According to a learned friend, there are two potential types of Greek clients in the legal services industry. The first are the auxiliary lawyers who feel they understand all aspects of their case and are doing you a favour by granting carriage of it to you. They have read widely, or spoken to many people who have endured like circumstances, or have graduated from the University of Bitter Experience aeons before you were even a hint of glee in your progenitor’s eye.
For them you are merely an instrument to be wielded and manipulated by their expert hands. They enter your office breezily, demanding they be told what you intend to do for them.
The second type characterises those who are not possessed of such knowledge. Instead, they approach you somberly, look deeply in your eyes and begin to tell you, with exacting detail, the story of their lives. In doing so, they will brook no interruption, nor will the interposed injunction that lawyers bill in six-minute intervals serve to stem their verbal flow. For once proffered, in their estimation, that life story creates an unbreakable bond between lawyer and client that forever cleaves them together in a pact of mutual understanding. As one elderly client once told me when I dared to offer the opinion that the details of his unrequited lust for his neighbour were not necessary for me to sue his glazier for damages: “How can you understand my case, if you do not understand me?”
When the client who is the subject of this narration entered my office, I had no inkling of which of the two he would be. Tall, muscular, sporting a distinctive buzz-cut that would have been de rigueur on 1980s US college football fields and decoratively draping a turquoise knitted jumper about his neck, he slung himself into a chair with the considered but effortless poise of a ballet dancer. All I could surmise, both from his gait, and the manner in which the squint of his left eye seemed intimately connected to the gradient of his upper lip, was that he appeared to be a recent arrival from Greece.
Wasting no time upon introductions, he began to interrogate me confidently:
“Who owns the internet?”
“What?” I asked.
“Who owns the internet?” he repeated.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I responded, bewildered.
“Καλά, are you really a lawyer or what? It’s a simple question. Who owns the internet?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think anyone owns the internet,” I mused.
“Why not? Everything is owned by someone isn’t it? Someone has to own the internet.”
Extending the tip of his right index finger, he lifted his dark, hairy hand to his lip. A hint of tongue made contact with the finger, providing it with a modicum of wetness. Raising the hand further, he then applied the finger to both his eyebrows, smoothing them lovingly. Those eyebrows were a masterpiece to behold. Thick and impenetrable, they were lovingly defined around their edges by someone who manifestly was a master of the tweezer.
As he lowered his hand, he winced in pain and it was then that I noticed the skin-toned thermoskin carpal tunnel glove he was wearing.
“I’m not sure the internet works that way,” I commented. “I think is a collection of hundreds of thousands of different computer networks that all link in to each other.”
“Yes,” he spat impatiently, “but who owns those links?”
“How do you mean?” I asked.
“Well the internet is a net,” he sniffed contemptuously. “And a net is made up of various different filaments that link together. Each filament is separate but they all make up the net. Have you ever owned a net?”
“My grandfather did,” I reminisced. “In those days everyone fished with nets here. I remember him coming back from the bay and hanging the nets in the backyard to dry. Of course that’s all banned now and what within fishing quotas…”
“Never mind all that,” he interjected impatiently. “Point is, I’ve proved to you that you can own a net, so why can’t you own the internet? Seriously, what kind of lawyer are you? Its right what they say about you ellinakia here and your level of education. Year 12 here is the equivalent of Grade 6 in primary School in Greece. I haven’t been here for five minutes and I’m already running rings around you. I’m not sure if you’re the right man for the job.”
“And what is this job?” I asked.
“It’s a pity,” he continued unabated, picking his teeth with his right index finger, again wincing in pain. “You stand to make a hell of a lot of money.”
“I don’t think I’m following,” I responded.
“Have you seen the film, The Matrix?”
“Yes, what of it?”
“Do you understand its deeper meaning?”
“What, the power of self-delusion and the dangers of uncontrolled technological development?”
“No,” he snorted, leaning back on his chair, with his legs outstretched to reveal an unnaturally engorged crotch region. I suspected sport socks, but held my peace. “The fact that the matrix was a network controlled by machines.”
“So you think the internet is controlled by machines?” By this stage, I had stopped making file notes.
“No, silly, but the internet is obviously controlled and owned by someone.”
“Well I want to engage you to find out who owns it.”
“I want to sue them. Believe me, I am going to bankrupt them, the amount of damages they owe me. You will take on the case no win, no fee of course but rest assured, you will make a pile of money. More than you can possibly imagine. And more than that, the publicity. You might want to consider hiring a bodyguard though,” he added as an afterthought. “The powers that be may try to kill you. But don’t worry, I know a place outside of Serres. They would never think to look for you there. We are going to bring down the Western world. Its going to be bigger than Wikitweets.”
“Wikileaks, you mean. And why do you want to sue the internet?” I enquired.
“Well,” he raised his gloved hand. “They did this to me. I’m in agony every day.”
“Did what?” I asked.
“This, I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and RSI and arthritis in my arm and hand.”
“I’m not a personal injury lawyer,” I informed him, almost gleefully, grateful that I had, in my estimation, found a way to extricate myself from any further protracted intrusions by him into my workspace.
“No, you don’t need to be. There are higher principles at play here. Let me explain. I arrived here three years ago, knowing no-one. My relatives were not interested in helping me. The bunch of goat-herders that make up your community were neither on my intellectual level not socially evolved enough to appreciate my company. Your women are all rude and ill-bred. I found myself spending my spare time in my room on the computer and I discovered…” here he lowered his voice conspiratorially, while simultaneously fluttering his unjustifiably long, for a man of his pronounced masculinity, eyelashes coquettishly, no mean feat. “Well, I discovered τολμηρά sites.”
I knew what he meant, but I could not resist. “Τολμηρά as in risky? Your computer was infected with a virus?”
“Oh you Afstralakia,” he gasped in frustration. “No, τολμηρά means, well you know, racy, rude.”
“Okay so not so much risky as risqué?” I asked.
“Yes,” he ruffled his hair nervously. He must have been nervous, for this time he omitted to make the obligatory grimace of pain that concluded every lowering of his right hand.
“So you didn’t get a virus?” I asked again.
“No. Let’s just say that I got used to watching these sites. I couldn’t stop. I would spend hours and hours, night after night looking up these sites on the internet,” he gestured plaintively, again without wincing.
“I’m sure that there are a number of organisations dealing with addiction that can help you,” I advised him softly. “I’m not sure how I can help.”
“But that is the thing,’ he raised his voice emphatically. “I did become addicted. And as a result, I’ve injured my hand. As I told you, carpal tunnel syndrome, RSI and arthritis. I can barely move my hand but my addiction compels me to do so. And for all of this the owner of the internet is to blame. Τι τραβάω, τι τραβάω.”
“How?” I asked.
“Are you serious,” he spluttered incredulously. “Because he allows these dangerous sites to be placed on the internet. Because there is no health warning when log into the internet. So I and everyone else like me gets onto the internet blissfully unaware of all the health hazards. There is not even a disclaimer warning people to enter at their own risk. I’m telling you, there is a cause of action in this. Imagine how many other people are exactly in my situation.”
“You could run a class action,” I suggested.
“No,” he looked behind him suspiciously. “No. What are you an idiot? If you include others it will minimise the prize pool. Seriously, what a δικηγοράκος της δεκάρας you’ve turned out to be.”
“Anyway,” I said, standing up, hoping to end the interview, “I don’t think I can help you. Internet sexual injury compensation law is not my field of expertise.”
“No, I know that. I’ve already figured out you aren’t really very competent. I just need you to find out who the internet is owned by and lodge the requisite papers to sue them. I’ll handle it from there. I’ve already got it thought out. We will ask for $500 million.”
“Why so much?” I asked.
“Punitive damages,” he responded with well thought out ease. “But as I said, don’t ask for money up front. You have to do it no win, no fee.”
“Sorry, I don’t think I can help you. For starters, I don’t believe the internet has an owner, as I’ve told you and further, the whole thing seems far-fetched.
It was then that he reached out with his right hand and grabbed mine in a vice-like grip.
As he proceeded to almost crush it, he expostulated through gritted teeth: “What the hell is wrong with you dense Afstralaki? Where do you get off throwing away the chance of a lifetime? Μαλάκας είσαι.”
In that split second, I had visions of pots calling kettles black and of Greek village donkeys calling roosters κεφάλα. Managing to extricate my by now, porphyry -coloured hand from his, I responded: “No, but I do subscribe to the philosophy of the stoics.”
“How do you mean?” he asked, as he adjusted himself.
“Ό,τι τραβάμε, δεν το μαρτυράμε,” I murmured, as I gently showed him to the door, shutting with it, my once-in-a-lifetime chance of winning millions, forever.