Several years ago as my son and I entered the small, half–dark, hotel conference room we saw a collection of various sizes and shaped tables pushed together in the center of the room, making a sort of conference table, which left little space for the six chairs jammed between the walls and the tables.
The four people in the room stood up to greet us, three of them held out a hand for us to shake. No one spoke, but there were lots of smiles.
As the smiles slowly faded, the white-haired man, nearest the door, finally spoke, in a rough, broken, style of English. He introduced himself as our interpreter. He proceeded to go around the room introducing each person. All gave a rehearsed, quick, smile as each was introduced.
The first was a dark haired woman, introduced as the judge. She nodded but did not speak. She shared her hand with a firm hand shake.
This perfectly groomed woman was obviously in charge.
The second introduced was a clean cut, young man, seated on the opposite side of the table. He was a police investigator. His hand shake was not nearly as strong as the judges.
The remaining person was a short woman was seated next to the judge. She was the stenographer. She was as wide as she was tall. She wore a gray sweatshirt with the following inscription on the front: “New York. U.S.A.”. She did not offer her hand, however. Still, no one spoke. It was clear that no one spoke English, except the “interpreter,” and his skills were questionable.
After an awkward and silent pause, the judge sat down and we all followed her example. Only then did the steno reach for a black case that was leaning against her chair. As she pulled the case to her lap, I expected her to reveal a laptop computer from the inside of the case. To my complete surprise, out of the case came an old manual “Rapid” portable typewriter. She also brought forth a stack of typing paper and several sheets of used carbon paper. She placed everything on the table and then she loaded the typewriter with two sheets of typing paper, separated by a sheet of carbon. When she was finished, she looked up and around the room with a broad, satisfied, smile, which I assumed meant that we could now proceed.
The steno was also the interrogator. She would ask a question to the interpreter, in Slavic and he would attempt to interpret the question to me and then relay my answer to the steno. She would type the question as he spoke and the answer as he finished speaking.
At this point, I was totally entertained. She typed fast but when the warning bell rang to let her know she was at the end of the row, and she should advance the carriage. She would type past the warning bell and continue to type until she was past the end of the line and actually off the paper. Then she would advance the carriage. How much of what she typed past the warning bell was lost, is unknown. This happened on each line. The bell rang constantly. I suspected that the whole thing was a show for our benefit. She questioned and typed for, at least, two hours just for my deposition.
She later asked my son several questions for an additional hour. As each page was completed she would remove the paper, separating the duplicate and she saved the carbon to use for the next page.
When the whole interrogation was complete, I hesitated to sign the deposition that was in a foreign language, but I was told that if I didn’t sign it, the whole investigation would cease. I signed the document, against my better judgement. My son, who was in pain during this tedious interrogation, was more than ready for me to sign the document.
Why were we there in the first place? At ten A.M, that same day, my son and I boarded a bus to tour the city. I was immediately surrounded by three men who wanted my wallet. After a long struggle, my son saved my wallet, which had been in my front pocket. We got off the bus at the next stop. My son confronted the older man of the three and loudly called him a “thief.” He retreated down a subway and the other two slit up and went down two streets. My son took after one and he caught up with him and put his arm around the young man’s neck.
As they continued to walk down the street, suddenly, the third young man ran across the street and he kicked my son in his ankle, breaking his leg. Rick dropped to the ground. He is 6 foot 6 inches tall and was too big for me to carry. A young stranger came to our rescue. He said he would call an ambulance to take Rick to the hospital. I agreed.