Posted tagged ‘drama’

My Jury Duty Adventure

May 14, 2008

They got me.  After years of evasion, including several name and address changes, fake social security numbers, and 4 years of college just so that I could qualify for the student exemption, they found me. I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  No one can escape from…Jury Duty! (queue evil foreboding organ music]

I spent a few hours trying to think of ways to get declared exempt, which has become increasingly difficult in the NYC court system.  With my job and education, I couldn’t get the language exemption, and I’m not over 75 or whatever that age rule applies [there is no age limit for jury duty, but those over a certain age have the choice of declining].  I tried making a helmet out of foil and wearing my shoes and shirt the wrong way and taping a plastic parrot onto my shoulder, but in NYC, I realized that I would pass more for a hipster from the East Village than for my intended mentally-disabled exempt-ee.  Deflated, I just sucked it up and went to Queens County Criminal Court to start what would be a long day, finding some solace in my paid reprieve from work.

The first day was long and boring…200 people spending all day in a room waiting to be assigned to a case.  Once that happens, the pool of jurors for a specific case get sent to a court room to be questioned by the judge and the attorneys (in a criminal case, the attorneys would be a defense lawyer and an assistant district attorney).  There were so many jurors that my turn to be questioned didn’t come until 4pm the NEXT DAY (I came early the next day and waited..and waited…).  Finally, selection was over.  I was the last juror picked.

[quick sidebar:  during the first day of jury selection i was sitting behind an annoying woman who kept trying to make converation with everyone, except that she was rude and loud and no one wanted to talk to her.  Everytime the lady in charge would excuse people who claimed that their english wasnt good enough for jury duty, this lady would slap her knees and bitch about how “these immigrants are disgusting! they come here and dont wanna learn the language.  They spit on our great country and we have to clean up after them! Bla bla bla bla bla, I’m a whore, a lousy  wretched whore!” At least that’s how I remember it.  I shot spitballs into her hair all morning.]

Jury selection was brutal.  But then the case began.  And contrary to what both lawyers said to us during opening statements, the next few days actually did play out a lot like an episode of Law & Order. (I’m pitching a new idea to NBC…seeing since Law & Order has so many versions on TV already, I have begun writing a script for the latest volume –  Law & Order: Pissed Off Jurors.  Starring myself of course.  Open auditions next week for the role of sassy Court Officer.)

The case sounded boring at first – the defendant was indicted on the charge of bail jumping, a class E felony.  During trial, however, it was revealed that the defendant violated her bail not just for missing one court date, but by trying to jump ship so as to never show up at all; the defendant was brought into custody 8 months after the bench warrant for her arrest was issued.  And while the exact nature of her original charges were not specified (due to the hard-fought wins of the defense during pre-trial motions to suppress that information for fear of prejudicing the jurors), it was revealed during witness testimony that there were no less than 8 counts brought against her, a number of them felonies. 

The drama reached a climax when the ADA was conducting her direct examination of the former attorney of the defendant.  That was a risky call because her own witness, as a former representative of the defendant, had motive to be hostile and withhold information on the grounds of attorney-client privilege.  And hostile she was, though she proved no match for the ADA in the battle to see who could get the most flustered.  The ADA got so hot n bothered by the countless sustained objections and the obviously fabricated ignorance of the witness that she looked as if she might, at any second, charge the box and ninja kick her in the face (I was hoping she would; I noticed that the court officer had a taser handy).  Instead, she resorted to yelling over the calls from the judge to cease her improper line of questioning, and after being reprimanded by the judge for her lack of self-control, she unleashed the soliloquy of all soliloquies, explaining to the judge that we were all here to find the truth but no one could handle it, and how this was supposed to be about justice but she’s not being allowed to ask the questions she needs to ask…basically blaming the court for everything short of ozone depletion just because she couldn’t figure out how to properly phrase her questions.  She even turned around and started yelling at the trial spectators, and asked the judge to throw them out because of their constant snickering (they were laughing at her).  I felt really embarrassed for her, but I couldn’t help but feel excited by all the drama. As a fellow juror put it, “They put hot sauce on it today, boy!”

This is just about how it happened, more or less…

Yes.  Jury duty was spicy.

I won’t dwell on the deliberation, but that part was exciting too and I took an active role in explaining to the other jurors the deductive approach we had to take in order to reach a fair verdict, as well as my personal opinions on the case.  In other words, I used a stern tone and menacing glare (framed by my dark evil arab eyebrows) to render them my mental slaves and subsequently instructed them to find this chick GUILTY.  It worked in swaying all but one of the holdouts who kept insisting that the judge had something against the defendant, forcing us to take another whole day to deliberate, locked up in that dreadful musty back room. I was pissed, but she would not relent, and we went back and forth.

She eventually had a change of heart.  (I had a taser, too.)

The verdict? Jury duty is cool!  I give it a rare “whatchu talkin ’bout Hasselhoff?”  thumbs up. 

When Family Ties Become a Noose

April 8, 2008

Last night I went to bed at 2AM, much later than usual, and even then I couldn’t sleep. My mind was too busy formulating arguments, acting out imagined confrontations, and wondering how their consequences would shape my future. I was thinking about remote places I could move to so that I could avoid similar confrontations, then chided myself for entertaining the idea that even an ocean would provide a carpet vast enough for me to sweep my demons under. Sure, Fiji is pretty far away, but the demons that inhabit my head would still be within a whisper’s reach…unless I could somehow unscrew my head and punt it into orbit. Yet even then, would I finally find solace, or would what once were whispers turn into ear-splitting screams, increasing in pitch after every attempt to drown them out?

Probably the latter. But I didn’t go quite this far last night in bed. I was just pissed. I had just finished a two and half hour long “conversation” with my older brother. We barely speak unless we have to, and these days, I strongly prefer that arrangement. He does not. He wants me to call him more often, and he wants me to want to call him more often. He wants to be close, the way were raised to be, the way brothers are supposed to be. To many this may sound logical and wouldn’t be the subject of much debate. But when dealing with personal relationships, especially familial ones, how can there be a blueprint for the way they are “supposed to be”? Don’t all siblings have different relationships with each other? Relationships are based on mental and emotional connections between people. If every person is different, would not a relationship reflect that distinctiveness? Shouldn’t it?

The problem lies partially in the fact that my brother has an idea of the kind of relationships brothers should have, and he wants ours to conform to it. But I don’t feel that way. Not that brothers should not be close, but rather the relationship should be built on that mental and emotional connection, rather than the inherent physical one that family members are born into. I do believe that there is something innately unique about the familial bond, the idea of a shared origin and history. But I also feel that my brother, and many other people, get too lost in the melodrama of “the same blood coursing through our veins” bullshit and forget the bottom line – I’m and adult, you’re an adult, I’m this way, you’re that way, I believe this, you believe that…and in this case, I believe that you’re way of being and adult makes you an asshole.

There, it’s out in the open, sitting on the table both of us were envisioning in our minds as we spoke on the phone. A little box that my brother’s astral form walked over to and opened, pulling out the sweater that my astral form knitted for him. It was a thick, heavy sweater with an unattractive horizontal stitch that made him look fatter than he was. And in the middle of the sweater, it read, “ASSHOLE.”

He refused to wear the sweater, of course. I tried to explain to him in a sincere and sympathetically blunted fashion why it was a perfect fit for him, but when I held it up to his chest and he stole a glance in the mirror, he didn’t like what he saw, and threw it back in the box. But I explained to him that I didn’t knit that sweater alone; he had been knitting it with me, guiding every pierce and pull and knot of thread. Whether or not it looked the way he wanted it to look is irrelevant. We both made the fucking sweater. Wear it, Goddamit. I’m sick of hearing that the sweater should read “BROTHER” instead. If you want, you can make it read “ASSHOLE BROTHER”…but he never relented because he didn’t believe that the two words could form a meaningful phrase.

But you know they can. You have a sibling. You share a deep bond that will probably last your entire lives. You say you probably love him or her in a way…but really you know you do and just don’t like talking about it. You haven’t had such a fucked up lifetime movie-esque past that would cause you to completely deny those feelings, or to outright abandon them. But you can love someone and still dislike them. How you interact and socialize with someone on a regular basis – not when compelled to by circumstance, but rather on the basis of trust and comfort – will be governed by whether or not you like that person, rather than by virtue of a shared genetic code that too often unravels and takes the shape of a noose that tightens with every struggle.

Unlike my brother, I am OK with not being that close; our relationship is 23 years in the making, and I accept it for what it is. I cannot will myself to change how I feel about him, nor will I attempt to in an effort to recreate p. 17 of the Happy Family Handbook. I am not against change, but if it happens it will happen naturally, just like it always has. I am lucky enough to have people in my life who I genuinely like and trust and can count on for support, mainly close friends. And while my brother spent a lot of time last night on the phone trying to impress upon me the fact that friends can never be family, and warning me that they cannot be counted on the way a brother can, my past and recent experiences, as well as my observations of the experiences of others, have proved to me that anyone who believes this has not been blessed enough to experience true friendship. Your brother or sister may also be your friend, but then again, they may not be one at all. My brother was quick to regurgitate what he felt were time-tested nuggets of traditional wisdom, but given that he has proven himself to be unworthy of my trust, they were interpreted to me as nothing more than clichés – hollow and meaningless, and certainly inapplicable. I can’t help but imagine someone sitting in small lonely boat out on a lake, hookless, baitless fishing lines deeply submerged, floating stationary and lifeless as the fish swim by, attentive but not persuaded.

What I’m trying to say is that while family ties are special, they should not be taken for granted so as to simply assume that they can forge and maintain a healthy relationship amongst those between whom they exist. It is not that easy. Meaningful relationships rarely are, and they shouldn’t be. Trust may lie in the heart, but it is not necessarily bound by blood. And while the grounds for closeness might be more fertile in the family plot, it also requires a hell of a lot more water. If it’s important to you, you would be wise to tend to it often, because even if the flowers never completely dry up, it is actually quite easy for them to grow apart.