Kicking the Holiday Season Off with a Bang!

It has been…a week, to say the least.

1. It being Halloween, my daughter and her friends decided to be Scooby Doo characters and they wanted to turn my beloved golf cart into “The Mystery Machine.” I love my daughter more than life itself, so I pulled all the materials together, my wife organized a painting party, and I did the rest. They had a heckuva time. That’s mine on the right:
Marissa and Friends Halloween 2019

2. Our 84-lb Doberman tore her Cruciate (that’s an ACL in humans) while also destroying her meniscus. The result was an appallingly expensive surgery, now followed by 6 weeks of intensive eyes-on, full-time cones of shame, and hot and cold compresses followed by leg massages.

3. I built a fire Saturday night (my 4th this season) and the chimney caught on fire (inside the pipe). I was able to put it out with the fire extinguisher, but not before three (count em “3”) fire districts showed up, along with two Bam-buh-lances. I’m grateful, but it felt like overkill considering I told 911 I already had put it out. But now, I have to get everything inspected and cleaned. The interesting thing is that, while I haven’t had it actually “cleaned” in years, annually I burn one or two anti-creosote logs, and had just done one the night before. New brand. Coincidence?

4. And lastly (so far), approximately one month ago, I received a Jury Summons; something that happens about every 4 or 5 years in my county. The issue is that I live in the very tip-top end of the dominant county in Atlanta. Which means that satisfying a jury summons in my county is quite the ordeal. See, look:

Note that these drives are indicative of when I would have to drive down to arrive by 8am:

Courthouse map

I drove downtown yesterday, arriving around 7:30 at the parking lot. Caught the bus over to the courthouse, and then stood outside in the cold for 15 minutes waiting for security to open up. Another 30 minutes later and I was inside. Per the desk clerk, “We have an unprecedented number of judges wanting jurors.” Of the 8 “groups” of potential jurors selected to “potentially report for duty” (usually only about 4-6 of the 8 have to actually show up) all 8 had to report. It was packed!

That also meant that any hopes of a quick, “We don’t need you; you are free to go” was dashed. An hour later, me and 39 other potential jurors were assigned a courtroom and down we went.

Once ushered into the court room, the judge proceeded to tell us the facts as she could:

  •  This trial is expected to last 9 days (9 DAYS!)
  •  It was a medical device failure lawsuit, resulting in the death of a teen
  •  I understand everyone has issues with being away from home daily for 9 days, but we will only accept hardship requests under the following circumstances (disabilities, over 75, etc.)
  • If selected, expect to start court daily between 7:30 and 8 am and finish at 6pm.

We spent the entire morning first hearing the plaintiff’s and defense’s attorneys give a “lite” version of the case and then being questioned en-masse, raising our little paddles whenever we agree with something the lawyers on each side asked. Then, the remainder of the day was spent on individual questions. I was panelist #40, so I was dead-last.

It was a nail-biter of a day, and if you ask me, the opening attorney for the plaintiff (from the “Johnny Cochran” law firm) did a horrible job of biasing potential jurors with his opening remarks, and a very smart young lady to my left in the jury pool–whose dad was a lawyer as were several others in her family–called him out on it. When it was my turn to respond to questions, I was only too happy to join her chorus when asked, “Do you believe that starting out, the plaintiff and defense are on equal footing?”

My answer: “I do not. Based on the facts laid out by the plaintiff’s attorney, I already have some idea of how I might view the case even before it starts. I also believe it takes an extraordinary person to be able to completely set aside their personal beliefs and bias and judge something solely on its newly-presented merit. If Facebook has taught us anything, it’s that most of us are not extraordinary in that regard.”

Neither I, nor that young lady, were selected! What a week indeed…


Free at Last, Free at Last

cow patternDo you ever wonder, as you sit there thinking to yourself, “Man, people are cows,” if other people are looking at you and thinking, “Man, people are cows”?

Right? I mean, we all like to think that we’re free-thinkers and that we’re above the herd mentality, but when it comes down to it, when we’re all sitting in a large room staring at each other for eight hours, don’t we all just sort of meld together?

I thought about this yesterday several times while languishing in civil-service purgatory (we started attending a new Baptist church and they are big on Purgatory allegories) and then again as I sipped a nice, oakey glass of chardonnay after putting the kids to bed last night (Brand: Pine and Post) What I came up with is that, lacking direction ourselves, but knowing we must follow someone else’s direction, even the most intelligent among us becomes an unthinking automaton slave to the will of the person with the most powerful cattle prod.

Take yesterday for example, literally hundreds of normal, intelligent people from around Atlanta converged downtown on the courthouse steps for Jury Duty. There were no signs telling people what to do; there was just a roped off path and a guy with an x-ray machine. Having done this once already, I knew to get in line, but most others just loitered around as if they had no clue that they would have to pass through the screening area before going to the jury pool holding pen. It took a fairly serious looking security guard just about yelling at the masses to poke them along. This continued even as people got off the elevator and checked in with the clerk and even as names were called to report to various courtrooms.

What happens to free-thinkers and movers and shakers in these situations that causes them (us?) to dumb down to the lowest common denominator; in this case, your classic trailer park hurricane victim wearing a scary hoody like the one Billy Mahoney wore in Flatliners, and dragging a beat up, dirty cooler full of Lord only knows what! (I kid you not, when they finally dismissed us, she woke up and promptly announced in a toothless, loud voice, “That wuz the most boring day evar!”)

So, I make an extra effort to be different. I try to find another way down the seven floors when everyone else is standing there all doe-eyed waiting to cram on the elevator. I’ll walk a little further if it means that maybe I’ll catch a faster bus back to the parking lot. I’ll even go sit away from the crowds over there in the nice chairs in the off chance that people will assume I belong there and not make me move.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been told to move from my nice chair, or how many times my shortcut turned into a dead end, or even how often I’ve howled when everyone else was mooing and gotten in trouble for it, but you know what? I tried. It may not ever always work out the way I want, but maybe when I die, lacking anything else poignant to put on my tombstone, they can instead inscribe:

He didn’t Moo!

Only about six of you will get it, but I’m OK with that. It just means that you at least understood my point.

"I, state your name…"

jury dutyTomorrow, my dear friends, is the day I have to drive back downtown and make up my day o’ standby Jury Duty. You’ll recall how I dragged a leg down there last time after having pulled my back out and threw myself on the mercy of the passionless woman behind the bulletproof glass at the clerk’s office. She was moved only as much as it took to postpone my sentencing service to my county.

An interesting commentary on Atlanta: I lived in Cobb County for nearly 10 years without ever being tagged for Jury Duty. Cobb County is a WASP area just NW of Atlanta where crime is very low. I’ve lived in Fulton County, where the city of Atlanta resides, and in just over a year and a half, I got tagged. Sure, the crime is higher in Atlanta, but the population pool is also much higher. My getting called so quickly should tell you something about the underbelly of the south!

Anyway, I am packed and prepared for nine hours of doing nothing. My goodie bag includes:

  1. two books
  2. 1 can of V8
  3. 1 fiber bar thingy to keep me “regular” since I’ll not be getting any exercise to keep things flowing smoothly
  4. my cell phone to call and complain to all my friends and family about how bored I am
  5. 1 beverage of choice, and don’t think I’m kidding when I say that I am seriously considering spiking it with a little of the “colorless” and “odorless” spirit of choice.

Course…it’ll be my luck that just when I’m feeling good, I’ll get called back and they’ll ask me, “How do you feel about capital (capitol?) punishment?” And I’ll reply with, “I love it!” and then they’ll say, “Dismissed!” and then I’ll have to sit on the curb outside the courthouse like some downtown whino while I sober up enough to drive.

It’s a toss up really. Tags: ,,