Saturday, May 23, 2015

Jury Duty, Part 2

Jury duty was, as I expected, heck. The slickest part was taking the bus. You get a bus ticket with your jury summons, so the fare is covered. I parked at my church parking lot, which the county uses as a park and ride, and went out to the side of the highway to wait. Lo and behold, up pulls a bus driven by Larry Flynn. He stopped so the door was right smack dab in front of me and all I had to do was step up. I’ve always liked Larry. Transferred to the Express bus going on to the boat and that took me right to the front door of the King County Courthouse, where I got in line for security screening. Put my bag in the tray and sent it through the scanner, walked through the gateway and then was informed that my cane was a weapon, and it had to go through the scanner, also. Having collected bag and weapon, I ambled off to the jury assembly room. It’s the size of a school gymnasium, and packed from one end to the other with comfy padded chairs, mostly filled by people who wish they weren’t there. At eight a.m. an orientation video is shown. This is the most exciting thing that happens all day if you aren’t called to be on a jury. This video talks about the Constitution, and how the jury is part of our process to ensure fair and impartial justice for all. It really said that. “Fair and impartial justice for all.” The video stresses the importance of not talking to anyone about your trial, and shows a woman ratting out a witness who tried to talk to her. Same woman is shown at home refusing to talk about the trial to her children. You are supposed to follow her example, but I thought she was a bit of a prig. After the video the person in charge of the room and the selection process gets up and thanks you for coming, acknowledges that pretty much no one wants to be there and that you are sacrificing time from your regular life in order to do your civic duty. She says several times that if you don’t get picked for a jury, don’t take it personally. You have no idea why someone would or would not want you on the jury. It’s not personal. Like in The Godfather: “It isn’t personal, it’s business.” She said we were not allowed to look up information online about anyone or anything involved in the trial, or talk about the trial online. This is a relatively recent problem, but a big one. A juror researching or talking about a case online can derail a trial that has been years in the making. I was not called for a jury the first day. I did nothing for six and a half hours, and was not a happy potential juror. Once released I learned how to catch the C line bus back to the ferry. Bus service between downtown and the ferry dock has improved immensely in the last thirty-five years. It still takes just as long to get home, though. The second day I was an old hand, and I took my Kindle for entertainment. Was called in the afternoon to be considered as a juror for a case and was quickly determined not to be the juror they were looking for. I realize that I am too much of a smart aleck to be a good juror. There is no comedy in a courtroom. There have been courtroom comedies on television, but there is no intentional comedy in a real courtroom, only the unintentional sort, like the lawyer who said that one of his client’s children had died, and then went on to say that falling off the defendant’s porch was the worst thing that had ever happened in the plaintiff’s entire life. I thought that if falling off a porch was worse than losing a child, the plaintiff needed a lot more help than the court could give her. That sort of thought is what makes me unsuitable to be a juror. You’re supposed to pay attention and deliberate rationally as a juror. You’re not supposed to laugh out loud when you hear something that is nonsense. You’re not supposed to say out loud, “She’s lying!” when a witness is talking, even if you’re certain she is. You’re supposed to take it all seriously, and keep your mouth shut until the jury goes out to deliberate. Oh, and you’re not supposed to doze off in the jury box. They really don’t like that. But I didn’t take it personally.

Jury Duty

I have been summoned for jury duty again. The summons says I have to report to the courthouse at 8 a.m. Monday morning. Eight a.m.! Are people still doing that? Wow. I do get up at six-thirty a couple of days a week because that’s how my life is, but I don’t like it. Being at the courthouse ready to be a juror at 8 a.m. does not entirely make sense to me, because when I worked for the county the workday did not begin until 8:30 a.m. Maybe they want us to be present when employees come dragging in all droopy-eyed at 8:30, clutching their coffee cups and counting the days until their twenty years with the county are up so they can retire with a pension. A big part of jury duty, in my experience, is sitting and waiting to be called. You need to pack some things to pass the time – a knit or crochet project, a book, a smart phone or a tablet in these technological times. It’s good to stake out the location of the bathroom early, and to have some food in your backpack or purse. Sustaining food - nuts, a boiled egg, fruit, carrot sticks, water of course. The candy bars go without saying but a woman does not live by chocolate alone. It seems that way sometimes, but we have other nutritional needs. Potato chips. Halvah. Once you have provided for your physical and
mental needs while waiting for your number to be called, you might consider trying to strike up a conversation with fellow potential jury members. I flunked Small Talk 101, but I listen well. Until I get someone else talking, I try to imitate normal people, and have some rules. Avoid politics and religion. Sports are good. The weather, of course. If you want to hear tales to curl your hair, though, get people talking about their children. The conversation often goes deep, fast. Most people aren’t talking about how their kid’s biggest problem is choosing among the prestigious four-year colleges that have given him or her a full ride scholarship. No. Most people talk about how their child has struggled, in school and in life, and while parents don’t say so, it is apparent that they have had a great deal of heartache watching their beloved, unique children collide with a world that demands conformity more than uniqueness. They do brag about accomplishments, but they also talk about disabilities, autism, Down Syndrome, addictions, arrests, cults, car wrecks, homosexuality, estrangements, spouses (horrible or wonderful), tragic deaths, unexpected pregnancies, and the rest of the rich panoply of human experience. Then, if their children survived childhood and adolescence, parents talk about how their children triumphed in some way: they are now adults who have jobs and families, who do good work, who help people, who have ultimately made their parents proud of their great kids. Often the wallets come out and you get to see pictures of the grandchildren. Yup, children are a pretty reliable subject. Except with people who don’t have children, who are angry because they have been told they are weird for not having children, or that they “can’t understand” something because they don’t have children. Yeah, that would make me angry, too. Childless people, as well as parents, will show you pictures of their cats, dogs, horses, and other family members of different species, and tell you stories about them. The time flies. So maybe you get placed on a jury, or maybe you get sent home. I’m hoping I don’t qualify this time, mostly because I hate getting up early, and because I have an important medical appointment on Wednesday of that week which could not be re-scheduled for months. We’ll see how it goes. First hurdle is to arrive on time Monday morning. I need to go get some more coffee.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Recalled to Life

Grief is a lifetime sentence. I have heard many times that you don’t get over losing someone. The death of someone you love is at first unthinkable, and gradually becomes a part of you with which you make as much peace as you can, depending on who you lost and in what circumstances. I realize that for some people there is no peace, ever. When Rick died I told myself I would allow the process of grieving for him to happen at its own pace. I would not force myself to “get over it,” or listen to people who told me I should be over it by now. I figured that I’d know in my heart when I was ready to move on. It is strange the times and places you realize you’re ready for the next step. I was in Target, looking at a travel iron, trying to decide if I wanted to get it. I’ve been getting out my summer clothes and so many of them are wrinkled from storage. That’s why I thought I needed an iron, but as I stood there it hit me deep in my soul that for some reason buying that iron was the beginning of a new phase in my life. Either there is some mystical meaning attached to that iron, or there isn’t, or the manufacturer has perfected subliminal marketing messages. “You NEED to buy this iron.” I got the iron. Came home and got rid of the old iron, which was literally falling apart. The irony of the iron? I seldom iron. Usually I wear the wrinkles, my fashion motto being, “If it’s comfortable I don’t care what it looks like.” This week I’ve been sorting and donating Rick’s winter coats, shirts, pants, and work boots, and that is progress, but the big news is that I have started on Rick’s corner. Rick’s corner is the northwest corner of our bedroom. It is where his drawing table is, tucked up against the window that looks out over the ravine. He loved that northern light. Surrounding the drawing table are his books, drawings, pencils, pens, brushes, Bristol board, mugs, toys, videos and video cameras and video players, and photographs. All of his cartoons. All of his drawings. On one wall is a large color poster of the USS King, DLG-10, the ship he served on in the Navy in 1967-68. Hanging in the window over the drawing table are a couple of Navy signal flags he got when he was a volunteer on the Turner Joy in Bremerton. Rick was a signalman in the Navy, so he knew all about signal flags. He received and sent messages with flags, with lights, and with semaphore. There is a rule, he told me once, that if someone hails a Naval ship, they are obliged to answer. He was doing some shovel work on a beach up on the north end of the island one day when a Navy ship came steaming by. He grabbed a couple of old rags he had and hailed the ship using the rags for semaphore flags. They had to answer. He had a brief conversation with them, part of which was, “HOW NAV?” Semaphore for, “How’s the Navy?” They promptly replied, “NAV SUX,” which is semaphore for – well, I think you can figure that one out. Apparently not much had changed since Vietnam. So I’m getting rid of stuff as I am able to part with it, and getting rid of stuff has the effect of making me feel light and happy. On the other hand, every item I relinquish means another bit of Rick is gone, and every day is a day farther from when he was here, my best friend, advocate, and partner. I feel so conflicted: while I do feel lonely sometimes, I want more time alone to become who I am, this new me, living this new life. Every morning I give thanks for my life and all the blessings that have come to me, and I try to acknowledge my sad or angry feelings. I am trying to embrace all of life, as it comes. That’s the ideal, anyway. It ain’t easy. When I’m under the hammer of life, it’s impossible, because I’m so busy getting from one minute to the next that I don’t have time to think about ideals. Then I revert to form, and my prayers tend to be, “Okay, God, what’s the deal? This is stupid!” Etc. God takes this whining pretty well. He hasn’t smited me yet. Smote. Whatever. Rick’s corner is in there waiting for me to come back and keep sorting. I will, as I can. There is a lot of treasure buried in that corner. I’ll try to share some of it with you as it surfaces. Blessings on you all, and peace. Rick and shipmates demonstrate semaphore, circa 1968. 1. THE 2. NAVY 3. SUX