Friday, December 18, 2009

Our Bite of the Big Apple

Above: The view up 48th street as we were sitting in traffic.
Below: The lit tree at Rockefeller Plaza

Before I wrote my last post devoted to Paul, this was the one I intended to write next. It's taken me
a while to get back on my feet after that to get my thoughts together to post this.

As adventures go, this was an exciting one, and one I'm sure we won't soon forget. We were summonsed to testify as witnesses at a trial on Friday and had planned to make a mini-vacation of it, by staying Friday night and doing a bit of sightseeing on Saturday. We traveled to NYC on Thursday afternoon, in order to have time to meet with the lawyer that evening.

The drive down was uneventful; we made it in 3 1/2 hours and arrived just in time for rush hour but the GPS guided us right to our hotel on Lexington Ave. Unfortunately, the main entrance was on 48th street and we had to drive around the block in order to drop the car off with the valet. It took us quite some time to make it around the "block" as we ended up on a through street that didn't allow turns, but that allowed us to drive by Rockefeller Plaza and see the tree that had just been lit the day before, as well as the throngs of people who were also there to see that site.

We arrived at the main entrance of the hotel like a couple of country bumpkins: shoes flying everywhere, all my medical equipment and several trays of pastries we had brought as gifts for my cousin. Our car was whisked away and we were shown up to our room, which was on the 22nd floor with a pretty view of other buildings, all lit up. Cars driving down 48th street below looked so tiny! After setting into our room we decided to take a walk and get the lay of the land. We walked up 48th, back the way we had driven, to see Rockefeller Plaza, the Christmas tree and the skaters. What a pretty site! People were everywhere, Christmas music was playing outside many stores and there was a festive feel in the air. It was easy to forget the real reason we were in NYC: the trial.

After exploring a bit we met with the lawyer and my relaxed feeling soon turned to panic. Yikes! We were going to be on the stand and questioned about the accident we were witnesses to 5 years ago by both lawyers. I wasn't worried about the plaintiff's lawyer, but was very nervous about the opposing counsel, after hearing he was "ruthless" to the witness on the stand the first day. We were given our depositions to review and instructed to meet the lawyer at the courthouse, in lower Manhattan, at 9:30 the next morning. We were due to testify at 11.

We both re-read our depositions to refresh our memories and retired for the evening. The next morning, not sure how long it would take to get from our hotel to lower Manhattan, we left t 8:30 by cab. It seemed a good omen that we hit all green lights on our way to the courthouse, which was just on the edge of Chinatown. We arrived so early that we had time to walk around the neighborhood and do a bit of shopping at one of the neighborhood shops. When we returned to the courthouse, the lawyer reviewed our depositions and the questions he would be asking us. We were left to wait.

Eleven o'clock rolled around and went to the courtroom where the case was being tried. Joe was called in at 11:30 and questioned on the stand for an hour. I wasn't allowed in the courtroom while he was testifying, but I'm told he did an outstanding job. I was next and was only on the stand for about 30 minutes, 15 of which the lawyers and judge spent outside the courtroom, conferring about lawyerley matters. I was more than relieved when allowed off the stand and the experience was over. Whew! The judge declared it was time for the lunch recess and were excused for 30 minutes.

The sense of relief after being done with the testimony was enormous and we were able to enjoy a quick lunch of Chinese food at a small restaurant in Chinatown. Joe and I decided we would like to be in the courtroom to hear the testimony of one of the expert witnesses, a doctor who had treated the plaintiff since the accident. It was interesting to follow the testimony and second-guess the lawyers.

That evening we had an impromptu dinner of bread, cheese and fruit purchased at Grand Central Market, which was an amazing bazaar of shops all under one roof: butcher, baker, fruit stand, prepared foods, cheese shop, spices.. it was truly a feast for the senses. Unfortunately everyone else was shopping at the same time. With our bellies finally full, the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed to crash and we took a cab back to the hotel and I fell sound asleep, only to awaken the next morning to the sad news of my close friend's death. There would be no sightseeing; how could I even consider it after such news? I had some calls to make before posting the news online, at his mother's request.

Friday evening and Saturday morning, before the phone call, I had such a feeling of relief and also satisfaction that we not only survived the experience, but hopefully did a good job and didn't make complete fools of ourselves. Even at this advanced age, I still have plenty of self-doubt, but it's reassuring to know that stressful situations like this can be handled and we not only survive but grow and gain confidence from the experience.

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