These two lawyers walk into a bar | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (January 13, 2023, 2:35 PM EST) --
Marcel Strigberger
Marcel Strigberger
What do we call a lawyer? No this is not a lawyer joke. 

It has definitely not been one of my regrets that lawyers in the English-speaking world are not addressed by formal titles as they are in Quebec and other French jurisdictions, where they are called “maître,” meaning master. After all, as a lawyer I am a professional. Humble to the bone. While in practice I never minded being called, Mister Strigberger, even though some European and South American countries call lawyers “doctor.”

I did sometimes wonder if physicians experienced a buzz being addressed as “doctor.” Just wondered.

I got an inkling of this buzz after an event I experienced involving a lawyer, a doctor and a fish.

Now for the fish story.

I recently went to lunch with my friend and former colleague Barry. This was one of my first dining sorties since the start of COVID-19 three years ago. I was hesitant. However, Barry convinced me to take the leap urging me to live a little and just get out there. He selected a new seafood establishment near the courthouse noting it was a favourite of lawyers. The place was called, “St. Peter’s Heavenly Fish.”

As soon as we arrived at the restaurant, I had my misgivings. Firstly, the menu items were pricey. They even charged for an order of bread and olives. Secondly there was a long queue waiting. Worst of all the place smelled fishy. The scent knocked me off my feet.

“Why is this place so packed?” I asked Barry. My learned friend suggested that it must be the ambiance. I wasn’t impressed. What ambiance? What caught my eye immediately was a large tacky wall hanging of a wooden tuna. What’s so special about tuna?

And I certainly didn’t care for the restaurant’s name. I’d say any mention of St. Peter before eating seafood sounds ominous.

I suggested to Barry that we leave. There was this Mediterranean restaurant next door, and I was ready to enjoy a delicious falafel.

Barry contemplated my suggestion as the manager, dressed in a tux, cruised around the front of the line busily endeavouring to seat the hungry crowd.

I added, “And I also don't like pretentious restaurant managers wearing tuxes.”

He came near the front of the line and in an Eastern European accent he said to two lawyers, “Follow me please, doctors.”

As Barry mumbled to me something about having that falafel, I said, “Good idea, but just a minute.”

The manager returned to the queue and approached three more lawyers in front of us. One said, “Table for three please Stefan.”

Stefan replied, “Certainly Dr. Cooper. This way doctors.”

“It's starting to get a bit late,” Barry said. “And it only takes minutes to put together that falafel.”

“Hold on Barry, Stefan is coming right back,” I insisted.

As Barry was buttoning up his coat, Stefan said to him, “Welcome back, doctor.”

I tapped Barry on the shoulder and cleared my throat loudly. Barry introduced me as his colleague and eminent litigation counsel.

Stefan greeted me with a broad smile, “Welcome Dr. Marcel.”

I returned the smile, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

He continued, “Dr. Marcel, we have an excellent selection of fish today.”

I replied, “I’m sure you do, Stefan. The magnificent maritime scent is simply enchanting.”

I started to look forward to a hearty fish lunch. And it had been a while since I savoured a good lightly seared tuna steak.

But there was one hitch. We were seated in a section off the side of the main dining room. We were the only patrons in this appendix area. This bothered me as given COVID, the last thing I wanted was to pay good money for the privilege of being socially distanced.  

Barry summoned Stefan. He told him about our predicament.

Stefan said, apologetically, “Sorry doctors; We are all full.”

Barry, wanting to accommodate me, stood up and mumbled in a low voice that we can still shoot for that falafel. I also stood up, shrugging my shoulders hesitatingly.

Stefan then smiled and said to me, “Wait a minute, I can perhaps set up another table for you near the kitchen entrance, doctor.”

I sat down again. After all I am always ready to listen to reason. And Stefan did look very dignified and professional standing there in his well-fitting tux.

Barry replied, “We won't like it in front of the kitchen. Too much waiter traffic.”

“Relax Barry,” I retorted. “It's part of the ambiance.”

My friend was ready to leave and once again go for the falafel when I riveted him to his seat. “Chill out, Barry. We must be flexible. You can always have that lowly falafel. This place is great. Where else can you get a luscious piece of yellow fin tuna for $48?”

Stefan called out directions to the busboys, “Set up a table there immediately for the two busy doctors.”

Throughout our lunch Stefan’s attention to us was phenomenal. He returned to our table several times asking, “Is everything OK doctors?”

The meal was most enjoyable. And the bread and olives were exceptional; a steal at $8 an order.

And in appreciation to my colleague for introducing me to this exemplary dining establishment, I sprang for the tab. It set me back a few bucks but worth every penny. And what the heck I could afford it. After all I am a doctor.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available in paper and e-book versions where books are sold. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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