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“State your full name.”
“Robert Wendermann, your Honor.”
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
Bob raised his right hand. “Yes, your Honor. I always tell the truth.”
A muffled snicker from the Assistant DA drew a warning glare from the most honorable presiding judge, Clarence Lewis III.
“So tell me, Mr. Wendermann, according to these filings, you are contesting this traffic citation for illegally parking in an ‘authorized vehicle only’ zone. Is that correct?”
“Yes, your Honor, and please call me Bob. My vehicle was authorized to park there.”
“I don’t have documentation showing such permission.”
Bob cleared his throat. “I have provided the notarized witness statement, your Honor. That is the document from Sally Funderstadt. It should be among the filings.”
[Papers shuffle]... After a grunt, Judge Lewis exhaled. A glance towards the Assistant DA saw him rolling his eyes.
“Ahem, Mr. Wendermann… Bob… this witness statement from Sally Funderstadt indicates she is the one who verbally gave authorization to both you and the vehicle you were driving to park in this restricted zone. Is that correct?”
“Yes, your Honor.”
“And do I further understand that Ms. Funderstadt is an employee of yours and she does not work for the municipal traffic department, the division of motor vehicles, or the town in any capacity?”
“That is correct.”
“What is her role or job description for your business…” [papers shuffle], “Bob’s Famous, Award Winning Bar-B-Que?”
“She is my personal assistant.”
“So, she has no authority to provide permission granting you or your vehicle use of a restricted parking area.”
Bob grew animated. “Nothing on the signage… I have provided photo documentation of the signage to this area… nothing states who grants the permission, your Honor. Ms. Funderstadt, as she states in her sworn testimony, provided the authorization.”
“Let me get this straight; your argument is that because the sign does not specify who the authorizing agent or agency granting permission is, your employee could function as the granting authority.”
“True, your Honor.”
The judge turned to the prosecutor. “Mr. Fields, do you have any comments?”
“Thank you, your Honor. The accused has a long history of technical violations involving word usage that border upon verbal abuse and dishonesty.”
“Objection, your Honor.” There could be no mistaking Bob’s indignation at these accusations.
“Explain yourself, Mr. Fields.”
“For instance, Mr. Wendermann’s business: ‘Bob’s Famous, Award Winning Bar-B-Que’—you would think that means the Bar-B-Que is famous and award-winning, but if you ask the defendant, you will learn otherwise.”
“Mr. Wendermann, is your Bar-B-Que famous?”
“No, your Honor.”
“Has it won any awards?”
“No, your Honor.”
The judge sounded flustered. “So, this is false advertising, calling your company ‘Bob’s Famous, Award Winning Bar-B-Que’?”
“Not at all, your Honor. Everything stated is true.”
The judge exhaled in exasperation. The Assistant DA shrugged his shoulders. “Bob, the court’s time is valuable, you better have a good explanation, or I’ll hold you in contempt.” The judge leaned forward with a stern look. “Explain yourself!”
“Bob’s famous. The usage in my business name is as a conjunction. If that is misinterpreted as an apostrophe indicating a possessive, that is not my fault.”
Judge Lewis’s eyebrows shot up. “So, ‘Bob’s Famous’ means ‘Bob is Famous.’ What exactly are you famous for and who are you famous with?”
“I’m famous for my sense of humor, your Honor. My friends, family and neighbors all say it. I can provide witness statements if the court requires.”
[Grumble], “That won’t be necessary, Mr. Wendermann. And I suppose your Bar-B-Que has not won any awards.” [Smirky smile]… "the comma separates your fame and ‘Award Winning’ is a statement about you, not your business—a personal achievement of some type.”
“True, your honor.”
“Tell me, Bob, what award have you won?”
“Lots of awards, your Honor: I received a merit badge in scouts for survival in the wilderness; I was voted least likely to succeed in high school; when I was…”
The judge interrupted, “That’s fine; I get the idea. You’ve made your point.”
The Assistant DA interjected. “You see judge, it borders on lies and verbal abuse.”
“Objection!” Bob looked at the judge.
The judge stared at attorney Fields and shook his head. “Do you have any closing arguments?”
“No, your Honor, the prosecution rests. The defendant’s testimony speaks for itself.”
He turned to Mr. Wendermann. “Do you have any final comments before I issue a ruling?”
Bob grew very serious and looked the judge squarely in the eye. “Words are sacred, your Honor. Word usage and what we communicate is subject to interpretation when it is not precise and unequivocal. The manner in which you misinterpreted my business name gives ready proof of how ambiguity can misinform. As to the matter before your court—my traffic citation for parking in an ‘authorized vehicles only’ zone—in the absence of unambiguous signage designating or specifying as to who the granting authority is, and with the unequivocal proof of authorization I have provided, I believe I cannot be found guilty of any infraction. I rest my case, your honor.”
Judge Lewis sneered in deliberation. A gavel thundered. “Case dismissed.”
Victor Acquista, M.D. has become a successful international author and speaker following careers as a primary-care physician and medical executive. He writes both fiction and non fiction.
More info at www.victoracquista.com