Just Another Day

Every Day She Takes A Morning Bath To Wet Her Hair,

Wraps A Towel ’round Her

As She’s Heading For The Bedroom Chair,

It’s Just Another Day.

— Paul McCartney, Just Another Day

Precious? Not always.

When I awoke on March 29, 2011, I knew this would not be just another day.  Big events were on the calendar.  I tried to prepare for these.  However, unplanned happenings played a big part in this day.

In a sincere effort to avoid providing you with a repetitive and cumulative account of how difficult mornings with Island Boy can be, let’s just say that our Caribbean Prince took me back to the bad, old days when he would try to convince me who was really in charge.  When we arrived at preschool, I unceremoniously handed IB off to his very sweet teacher with words to the effect of, “Well, he’s yours now.  Good luck.”

Nice, huh?

The ride to work was thankfully uneventful.  I had planned on getting there well in advance of my 10 a.m. appointment in order to take the time to carefully prepare for this client meeting which involved perusing a large volume of materials to bring me up to speed.

When I got to the office, I could tell that things were not as they should be.  My assistant informed me that she was leaving the job.  She has been with me for just a few months.  She is a really nice person.  But, over time it has become apparent that she was not the best fit for the job.  Her announcement was not entirely unexpected.  It just happened to come at the worst possible moment.

For, as she was informing me, the clients showed up 30 minutes early.  Really?

For some reason, my clients tend to do this.  They’ll appear for a 9:15 appointment at 8:30 with the excuse that they didn’t realize how long it would take to get to my downtown office.  In truth, many people fear the mean streets of Buffalo where the sidewalks roll up at 5:05 p.m.

They also tend to have an unbelievable amount of anxiety over parking.  The real situation is that Buffalo has become a city of parking lots.  In the spaces where (sometimes historic) buildings have been pulled down, there are lots of lots.  Yet, people stress.

They often take their chances by parking on the streets.  That’s when they discover how mean the streets of Buffalo are.  Mind you, no ones going to break into their cars.  But the City of Buffalo’s roving packs of parking Nazis will sweep in to ticket you one second after your meter expires.

Anyhow, I think that clients who show up early believe that they are doing me a favor.  They also feel somewhat virtuous for coming in well ahead of the appointed time.  Ah yes, the pre-punctual: No matter how badly I effed up requiring me to see this defense lawyer, I’ve turned a new page in my life now.

Moment of truthiness, folks.  Showing up 30 minutes or more early is just as uncourteous as dropping by 30 minutes late.  Think of arriving 30 minutes early at a friend’s house for dinner — it’s an imposition to expect someone to entertain you while they’re straightening up and attending to the last minute details of the meal.

One last point: would a doctor ever see a patient before the appointed time? Alright, this horse is officially dead.

Usually, I will warehouse the pre-punctual in a spare office or conference room until the time of the appointment.  If I’m feeling a little spiteful, I won’t come in until five minutes after that time.  But, this time I broke with my usual custom and sent the client and his wife out onto the mean streets to find a cup of coffee.

My assistant was emotional.  We needed to talk.  Although it was clear that the situation was not going to be repaired, I owed her the courtesy of hearing her out fully.  We then worked out an arrangement where she will remain with me while she job hunts.  I’ll do my interviewing as well.  I will even provide her a reference.  In the end, I hope we will part on friendly terms.

I then took about 10 minutes to prepare.  I had allotted about 40 ticks in my head.  But, it turns out that the task did not take as long as anticipated.

The clients arrived back no worse for wear.  We went into the conference room.

Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you a cautionary tale.  Be careful what you post on Facebook, Twitter and in blogs such as this.  It may come back to bite you.  I cannot and will not get into the details of my clients’ predicament.  But, I will state that postings on Facebook intended only for “friends” led to a lawsuit based upon defamation.

Experience has taught me to listen to Dad's advice. If only my children subscribed to this view.

My father’s maxim was: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  Dorothy Parker’s famous twist on this old saw was: If you can’t say anything nice, come sit by me.

I tell my kids to post only positive messages on line.  They don’t always listen to me.

Ah, the tangled webs we weave.  My clients are anguished.  Well, what can I say?  To paraphrase Bush 43, this is how I put food on my family.

Around noon-ish, I gobbled down a turkey sandwich I had constructed in haste at home that morning.  I made three phone calls while consuming it.

I then rushed off to my biggest meet of the day.

I was told there would be four people there.  There were about 30.

R. Gil Kerlikowske is the Director of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy.  That’s a mouthful.  Most people refer to him as President Obama’s “Drug Czar.”  He came up from Washington and met with the members of the Veteran Mentor group to Buffalo’s Veteran Treatment Court.  It was a great come-together.

Although Director Kerlikowske is not officially a Cabinet-level officer in the White House, he advises the President on the nation’s drug policy.  As one of the directors of the mentor program, I informed him about our mission and how our program works.  Mr. Kerlikowske was particularly interested in talking with some of our mentors who had actually “graduated” from the program (in other words, they were formerly criminal defendants in Vets Court) and were now counseling other vets in trouble.

The Major & The Czar

In April 2010, the mentors had a similar experience when V.A. Secretary, Eric Shinseki paid us a visit.  I had worked under General Shinseki nearly 20 years earlier when I was a young officer at Fort Hood, Texas.  I was flattered that the Secretary remembered me.  As V.A. Secretary, General Shinseki is a cabinet-level officer, and is officially in line of succession to the president.

The General & The Major

The rest of the day was a total blur.  Somewhere along the way, I managed to set up two interviews of candidates for the legal assistant job for the next day.

U.N. days.

All day I had been experiencing a vague sense of dread regarding my evening’s agenda.  I have been a paid public speaker since I was a sophomore in college when I worked as a tour guide.  I was a Public Information Assistant at the U.N. I have been a trial lawyer for nearly 19 years.  I am used to talking to all types of assemblies (including members of the highest echelons of government).

So why was I so jittery about addressing my children’s school board regarding their contingency plan to go to half-day kindergarten next year?

The truth is: I hate lawyering for myself.  It tears me up inside.  I can remove myself emotionally from the situation when arguing on someone else’s behalf.  But, for me and mine — I’m a wreck.  Even when my beloved dog, Diego, was facing charges in town court for biting a neighbor (not a very good neighbor.  But, still a neighbor), I couldn’t do it.  A lawyer buddy had to come in to court for me to plead my case to the town judge (not a very good judge.  But, still a judge).

As I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the I-190 on my way home, I thought: Great.  Now I’ll be so late that I won’t have to do this.

Besides, I thought.  There will be many people there advocating for the continuance of full-day kindergarten for their future students.  I’ll just be another voice in the crowd.

As readers of this post know, no one else has our story.  And, as they say in The Big Apple, The poignant shit makes the headlines.

The Buffalo News reporter that I had called earlier in the day was there when Running Girl and I arrived.  My hand was nearly shaking as I signed in as a speaker at the meeting.  The high school auditorium filled up with people.  To our delight, all of the neighbors whom we had contacted came to the meeting to support us.

There were advocates speaking out against the cuts to cheerleaders, hockey, and to Spectrum programs; against reductions to teachers and against increases to class sizes.  No one else was there to address the measure to reduce kindergarten to a half day.

When my turn came, I said:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am The Major.  This is Running Girl.  We have a high school student, a middle schooler and a four-year old.  We are here to request that you keep kindergarten as a full-day program.  In 2008, my family embarked on a journey to adopt a child from Haiti.  The process was long and difficult.  In January 2010, my wife went to visit my son in Port au Prince and was there with him during the massive earthquake that struck that country.  We then worked night and day to bring both of them home.  Many of you are familiar with our story by seeing it on TV or by reading about it in The Buffalo News.  Since that time, we have had to overcome enormous cultural difficulties.  Our son came from a village with no running water or electricity.  Our main focus has been preparing our child for kindergarten in September 2011.  We have worked tirelessly to that end.  Our son now knows his colors, his numbers and his letters.  He is ready to begin his educational career.  While I realize that we are facing enormous budget cuts, I feel compelled to remind you that our son and his future classmates did nothing to create the giant economic forces necessitating these changes.  Yet, these cuts will directly and negatively impact our son and his classmates — the youngest and most vulnerable members of society.  We are here to ask you to keep kindergarten a full-day program.  We have done our part preparing this newest American for his future.  Now, we are turning to you to do your part.

The custom at these meeting is people stand in support with speakers with whom they agree.  Spectators usually do this in clumps of people.  During my short speech, I became aware that everyone in the hall was standing.

Had I stayed home sitting on my butt, watching TV, drinking a beer, no one would have addressed the kindergarten issue.

It was just another day.

— The Major


6 responses to this post.

  1. So the White House Drug Czar did something inappropriate on Face Book with a kindergarten class?

    I gotta read that again.


  2. Posted by Anna on March 30, 2011 at 6:45 am

    Buffalo (and Rochester) wouldn’t have so many empty parking lots if it weren’t so expensive to park downtown. Sure, I remember how expensive parking is in Manhattan. But seriously upstate, you’re not the big city. $6-$7 no matter how long you are there? I can park at UB and take the metro for a whole lot less.


  3. Posted by Tara on March 30, 2011 at 7:43 am

    LONG LIVE DIEGO !!!! (or the happy memories at the very least)


  4. Sometimes you get the dog, and sometimes the dog gets you. You turned an otherwise stressful day into a personal success at the school board meeting. I’ll bet you slept good last night.


  5. Posted by Eden on April 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Well done, all the way around!


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