Cornered, on the ropes, he counter-punches …
It was the opposing attorney’s turn to question me. I had been prepped by our attorney, run through mock interrogation sessions, and told what to expect. Yes, I knew the “other side” had to entrap and confuse me, shake what little confidence I had, make me look stupid.
(Most the time that last bit is all too easy, any time, anywhere.)
I was a witness for the prosecution. I was THE witness, come to think about it. My employer, a regulatory agency overseeing energy development and production, had taken the last step to get a company to comply by the rules. Go before the judge. I had drafted the violation documents and inadvertently left some things out.
“When did you decide your initial violation notices were pre-mature?” she asked. The attorney for the defendant was a rather attractive young woman of Japanese ancestry. I tried not to get too distracted. This wasn’t easy, complicated by our attorney, also young — who could have played the part of an Elven woman in the Lord of the Rings movies — tall, blond hair, green eyes.
“Early in August, I think.” I wasn’t sure. There were other distractions. I couldn’t remember exactly what I did when. Besides, I had other work to do. One job was like the proverbial herding of cats — getting a reclamation project ready to begin the actual field-work. Usually the field-work is easier than the before- and after-paperwork. Not this time. So I attended to this legal matter sporadically.
She announced to the court and to me that she was bringing out Exhibit “G”.
“Do you recall this correspondence?” I squinted at the print-out of an email clearly dated July 29. I had sent this to others I worked with, stating that it had come to my attention that the previously-issued violation notices could have waited a few days. I didn’t like where this was heading. I admitted that I was the author of that correspondence, and the date was correct.
“If you weren’t sure … ” she began. The following statement and the next three or so continued along the thread of my uncertainty, allusions to my inability to rationally determine anything …
She swept the room with the gaze of being in control. During my pre-courtroom briefings, I was coached in the various aspects of behavior in the witness chair. It was recommended that I focus primarily on our attorney, but periodically give a quick glance across all the Commissioners, stopping at the Commission Chairman for a not-too-brief visual fix.
This wasn’t what you would call a ‘regular’ court-room. In the state in which I reside, the Commission governing matters involving oil-and-gas development is not only the regulatory agency, it is also the body before which arbitration involving legal matters pertaining to oil/gas matters is decided. So during the initial phase of my testimony and examination, I glanced periodically not only at the Chairman, but tried to gaze with a modicum of self-confidence at the other Commissioners. That was up until a few minutes ago.
I did not look at anyone during my downward spiral …
My recollection of this experience is, as it probably is for most endeavors of my life, spotty. Sometimes I think I recall significant events with a fair degree of clarity. This isn’t always the case.
‘My time in the witness chair’ I remember in three phases. The first part was when Chalori, the state’s assistant Attorney General, asked me the questions. The second and third parts were while being questioned by Eydie, attorney for the defense. At first this was straight-forward and on the level. “What college degree(s) do you have?”
“Bachelor of Physics, from Colorado State University.” (This is an ever-so-slight exaggeration. Actually, my degree was in ‘watered-down physics’ — Physical Science, physics concentration.)
“Do you have any professional certifications?”
Again I answered quickly and with authority: “Certificate of Engineering Fundamentals, issued by the state of Colorado.” (Sounds somewhat impressive, doesn’t it? This too is ‘watered-down’ — a not-quite-real Professional Engineering registration.)
Level and straight-forward, until my recollection of dates was called into question. The cross-examination continued with the feeling of falling, spiraling into possible total collapse. Then
The possibility of spirit mediumship intervenes …
Yes, there was a dizzying sensation of me being swept up (or down) in the spiral of impending doom. Then, I don’t know what happened.
Sometimes I consider that the state of “spirit mediumship” might be validated. Heck, all too often I’ve experienced the sensation that my rational and reasoning self was inexplicably absent, and some sub-human id-centered being from some dimension beyond what we ordinarily perceive has taken over my body. Wouldn’t it be convenient for me to argue that it wasn’t me who drunkenly did this or that? Utters statements which are beyond stupid? Fell off the bicycle and scraped myself massively trying some impossible trick? No, it wasn’t ME, your honor, who did that.
On rare occasions the spirit which takes over is smarter than I ordinarily am. I don’t remember exactly what was asked, only that I straightened up, looked her in the eye, and gave an answer which caught her off-guard. It was like I had smacked her on the jaw. She recovered, asked another question and my answer was like another punch, this time knocking her off-balance. She looked around the room, briefly, appearing a little confused. She asked two or three questions more while I allowed whatever extra-dimensional entity to continue to exert its influence upon and through me. She announced to the Commission that she was done with this witness.
Like I said: I don’t know WHAT came over me, but the timing was optimal. Just prior to that I was mulling over my future with the Commission. Should I resign now or wait to get fired? As I walked back to an empty chair in the court room I passed one of the Department Managers. I muttered “should I quit now before I’m laid off?”
“Nah … I think we’ll keep you on a little longer,” he answered. The defendant side brought out their witnesses, after which each side presented its closing arguments. The Commission deliberated, and even though there was some sympathy for the recalcitrant oil-and-gas operator, the decision to administer a fine for non-compliance was relatively quick and unanimous. A few other Managers congratulated me, including the Deputy Director, who commented that he especially liked the part where I made the other attorney “look angry.” My own Department Manager took me across the street where he bought each of us a Philly Cheese-steak sub for take-out.
On our way back to the Commission offices we passed the ‘other side’ standing outside the building. The President of the company walked toward us, shook my hand. (We had had a few phone conversations during the attempts to resolve issues before having to “go to court.” Usually these talks were benign and friendly. )
Eydie glared at me, eyes narrowed, face grim.
The look was one in which I interpreted she wanted to get me alone, somewhere, so she could torture me.