Having spent Two days travelling more than 3,000km for a court appearance in a civil matter, Mine Host and a key witness, the Manager of the Diver's Arms, were standing outside the courthouse, Three minutes early for the hearing, set down for that day's date at 1:00pm.
The courthouse was locked and in darkness.
Heavy clouds loomed low, lending a gloomy atmosphere. Teeming tropical rain (the umpteenth day of it) washed accross a street deviod of both foot and vehicular traffic. Not a car was in view, either parked or moving.
At precisely 1:00pm a hand, then arm, then torso, appeared inside the courthouse door and unlocked it. Lunch hour was over!
Observing Mine Host & companion standing under the awning, the court staffer came out, puzzled as to why anybody would be standing there.
The explanation that we were there for a hearing which was set down for "right now, actually" brought an even more puzzled look onto her face.
Struggling to process this nugget of information she finally came up with: "Come back tomorrow" & went back inside, then through a door into the mysterious labrynth which occupies the "authorised personnel only" section.
She exhibited a manner that indicated the matter was at an end.
After a pause of disbelief it was now Mine Host's turn to struggle with processing unexpected developments.
Entering the courthouse and rapping on a bash-proof perspex shield produced the same staffer, who did no more than put her ear near to an apeture in the perspex.
Mine Host explained that he and his witness had travelled a long distance to comply with a hearing date which had been set down by the Magistrate, and quite reasonably expected the hearing to proceed, now. Tomorrow was for other places to be and other things to do.
With a resigned look on her face she said no Magistrate was in town today, and that in that case she would hear the case, however she was the only person at work today and the hearing would not be able to proceed until she could find somebody prepared to come in to work and mind the reception window.
Meantime would Mine Host & companion be kind enough to sit and wait?
A local staff, barely in her mid-20's, with a very pronounced regional accent indicating she had probably rarely been more than 20km from the courthouse in her life, and she was going to sit on and rule on, a court case.
Mine Host & companion sat for close to an hour, feeling as if they were in a "the day after" movie, as not a soul went by on the street, either by vehicle or foot, nor did anybody enter the courthouse, nor did any court staff appear (even behind the bash-proof reception window).
Then the same girl appeared, to state that the matter could now be heard.
The girl said that she and another staff would hear it together.
Mine Host stated most emphatically that he didn't mind who ruled on the matter, provided it was someone who had the authority to hear a matter of this nature, as past experience had taught him that only a Magistrate could hear such a matter as this, and if the matter was heard & ruled on by someone without the authority to do so, it would when the judgement was being processed, be annulled and have to be heard again, in which case Mine Host would ".. have something to say"
This brought a most uncertain look to her face, and she said that she would have to telephone a Magistrate for instructions.
A while later Mine Host & witness were invited into the courtroom. It was empty and felt deserted, especially as the lights weren't switched on. Shortly after the girl and another just like her entered from a side door and sat on the bench.
They made a big production out of quoting case numbers and suchforth, as if hearing of a matter of great importance was about to proceed, then promptly stated that the matter would be postponed and nominated a date Five months in the future. Almost before they had finished stating this, they got up and began to exit the courtroom.
Pinching himself to make sure this was not taking place in a dream, or in a parallel universe, Mine Host asked could he be given a Notice of Hearing which indicated the new date.
The two girls conferred together for a moment, consulted some papers they were carrying, then announced accross the room that the Registrar would issue a Notice of Hearing and post it to Mine Host, that is, just as soon as the Registrar returned from holidays.
Somewhere in reading the notes which informed them of the procedure for issuing a Notice of Hearing, the two girls made the discovery that there was another party to the matter. They pondered aloud how to handle this new piece of information.
(Most laymen are aware that in any court hearing there are Two opposing parties, either Claimant vs Respondent, or Crown vs Defendant.) These two girls were court staff.
It transpired that there were Two other parties. The two girls finally decided that the postponement of the matter applied to the other parties also. (Gee, you don't reckon?)
They drew themselves up as tall as they could and gravely informed Mine Host that postponement of the matter as it stood applied to the other parties also. (as if the hearing of a matter didn't affect ALL parties simultaneously?)
The impression gleaned by Mine Host was that in their minds, by telling Mine Host this, it was as if they had informed the other parties.
The look on the face of both Mine Host and witness must by now have been priceless. The girls hesitated, pondered for several moments, conferred together again, then announced that they would telephone to the indicated telephone numbers of the other parties and inform them of the postponement "that way".
This happened in 2008, in Queensland.