april 1997
"april is the cruellest month..."


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duty calls
it's all in the details


    there may well be two inexorable fates, but for a change this april my taxes weren't partnered with certain death. instead, i got a letter requiring me to participate in the santa clara county justice system.
    participate in the justice system? exactly what are they accusing me of . . . oh, i get it! i'm summoned for jury duty. no problem. well, no. i wasn't summoned for duty. i was required to be on call for a week. ok. fine. on call--what's the problem? telephoning the courthouse is better than driving to the courthouse.
    so i'm on call the week of april 14. my first telephone contact was "anytime after 5 pm friday 11th." perhaps i should call may 2nd or on my birthday . . . ? i bet that's not what they meant.
    on friday 11, the pre-recorded female voice told juror numbers in my group to call again monday between 12 and 1.
    on monday 14, the woman's recording told my group to call tuesday between 12-1. good thing my tuesday lunch date was already cancelled.
    on tuesday 15, the female voice orders me to show up at the courthouse by 2 PM. do not call again, report to the courthouse. do not call in. what's the problem? this is where i get to find out why everyone hates jury duty.
    so i arrive at the courthouse and park where i've been ordered. inside, my bag is searched for weapons by guards who seem far more wary than any airport security team. no problem; the summons warned me not to bring anything that could be a weapon. my swiss army knife is safe at home. sorry officer, my taikwando-trained hands don't come off. a woman next to me laments that THEY took her keys at the guard station. what's the problem? well, seems THEY wouldn't let her in with a pepper sprayer on her key ring. "maybe THEY consider pepper spray a weapon," i suggest. she frowns, "you think so?"
    upstairs i get in line like a good lemming. at check in, the woman from the recording assigns me to panel four. she's having a nice day, and i tell her mine is ok, too. she seemed pleased that i asked.
    the courthouse waiting room is marginally above a hospital's, mostly because no one was bleeding. i have a book. the lady with the thick briefcase has a cellular phone. we each entertain ourselves in our own way. everyone else studies the walls, or each other. what's the problem? maybe they're architecture or psychology students.
    the senior vp of alliance suddenly appears at my side, asks "what are you doing here?" i fend off my first answer: "earning my salary," instead parrying with "same as you." he disappears moments later. maybe he had to reclaim pepper spray from the guard.
    one fellow talks about his previous experiences, where the lawyers dismissed him on the grounds he was a logic professor. "they don't want jurors who think," he concludes. what fun. perhaps they'll dismiss me and the woman with the cell phone on grounds of prior planning. i read my book for ninety minutes until juror panel four is told to come back tomorrow at 8:30 sharp. do not call in, just show up. do not call in.
    in the parking garage i sailed by the people standing at the pay station. what's the problem? my guess is that they don't read the part that says parking is free if you validate your stub.
    on wednesday 16, i find the waiting room more pleasant with my laptop to entertain me. i sit next to the electrical outlet. others appear to be content to resume study of the paint and light fixtures. at 10:10, eight web pages later, my panel four is assigned to department 25, judge rene navarro. i had to borrow a pencil to take that down.
    at last, a courtroom!
    i'm sworn in along with 75 others. at the part where i say "i do," i could have said "i don't," or even "donuts," and no one would have known. immediately without any warning we're all told about a 1995 case with four counts. our swift justice system in action.
    to the best of my recollection, no one said anything about sworn to secrecy. judge navarro talked about three stages of a trial (jury selection; presentation of the evidence; and oral arguments . . . what about deliberation of the jury?) and then his honor brought up controlled substances and persons under the influence, and the expected five days of trial.
    five days! cool. my workplace pays me for up to five days of jury duty. what's the problem? the problem is that those five days are ten days from now, when i'm going to be in the midwest.
    judge rene navarro asked us all to consider whether we thought we had hardships preventing us to serve on his jury trial. we could all file out of the courtroom to consider our hardships, so none of us would have to hear each others' pleas for mercy. judge navarro looked like a smart cookie. i think he just didn't want to let us know whose hardships worked and whose were denied.
    i was worried about my trip to the midwest. the woman next to me in the hardship line complained her workplace didn't compensate for jury duty. another fellow had a 50th wedding anniversary world tour. both of these others pled their cases before me. remember kiddies:
  • no workplace compensation is tired.
  • pre-planned airplane travel is wired.
    when it was my turn to stand before the judge, with confidence i meekly asked if non-refundable plane tickets were a hardship. the judge looked into space and then wished me a good trip.
    in the parking garage there were still people who hadn't read the part that says we could validate our stubs. i got out of jail free and drove to lunch with deb. with the t-tops off, i put 70 miles on the odometer until it was anytime after 5. i was ordered to call tomorrrow between 11 and 12.
    on thursday 17, the 11 am recording told juror numbers in my group there was no additional information, so we had to call again today between 12 and 1. while on a lunch shopping spree i borrowed the phone from the nice man at a one-time favorite hangout shopping with an anonymous friend. the recording waved me off until friday at 12. slow day.
    on friday 18, the recording told me that potential jurors not currently assigned to a judge were no longer required. whoo! whoo!
    what's the problem?

to buy or not to buy

    so i decided to buy THANG 'cuz i needed one and last year's generic brand THANG plummeted to $40 when this year's model came out. i can almost afford $40 without dipping into savings. does deb need to go out for anything?
    sure, let's go to the store.. maybe i'm tired after all. let's get out of the house. no, let's not. i'm tired; aren't you tired? we just took a nap. how can you be tired? you're right. so then why are you still lying down again? don't you want to go out? you always want to go out. no-yes-no-yes-no. ok. maybe we'll just look and not buy anything. besides, we can run that other errand.
    i am sooo glad my wife's a patient woman.
    when i get to the store, they have a whole stack of top-of-the-line name-brand last year's THANG on close-out for only $30! way cool! i could have the best possible THANG for (count 'em) ten dollars less than i was prepared to pay! they have a pile of 'em right next to the checkout lines. i could be out of the store in two minutes and save ten bucks for lunch with the guys next week . . .
    oh oh.
    over on the far side of the store they have a display of this year's no-name THANG for $45. this year's THANG is twice as fast as last year's THANG.
    twice as fast . . . generic commodity . . . twice as fast . . . name brand . . . twice as fast . . . $10 less . . . twice as fast . . . twice as fast, twice as fast!
    someday i'll learn that these things always turn out the same way, and forgo the anguish.

occupation: foole

    i asked deb to marry me on april 1, 1990, figuring she'd never know for sure whether i was joking. however, she got a measure of revenge by responding the same day.
    we had lunch together today, and afterwards deb asks me if there was any special reason. six or ten years, depending how you count, and deb still looks at me sideways on april first.
    heh heh. if love is king, i'm the court jester.

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