It was supposed to be a quick uncontested divorce proceeding. The 72 year old woman was the petitioner. She hadn’t seen or heard from her husband since he walked out the front door in 1994, a full twenty one years ago. The petitioner was calm, collected and very polite as I interpreted her attorney’s explanation of how to speak through an interpreter during the court proceeding. She very sweetly thanked me for my service, something that always melts my heart a little.
The court had appointed an ad litem to search for the missing husband and this attorney was there to report on his failed efforts to find the husband.
Once on the record we smoothly flowed through the preliminary verification of the petitioner’s request that the court grant her a divorce and a name change to her maiden name.
I was interpreting simultaneously as the Ad Litem attorney gave his account of all the procedures he followed to locate the husband, whose name he kept repeating. Suddenly the petitioner started to speak, more like grumble, and it grew louder and louder.
“Que hombre tan desgraciado” (What a wretched man), she proclaimed forcefully.
I was afraid she was referring to the Ad Litem who glanced at her with a quizzical look on his face. He continued and so did she, with single word edicts every time she heard her husband’s name.
“Unbearable! Unbelievable! Liar! Low life!”
And there I was interpreting the Ad Litem’s testimony as well as the petitioner’s running commentary; each word in the same tone and volume as the speaker.
The judge who was listening intently to the Ad Litem, did not interrupt him. She appeared oblivious of the outbursts. The attorney for the petitioner never objected, despite the bemused expression on her face. In the back of my mind I imagined a record transcript worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit.
The Ad Litem finished and the divorce was granted and no one spoke of the remarks. Once off the record, the petitioner was thanking the Judge when her attorney started to apologize. The Judge cut her off with a wave of her hand, stating, “I know just how she feels.”