyer to fight them. And another one to fight both of them and it goes on. Almost all of them have math problem.”
“Right,” the man added.
“An old man used to come to the restaurant where I work,” Mr. Skeptic went on, “Without exception, he used to argue with all servers over his bill. One night I heard him saying he was a lawyer and he would not sign anything unless he understood it first. Tired of the argument, my manager sent me to look into the problem. I went to him and asked what I could do. He said he was telling the server to add fifteen percent of the bill amount for tip onto his credit card. She had added the two federal and provincial tax amounts and had come to the fifteen percent without explaining what she had done. Then, I explained his bill to him from top to bottom. He was convinced that I was not hiding anything. Then for the tip I calculated the fifteen percent and wrote on his credit card slip. I showed him the finished work with explanation of what I had done and he signed the slip with no argument. I gave him his slip and kept mine.
Since then every time the old man walked in with his cane every one told me my lawyer friend had arrived and it had become my routine to do the same thing and give the same explanations every time.
One of those nights the man told me he had arithmetic problem since his childhood. He said all his many brothers had entered engineering fields and since he was weak in arithmetic he had entered law.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t owe you that much.” The voice of a woman in modest clothes cut the conversation short. She was retorting to a bearded lawyer who was telling her to pay him the amount she owed.
Ten minutes had passed ten o’clock when a tall man with a gray hair arrived through the back door. The heavy woman asked everyone to stand up. Everyone followed the order. Nelly stood up reluctantly and a lull befell the crowd. No doubt this was the judge.
The bearded lawyer was the first person to present his case. He stood up and addressed the judge by “Mr.”, asking his permission to go to mediation with his client before the trial. The permission was granted. The bearded man walked out with the woman who had yelled at him. Then, next one asked the same permission, and next one, and next one.
Nelly and Mr. Skeptic were still waiting patiently: one was still standing and the other one still sitting. Douglass was not there. Mr. Skeptic was left with no doubt that the young woman was working in Douglass’ behalf. Shortly, he observed her walking to the desk asking for number nine. She wanted to meet them first while Mr. Skeptic was thinking about losing a day of work and his wages that were so crucial for him those days. He asked the judge if the mediation failed, there would be a trial the same day. The answer was “no you have to come another day”.
“So another day of work loss,” Mr. Skeptic thought.
Nelly and Mr. Skeptic followed the girl to the mediation room few paces afar from the first room. A few pairs of people were sitting in chairs. Nelly sat in a chair and the young woman took the one adjacent to hers. She lowered her head,
“By the way my name is Maria,” she said and stretched her hand toward Nelly. “Excuse me for my voice. I am catching a cold.”
Maria kept talking in an agitated tone while trying to avoid being heard by people around. Then, she stretched her hand toward Mr. Skeptic. He shook the tip of her fingers uninterestedly.