Sunday, September 04, 2005

Flotsam and Jetsam

I need to clean out the cerebral pipes, so I am making this a Random Thoughts entry.

I never did tell you about jury duty. Well, I ended up spending eight hours sitting in the Jury Pool Room, never got called up, and have now served my jury service for the year. Whee! The only discomfort I experienced was eyestrain from having read three hundred pages of a great sweeping historical epic about London.

Got from the Great Fire all the way through the Blitz, I did. And without so much as a cup of tea or a restorative shot of gin.

There was an event worth recording, however. Every hour or so, a woman would walk into the boredom-stupefied masses and read off twenty names to go to one court or another. The way it was supposed to work was that she would read your name, you would say “Here” (or “Present” if you were feeling fancy) and walk up to join her. The way it actually worked was like this:

She came out the first time, squinted at the sheet of paper in her hand, and said confidently “May Gano Lary”.

There was silence. May did not stand up. May did not say “Here”.

The official repeated “May Gano Lary” in a slightly irritated voice.

Silence.

“MAY. GANO. LARY.”

Oh, May was gonna get it now.

Silence.

A woman in the middle of the room raised a tentative hand.

“Um, by any chance do you mean Megan O’Leary,?”

The official looked at Ms. O’Leary as if she was stupid.

“That’s what I said. Ms. Lary, please come up.”

The official progressed on to mangling each and every name. Give the woman her due; many people find names from a particular country or part of the world challenging but, in the spirit of democracy, she treated all names equally strangely. She used a combination of weird stops inside words and an almost childlike disregard for traditional pronunciation to keep us all wondering.

“Armita Ryan?”
(That was actually Armin Tasserian)

“Hideous Shire?”
(Hideo Yoshiro)

“Ton Yawash Ton?”
(Tanya Washington)

As little as I wanted to be impaneled, I whiled away many a minute wondering what she would have made of my name.

Kin Con Ming?

Qui Nicom Ing?

Kim Cunningham?

Once you remove those tedious constraints of basic phonics, the sky’s the limit.


***

Let me tell you about my one and only blind date. It ties into jury duty because it was an unpleasant activity I should not have to experience more than once in a lifetime. Also, in the case of both, I would have been more cheerfully inclined toward the experience had I been offered donuts.

I was seventeen. He was eighteen. He was the son of my mother’s travel agent, which strikes me in retrospect as the perfect degree of separation to guarantee a bad blind date; the only information you are getting about him is from his mother, given to your mother.

I was told he was cute, smart and fun to be around.

Isn’t the love of a mother wonderful? Not to mention blind?

He was short. I’m not talking “Gosh, I prefer a man over six feet”, I’m talking I’m 5’3” and I was glad I hadn’t worn heels. He was skinny with an Adam’s apple which fairly pulsated at me. For reasons perhaps only known to his mother, he chose to wear madras shorts. Now, granted, this was a preppy time, and I had been known to dress as if I have rolled in a Brooks Brothers catalogue. But when you have legs the circumference of pipe cleaners, it’s just common decency to give them a full-length cloth covering with which to emulate muscle mass.

Did I mention the politics? I have no idea how we got there, but the entrée hadn’t been served when he got around to informing me that President Nixon had been framed. Whether you are a conservative, a liberal, a moderate or a ring-tailed lemur, that’s just a weird first-date topic, especially when you consider that this boy and I were in second grade when Watergate went down. And it wasn’t as if he was a political history buff; I’d respect an intelligent conversation about politics, however opinionated, but he was merely obsessed. Obsessed with Richard Milhous Nixon -- The Leader of Our Time. He told me he had no fewer than three pictures of Nixon in his room at home (I had a bad feeling one of them might be a coy lingerie shot). My contribution to this conversation was to frantically reorder Diet Cokes, smile weakly, and eat as quickly as any human ever has.

After dinner, we had arranged to see a movie, a mistake I never made again. [Since then, a first date must be dinner and “…maybe a movie.” If, during dinner, the guy wants to talk about the subtle charms of Richard Nixon’s necktie choices during his trip to China, you can develop an early-morning appointment.] We found ourselves walking down Westwood Blvd., heading towards our movie, when Mr. Madras spied some fraternity buddies across the bumper-to-bumper, four-lane street. Oh, did I not mention that his second-favorite topic was Fraternity Life? He grabbed my wrist, held it up like I had just won the title of Bantamweight Blind Date and screamed at the top of his lungs, “HEY LOOK, I’M GOING OUT WITH A MOVIE STAR!”

Had I been able to drop my hand the same way some lizards can drop their tails to save themselves, I would have cheerfully lived life without a hand. Now, which part of this was the worst? Was it the way people started looking out of their cars for a glimpse of Demi Moore or some actual movie star? Was it the fear that some stranger saw me, and thought “Oh, she was on television for, like, a minute, and now she’s walking around pretending she’s a movie star”? Or that someone I knew might have seen me and thought, poor kid; she’s dating a hypermorphic Adam’s apple. No, the worst part would have to be his fraternity buddies hooting like chimps and pointing at me while Mr. Madras’ Adam’s apple flared with pride.

Consort and I have never had a date where Nixon came up, which is why I believe Consort and I will stay together for a very long time. He’s a wonderful man, a terrific father and a really interesting friend.

Also, I fear Mr. Madras is the last single man left in my age group.


***

On a final note, I have no faith in my ability to write something worthwhile about New Orleans; far more eloquent people have already reduced me to tears ten times over. I can, however, do this-

http://www.hsus.org

If you have given what you can to the two-legged victims, please find a way to donate to help the four-legged ones.

8 Comments:

Blogger Julie said...

On a related New Orleans note, Craigslist has an animal rescue/host/missing pet listing on their New Orleans page. Hundreds of people are coming forward around the country offering to host, adopt or temporarily foster pets belonging to people displaced or unable to keep their pets as a result of Katrina.

To offer your host services or aid in the missing pet/displaced pet search, that link is here:

http://neworleans.craigslist.org/pet/

(Just in case anyone doesn't know, MoveOn.org teamed up with Craigslist and are also doing a human host family bulletin board. People from all over the nation are opening their homes to host displaced families. That link is here:

http://www.hurricanehousing.org/

9:49 AM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

You had a random posting; I have a random comment.

It is not all that long ago that I was wondering, "What happened to that actress from Family...? She was also really good in The Goodbye Girl." Wouldn't you know it, I've recently discovered Danny Miller's blog, and was scanning old posts to see what I've missed out on, and there was a reference to you. What a bizarro world for me!?

So now I know what you're doing! Keep at it, keep blogging, and lots of luck.

Regards from Toronto.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

Thanks so much for posting the Humane Society link. I had been wanting to send a donation to specifically help the effort to rescue the pets affected by Hurricane Katrina. Thanks for taking the time to post the link.

By the way, you haven't mentioned it in a while, but now that school is back in session...is the tea spilling while driving still a problem, or is that going better?

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Steven G said...

DATELINE on NBC this evening talked to an animal shelter that was flooded. The animals in the cages on the lower level were drowned, but the cats and dogs in the pens and upper caged treaded water fro 5 hours and lived. 5 HOURS treading water. Who says quadripeds have no yearnings?

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Kudos for bringing up the needs of the four leggged! I recently learned tht NO PETS OF ANY KIND are allowed on the evacuee buses. A friend's brother and sister-in-law have chosen to stay put in the French Quarter because they have two cats and no car and couldn't figure out a way out of town without their furry kids.

I made my donation here and have been following their updates:

http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=hurricane_home&JServSessionIdr011=52c1am5gx1.app25b

A really good blog from NOLA is:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/interdictor

5:39 AM  
Blogger Sassy Susan said...

I am, I suppose, one of the few people who always dreamed of serving on a jury. Having grown up before Court TV and the O.J. trial, I thought there was something very awesome and mysterious about being on the inside of the whole justice process. To know all the clues, evidence, and the building of the case; to hear the defense try to wriggle out of it, or plainly prove that the prosecution was full of beans; I wanted to be a part of this! (Does it show that I love reading mysteries and never missed Perry Mason?)
When I finally got my first summons, I danced around the livingroom like a mad woman! "They want me!" Ignorantly thinking that they had finally realized the untapped resources of my deductive reasoning and steel-trap mind. I would ferret out the truth for them!
Then came the 25 page juror questionaire that I was required to fill out, including the gut-wrenching question, "Do you believe in Capitol Punishment?" This seemed to me to indicate that I was being considered for that most intense of all responsibilities, a murder trial! I almost fainted at the thought. Just plain-jane me, sitting on a murder trial! I filled in my life story, which is pretty much what they wanted to know, having to use the backs of some sheets to explain things in detail. I'm nothing if not throrough.
Somehow, all of that made it through the first cull. (I'm thinking more out of amusement and curiosity than anything else.) So I arrive with the others for the first day of questioning, dressed nicely, but trying not to be too over the top, (note to self: no pearls or high heels). You can imagine my discomfort when I discover that I'm still dressed better than the attorneys. The other prospective jurors are in overalls and cut-off jeans, house-dresses and, yes, even curlers. I'd forgotten that I was living in a town of 2400 souls; the county seat of a mostly rural state. My mind was back with Perry Mason.
At least there were donuts! And plenty of coffee. I was asked by several women if I had a doctor's appointment that afternoon; one of very few reasons to dress up. The others are death, weddings, and church on Sunday. I murmured something about a job interview, and quickly found my numbered seat.
Then came the questions. Has anyone ever had any dealings with law enforcement of a negative nature? I obligingly raised my hand. Yes, by daughter has been falsely arrested on a mistaken identity issue. It was patently ridiculous and very upsetting. Little did I know, but that was strike one. Have you ever been a victim of a crime? Again, I raised my hand. I'd rather not discuss it in open court. It seemed that every question they asked had something to do with some aspect of my life, and since I had been sworn in and was under oath to tell the whole truth, I felt I had to answer. I think I did more talking than the attorneys. It got to where they would look straight at me when asking the questions. I would actually shake my head no if it didn't pertain to me. The "audience" seemed disappointed when I didn't raise my hand. I don't believe the ladies were missing their soap operas quite as much as they had grumbled about in the beginning.
When it came time for a recess, or smoke break, since even the judge was a smoker, they called my name to stay behind for a private talk with the lawyers and judge. Scared me to death! Am I being arrested because I admitted to minor pot use while in my teens?? But no, they just wanted to know what crime had been committed against me that I had declined to discuss in public, (really curious since I'd laid bare the rest of my skeletons). Still under oath, which isn't that pleasant a condition I'd come to realize, I told of being raped many years ago. "Had the police been kind? Had they found the attacker? Had justice been served? Did I hold a grudge against the judicial system?" came from the prosecutor. The defense asked, "Do you believe that the police always tell the truth? If someone reacts violently when under attack, does that make them a bad person?" It was as if they thought I had a secret agenda and had somehow gotten myself duty on this particular case, just so I could affect the jury in some way. Then I was excused to go have lunch and return for the second half of the day.
I knew then that I may as well go home, but I had been ordered to return, so return I must.
When we were reassembled the judge began reading off a list of names. Mine was not on it. I was shocked. He thanked them and said they were no longer needed, etc. Then we settled in for a few more hours of questioning.
As before, being duly sworn to tell the truth, we raised our hands when we could answer yes to something, and took our turns explaining why. There were several people I noticed that never raised their hands. This struck me as very odd. They'd never had any dealings with the law? They had no relatives who worked in law enforcement in any way? They didn't know anyone who had been a victim? Did they live in a closet? It came as no surprise that when the final names were called, I was excused. The quiet people, the ones with no lives? They were chosen for jury duty.
So after an eight hour day of baring my life to strangers and eating far too many donuts, I received a check for $41.20; minimum wage pay for doing my duty. I also learned a valuable lesson. If you want to get out of jury duty, don't fuss and beg, and make up phony excuses. Just show up and answer every question. Apparently they aren't interested in people who have lived normal lives. If you truly want to serve? Just sit there and eat your donuts.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again-

My readers are cool.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous bob1953 said...

I was called for jury duty once, I sat reading until my eyes wouldn't focus anymore. I never got on a jury. But I'm not bitter, really, I'm not.

11:32 PM  

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