It's all in the technique...

Normally I hate watching courtroom movies and television shows. The reason is they are usually just so incredibly wrong. However, every once in a while, I resign myself to watching one that I think will be different and sometimes I'm actually surprised because there's not only moments of truth, but lessons actually worth knowing. For example, in trial practice in law school, you learn not to ask too many questions on cross-examination. The reason is that if you ask too many questions some witnesses will jam the answer down your throat and, to quote a courtroom movie, "take your beautiful cross-examination and make it seem like a bunch of fancy lawyer tricks."

The perfect example of this phenomenon (no pun intended) is in the movie "A Civil Action" with John Travolta. If you haven't seen the movie, it's about an attorney who takes on a very difficult toxic tort case and brings his firm and himself to financial ruin in pursuit of a corporate giant. However, the part that I'm referring to is when one of Travolta's opposing attorneys is teaching a trial practice class that the director intersplices with portions of the trial involving Travolta's character. The opposing attorney says to his class, "Never, ever ask a witness on cross-examination..." The scene cuts back to Travolta in the courtroom who asks, "Why?" The witness then proceeds to answer "Why?" in a way that would make an attorney search for an objection, any objection, to shut the witness up and, when that fails, do everything he or she can to pick up the pieces of what used to be an effective cross-examination from the floor and try to turn them into something that could be useful in a closing argument. Basically, the witness jammed the open-ended, opinion-based question up the attorney's ass.

The reason I reference this is that even though I don't talk about work (which, from the past example, you can likely guess the profession I'm in), sometimes I learn things professionally that have a profound impact on other areas of my life. One of those things is, don't ask too many questions.

There was this girl I met through one of my friends a while back. She's very attractive and quite intelligent (and for those of you looking for an answer to the next question, no). A while back I expressed my interest and invited her for dinner. We made plans, but whether intentionally or not, our wires got crossed and I ended up at the restaurant alone. I ended up going out with a friend later in the evening, so it wasn't a total loss. Nevertheless, we talked about it later, apologies were said and all was well. We talked on a few occasions afterwards, but recently we were both busy because, among other reasons, she and I both work ungodly hours.

A few days back, I received an update email from her...what's going on in her life, etc. So, we were corresponding by email for a few days. Today, in a "how's life with me" email, she indicated she had a hellish date with someone related to her job. In the sarcastic fashion that you folks have come to know so well, I responded, "if I were feeling catty, I would say, as I recall, you had an opportunity to go out with a very nice boy, but stood him up. But I'm not feeling catty today, so I won't say that ;)." To ensure that my off-kilter, but humorously intended statement was not taken too seriously, I qualified it with the following: "You better take that with the humor it was intended."

Yeah, I know, this was one of those situations where I did the correspondence equivalent of asking one too many questions. You can tell, even by what I'm saying already that she's going to take that sentence and jam it up my ass. I think I knew that when I wrote it...I guess sometimes I'm just a glutton for punishment.

What was the response you ask? "Well, I think I have made it pretty clear that I have not been interested, romantically in any other boy prior to the one I am currently seeing."

Wow. I mean, wow!

Let me make clear, I am not writing about this because I had something I said jammed up my ass. I mean, jeez, if I wrote about that on every occasion it happened, you folks would be bored out of your mind. No, no. I write about this one for an entirely different reason.

I'm impressed. I mean seriously impressed.

You have to admire the elegance of this one: Stern, but not ego crushing. Clear, but not aggressive. Ladies, if you're reading, take notes on this one. This is exactly how to do it. The I-won't-call/email/yell at-him-back-unless-I-need-something...not cool. The I'm-waxing-my-legs/car/back...that sucks too. The I-like-you-but-in-a-friend-way...like a visit to a urologist with a hook for a hand. Up-front, clear, but not personal...that's the way to go.

So, yeah, I get it. I definitely get it. But it doesn't mean I can't continue to admire the technique.

1 comment:

Beatrix Kiddo said...

I always feel so bad about giving a guy the brushoff- I usually do one of those lame ones ("I'm really just not ready for a relationship right now...") and then feel like a horrible person afterward. But then, when I get one of those lines, I look back and wish the guy had just said what he meant, even if it was "You're really just a little too frumpy for me."