Occasionally I am asked to be an expert witness on patent cases. Recently I was involved in an interesting case that was tried in the federal court located in Austin. I had never been to Austin, though I had traveled elsewhere in Texas many times, especially Houston due to my long association with NASA Human Factors research.

During the trial, I sat with the other experts and observers on the bench seats at the rear of the courtroom. The day it began, a woman came in and sat in the front row of benches. She spoke with one of the attorneys that I was working with, and I learned that she was his wife. "That's nice," I thought, but paid the situation little attention otherwise.

She attended trial again the next day. At the end of that day, another expert offered to drive people back to the hotel (it was June in Austin and hot). He also asked the woman, who agreed to ride along. She and I ended up sitting together in the back seat of his car where I learned her name was Laurie. I asked her if she always watched the cases her husband presented in court. "Oh no," she said, "The last time I went to observe was nine years ago." So this trial was special and her attendance most unusual.

She went on to remark how much she liked Austin over Houston. Apparently, she used to live in Houston. In fact, her husband used to work for NASA in Houston. And, yes, she had worked at NASA, too. I mentioned my long-standing research association with the Human Factors group there and asked if she knew the folks I had worked with. Well, not only did she know them all, she had shared her office with my primary research connection there, Barbara W!