and all that i knew is moving away from me.

so, i've been thinking about ways to start this entry pretty much all day. here are a few starts:

start number one: the title of this entry is a line from joanna newsom's song, "sadie." driving meagan home from leatherby's one evening, i made her listen to it. i pointed out the line. i told her it reminded me of working at the writing center, and how it felt completely right, like i was part of something perfect, and i had finally found my niche. those nights where i'd always have someone to talk to, like meagan, mariah, tiffany, or jacob when there were no clients, or even clients to talk with when they actually showed up. how i'd received heartfelt recognition. people would say things like, "you're a creative writing major? oh, that makes sense." or, "wow, you're really good at what you do." but the worst part is, it only lasted a year. and so my throat swells every time i hear joanna lament, "and all that i knew is moving away from me." emo enough for you, kids?

start number two: the best part about walking on the overpass in sacramento at 5 pm in early autumn is watching your shadow down below getting trampled by cars speeding in all eight lanes. i'll admit, i'm weird enough to say to myself, "a narrow miss."

start number three: i've been missing out on a lot of sunrises. sunrise is the new twilight. boarding the light rail today at sunrise (time of day--not the place) was fucking amazing, especially when listening to yo la tengo's "our way to fall."

okay, enough with the starts. for those of you who have been following my blog for the last couple of weeks, you'd know by now that today was special. it was my first chance to get out of jury duty. and that i did. i, like everyone else, checked in and played the waiting game. it's pretty cool to see how people pass the time when TV is unavailable. many read works of great literature like nicholas sparks, while others play crossword puzzles or type on their laptops. the whole waiting room for potential jurors is much like an airport, except there are no planes to watch, and no places to eat. what surprised me the most, however, was the massive number of jurors they had summoned today. there had to be hundreds of us. and we all waited in line, we all filled out our little applications, and waited patiently like the good citizens that we are. or are supposed to be.

to pass the time, i read capote's other rooms, other voices. i really love the characters florabel and idabel. there's something about uneducated southerners in literature that keeps me reading. one of the lines another character delivers is, "i love you a bushel a peck and a kiss around the neck." capote is a goddamn genius. i also put my head back and drifted in and out of sleep.

it's a funny thing about jury duty; we're all anxious to be called, but none of us really wants to be there in the first place. maybe we're all just hoping to get out of there as quickly as possible. i don't really get people who want to be part of a jury anyway. we all know the system is flawed, racist, and caters to the rich. all i'm saying is, if, god forbid, i was ever convicted of a crime, i wouldn't want deal no deal-watching, clive cussler-reading, mcdonald's-loving, starbucks-drinking, arden fair mall-shopping sacramento scum deciding my fate.

during my lunch break, i had a nice chat with a black man in the park. i started the conversation, which is a rarity these days:

"so are you a juror, too?"
"nah," he said. "i never registered to vote, so i don't get caught up in that business."
"lucky you."
"so, you. you're a juror?"
"yeah, i'm waiting to be called." silence. then, "so what do you do?"
"i'm retired," he said. "just out enjoying."
"yeah, it's pretty nice out today," i offered.
"beautiful."

this man i talked to, roger thomas (i think that's what he said), was ex-navy, but luckily no wars; he's traveled to europe and the philippines on duty. "i felt at home in the philippines," he said. i couldn't help but think it was because i told him i was filipino. nevertheless, i liked that he said it. for a good chunk of his career, he was a hair stylist in south central LA. "i went back a few years ago," he said. "lots changed. things are a lot different, and not in a good way."

"what do you think causes this decline in our society?" i asked him. i could feel some others eavesdropping. maybe they were curious. how many times does a black man ever get asked that question?

"i think it all starts at the family level. you know, a lot of people having kids who probably shouldn't be having kids, but have them anyway. and they breed more that they can't take care of, and so on." he didn't seem too satisfied with his answer, so he turned to me. "you must have some opinion about it, don't you?"

i saw a chance to jump into my usual tirade. "i think it stems from being a part of an ultra-capitalist system where we're all taught to want and want and consume and consume. and when people can't get what they want, they're bound to do some awful things." it wasn't everything i would've liked to have said, but at least it was a start. at that point, though, euthyphro's call arrived. then, when he finished, a black woman came and sat between us. she complained that she was turned down for a loan. i only caught bits of the conversation, but she said something about how her utilities bills needed to be more than fifty percent of her income. i didn't really get what she was talking about. in my mind, i simplified it to just another minority getting fucked over, left only with vague reasons.

i said goodbye to roger, and went back to the courthouse. i could sense they were going to call me. they did.

i went up to department 39 on the 5th floor, and i did some more waiting. finally, a sharply dressed black man led us into the room. i was number 14, so i was in "the box." the judge arrived: a bald, bespectacled white man who spoke with the illusion of grave authority and good judgment. for some reason, he conjured the image of bull connor. not a good start. he explained the concept of due process, and that he wanted us to enter with a blank slate, and just because the defendant was arrested "means nothing. zip!" a woman began coughing. what's your problem? "i'm allergic to air conditioning." you're excused. come back when you feel better. any other hardships? "i'm unemployed, and flat broke." you're excused. come back when you get a job." i thought about using that one, but i wanted to hear the case first. "i only have one car, and my husband needs to get to work," a woman complained. ever heard of the RT? it's convenient. you don't have a valid excuse. shot down. surprisingly, her rejected plea made me feel good.

the excuses continued. finally, the judge explained the case. some man had been caught driving under the influence of drugs. outrageous. i sat around all day for this. all i could think about was what dave chappelle would've said. or what my friend dong would've said: "it's only a crime if you get caught." when my turn came, i explained to the judge that i knew all kinds of people in high school and college that would constantly drive either high or drunk. and they never got caught. so i couldn't technically be impartial. the judge asked, "do you think it would matter if this individual was older?" it was a stupid question, and i think he knew it. "no," i answered flatly. "i will excuse you," he said. and, as i walked away, the asian lawyer had a smirk on his face. a smirk i could only interpret as, "i can't believe you just told a fucking judge that you knew people driving under the influence and never did anything about it. you're fucking crazy."

whatever. i walked away, and that was the end of my jury duty for at least another year.

a moment of panic did hit, though. i considered the possibility that they would want names of those supposed criminal "friends." in a post-9/11 world, anything is possible.

walking home, i thought that maybe i should've stayed and help this guy off the hook. i thought about how many relatives have cheated on their taxes, how many times i've jaywalked, even stolen money from previous employers, or how many red lights i've seen people run/i've run myself. can anyone ever really be impartial? you'd have to forget just about everything. aren't kafka and camus right? isn't the whole system a farce and completely absurd?

lesson learned. when asked to serve on a jury, just start coughing, and tell everyone you're allergic to hypocrisy.

1 comment:

grachan moncur said...

in the Halls of Justice, the only justice is in the halls.