Guest blogger, Terese Weiss, Clarion Staff Interpreter, tells us her tale:
As a BSL interpreter with a free afternoon in town, what better way to spend it observing colleagues working in Court from the public gallery – and to boot gain a bit of an insight into Court processes involving deaf people? Well, so I thought. As I discovered, there are many different ways to attempt just that, some more enjoyable than others. Had my sign language interpreter hat been on, perhaps I would have prepared better and made less assumptions; but it wasn’t. So, I dallied along to the Public Gallery assuming I would simply swan in by mere virtue of being early. What followed had nothing to do with any amount of swanning but a lot of waddling and paddling in circles – and I am as of yet to make it into the actual Gallery.
Approaching the outside entrance, two queues had formed, one left one right. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a lawyer by his toe… I went left and waited. And waited. Then a door at the front opened and let in the left queue. Family and relatives only! Felt like I had been denied access to an exclusive nightclub by the bouncers and had to leg it over to the ever growing queue on the right. More waiting. I struck up a conversation with a few people in the queue, all legal secretaries in training, and all bent on seeing a murder trial. ‘The more victims the better’, one added matter-of-factly. The rain must have made them particularly morbid, rather excusable as it was a foul day, but thought perhaps another time I would pick a sunny day to go to the gallery all the same.
Eventually the queue slow-motioned itself forward within the promise of the door. Only then can you see the notice informing you that no phones are allowed into the court. Now it was my time to become morbid and flap around for good measure. Eventually some kind soul told me I could go down to the nearby travel agency and deposit my phone, at a cost of course. So, few minutes later I was back at the end of the queue again, and waited and waited. When eventually in and past the security (less the water just bought) there was an intriguing hullabaloo about which courtroom to go to. The security man thought no. 12, 14, 15 or maybe even 1, his colleague was adamant it was 7 – unless it was 2. I was sent onto another two clerks whom came up with their own mismatching series of lotto numbers. Calls were made, the plot thickened. At any rate I was at the wrong side of the building and would need to go back out and reenter at the back of the building. Then it transpired that the session I wanted to observe had gone into ‘legal discussion’ and might only last a short time – or not.
So, I legged it back out of the rabbit-warren and found the apparently right entrance. Again, I was frisked airport style. This security lady was more assiduous. My emergency ration of 5 peanuts were confiscated, no reclaim later. Holding up a small bag, she asked: ‘is this chocolate?’. There was no point denying the fact, I admitted guilty as charged. As it happened it was very expensive chocolate. More specifically, it was very expensive chocolate I was not prepared to part with against the mere possibility of perhaps not even getting to the gallery before today’s session was over. Claiming it back, I was informed I could wait outside till the perhaps soon session end, in case I wanted to at least catch the interpreters afterwards. By now it had started to rain, but I chanced it, waiting again but at least comforted by not-perhaps-but-definitely one too many helpings of the chocolate.
The discussion went on longer than (perhaps – or not) expected. In the end I simply gave up and drowned the whole misadventure in a pot of tea in the nearest cafe. Mulling over the attempt, I thought I did at least get some insight into the court’s running. In fact, I might even have another stab at it next time a work gap allows… or not!