Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thanksgiving Themes, PART 5: "Jury Duty"

Jury duty doesn't bother me.  It's an inconvenience, and the whole jury system (along with the justice system) could use an overhaul.  But it is what it is.  Our system is pretty decent compared to the rest of the world's, and someone's got to serve on the juries.

So when I got summoned to show up on November 28th, the day after my birthday, I wasn't crying a river or anything like that.  If anything, I thought, "Well that will be easy to remember."

And overall, my experience at the courthouse was fine.  Got some emails read & written, sorted some coupons, took a nap--it was fine.

Before and after jury duty?  Pretty sucky.

Things started off innocently enough on my birthday.  As I emerged from my donut coma and the late NFL games wound down, I began to gather up what I needed for the next day, like a book, some snacks, stuff to write with--oh, and my summons.  I looked where I thought it was.  It was not there.

I looked through a couple of piles.  Still no summons.  I told Beth to start exercising without me, and I'd be down in a few minutes.  When she finished, she came upstairs.  I was still looking.  For about 2 hours I sifted through piles of stuff on all three floors of our house.

I was surely not the first person to misplace this important document, but I also didn't know how big of a deal it was to lose it.  Would it be a big headache for the jury coordinator?  Would it result in a fine for contempt of court?

Aside from those concerns, I wasn't even sure exactly where I was supposed to be and when I was supposed to be there.  The St. Louis courts website was of very little help; most of the FAQ's were variations of "This is my situation--does that get me out of jury duty?"  Was the question "What if I lost my summons?" asked THAT infrequently?  Apparently so.

Of course, since it was Sunday, there was no one official who I could call to ask my IAQ ("infrequently...").  This meant I would be getting up earlier on Monday to get the girls ready for school more quickly, and still "drive blind" towards the courthouse, hoping someone at the courthouse would answer my phone call on Monday morning.

My relaxing birthday was getting less and less relaxing and more and more tragic feeling.  I had brought this on myself.  Important documents go in designated places--that is a rule I have had trouble internalizing.  When we moved to California 10 years ago, I closed out our savings account in Kirksville and was issued a cashier's check for our life's savings.  My next stop was to buy a tub of protein powder at the local health and supplement store, since we weren't sure we'd be able to get it in California.  Five days later, after much stress and anguish for both myself and my wife, we found the check in the brown paper bag alongside the tub of protein powder.  Seemed like a good place to put it at the time.  As Spinal Tap sings in "The Majesty of Rock": "The more things stay the same, the less they change."

"Isolating areas of growth while not getting down on myself"--that's another rule I need to work on.  I'll put that right next to "Put important documents in designated places" on my "Things I'm Working On" list which, of course, is hard for me to look at without getting down on myself.  Another post, I suppose...

But my pre-jury-duty crisis has a happy-ish ending.  On Monday morning, someone at the courthouse answered my phone call right away and told me that losing my summons wasn't a big deal, and to just show up.  When I got there, I told them my name, and they printed off a new jury number tag.  They actually didn't even check my ID, which I found a little odd.  I guess they're not too picky about filling up the jury pool, as long as the person who shows up appears to be of the same species as the name they have in their records.

The moral of this story is: Pretend all important documents are jury summons, and care for them as such.

Like I said, jury duty proper was uneventful and even productive.  But my pre-service crisis was bookended  neatly by an independent post-service crisis.  Most of the jurors were released to go home around 5:00 (along with most other people in downtown St. Louis).  Jurors and normal people alike scurried to the parking garage, then weaved around in our cars like connected train cars.  The train approached an exit ramp, and cars began backing up behind a mechanical arm sitting in the down position.

The person in front was trying to feed their paper, courthouse validated parking ticket into a machine intended for plastic parking passes.  I observed that the second exit-lane, parallel to the first, was empty.  Furthermore, there was a small sign taped to window of the booth of the second lane that read: "Jurors Exit Here."  I pulled up to THAT closed arm, only to find that to get the arm to open, I would need to hand my ticket to an actual parking attendant inside the booth.  And the booth was empty.

So both exit ramp arms were in down position.  Meanwhile, rows of cars lined up behind both me and "I wish I had a plastic ticket" lady.  Neither of us could pull forward, thanks to the arms.  And neither of us could pull backwards, thanks to the cars lined up behind us, many of the drivers of which many began to honk and yell things out of their windows.

The next few minutes I've tried to block out, but I recall that somehow it WAS finally communicated to the cars at the end of the train that it would be nice if they could back up a little, so that the people in front of them could back up, and so on and so forth.  When it was my turn to back up out of the exit ramp, I rolled for a few feet, then heard a loud noise, then saw a concrete wall a little too close to my passenger-side window.

Literally about 5 seconds later, a woman appeared--I'm not sure from where--with a bag of fastfood, and said, "Oh, I'm sorry."  She walked into the booth, took my ticket, and opened up the arm.

I drove out of the garage and then pulled to the side of the street, hopped out of my car, walked around to the passenger side, and saw this:

If I had waited for another 5 seconds to back up my car, this wouldn't have happened.  If I had continued to drive around the parking garage to the NEXT exit, this wouldn't have happened.  If I had gotten stuck behind the lady in the left lane, this wouldn't have happened.  If I had missed the elevator, or missed the shuttle from the courthouse, or let one person go in front of me, this wouldn't have happened.

When assessing how angry I am at any given moment, I (like most people, I'm sure) ask myself, "If I were David Banner, would I turn into the Incredible Hulk right now?"  As I stood looking at the damage caused to my car because someone thought it was a good idea to go grab their dinner at 5:15 on a weekday evening, well, yes, I would have turned into the Incredible Hulk.  I don't know what I would have done THEN.  Probably caused even more damage, or maybe growled in the face of the parking garage attendant.

I was still fuming when I got home, and fuming when 30 minutes later when I got a phone call from our insurance adjuster.  She was calling about the CRV, which careful readers of WPFF will recall was totaled back in August.  She wanted to ask me how I would feel about a settlement figure for the accident.  It would cover my medical bills (chiropractor treatment) for the accident.  I was happy about that, but the numbers didn't quite add up.  The number she was quoting me was more than the amount of my bills.  I expressed my confusion, and she was quickly chimed in, "Oh, the extra money is for your pain and inconvenience."  It wasn't enough to retire on, but it WOULD be enough to get, say, a scratch on our new car taken care of.  Add in my $12 for jury duty, and we may even have enough left over to paint flames across the hood.

So, my Thanksgiving weekend wrapped up with an unexpected expense followed by an unexpected influx of cash.  Interesting.

Meanwhile, my black eye is healed and my nose is straight-ish.

I just spent the last of my Walgreens and CVS coupons that I attained Thanksgiving day.

A friend of mine with a kid who loves trains is coming over tomorrow and he will get to play with the train that my uncle gave us.

And I am still very grateful for a family that wants to celebrate me on my birthday.  It was a good Thanksgiving weekend.

Oh, one final addendum:  While I was sitting outside the courtroom to which I had been called on Monday afternoon, I decided to catch up on some reading, and pulled out a stack of emails I had printed out.  As I flipped through them, I stumbled across this:

There was much laughing.  Not by me, of course, but I'm sure someone, somewhere in the world was laughing about something.


1 comment:

  1. Great post, Rob. And there was much laughing....