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With all due respect: Strange days

With all due respect: Strange days

By Law Institute Journal



Don’t forget the festive sanitiser.

Do you ever come across amusing incidents related to the law?
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As we approach the end of the strangest year most of us have ever experienced we face a festive season very different from what we might have imagined at the start of 2020.

Despite our best efforts Christmas will not be the same. Santa certainly won’t have to ask if we’ve been naughty or nice since we’ve had little choice in the matter. Children will leave out milk, biscuits and hand sanitiser for the big fella.

Christmas day might feel similar to other events this year where our routines and expectations were disrupted. Grand Final week and the Spring Carnival left us feeling like bewildered bystanders to events that are normally central to life in Melbourne.

Staging the climax of the footy season in Queensland just didn’t feel right – like Sylvester Stallone playing Hamlet, or being forced to watch a party through a window. And as for Melbourne Cup Day, the “people’s race” wasn’t the same, due to the presence of a race and the absence of people.

Often during the darkest days a trip to the supermarket became one of the highlights of the week, although at times it forced us to confront quite serious questions such as why people at the checkout wait until they have unloaded their over-filled trolleys, have the items scanned, and then frantically search in their bags for their bank card.

With our usual festive season activities curtailed some might argue that missing out on the annual office party is a blessing. Mistletoe sales have plummeted and bottle shop owners in Melbourne’s legal precinct have gone into a deep depression.

Apparently more careers are ruined at the office Christmas party than any other workplace event with the possible exception of telling your colleague what you really feel about the boss and accidentally adding it to a group email.

It has been a strange year in the law. Office life all but disappeared for months, courts were shuttered and Zoom sessions in our PJs became a daily novelty we very quickly got over.

And haven’t we all enjoyed communing with technology, especially those like your correspondent who treat a computer not so much as a tool but as a temperamental nemesis.

Your correspondent is the kind of person who finds out his software isn’t communicating with his hardware and wonders whether to call IT or a relationship counsellor. Many years ago I worked out the laptop operating system is called Windows because it breaks so easily.

Much of the fallout from COVID-19 still has to play out but lawyers will certainly be central to fixing much of the trauma caused by the disruption to business and family life.

In times like these it has been difficult to tune in to our normal behaviours. Our natural equilibrium has been compromised, our routines disrupted to the point where our old lives seem almost dream-like.

If we are looking for silver linings in the COVID-19 playbook, it has shown us that we live in a remarkably resilient community. And with a little bit of luck we will bounce back bigger and better in 2021. ■

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