April 28, 2021 Lawyer Wellness

Stairwell to Hell

By Michael S. Webb

Those of us who practice solo often must visit our law offices after business hours, and depending upon the time of day (or night, which is usually the case with me), security may be spotty or even non-existent. Thus, we need to be careful when entering or exiting our office buildings to scope out the territory before walking to our cars, pickup trucks, Harley Davidson choppers, Humvees, and Bradley fighting vehicles.

About a month ago, I decided to swing by my office to pick up the mail around 11:00 p.m.-ish. Of course, I was engrossed in thought as I parked my dependable but modest ride (a 2016 Toyota Corolla) and made my way across the parking garage I rent (feels like it, considering what I am charged monthly).  I wasn’t paying attention to the landscape – mentally, I was far away, on a beach in Cancun, sipping a frozen margarita.

Anyway, to gain entry from the parking garage into the building where my law office is located, you must pass through a metal door, climb a stairway of about six steps, exit through a glass door, cross a driveway, then climb another set of steps to the lobby entrance.

This is what I was doing at 11:00 p.m. that night after deciding to stop by my office to pick up my mail.

As I opened the metal door for the garage and stepped on the stairs, I heard the clunk of something metallic on the concrete floor behind me. I turned 90 degrees to my right to see what the noise was.  A man wearing a ski cap on top of his head who looked 30-ish popped up from underneath the stairwell.

Of course, an alarm bell went off inside my head as a scene from “Casino Royale” flashed across my mental screen. It was the scene where James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, is attacked by two men on a stairwell and wrestles them to the floor underneath it. They struggle for several minutes until Bond manages to strangle one man with his hands and another with his legs, killing them.

Obviously, I am not 007, and my left knee is in no shape to help my right knee squeeze the life out of a couple of bad guys.

But it was unnecessary. The guy looked at me, and I looked at him, and we both smiled. I said, “Man, you scared me.” And he replied with something like, “You’re good, man.”

Call it a smile standoff.

I exited through the glass door into the driveway -- not at a slow pace, mind you -- and went on my merry way. But I then had to walk around my building to the front entrance, because the side lobby entrance is off-limits at night.

The thought crossed my mind that I should dial 911 to alert the Decatur Police, but I shrugged it off. I figured the guy was homeless, and because of the cold, he sought shelter under the stairwell to do his drugs.

I don’t know what drugs he had in the tubular metal canister he dropped on the concrete floor. I’m guessing it was some kind of vaporizer with cannabis in it.

But I think it was rude of him not to share it with me. My killer left knee would have appreciated it.

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Michael S. Webb

Atlanta, GA

Michael S. Webb is a criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta. He serves on the editorial advisory boards of the ABA Senior Lawyers Division’s Voice of Experience and the Georgia Bar Journal. He is the author of Copyright: A Writer’s Guide (Vision Press, 2020).