Legal Widow

I rang Liability’s history teacher this week and shouted at him for five minutes after my daughter came home in tears.

Everyone in her exam had their notes in front of them except her, and she was going to fail and never get to university and she’d have to stack shelves in Tesco. Well, that went straight to the heart of my complexes, so I picked up the phone and demanded to know why my daughter had been discriminated against. And when he could get a word in edgeways, he told me that a notice had been read out in class and written out on the board and that Liability had probably not been listening. Or looking at the board when asked to.

After I’d cooled my burning cheeks at the tap my first thought was one of betrayal. It’s men who aren’t supposed to be listening when important things are going on. Liability had let down the sisterhood.

Women have got to be the clued-up ones: they actually read the instructions, so they don’t assemble an entire climbing frame only to find they’ve missed out the platforms and have to start from scratch. They read the maps, so don’t spend half an hour aiming the car in the direction of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows and somehow miss her, and the first half of the wedding, into the bargain.

It’s small consolation to be the only one in the household to know where the camera or the biscuit tin is, but at least it stops the world descending into chaos. And it means I’ll never earn as much as I should do, because the sort of jobs I end up doing are terribly practical, sorting out other people’s lives sort of jobs – but I can be frightfully smug about it while I watch the Lawyer struggling with the climbing frame.

“Well, that’s all very well,” said the Lawyer. “But what about the exam?”

“What do you mean? She wasn’t listening, she’ll have to take the consequences.”

“No, no, no. That’s not how it works. I want you to ring up and get her to take it again. With notes.”

“She can’t take it again. She knows the answers now.”

“Well, one like it.” He looked at my mutinous face. “I’ll call him, then.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” I told him.

How wrong I was. The Lawyer rang up the teacher, said some strange male bonding-type phrase which hypnotised him and meant that Liability’s failure to listen doesn’t count against her (in fact works to her advantage), and within two weeks she’d resat a new exam set specially for her, was allowed text books as well as notes, and got an A star.

“You can’t possibly be expected to listen to everything,” said the Lawyer. “My head would fall off if I took in all the crap that comes at me in the office. Ninety emails a day and dozens of calls, meetings and memos, as well as Sudoko – I just can’t get through it all. But everyone knows that, which is why most emails get sent twice, and then they ring up anyway, and even if you dodge that one it’ll come up again sooner or later. You always get a second chance.”

I stared, open-mouthed. All my life I have worked on the one-chance principle. When really all you have to do is drift through life not listening and life will get sorted out for you. That must be why they have so many people in law firms – just to make sure at least one person’s listening.