Cross-examination can work ON lawyers, too

Support pilot fish gets a visit from his company's biggest and brightest hot-shot lawyer.

"My laptop is not working," he tells fish condescendingly. "I need it fixed right away, because I have work to do."

Fish sets to work at once. "I first attempted to power on the laptop. It wouldn't power on at all," fish says.

"I tried the usual troubleshooting techniques -- change the battery, plug in the laptop with the AC adapter, plug in the AC adapter without the battery, try a different AC adapter -- all to no avail."

Hotshot lawyer is standing by, looking unimpressed, as fish begins to run out of options.

Maybe he dropped it, fish thinks. As diplomatically as possible, he asks the lawyer, "Did this laptop by chance fall on the ground?"

"No!" lawyer sternly replies.

Fish has his doubts -- this is a lawyer, after all. He inspects the case like a forensic investigator, but it shows no signs of damage at all. There's not even a scuff mark, which would have been evident if it had been dropped. Fish is truly stumped.

So fish begins reviewing with the lawyer when the laptop was last functioning. Lawyer draws himself up as if he's in a courtroom and explains, "I was working on my computer at home last night as I always do. I noticed my screen was a little dirty so I cleaned it with water and then it stopped working."

You put some water on a cloth and cleaned the screen? fish asks.

"No, I was working away as I always do at night, when I saw a smudge in the corner of my screen," lawyer says matter-of-factly. "So I picked up the laptop, went to the sink, turned on the hot water and ran the screen under the tap."

Reports fish, "I smirked to myself before I began to explain the principles of water and electricity and delicately told him how they don't mix.

"Needless to say, I was setting up a brand-new laptop for him the next day."

Sharky wants you to testify. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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