Sunday, September 30, 2012

Them's Fightin' Words

So, it turns out that sometimes, people call you names. If you have a long-ish first name, and you don't shorten it, people might call you by shorter versions of that name. My name is Alexandra. Often, when I introduce myself as Alexandra, people say "Hey, it's great to meet you, Alex!" Um, really? Are you deaf?

I'm clearly headed for a respectable career
Sometimes people call you names that aren't related to your actual name. They might call you "Homie" (outdated gangster slang). They might call you "Tex" (because presumably you drive a pick-up truck and are kind of a tough guy). They might call you "Miley" (because they realized they named you "Destiny Hope," and so the only career path open to you would be as some sort of inspirational/motivational stripper). I mean, there are a lot of options out there.

Sometimes, they could call you a mercenary.*

Apparently Australia is not heaven. 
For those of you who rusty on world history, mercenaries are hired soldiers. They're like rent-a-cops with actual power. They are typically thought of as "scum." After all, war is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing (an Alexander had a day like that, and an Alexander fought a bunch of ancient wars, and even though that name is very close, it is still not my name, barista-who-does-not-understand-gender-specific-nomenclature).

We do have some notion, though, that war might be vaguely permissible if it were tied to a sincere and temperate love of country or cause (this is why we all love Braveheart.) But mercenaries have no cause. Instead, they turn themselves into fighting machines for just a little filthy lucre. In fact, if you could create a mash-up of the worst possible ends and means, it would probably be someone who fights wars (bad means) for money (unworthy end).

And someone called ME one of those! And I wasn't offended.

My courtroom look
See, as a lawyer, I will lend my services (researching, writing, arguing) to those willing to pay for them. And because this will occur in the context of legal battles, it's sort of like hiring someone to go fight for you - except, instead of fighting with guns and swords, we're fighting with summary judgments and lesser included offenses. (Please, note the impressive blending of legal jargon into a military analogy!)

At first, it might seem sort of unjust that you could pay someone to argue your side of an issue. But wouldn't it also be unjust if those without excellent researching, reasoning, and rhetorical abilities had to try to fend for themselves in a legal system? The current system offers specialization, a market for a service, and even discounts said services when needed (it's called pro bono, and it means "I will do this for free because I am a wonderful human"). It's actually pretty great.

This is the way our world works. If I need stitches, I don't have to fend for myself. I go to a doctor, who stitches it up for me, and charges me (or my insurance company) for the service. If I'm tired of cooking, I can buy a burrito. If I need to get to New York in under eleven days, I can get on an airplane that I did not build (it took a village, really) and that I cannot operate, and I pay someone to take me there.

"Self-sufficient" snobs
This is what economists call "specialization" and what four-year-olds call "what you want to be when you grow up." Happily, we don't all have to do the same job. We don't all have to fend for ourselves, trying to be completely self-sufficient (unless you live in Brooklyn, where you'll grow a garden and ride a bike and shop at thrift stores just to prove you can). We don't even have to stay in the first job we try - with an astonishing amount of flexibility, we get to choose!

Thus, based on talents and interests and needs, we get a society full of chefs and nurses and lawyers and railway workers and engineers and accountants and doctors and cashiers and oilmen and farmers and entrepreneurs and mechanics and middle managers. And people do what they're good at, and get to charge money for it. So, in a sense, we're all mercenaries. But lawyers are mercenary in a special sense, because our jobs require fighting.

So, I take mercenary as bit of a compliment. Because even though others will cook and operate and sing and build for you, lawyers are the only ones willing to fight for you.

I got called names in:

Grayish pencil skirt, blue sleeveless button-up shirt, gold and colored glass necklace, gold earrings, coral bracelets, and chartreuse platform stilettos with bows.

*Here, we encounter a first in Adventures in Business Casual. We are blending two conversations into one seamless thought stream, because these two conversations happened in uncanny chronological proximity, making them the verbal equivalent of conjoined twins (but without their own show on TLC).