Friday, February 5, 2010

On Tour

“Miss” Margaret, the Judge’s mother-in-law loved to play host to visitors to our town. She would provide an extensive tour of everything from our city gardens, to different homes in the area, the historical society, her favorite restaurant, and, last, but not least, our chambers. And, as far as our part was concerned she had the tour down pat. In the reception area was a life size portrait of the Judge. "Miss" Margaret would hit the buzzer at the front door, when I saw it was her, I would open the door from my desk.

She would lead her guests into the reception area, with her left hand she would waive and smile my way and her right hand would make this grand gesture toward the portrait. “This is the Robert Bruce Williams’ portrait of the Judge. She had this . . .” And the tour had started. I knew from experience that I had about seven and a half minutes before she would bring her guests around the corner to introduce me as Stop Number 2 on the tour. To hear her tour, our jobs were much more interesting and dramatic than anything I had experienced within chambers. In fact, they were very similar to TV legal shows that she loved to watch.

Now, you never knew who her “tourist” might be. They could be family friends in town for a quick visit. Or, one of her dear friends that she promised her special tour. Anytime the local Rotary Club had guests, they always scheduled a day with “Miss” Margaret. And, she loved it. She was proud of her town and adored being with people. But the most memorable guests she brought by one afternoon were a group of Russian judges.

Now there were several things interesting about this group. First, she failed to give us any advanced warning and secondly, none of them spoke English. They did have a translator, but he was out of his league trying to keep up with “Miss” Margaret, even with her Southern drawl. So in they came. “Miss” Margaret waived to me and then started her comments about the portrait. At this point, I was unaware of the language challenge.

Somewhere during the tour, one of the judges needed to use our ladies room. "Miss" Margaret showed her where it was. Unfortunately, she failed to tell her not to lock the door. The door to this bathroom was notorious for locking someone in and the design did not use a key, so unless the captive could carefully finesse the finicky lock, short of knocking the door down, there was no way to free the prisoner. Naturally, our soviet visitor managed to lock herself in the loo.

Now you have to picture a locked door with someone (me) trying to explain, through an interpreter, in Russian, the precise way to finesse this lock, surrounded by a dozen other Russian judges confused over what difficulties their comrade was experiencing. After several tense minutes of directions there was success and freedom. After that, all I could imagine was "Miss" Margaret adding another stop on her tour - the bathroom where an interpreter was required to assist in freeing the Russian judge - of course her version would be much more thrilling - full of international intrigue.

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