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I’m not sure I’m smart enough for this century. Many of you will want to stop reading right now. This is, after all, a thought you’ve probably harbored for a long time. If you’ve read my opinions, appeared in my court, or even � back in the Pleistocene � sat across the counsel table from me, you’ve probably suspected I was what Elvis Costello calls “a man out of time” for quite awhile. Now that I’ve admitted it in print, it’s hard to imagine the column can get any better. Those of you still reading[ 1] may wonder, “Why now?” Why, after seven full years,[ 2] has the epiphany finally taken place? Why did I need to examine the 21st century so closely before determining the pants were too short and the jacket pulled across the shoulders? Well, in part I suppose it’s because there are things about it I like a lot. My plasma TV is so big I can sit in my big ol’ chair, 17 feet from it, and still read the ESPN ribbon at the bottom of the screen. So I am never out of touch with the Central Florida-Stetson women’s lacrosse game, even while I’m channel surfing between Australian Rules Football and the Oklahoma City All Breeds Dog Show. It’s hard not to love a century that caters to the couch potato in you as shamelessly as this one does. And I love the GPS in my car. I love the fact my car now tells me where to turn instead of my wife doing it. Somehow the supremely disinterested woman in my dashboard is able to keep the exasperation out of her voice. I keep waiting for her to say, “What part of ‘right’ did you not understand?” but she never does. I’ve never known a more patient woman.[ 3] And my iPod. I absolutely adore my iPod. Who can resist a miraculous little genie who provides me with Seger, Zevon, Axton, Joel, Cohen, Cohn, Nalick, Brooks, Haggard, Henley, the Chicks or whomever, whenever I rub the lamp.[ 4] And the same jinn will read me a book when my eyes need a rest from the Australian Rules Dog Show Lacrosse Ribbon. When I flew to London for a speaking engagement, the genie allowed me to listen to five hours of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” and “Car Talk” and two hours of Halberstam’s priceless history of the “The Fifties,” instead of watching “Shrek III” or listening to Brazilian elevator jazz. Thank you, Jesus! None of these New Age devices requires me to do more than a little rudimentary button-pushing.[ 5] I hire the 9-year-old two doors down to show me how to work them (and to re-set my watch twice a year) and I’m good to go. So I figured as long as I could find Best Buys and 9-year-olds, I could handle modern life. But then I got to the conference in London, where the “Golden Circle” law firm of Big, Prestigious & International hosted a gala at their offices for important people and speakers.[ 6] It was a lovely black-tie affair, and I love going to those since a black tie always sets off my boots and blue jeans so well. During the dinner, one of the BP&I lawyers regaled me with the features of the magnificent glass tower in which they work. The building includes a spectacular gymnasium, offices for a staff doctor, staff dentist and staff apothecary, and a full-on, handsomely furbished and carefully staffed pub for all employees. After he stoically explained to me that an apothecary was not someone who turned base metals into gold,[ 7] but a British term for “pharmacist,” I was veryimpressed. I thought they were positively enlightenedemployers. My wife had to explain to me how distressingly mired in the last century my thinking was. “Enlightened!?” she fairly shouted. “Enlightened? It’s downright Dickensian. Ebenezer Scrooge would have loved it. Don’t you see? They’ve made it unnecessary for the serfs to ever leave the fields. Exercise, medical care, food, drink, oxygen . . . It’s all here at the office. Why should you ever have to go home? What reason could you possibly have to stop generating billable hours?” I felt pretty stupid. I longed for dashboard woman. Kelly, you see, was in private practice for a dozen years. I, on the other hand, have labored exclusively in the public sector. In terms of 21st century adjustment, she was designing rocket circuitry while I was repairing oxen yokes. We couldn’t communicate at all except that she was a history major, so when I say things like, “Dost thou spy yon elderberry bush,” she’s able to translate it into 21st century English. She was � I am sure of this despite her kind denials � disappointed that I had failed to see Machiavelli lurking behind BP&I’s Arthurian exterior. She looked at me, pityingly, “Why do you suppose the state issued you a Treo?” I was a little flummoxed by this. It seemed to me to be a question completely unrelated to our previous discussion. My state-funded Treo is one of my favorite little electrogimmicks. It enables me not only to make and receive phone calls, but also to send and receive e-mails no matter where I am.[ 8] How cool is that? And, of course, it enables me, if I’m ever suicidal and want to take a dozen or so strangers to the next life with me, to do so by the simple expedient of talking while I drive. I love my Treo, and was completely unable to see how it fit into our discussion of the machinations of a large, international London law firm. Kelly explained it to me, and the dawn broke with a blinding light. My wife turned into a flaming shrubbery and spoke with the undeniable truth of a deity. Verily, I say unto you, she was absolutely, positively, dead right. The state of California must have gone to the same “Twenty-First Century Thinking” conference that BP&I attended. Here’s what she told me. Thanks to my Treo, I don’t just check my e-mails when I’m at my desk at the court. I check them every evening. I respond to them all weekend. When I’m watching a ballgame, I reply to e-mails from Justice Moore or Justice Rylaarsdam or Justice Ikola about opinion drafts. I try � between innings � to answer questions about writs from Justice Sills or Justice Aronson or Justice O’Leary.[ 9] Those dirty batards[ 10] at the Administrative Office of the Courts have completely outsmarted me.[ 11] They’ve got me working nights and weekends! Last February, I went on vacation with my best friend of 50 years. We celebrated our long, uninterrupted relationship by taking in a week of spring training baseball in Florida. We golfed and watched baseball. We ate unimaginably caloric southern meals. He introduced me to “Deal or No Deal.” It was the kind of mindless, totally unredeeming fun we dreamed about as teenagers. And yet, one night in Tampa, I found myself sitting in the stands, watching the Yankees and Reds play, and e-mailing Fybel and O’Leary about an opinion we had some disagreement about.[ 12] We e-mailed back and forth for three innings before we got it ironed out. I was 3,000 miles away, on vacation, at a ballgame, eating a Cuban sandwich . . . and the AOC had gotten work out of me. Kelly was right. I’m no match for these people. I’m a sheep amongst wolves, a Cuban sandwich at a dinnertime ballgame. I can no more protect myself against 21st century mindsets than I can flap my wings and fly back to Camelot. I’m not smart enough for this century. Please hand me my mortar and pestle; I seem to be out of ink. Contributing writer William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana. He writes this column to get it out of his system. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can read more columns like this in “A Criminal Waste of Time,” a book fromThe Recorder featuring more than 30 of the best columns from Justice Bedsworth. Order by calling (800) 587-9288 or visiting www.lawcatalog.com/bedsworth.
[ 1] Hi, dad; hi, Kelly; hi, Phil. [ 2] The year 2000 was part of the lastcentury. The Yankees have not won a championship in thiscentury. [ 3] Although in fairness to my wife, dashboard woman seems to have limited interests and minimal conversational skills � two areas in which Kelly excels. [ 4] Yes, it does have a lamp. Just press menu and it will lead you down darkened stairs. Trust me on this one. [ 5] In that regard, they’re a lot like 21st century electioneering. [ 6] In case you’re wondering which group I fell into, my invitation asked me to check the box next to either “woofer” or “tweeter.” [ 7] With, I might point out, a touch of superiority in his tone that I seldom discern in dashboard woman’s corrections. [ 8] Unless I’m in one of the 4,000 little areas where my calls either break up or inexplicably float off into the ether. [ 9] I’d respond to similar inquiries from Justice Fybel, but he’s usually watching the same ballgames I am. [ 10] This is not a misprint. It is the name of a kind of French bread. As far as I know, neither this newspaper nor the Commission on Judicial Performance has any rules about calling people “loaves of French bread.” [ 11] Again. [ 12] It was a pre-season game. Even Fybel has somestandards.

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