Bang! Waaah! So begins another fun-filled day in the Lawyer’s household, this time with Liability sobbing her heart out in the bathroom because her father won’t let her have a mobile phone.
“You are SEVEN YEARS OLD!” he shouts at her. “At your age I was lucky to be allowed to see my friends, let alone talk to them.”
“That’s because you’re a boy,” yells Liability from the bathroom.
“Boys don’t need to talk, they just hit each other all the time.”
“Way to go, Dad,” says Deminimus, giving his father a friendly punch to the kidneys as he passes the stand-off in the corridor.
“Don’t worry, Liability,” shouts Subjudice over her father’s shoulder.
“Just nick one off someone at school. They can’t touch you for three years.” She’s full of these ‘get out of jail’ bits of wisdom. It looks scarily like she will become a lawyer, and one of the low-earning ones, to her father’s disgust.
For a man trained in negotiation (he often boasts that if he wasn’t running projects he’d be rescuing hostages) the Lawyer has a terrible way with women. He sometimes feels that his lasting memory of the fairer sex will be the sight of them running to the bathroom, slamming the door and sobbing noisily, with the sound echoing out so everyone can hear that he’s made someone else cry.
One winter it was so bad in the office they had a sweepstake on who would get to five toilet breakdowns first; in the end it was Amelia, his new trainee, who just beat his secretary by a nose (quite appropriate, really, as she was later sacked for hoovering up cocaine with it; really, the office toilets were like a second home to her).
Anyway, the sound of blubbing in the loo puts the Lawyer into a strange state of paralysis. He can’t go in to comfort them (no room, anyway; the sound of cubicle crying always brings a herd of sympathetic sisters stampeding to the water hole, where they gather round and break off bits of bog roll and mutter about what swine men can be). He can’t even get in there to sack them, and although he tries manfully to stop the words “bang goes your promotion” from parading through his head, I know that’s all he can think of. He once told me that equal opportunities in a solicitors’ firm would mean removing the loos altogether, as they give women the chance to scupper their own careers without the men having to lift a finger.
I find him with his forehead resting wearily against the bathroom door. Liability is sniffing inside, although I dismiss the thought of a juvenile cocaine habit as unworthy of me. “Why do women do this to me?” he asks. “I mean, you’re supposed to be the great communicators, and here you are locking men out.”
I wonder whether to let him in on the big secret – that blubbing in the loo is just one stage in the negotiations – but realise such sophistication is beyond him. Men are so short-term; they don’t realise a dispute can go on for weeks, which is amazing, considering how long the Lawyer’s contracts take to argue out. Perhaps a good bit of blubbing in the loo would wrap it all up sooner.
“You can have one when you’re sixteen,” he shouts through the door, to be met with a fresh storm of weeping, as that’s more than double Liability’s life away. I just thank the Lord he chose commercial law, and not family: the firm would be washed away on the tears.