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The Elevator Ride that Went Sideways


Last week I  came through the tunnels to get to into the criminal courthouse. I waited with a growing number of folks in line for one of the two elevators in the basement of the criminal court. A young guy with a juror badge stood behind me. After we had all waited for some time, a guy who I have seen before strolled up. I believe is a lawyer. He was in line about 5 people behind me.

The individual, whom I will hereafter refer to as “the  Guy” immediately moved up to chat with a woman he knew who was about 2 people ahead of me.(you can see where this is going). He was quite obviously taking cuts. I was irritated  over the fact he was cutting in front of half a dozen people, including a young juror and me.  I had two bags and was set for trial. The Guy’s time was no more important than ours, yet there he was openly cutting in front of all of us. We had all waited patiently and without a thought he had no qualms about just stepping right in front.

The elevator door opened and the line moved forward. Without hesitating,  the Guy  moved forward taking advantage of his new position. The elevator quickly filled. The young juror and I had to squeeze on. The elevator was packed & some behind me did not make it. The Guy was to my immediate left. I could not help but say something. I told the Guy that it was inappropriate for him to take cuts especially in front of a juror, when we were all waiting. What followed was nothing  short of a full on verbal assault. I will  do my best to quote it.

In raised voice in the crowded elevator the Guy responded to me by shouting at me:      “Fuck You!!!  Get your Fucking Bag off me”

Although I was startled by his response, I responded. “It was wrong for you to take cuts”
Again,  the Guy shouted in the packed elevator,”Shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up!!!”

I turned to the Guy and said as calmly as I could, ” My name is Robert Fickman, what is your name?”  He responded, “None of your fucking business”. He continued yelling at me to “Shut the Fuck Up”.

I got off the elevator on the 8th floor. I never once cussed. I looked at the Guy and said, ” I will see you later”. Admittedly, I had a tone,  by then I had a strong desire to punch him in the mouth. As I got off the elevator he shouted “Fuck  you, get the fuck off” and the women who allowed him to take cuts, joined him and  shouted at me as well.

I was set for trial. It got continued. Throughout  that day, I kept replaying the events as one does when lunacy strikes. I could not believe  the Guy’s outrageous response. I was disappointed No one else had spoken up.

Late that night I received an anonymous email from a woman that  restored my faith.  This kind woman  was on the elevator, witnessed what occurred, remembered my name and took the trouble to look me up and email me. Her email is below and it speaks for itself.

“Hi. I am just an anonymous person who was in the elevator today when you and another attorney(?) got into an argument. I just wanted to say that not only did that guy cut in front of your witness/juror(?) – he also cut in front of me when he did so. I’m glad you called him on it. I noticed it immediately when he walked right by us and cut ahead. I thought it not only rude but reaking of smugness and self importance. He should have admitted to doing so when you mentioned it and simply apologized instead of arguing.
No one stuck in that elevator should have had to have listened to his obscenities. He didnt give you his name for a reason: he knew you were right. Thanks for speaking up. Signed – Average Jane”

When we see wrong  we have a duty to speak up. It’s not always easy. It’s not always pleasant. Quite often there is a price for speaking up. But, there is also a steep price for not speaking up. Taking cuts is no big deal. But if you don’t speak up on small things, will you speak up on something that counts? I think not speaking up in the face of wrong is dangerous to one’s self-respect.

If bad things happen around you and you don’t speak up, how are you defining yourself? Not too well. Silence in the face of wrongdoing is complicity. That’s why I am an outspoken critic of the abuses in the criminal justice system. If I am silent,  I am complicit.  As I view myself as  a good person, I refuse to be complicit. Thus, I have no choice but to speak out. If I don’t speak out about abuses in the criminal justice system,  I would lose  my self-respect. My self-respect is far more important to me than having the respect of those people within the system who abuse people. I am not interested in their respect. I am interested in getting them to stop abusing people.

As for the Guy’s  over the top response, he defined himself as extraordinarily rude.  His shouting was the obscene verbal pout of  a very small person. He was all bark, a chihuahua nipping at my heel. If he is a lawyer, he is a disgrace. I don’t know the rude Guys name, But in time I will learn it. Perhaps when I get his name, I will  edit this post and  insert his true name. That seems just. He should live with his conduct.  In the meantime, maybe he will think twice before taking cuts.(I am not counting on that.)

More mportantly,  I will keep speaking up, no matter who gets mad or how they express it. Rather than chilling my speech, the Rude Guy is just  another inspiration  to keep at it. People, particularly those with power, don’t like criticism. Their not liking it, their ugly responses, are irrelevant to my need to speak up.

I thank Average Jane for her good heart and for being anything but average.
Robb Fickman, Houston

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