Something WotL wrote pulled me from my writer's block and reminded me of a story from earlier this summer. I was in the courthouse, late in the day, sitting in the hallway outside of a courtroom, waiting for the prosecutor to come out so we could talk.
A guy sat next to me, with a big instrument in a case. He asked me, "Let me ask you something, is this judge a good judge?"
(I hate that question. If I say "Yes, he's a good judge," and this guy or his family or whoever he's there for gets thrown in jail, it looks like (1) the lawyer, who is probably my public defender colleague, did a bad job and couldn't even get a good disposition out of a "good" judge and (2) I support, and think a judge is "good" who puts people in jail. On the other hand, if I say "Not really, he's bad," I risk the guy (a) freaking out, worried that he or his family member will be going to jail, leading to many more questions for me and/or (b) saying something like "Even that blonde lawyer in the hall thinks you're an asshole, Judge.")
So, I said, "They say that he's fair."
I figured the next question would be something like, "Let me you ask this, if someone got arrested for..." so I preempted that question with "What do you have there in that case?"
"My cello," he said.
"You going to play a little concerto for the judge? Music soothes the savage breast?"
The guy laughed, "Not a bad idea, but really I'm playing in a wedding tonight. If this judge lets me out of here. If he doesn't, well, I hope they'll at least let me find someone to take my cello home."
"Maybe you can tell the Judge that if he puts you in jail some poor bride's wedding will be ruined. Or offer to play for him as your community service."
Just then, the prosecutor I was waiting for walked out, and the man I was talking to said "They're calling me, I'd better go in there." I wished him luck as he dragged his cello into the courtroom.
The prosecutor and I stood there in the hallway, discussing an upcoming case, when a few minutes later we heard the beautiful sounds of the cello come pouring out of the courtroom.
And, amazingly, everyone in the busy courthouse hallway stopped, for just a few seconds, to look toward the courtroom door and to listen. A couple that had been arguing quieted. Their kid, in his stroller, stopped crying for their attention. For a minute, the sometimes inhumane courthouse seemed like an almost heavenly place.
I hope that the cellist got to leave the courthouse that night, and made it to the wedding. Making the courthouse a kinder, softer place seems like an invaluable community service to me.