The Couch: Finding Things a Bit Too Funny?

The Couch is a place to exchange ideas and brainstorm, not only for its contributors but also for our readers who engage in the ensuing discussions. Sometimes, in spite of our needing to be a neutral language processor, our human side comes to the fore, and some traditional advice on ethics may not be enough. Thank you to this week’s anonymous contributor for the Couch!

Lately, I’m not completely sure why, but I’m beginning to find many situations really funny. By no means do I intend to make light of some people’s situations in court as it is undoubtedly the most trying experience of their lives. But sometimes I feel like I am like that man in Mary Poppins, who can’t stop laughing, who floats around the room, for whom “It’s getting worse every year.”

For example, not long ago I was called to interpret in a civil litigation case. During the deposition, the defense attorney seemed abnormally distracted and disorganized. He wouldn’t stop looking things up in his notes, kept forgetting the witnesses’ and parties’ names, and mumbled things to himself several times in a low voice. He kept taking off his glasses and putting them back on.

A normal interpreter might have gently asked him to speak more clearly, etc., but for some reason I had to repress the urge to burst out laughing, and I nearly failed at the attempt – obviously my laughter wouldn’t have gone over well for anyone, least of all myself.

Another time, I found the way a witness had come dressed to court to be irresistibly funny, and this time I let a burst of laughter slip – luckily, no one noticed. 

Again, I know court is serious and most of the time is not a laughing matter. Maybe it’s just the luck of the draw for me where I’m faced with these situations, or maybe I’m just a cheerful character and find more things funny than the average person does. Understand I am not meaning to laugh at people contemptuously nor make fun of them, I just find things, people, and situations funny. What do you do when you have the urge to laugh? We are taught to control our emotions when faced with horrendous crimes or tragic stories, but what about the comical side?

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Body photo “Mimus polyglottos1” by Ryan Hagerty at Wikimedia Commons. Image in the public domain.

6 thoughts on “The Couch: Finding Things a Bit Too Funny?”

  1. Kenneth Barger says:

    Try to cultivate a sense of existential dread.

  2. A few of the situations I observed:

    #1 – During an in-person court assignment, while all the defendants were waiting for the judge to arrive and watching a video of their rights, one of the defendants was playing a loud video on her phone (to the point that it was disruptive to others). The prosecutor kept looking at her with a perplexed look, but never said anything.

    #2 – I was on a Zoom hearing in a similar situation (various defendants waiting for the judge to show up), and one of the defendants had his camera on, which showed him lying on the couch in what could have been his PJs.

    #3 – Another Zoom hearing in DR Court – The parties started arguing with each other (back and forth, back and forth…) so badly that the judge ended up muting both of them for the remainder of the hearing. They couldn’t even say goodbye.

    I don’t know if we should laugh or cry… Maybe both. 😉

  3. Edina Toole says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these fun(ny) situations. It cheered me up to see that beside the serious, there is a lighter side to our profession as well. What a relief!!!!

  4. Janis Palma says:

    This is one place where I feel our jobs are so similar to actors. If you have ever been on a stage (or in front of a camera) acting, you know that feeling: you want to laugh, and the actor standing in front of you wants to laugh, and you both know you want to laugh, but you can’t because if you do… you’ll never stop. Yes! It absolutely happens!

  5. Gio Lester says:

    The lighter side of things keep us grounded, I guess. Yes, court is a serious environment, but so is life and laughter is always present. It’s a matter of how we handle it.

  6. Robin Ragan says:

    I interpret for a lot of sad, tragic stories so usually there is no place for laughter. One time in the middle of a story about how a woman’s son had died in a car accident, she added a detail that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the story. It was so out of left field that I accidentally laughed. She was in tears through much of the story. She said something like: he had ordered shrimp at the restaurant that night. Once I started saying it, I just couldn’t help myself. It happens. We are human! Luckily we were not in court, just a private setting.

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