It had appeared in the mail as usual – my annual JURY SUMMONS. And as usual after opening it I had filled out the Section A: Juror Questionnaire; and under the Disqualifications heading I checked box E for: “I have been convicted of a felony or malfeasance in office and my civil rights have not been restored.” And then under penalty of perjury I signed and dated the form and mailed it back thinking that that would be it for another year. Unfortunately it seems that there’s actually someone down at city hall that knows what they’re doing or at the very least actually reads these things and keeps records because they sent it back only two weeks later and this time there was no Section A to fill out, or a Section B for that matter, only a JURY SUMMONS containing reporting instructions.
Granted its been quite some time since my last felonious conviction and in California at least your rights are somewhat restored once you’ve completed the inconsistent complexities of parole and survived through a mandatory waiting period un-arrested and legalities free. And even though I am unable to obtain many aspects of employment, own a gun or run for political office it seems that the State of California feels that I have been rehabilitated enough to serve on one of their litigating juries.
As flattering as that preposition is I still have to ask myself whether my rights have remained untarnished enough for me to want to serve on a jury of my peers? Or have they never entirely gotten over how they felt incarcerated inside one of The Golden State’s finer penal institutions? But I guess that the matter really isn’t up to me or how I’m feeling on the subject either. My duty, or so I was told by the automated voice over the telephone, was to show up and serve and if I failed to do so I would be subject to a fine or imprisonment pursuant to Section 209 of the California Code of Civil Procedure.
That last undisguised threat was what finally motivated me to be in front of the Superior Court building at 8am ready to engage the first official that I came in contact with and proclaim my hatred of cops, or an inability to convict a wrong doer, any wrong doer, or that I was currently a member in good standing of the Communist Party! It really didn’t matter to me what I was going to say as long as it was sufficiently deplorable enough to have me ejected out of the building never to have to return! But apparently it wasn’t going to be that simple. Either a lot of people before me have recently tried that same line of resistance or in San Francisco they’re just more tolerant toward societal challenged individuals like myself.
After a thorough yet decidedly unsatisfying bag search and weapons scan we, as in the rest of my prospective judicial peers who were denied admittance to the courthouse until 8am, were led down a hallway to the basement and ushered into a huge waiting room. Designated as Jury Assembly Room 007 (as in the James Bond fame), where we were then systematically haggard into giving up vital bits of personal information while alternately being dispensed parking vouchers or forced to listen to the accompaniment of distorted bits of an ill prepared lecture on our civic duty delivered via a scratchy PA system.
Now I’ve got to say that the eerie contrast of being a juror and being an incarcerated individual are strikingly similar in more ways then one. Both are threatened with legal actions if they don’t comply to the rules set forth by the authorities, and in both cases in San Francisco the authorities would immediately be the Sheriff’s Department and its Deputies and then the Judicial System of the State of California. Secondly; the adherent intimidation process, though a slight bit less abrasive when done by the officers of the court as compared to the city jailers, was still just as dehumanizing as any I’ve gone through while in custody. And finally if you’ve ever had the pleasure of being arrested you can attest to the truth of this, A) all communication of information is over a horrendous loudspeaker that echoes off the concrete walls rendering them inaudible and B) in the beginning you are directed from one holding cell to another until you finally end up fingerprinted and processed and given a number.
Sans the fingerprinting ordeal I was now waiting in the second room of the day as Juror Badge #173791 listening for my name/number/destination combo to be called over an intercom system that made every word sound as though someone were muttering obscenities in Cantonese. You know I’ve got to point out that it says quite a lot about a society that maltreats all of the regular aspects of its population to where it can only get the cooperation of its citizens to participate in its affairs through threats of coercion.
Now before I go any farther let me explain how I’d come dressed to this legal extravaganza: In pre-disqualifying preparation I hadn’t bothered to shave for a week and when arising this morning I’d hardly touched my hair which was now searching off in all directions with a pretty mean bed-head flowing up the back. The shirt I’d chosen was an old ripped up paint spattered t-shirt and over that I’d pulled on my crusty black leather jacket. I was purposely not dressed to impress and quite bound and determined to not let them pick me as a lackey for one of their mundane juries. And even though I’d just heard my name called and been ushered off to room 606 as the first 28 in the jury pool I remained convinced that my chances were nil and that I’d probably be dining at Tu Lon on Seventh Street for a late lunch and this would all be a bad memory quickly forgotten as I drained a glass of their tasty Vietnamese iced coffee.
Slouched down in my seat with my arms folded in that universal defensive body language of aggression, I glared at the attorneys and guffawed at the weak attempts of humor that the judge and lawyers made when feigning small talk. When asked if I thought that I might have an attitude I answered truthfully and reasoned that I did. When queried further I admitted a complete loss of faith in the judicial system and a major lack of respect for lawyers and then having said this I did my best to look bored with the whole proceedings and that blatantly glaring at my foot held more interest for me than anything else in the room. Finally as the lawyers had run out of questions there was much discussion and then people were being dismissed and before I knew it I was designated juror number 4 on a civil case involving greedy lawyers and the judge was pointing at the clock saying it was twelve noon time for lunch please come back at 1:40pm sharp!
When I think back on this moment the only words that I could use to describe the devastated condition of my suffering psyche are the Bush Régime’s erroneously coined phrase – Shock and Awe! This unforeseen outcome was just too incomprehensible to be real. What was wrong with these people? Weren’t they listening? Here I’d done my best anti-social angst ridden sociopath impression and I still wound up being selected to fill the slot of good old trustworthy juror number four! What the hell did it take to get tossed off of this panel of maladjusted adjudicators? Serial killer credentials? Suicidal tendencies? Spontaneous Alzheimer’s Syndrome?
Confronted with the inevitable I had to ask myself just how much of a last minute insanity-plea-going-crazy scene would still be within the realms of acceptability and how much would be just too over the top and clink clink on go the handcuffs and you’re off to county jail with a pesky contempt of court charge? Uncharacteristically I had to admit I’d misjudged my audience and was now resigned to conceding defeat. They’d won the first round and short of spending the night in a cold cell I was apparently going to be their indentured stooge for the duration of this judiciary spectacle!
Delirious I wandered outside into the Civic Center plaza and tried to breath in a controlled manner like those meditative stress reduction exercises recommend you do whenever you find yourself in any overtly stressful situation. In mid exhale I noticed a drunken bag lady was weaving her way towards me and I leaned towards her sputtering “You won’t believe this, but I’ve just been picked for jury duty!”
She looked me up and down, nodded her head and said “That’s nice. Got a quarter?”
“No, you don’t understand…” was all that I could say as I turned and walked away into the intense sunshine of a beautiful day.
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Tuesday, October 5th, 2004 at
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“Sir, you must have known that when you moved it wouldn’t just follow you, even if you did transfer the phone number, it’s not like it’s a dog!” said the somewhat irritatingly unconcerned voice on the other end of the phone.
Ok, so like maybe I’m not the most tech savvy of individuals and maybe I expect way too much from these giants of Industry like the phone company, my DSL carrier and the US Government. But because of a slight oversight on my part I’d been cast adrift in a sea of ignorance and now I was seemingly drowning without my high-speed internet connection. I had thought that I might up my quality of life a tad and move out of my present apartment that too closely overlooked the massive construction project of retrofitting the Bay Bridge and relocate across and down the hall to the back of the building into another cramped space whose superb vista is that of the overly expensive parking lot that I can’t afford to use. Now instead of being awoken around six in the morning by insensitive steelworkers screaming obscenities at each other while mercilessly pounding I-Beams I’ll be choking peaceably on my neighbors exhaust fumes as I lay in bed contemplating another day of my sordid existence.
“No, I just thought that when I moved my telephone to my new apartment that my phone number and my DSL service would move together! I know, I know, stupid me! But I still don’t understand why it’s gonna take two to four weeks to reinstall my DSL. When as I already said I only moved twenty feet away from where I used to live?”
That’s the really amazing part! A year or so ago it took the blabbering overeager sales rep only about five minutes to sell me on what I had already called to procure in the first place and then just a couple of days later the way stoned field technician stumbled around my apartment building installing the boxes and phone lines that make up the intricacies of DSL and I was up and running and internet surfing like the proud new owner of a high speed internet connection that I was. And now unhealthily obsessed with Megahertz, Firewalls and Ethernet I was jonesing like any good addict would. Unfortunately my cyber fix was turning out to be harder to obtain than scoring Heroin at a Christian Coalition training conference and my “pusher” was slacking on its delivery like all nefarious drug dealers seem to do. Only this time I wasn’t hearing – “relax, I’ll be there in a few hours”. No, we were talking weeks and weeks of waiting for the man!
“Sir, we have to reissue you a new IP address and its going to take time and I’m afraid that at the moment we’re experiencing an unprecedented amount of backlogged orders!”
I was starting to have nightmarish visions of my mega-broadband shrinking to a slow-flow-no-go dialup and in my opinion it wasn’t a pretty sight to behold. So what does any hope-to-die dope fiend do when their connection dries up? Well, I solicited another dealer, that’s what I did. After all my unsympathetically inept carrier wasn’t the only modem slinger in town. There were phone companies and search engines – even frigg’in cable television conglomerates were out there advertising for those high-speed hookup dollars and I was only too sure that any one of them would undercut the competition like the cutthroat backstabbing jackals that they were and alleviate my untimely dilemma!
“Good afternoon, this is Moreen at SBC speaking. How can I help you today?”
“Hello, thank you for calling A.T. & T. my name is Shauntay. What can I do for you?”
“Comcast, for all your cable and internet needs! My name is Ted. How may I assist you?”
Ah, a symphony of relief to my detoxing ears. Apparently the glut of backorders wasn’t a contagious disease in the industry because every one of the other internet happy corporations that I called was willing to bend over backwards and scramble poste haste to my new digs and set up their mini illuminated corporate logo on my laptop’s menu bar. Of course there was a myriad of details to contend with and deciphering all the miscellaneous contract clauses and bonus signup deals was making my head numb. But the end was in sight. Soon I’d be back on the net clicking mouse in hand checking e-mails and overseeing the delivery of my DVD rentals.
Life was starting to look good! Or so I thought.
“Mister O’Neil, when you gave the Ok to begin transferring your existing account to your new address you went into an oral agreement on a new two year contract verbally! I’m afraid there’s now a two hundred dollar early opt out fee that you’ll have to pay if you’re terminating your service at this time”
I am for once speechless. No snappy comeback, no finely honed retort. Just that dull un-agreeable feeling of being use like the big dog.
“I’m sorry Ms… What was it Betty or Betsy or whatever, but ya know I don’t think I actually did agree to this alleged transfer. I seem to remember that what I said was more along the lines of – What the fuck you mean its gonna be a month before its turned back on! And then slammed the phone down. Well, actually pushed my finger real hard on the ‘End’ button, but anyway. That’s what I remember saying. Now if that’s admissible in a court of law, well, then I guess you could say that I did say go ahead and make me wait for eternity while you continue to charge me for a service that I’m not receiving!”
Call me crazy here, but does this sound like good solid customer service relations for a loyal never late on the monthly payment patron? I mean if someone wants to leave the party – then just let them! Don’t just piss them off and then charge them for it! It’s moments like these where I’m beginning to have a bit more understanding and a somewhat greater appreciation for people who go all off the grid and show up at the offending business while complaining in person with an AK 47 or two. You know, as in the Webster’s Dictionary definition of the only-in-America term Go’in Postal! I think even the condescending Ms. Betty would forget about that two hundred dollar opt out fee real quick with a fully loaded automatic assault rifle pressed against the base of her skull!
Wow! Well Ok now! Sorta strayed way out there in the losing control field, huh? I guess I got a little worked up over those hidden early termination fees. Not to mention that lack of internet thing and I just kinda lost sight of reality there for a few seconds. Like a blackout sorta, yeah, that’s it – a blackout! Can’t seem to remember a damn thing and then there I was in the midst of embracing my stagnant anger issues all over again. Musta been all those riboflavin free Twinkies™ I’ve been eating all day. If I could just check my e-mail. I’m sure that that would calm me down a bit. I swear to god its getting so hard to score the good shit these days.
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Thursday, September 30th, 2004 at
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My trip to the great outdoors, accompanied by my fellow co-workers, began with a meandering migration inland to Pinnacles State Park (http://www.nps.gov/pinn/), located some 30 odd miles south of Hollister California. Our road trip required three cars more or less caravanning and featuring at least a hundred stops along the way as lattes, film, fruit, ice and assorted foods were procured. Now by nature I am not a real outdoorsman type but it is nearing the end of summer, another year has passed and I got suckered into it. So off into the heat I went, deeper and deeper into Steinbeck country, and at one point the car that I was riding in got dived bombed by a flock of starlings committing a hari-kari suicide mission type deal most of whom were sucked into the grill of the car or pressed flat against the windshield and passenger side window. An omen we no doubt should have heeded and just turned around and gone home instead of scraping off the goo and continuing along our way whilst praising the aerodynamics of German engineering.
Pinnacles Campground lies in a very shallow dried up creek bed just off highway 146 enclosed by the desiccated and barren Gabilan Mountains that make up Bear Valley. Though no bears were to be found on our trip there were in abundance wild boars, tarantulas, deer, coyotes, cotton tail bunnies and numerous species of flying things – bats, condors, vultures and ravens, magpies and screaming mad blue-jays who conspired in the shadows hoping to mug us for anything we were eating. In the late afternoon a particularly obnoxious type of black fly would descend and hover and bite until the sun went down, this was of course preferable to the yellowjacket hornets that besieged us when we arose to start our day trying to drink your first sip of coffee as the stinging bee type thing is doing the same, therefore almost making it into your mouth at the same time. Ah, nature at its best.
The campground was run by a very large fat lady who seemed pissed off all of the time, but maybe it was just the heat and all, though I did overhear a conversation regarding chaffing that she was having with an equally fat camper. There was a swimming pool that the cotton tailed bunnies used more than anybody else or at least used to shit around in great quantities and a small building with showers off to one side with “extra security” doors to keep out the marauding gangs of wild boars, though why we should only be scared of the wild boars while taking a shower and not, let’s say, when we’re lying in our tents, I don’t know? But anyway – the showers were a strange contraption that required quarters to turn on the hot water, bringing sleazy motels or high class Tijuana jails to mind – and all the RV’s and trailers were off in their own little fenced-in, boar-free enclave with the electrical and water hook ups, they didn’t need the facilities so we were pretty much on our own as boar bait.
As for camping, what can I say? Some things never change: the ground is still hard, at night there’s no god damn noise except the rustle of “things” (read boars) in the bushes and outside – first thing in the morning, it’s awful bright. Coming back from the shower you had to keep an eye on the road because the huge hairy fat black tarantulas love to sun themselves on the blacktop and there were quite a few hundred doing just that, the fat lady said to be careful because they could jump up at you, but it was way too hot for anybody to be doing any jumping and besides they probably only jump to get out of the way when she waddles past.
We took one hike into Pinnacles National Monument that promised a trek through bat caves, but it turns out that they had been closed due to the bats freaking out over too much contact with people and they now needed some quiet time to themselves, so we sort of went around and got above near the “pinnacles” – large pointy rocks that should have fallen over but somehow have escaped the earthquakes – and saw spectacular views, breath taking vistas and gaping holes leading to other dark caves covered in bat guano. There were, of course, another few thousand tarantulas hiking with us and lurking at every turn of the trail so that we all sort of moved lively along our hike waiting to get back to the campground and its modest amount of safety.
At night we cooked massive feeds and waited until the fat lady left so that we could burn large amounts of wood in our fire, thereby breaking all the rules concerning fires that were posted through out the campsite. NO WOOD FIRES! Signs were everywhere and charcoal was the price of platinum at the fat lady’s store, so we were forced to buy a bag or two just to look good and then even the picnic tables were going in after the sun went down. At one point during a beaucoup flame up another camper materialized out of the dark, probably some RV dude, and pointed out that wood fires were against the rules – “Do we really look like the kinda guys who follow the rules?” was the reply! Talk about your male bonding!
All in all I had fun, got sun burnt, insect bit and a stiff neck but in the end it was worth doing, I guess. Civilization still looked pretty good as we sped through the traffic of San Jose and onto the peninsula while Burger King’s and Wal*Mart’s blurred into one another in a cluttered semblance of reality as I hurried home to a soft bed and food served without indistinguishable black bits in it!
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Saturday, September 25th, 2004 at
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