Monday, August 21, 2006

Hamster in a Cage

Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'...
-- Journey

My parents own their own business back home. They're up before the ass-crack of dawn every single morning preparing for the day. The space they share isn't private (they have a vendor area in a large enclosed market space); they're usually the first to show up at their spot.

There's some food prep involved, so they need to be sure there's a sufficient supply to last the day well before the doors open to the public. Of course, this also means that the place needs to be cleaned, and cleaned well, at the close of business.

Officially, the market housing my parents' stall is open to the public from 6:00 a.m. to (I think) 4:00 p.m. I say "I think" because everyone in there knows that traffic dies down by 2:30 -- even on weekends -- so most people pack it in much earlier.

Instead of planning ahead and cleaning up earlier, my parents leave the cleaning to the last minute, insisting on keeping their store open for as late as possible. Despite the fact that they complain that traffic is so slow, and it's boring when no customers are around, and they really just ought to pack it in for the day already, invariably they'll just sit around (after everyone else is gone) to finally start the process of packing it in.

Cleaning is a long and arduous task for my parents. It involves hosing down the floor grates and sometimes even the area in front of the vendor area. It involves washing the kitchenware that was used to prep the food. It involves taking out the trash, tidying up the counter, tallying up the till for the day, and doing light adjusting for the next day.

Every time I go back to visit my parents, I invariably have to spend some time with them at this store. And I hate it.

The part that irks me most is when they tell me to pick them up. Usually, they'll tell me to swing by at 3:00. Yet when I do, they're never done with what they have to do. "Oh, just another fifteen minutes," they'll tell me.

But it's never "just" another fifteen minutes. My mother, having hosed down the floor, will stop, move a few items around on the counter... then re-commence the act of hosing down the floor. "Uh, didn't you just finish doing that?" I'll say. My mother will wordlessly nod her head at me in way that conveys the thought: "Yes, I know I just did it, but I'm doing it again. Trust me, I know what I'm doing."

This will suck up an additional half an hour of my time.

Not that I think the place should be left filthy, but when I'm expecting to leave and they're diddling around with what look like pointless additional tasks, my patience wears thin.


I'm working on a document for and with my boss. It's a trial brief; we're supposed to outline all the issues which may come up in trial and advise the judge how we want things done. (The judge will review this and decide whether we get what we ask for.) My boss and I both know that 9 times out of 10, the stuff we ask for will either be denied, or substantially tinkered with at the pre-trial conference.

This doesn't stop my boss from offering up perfectionism at its finest -- thereby driving me absoltely batshit.

"We need to provide a jury instruction for this proposition," he tells me, indicating Count IV of our Complaint. I draw one up for him, but of course, it takes six drafts before he's satisfied with it. Never mind that the judge will have something to say about it too, meaning what I've just finished will not be what the jury hears. And never mind that the instruction that I wrote may be perceived as too biased in favor of my client (duh!) and it will likely be changed accordingly. No, we must submit something that would only be used in a utopian world.

Similarly, I work up a proposed verdict form. In most cases, it's not too difficult: "Do you find for Plaintiff or Defendant?" followed by "If Plaintiff, how much do you award?" It's never that easy with my boss. We go into backs and forths about how much needs to be in there, what the jury needs to find, how the words need to be tweaked, how the words need to be consistent. Again, I am 98% certain that the form we submit will not survive unscathed before it reaches a jury. If we're lucky, it'll serve as a starting point for the butchering process that the judge will undertake. And if opposing counsel has anything to say about it, still more butchering will take place.

Yes, it's good and fine to have a decent product at the get-go... but oftentimes I feel like I'm spinning my wheels in the ultimate search for a wholly unattainable goal. The day that I walk into a pretrial conference and have the judge accept without question every single word I've committed to paper is the day I sprout wings and fly off into the horizon.


Ever notice how the Flintstones characters always hover for just a moment before they dash off at high speed? They're in the air, legs working away, but they're not moving. Sometimes they even have the time to get in several parts of a conversation before they achieve critical velocity and take off.

Sometimes I feel like I'm perpetually in that early startup stage. Are we going anywhere yet? No, let's keep talking while you hover there and work your legs.


Washington Cube said...

Better that you be George Jetson with a jet pack on your back. Elevate and WHOOSH.

Steve said...

Love the Flinstones' analogy. Hey! We were thinking about you last week when we drove through DC, too! How in the hell do you deal with all the asshole drivers there?!?

purpletwinkie said...

Ok. My comments are not usually "heavy", but here goes anyway...

I understand frustration, with family. Believe me, I do. But, I would give anything to see my Dad again (who died suddenly and unexpected seven years ago), even if it was just to see him at work.

Dennis! said...

Cube: I never was a fan of the Jetsons, but how cool would that be? Even metaphorically, to be able to just "elevate and WHOOSH" would be excellent.

Steve: I don't drive. Not to say pedestrians don't encounter asshole drivers too. I can't believe you didn't call me to see about a drink or something!

Twinkie: I know... greener grass, etc. I've now taken to making sure I only see my parents on neutral turf, i.e., we meet up in LA. :)