Monday. 8:30 a.m. A white-haired ball of energy scurries into the lobby. I look through the door of my office to see a tiny Korean woman in her late seventies. She announces loudly that she’s three hours early for her appointment, but wants to see “the attorney” now — that’s me. I grab my coffee and release a big sigh.
Taking a big gulp, I walk to the lobby and greet Mrs. Lee in Korean, inviting her into my office.
All 4’11” of Mrs. Lee storms into my office and plops into a chair, spilling some of her black coffee on my desk. As I shut the door behind me, she starts to rant. She is unhappy with America’s justice system. She is angry that she was rear-ended and injured. She is unhappy that opposing counsel wants to take her deposition. Where is the respect? Where is the respect?! Looking around my office, she sees my diplomas. She asks questions about my Korean parents. How old am I? Am I married?
I draw a diagram and explain the process of litigation as best I can in Korean. Sometimes I add in, “You know?” and realize that I’m speaking in Konglish (a mix of Korean and English). Mrs. Lee laughs and says I remind her of her son. I look over at my computer screen and see a pile of unread emails and task reminders screaming for my attention. Sighing in frustration, I interrupt Mrs. Lee as she talks about her morning. Do you understand why you must make yourself available for a deposition? This is part of the process. Thank you for stopping by.
As I get up from my chair to usher her out, I notice Mrs. Lee’s feet are dangling back and forth and she’s smiling as she surveys my office. She holds her coffee in both hands and slides further back in her chair.
My husband died two months ago, she says. He died in a hospital. I only put my head down for a couple of minutes to take a nap. I didn’t know he was going to die. It’s so quiet at home. This chair is so comfortable. My son is gone, too. It’s so quiet at home.
I sit back down. Drink my coffee. And listen.
3 thoughts on “Coffee with Mrs. Lee”
This is what lawyers should try to do best–listen.
Barbara A. Peterson
Respect for elders, now that’s something you don’t see everyday. We could use some of your culture’s wisdom in that arena, sort of got lost between Woodstock and Silicon Valley here in the states. Not that Country Joe and the Fish or Steve Jobs aren’t still great, it’s just that those who’ve been casting their lines for a long time know where the best fishing holes are. And we could all learn from those society considers obsolete.
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