Unfortunately, during a season like this you would like peace and goodwill to prevail, but, as reality will often do, even the Christmas season is not immune from its reach. I have refrained from writing about these events before now, but my lawyer assures me the the case has finally been settled and there will be no repercussions to my telling my side.
One December morning I was cleaning my desk and discovered a tiny envelope which was addressed to myself and had a forbiddingly legal atmosphere. I dared to open it; I needed a magnifying glass to read it. I reprint it here blown up to 100s of times the original size but preserving all the grossly exaggerated language of its author:
I represent the League of Crechepersons International. It has come to our attention that you have placed, within the last year, an enormous glowing box for your internet within close proximity to our stable. This is not only in violation of our agreement, it is dangerous to all concerned. The effects of the rays and other dangerous waves released from these boxes has been known to cause tumors in both sheep and shepherds, to disrupt the peace and well-being of persons of the town, to cause kings to lose their sense of direction, and even to cause birth defects in baby Jesi. We therefore demand that you move your box from this location IMMEDIATELY in order to avoid legal action.
Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, attorneys at law
What would you do with a letter like that? I consider myself a reasonable human being (just like everyone else), but the tone of the letter really peeved me. There was no attempt to understand my position; besides, did he really have to capitalize IMMEDIATELY? And what was this mysterious agreement he claimed I was in violation of? Probably he had pulled this from his legal posterior. And while I am certainly aware of the possibility of things in the environment causing ill effects, could one small tower possibly log such a litany of terrors? Surely not. I wrote him back and told him that the presence of the creche people was voluntary and that due to our internet provider drilling a rather intrusive hole in the wall some months ago our box could not be relocated, whereas our creche most certainly could be, even to the other end of the entertainment center, several feet away. Anywhere else and the figures would most likely meet a much quicker end than any router-derived radiation at the paws of our cat.
Joseph explaining the situation to Mary
He did not appreciate the part about our cat: evidently lawyers are paid vast sums of money to interpret anything they can to the advantage of their clients, and by simply pointing out to him that there were dangers in the world beyond the one he was concerned about he decided I was threatening the safety of his clients. He also made me aware that my use of the term "creche people" was not at all welcome, being derogatory. I told him I had no intention of being offensive and that I would use any term that was acceptable to all parties concerned and apologized, and he simply told me I should have known better and reiterated his disdain; despite my repeated attempts he never let me in on what was the proper term so I think he was mainly concerned about making me look bad rather than trying to promote justice.
A few days later I received a notice that I was being sued for all I was worth, and that the internet box must be turned off immediately pending further action by the court. I was nonplussed, since it meant no more communication with the outside world. (Some smart guy told me I had a box at the end of my driveway that would answer just as well but I gave him a withering look and went on my way.)
Since interruption of the internet was a serious matter I went about looking for a lawyer. Would you believe one of the wise men had a JD? This was certainly going to make it easier to communicate; I tried to overlook the possible conflict of interest and hoped that the other wiseguys didn't beat him up when they found out. My lawyer immediately suggested we try to settle out of court.
One night we had a meeting of the minds. Things did not go well at first; my own counsel had to suggest I not use the term "straw man" in sizing up opposing counsel's argument. It did seem to me a bit exaggerated until I was shown a safety video in which several individuals-a-creche were seen to be suffering some pretty horrible effects from cable and internet boxes thoughtlessly placed in their vicinity, and all in the name of unpaid and uncared-for creche figures bringing graphic representation of a story at the very heart of the holiday. It amounted to the most rude exploitation, opposing counsel said. It turned my stomach. I said I was sorry; I hadn't known, and he gave me a frustrated look that must be common to many among the frustrated when they have to deal with the clueless.
After that things proceeded quickly. I was told that the box needed to be a few hundred feet away; however, when converting their distances to mine it turned out only to be a couple of feet, which was even less than my original offer. I was also ordered to pay a heavy fine. Seeing the look of worry on my face the arbiter quickly added that, as the persons involved were more used to a Medieval economy, they could be paid in foodstuffs. This turned out to be a year's supply for the entire cast, or one cookie. I timidly offered them a thimble of milk as well, as a good will gesture, and they were quite happy. I think they believed I was a rather broken individual by this time. However, after Santa takes his cut, I will only have to go without one more cookie at Christmas. I think I can live with that.