Since being laid off in late 2007, I've been able to string together enough freelance work to pay the rent (mostly thanks to friends and former co-workers who still find my talents useful). One of my current projects is simulating a web site via PowerPoint for the NYC Dept of Ed (another gig hooked up through friends/former co-workers). While the client is happy with the product thus far, my bank account isn't.
The problem? I can't get paid. Why? I have a record.
On Dec 30, 1991, I was sitting on Pompano Beach with my boyfriend (the Man I now live with) at 10:30 PM. No, we weren't doing anything naughty...except for being there after hours. A bright flashlight beamed into our faces and two cops (who apparently hadn't heard that Florida has enough REAL crime to rank 2nd in the nation) demanded we put our hands up. We were arrested for "trespassing."
In the back of the police car, the wanna-be lawyer in me sprang into action, demanding to know, "Do you HONESTLY think we're criminals?"
"Yes, you broke the law."
"And doesn't the law recognize different degrees of crime? Does sitting on a public beach warrant the same kind of police response as breaking into a home or stabbing someone?"
"Yes, when it comes to whether or not you broke the law, there is no grey area."
"Thanks for that insightful answer, RoboCop."
Where was RoboCop when Speedos were the rage? It's GOT to be illegal to show that much French Canadian ass on a public beach.
Okay, so maybe I didn't say that last line but maybe I did (my mouth never got that "be still when guns are near" memo). My Man kept shushing me, and finally hissed, "Are you trying to get me killed, white bread? I'm Latino, for Christ's sake!"
We were booked, fingerprinted, photographed and held in separate cells until our parents could come and get us. Although I was 18 and could post my own $25 bail, I only had like $10 on me. My Man was Li'l Man at the time and still a minor so could only be released to his parents. (You know, now that I think about it, if they wanted to play Super Cops that night, they should've charged me with statutory rape while they were at it.)
Anyway, two months later, I appeared before a judge to answer the charge of misdemeanor trespassing. The public defender suggested I plea guilty and hope for a fine. I told her "no thanks" and asked to represent myself. I pleaded no contest and started to explain to the judge that this was my first arrest before he interrupted me.
"You were arrested for sitting on a beach?"
"Yes, your honor."
"On a beach in South Florida?"
"Yes, your honor."
"Oh, now, THAT's a crime. Get out of my court room. What a waste of my time."
"Court withholds adjudication. Bail of $25 to be returned to defendant less $5 court costs. Now get out of here, Ms. Goddard, before you waste any more of my time."
How I wished Super Cops 1 & 2 had been there to witness my vindication but they were probably off somewhere arresting a senior citizen for failing to turn off their directional signal.
So what's wrong with this picture (aside from the fossilized man boobs)? Yes, even THIS is a crime in Florida. As of June 2008, it is illegal to feed pelicans: Feeding frenzy ends soon
As I collected the $20 bail from the court clerk (which I promptly returned to my Dad, who was busily scratching his beard, wondering why he hadn't ponied up money for law school instead), I could never have guessed that 18 years later:
1) I would still be with my Man; and
2) That the arrest would prevent me from being paid.
But, here in 2009, 1,200 miles away in Brooklyn, NY, I am both with my Man and unable to get paid. The NYC Dept of Ed (DOE) requires that all employees and outside contractors get fingerprinted (regardless of whether they'll be working directly with children). My prints came back flagged for the 1991 arrest. The DOE's Office of Personnel Investigation sent me a letter asking for a copy of the police report AND a copy of the court's official disposition.
Anyone who has lived or currently lives in South Florida knows this is no small task; it's an area that routinely screws up presidential elections. The place is the Bermuda Triangle of paperwork.
Tracking down the police report proved impossible: the Pompano Beach PD (where Super Cops 1 & 2 probably still rule as petty crimebusters) has since been absorbed into the Broward Sheriff's Office. Unfortunately, the BSO doesn't keep misdemeanor arrest records longer than 10 years. (I'm sure the rationale behind this policy is a mystery to Super Cops 1 & 2.)
As for the court's official disposition, I spent an entire afternoon on hold with Broward's Clerk of Circuit and County Courts, trying to track down which office would now have a file from 1991. Apparently, my record exists only in microfiche form at this point. I'm now "vintage crime" along the lines of something you had to fish for while doing an undergrad report on the effects of glasnost in Eastern Bloc countries.
Before I begin the Herculean task of expunging my record once and for all, I'm focused on getting the situation with the DOE sorted so I can get paid for my work. I found it somewhat ironic that I had to write a check for $20 payable to Broward County for certified copies of the official disposition.
Now coming full circle with my criminal past, I'm hopeful that I'll clear the DOE's Office of Personnel Investigation with the same flying colors I did in a courtroom over 18 years ago: "Get out of here, Ms. Goddard, before you waste any more of my time."
Note: How I wish I could get a copy of my arrest mug shot. I'm sure my hair was its own misdemeanor! I'll pay top dollar to anyone who succeeds in getting it!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Since being laid off in late 2007, I've been able to string together enough freelance work to pay the rent (mostly thanks to friends and former co-workers who still find my talents useful). One of my current projects is simulating a web site via PowerPoint for the NYC Dept of Ed (another gig hooked up through friends/former co-workers). While the client is happy with the product thus far, my bank account isn't.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I take far too much pride in the number of gloves I've lost over the past four winters: One (which was a total fluke and not my fault, by the way). If winter runs from Dec 21-March 21, that's about 90 days during which I could lose one. With a record of 90-1, I'm the f'n Mariano Rivera of winter glove saves.
Even if you don't live in wintry weather, I'm sure you can imagine how frequently one misplaces a glove while fumbling for phones, keys, money, handguns. Walk through the city tomorrow and you're bound to come across more lost gloves than Starbucks.
Maybe you've never thought about or noticed them before but when one can boast such a fantastic record as mine, it's hard NOT to see them. In fact, I can't stop taking pictures of The Lost Ones. Most are photos of gloves lost in ridiculous places (on the train tracks? both gloves? both palms down? how?)...
How did this happen? Was the owner of this pair Ming the Merciless who, after being skewered by Flash Gordon, fell and melted into the train tracks near my house in Brooklyn?
Just your standard "lost black glove" shots. Apparently, black gloves are the Honda Civics of winter wear.
...while others are of gloves placed by kind souls in spots where hapless owners may return to find them (seriously, though - what's the likelihood of this ever working as planned?).
After snapping the photo on the right, I was tempted to stick the middle finger up on this glove since it was slightly wet and temps were below 30.
What, you may be demanding to know, is my secret? It's elementary (really): Glove clips, or as I like to call them, "glove garter belts."
Silly blogger, glove clips are for kids!
Yep, the very same thing that parents use to keep mittens from wandering off the jackets of small children is what I've used since 2005 to secure my own. Based on crude observations of lost gloves, I'm guessing that most parents are hypocrites.
It reminds me of that nursery rhyme:
Three little kittens,
They lost their mittens,
And they began to cry,
"Oh, mother dear,
We sadly fear
Our mittens we have lost."
"What! Lost your mittens,
You naughty kittens!
Then you shall have no pie.
Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.
You shall have no pie."
What a crock of shit. My money's on "mother dear" losing HER mittens the next day while rushing to catch the B train.
What really happened: "Mom, you lost YOUR mittens? WTF?!" "Yeah, you're always yelling at us for losing ours but you're just as naughty!" "Since we found OUR mittens, we'll be eating YOUR pie! Mee-ow!"
In the time since adopting Jr's accessory, I've gotten a lot of curious looks, laughs and praise to which I say, "Why should kids be the only ones to keep their gloves?" The response is usually, "That's so true!" but I doubt I've actually changed anyone's mind. I've yet to see someone my age with glove clips on their winter coat.
It's not that gloves are expensive (at least mine aren't); it's more about how difficult mine are to replace. If I was willing to admit the absurd amount of time I spend picking out a matching scarf/gloves/hat combo for each winter, you could appreciate why I decided to add a "glove insurance policy" in the first place.
I'm such a fan of them that last Christmas, I included glove clips as stocking stuffers for adults in my family. Unfortunately, my gift wasn't exactly received with the same appreciation I'd hoped for. Some looked confused, others insulted. What can I say? I had good intentions (and the clips were from the $1 rack at Target).
I expected the same reaction from my Man, after I gave him two sets of glove clips for his winter coat and leather jacket. After all, this a man who would pretend he didn't trip over a coconut even if it was just him and the palm tree on a deserted island. But after losing a second pair of gloves just one month into winter, my Man quickly strapped the clips on (black ones, of course).
Sure, it can be annoying to have your gloves constantly dangling around your wrists, but there's comfort in at least knowing they're still there. And yes, you may look like you're waiting for the short bus instead of the M104, but at least BOTH of your hands are still warm.
For those who are too cool for glove clips, it's okay, really -- I totally enjoy taking photos of your lost gloves.
p.s. Just realized that by writing this blog, I've now jinxed my record and invited the universe to take one of my gloves before winter ends. The good news is that my paranoia also means I've already taken precautions against such a fate: when picking out each winter's scarf/glove/hat combo, I always buy two pairs of the same glove. It's like I'm Mariano Rivera with Joba Chamberlain (or John Wetteland circa 1996) warming up in the bullpen. So, WHATEVER, universe!
Note: Gloves aren't the only winter accessory people lose. I snapped the shot below while waiting for the train earlier today. I would be so f'd if this happened to me (no scarf clips, no back-up scarf)!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I'm not sure what the point of this blog will be but I've got an urge to write it. So, let's review:
I've been trying to get a Patriots NFL helmet cell phone charm from a vending machine at Pathmark for the last few weeks. A real crapshoot: I've sunk about $19 into the piece of crap machine and now own 35 helmet charms, none of which are the Patriots. I've been waiting to return to Pathmark while I recharged my mojo.
Well, after the gym tonight, it was on like Donkey Kong. Feeling revitalized and ready to take on the vending machine, I drove over to Pathmark thinking, "Yes, this is definitely the night I get that helmet charm."
After parking on the street outside, I gathered about $2.50 in quarters from my purse and headed in. And that's when the night took a hard left turn.
The vending machine's contents had been replaced and instead of cell phone charms, it was now hawking ping pong balls with NCAA teams' logos. WTF?! My eyes grew bigger than the balls inside the machine as I searched nearby stands to see if the charms were somewhere else. No, gone.
The Grapes of Crap book cover (what, you didn't have to read it in 8th grade?).
So much for ever getting a crappy Patriots cell phone charm. Deflated, I decided to take a photo of the new machine just for posterity's sake. And that's when my cell phone froze and crashed.
Crap! I rebooted and tried to take a photo again. Crash. Reboot. Crash. The Pathmark employees were growing suspicious of me hanging around, cursing my phone so I wandered the aisles, rebooting while grabbing a very random assortment of stuff (2 lunch bags, 1 liquid dish soap, 1 pumpkin spice coffee creamer, 2 birthday cards). I figured the phone would be working again by the time I got to the front.
Nope. No phone. No photo of new tchotchke. No cell phone charms. All crap.
Frustrated, I left with my craptastic bag of randomness only to turn the corner in time to see some asshole backing into my car. Outrageous! The street was empty except for my car and still, this craptard couldn't even parallel park without hitting mine. While my car rocked back and forth from the hit, I rushed over to accost the jerkoff.
As I neared the driver's side of his car, it occurred to me that he might get out and be a 6'5, 300-pound pile of crap. No matter, I had a lot of anger to take out on him. (Is it any wonder that I haven't been killed yet?)
"Hey, asshole! Are you completely incapable of parking a car?! You just totally hit my car even though you've got miles of empty street in front of you!! Are you retarded?!"
Luckily, the crapmonger who got out was neither 6'5 nor retarded. Instead, I was face to face with a young Hasidic Jew (who looked completely baffled as to why a woman other than his wife was speaking to him). I continued to rant and threatened to hit his car on the way out "since there's 2 blocks of space behind my car and I just don't know how I'll manage to get out without hitting something!"
It was not my finest moment. In fact, it was downright crapathetic. And, before I maneuvered to drive away, I'll admit: I hit his car.
Driving home, I thought of all the crap in my life (aside from the stupid cell phone charms): I'm unemployed and I'm running through my savings faster than Obama signs executive orders. Before leaving my car to go into the gym earlier, I'd been filled with such sadness and despair that I'd even wondered, "If I had a gun right now, would I shoot myself with it?"
Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not usually prone to suicidal thoughts (even passive ones). I'm guessing that a headline I'd seen earlier in the day, "LA man distressed over job shoots wife, 5 children and self" had gotten stuck in my subconscious. I know, I know, I try to keep this blog lighthearted and funny, but I'm just not there right now. The good news is that the answer to my question was "hell no."
Anyway, so I'm driving home thinking over the crap sandwich that's now my life while trying to find the "silver lining." Yes, I thought, there are many things I don't have (self control being one) but there's plenty more that I do have such as perfect health, an incredible family, a loving boyfriend, amazing friends, an education, a warm place to come home to (for now). The list could go on and on until I'm giving thanks for running water and electricity.
"Yeah," I thought, "things are hard but they can't always suck." Just as I thought this, I pulled into the driveway of my building and pressed the garage door opener. Nothing. Pressed it again. Nothing. Again, again, again. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Crap. Ah, the proverbial "last straw."
But then, the laughter took over. A deep, body-shaking laugh that freaked my neighbors out and saved me from tears.
And so, there's one more silver lining to be thankful for: I can still laugh (when I stop laughing, call the crapamedics).
A silver lining if I ever saw one!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
My fanaticism recently jumped the shark, so to speak. It all started innocently enough with a few quarters. I made the leap from "fan" to "insane person" this weekend when I returned with a roll of quarters.
Perhaps if I was talking about slot machines and bus rides to Atlantic City, I could pass for "normal." No, I'm talking about a vending machine at my local Pathmark. You've seen the type before, just beyond the registers where kids whine for quarters as they pass temporary tattoos and giant gumballs.
The difference here is that I'm 35 and have access to a bank account full of quarters. I'm also a devoted New England Patriots fan whose cell phone always has some sort of charm hanging off of it. Can you see where the shitstorm is brewing now, just off the end of this paragraph?
Yes, Pathmark has a vending machine chock full of NFL helmet cell phone charms; several Patriots helmets are in clear view but nowhere near the bottom. I am determined to get my hands on one (just one, dammit!) -- it's only 50 cents, after all!
Three attempts and $19* later, I am now the not-so-proud owner of 35 NFL helmet cell phone charms, NONE of which has the Patriots' "Flying Elvis" logo on it.
"Collect all 32 teams!" screams the vending machine at Pathmark (left). At this point, I pretty much have. The "like I give a shit" helmets I've amassed so far (right).
The first night I encountered the helmets, I can't remember why I was even in Pathmark. It's completely out of my way and doesn't carry anything I like. Its only quality is that it's open 24 hours and is known to host some pretty entertaining characters after 1 AM (including me, apparently). If only I could access their security cameras and zoom in on the ridiculous look that must've been on my face when I first noticed the helmets.
I had about $4 in quarters on me (between the change in my purse and what I had got back from my purchase). A small, childish voice in me kept thinking, "oooh, this is gonna be it, this time! Aw, man. No, THIS time is it, here it comes! Aw, man!" For all I know, I had my tongue sticking out in deep concentration as I rapidly slipped quarter after quarter into the machine. I left frustrated but naively convinced I would succeed if I went back the next night.
Late at night again, same cashier on duty (now mildly interested in what I was up to). Had dipped into my parking meter supply from the car before entering. Total expenditure: $5, some pride and a good deal of optimism. Returned home that night to scour the Internet in search of a helmet I could buy outright, saving myself another trip to Pathmark. I was also concerned about the fast-growing pile of crappy helmets I'd accumulated...
Inventory from first two attempts yielded:
2 Oakland Raiders (both broken - they can't even get it right as toy plastic helmets)
1 Cincinnati Bengals
2 Arizona Cardinals (has ANYONE even seen a real live Cards fan before this season?!)
1 St Louis Rams
1 Washington Redskins
3 San Francisco 49ers (were these helmets made in the 80's?)
1 Chicago Bears
1 Atlanta Falcons
1 Miami Dolphins
1 San Diego Chargers
Seems this Pathmark in Brooklyn is the only place one can buy NFL helmet cell phone charms (that aren't covered in corny rhinestones, anyway). More determined than ever to get mine, I returned several days later. Made it a point to hit Pathmark during daywalker hours so I could stop at the bank to get a roll of quarters first.
While crossing the street, it occurred to me: "This is why I'm an alcoholic. It's not because I forget where my car is when I'm drunk but because I don't know how to stop drinking once I start." Within seconds, the Addict in my brain menaced the Voice of Reason with a roll of quarters.
The look in my eye says, "They can't deny me both 19-0 AND a cell phone charm!" Next door: The machine that ultimately said, "Yes, we can deny you all that AND $10."
Leaving Pathmark without the helmet charm was the closest I've been to what the team must've felt leaving Arizona last year 18-1: So close, yet so far. Standing on the other side of the window in the freezing cold, I stared in at the machine, bitterly noticing several Patriots helmet charms trapped in the crap heap. I mouthed, "You will be mine" and dashed to the car.
Inventory from $10 roll of quarters:
3 Tennessee Titans (1 broken, perhaps in honor of Steve McNair?)
2 Houston Texans (Tom Brady's toenail clippings are more valuable)
1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1 Oakland Raiders (really?)
1 Green Bay Packers
1 Cincinnati Bengals
1 Buffalo Bills
1 Denver Broncos (great, now I have 2 and they have my offensive coordinator)
1 Detroit Lions (actually could be a collector's item after 0-16 season)
1 Cleveland Browns
3 Indianapolis Colts (damn you, Peyton! As if the VISA/Sony/Snuggie commercials every 5 seconds weren't enough!)
3 San Francisco 49ers (bringing overall 49ers total to 4!!)
2 NY Giants (the sting doesn't hurt as much now that Eli's post-season is with Oreo's Double Stuf Racing League)
In a cruel twist of fan fate, the last helmet to spit out of the machine was a Miami Dolphins one. As a Patriots fan whose 11-5 team didn't make the playoffs thanks to Ronnie Brown vs Patriots in Week 3 and Brett Favre's farewell terd against Miami in Week 16, this last helmet felt like the football gods flipping me off. Never one to care that small children are within earshot or eyesight, I gave them the finger back.
Not my best moment: giving a vending machine the finger in a crowded supermarket (left). Later that night, I modeled the Dolphins helmet that was the proverbial cherry on my $10 poop sundae.
Actually, there were several children around, including a boy who was keenly interested in what I was doing. I thought to ask him who his favorite team is and then offer him the crappy helmet if I had it. Then, in a somewhat adult moment, I realized that I can try to sell these unwanted helmet charms on eBay (why not? If someone was selling a Patriots one, I'd buy it -- for $19!). Seriously, if I can sell them at $5 a pop, it'd raise enough to cover my cell phone bill!
In the meantime, I'm keeping clear of Pathmark while I recharge my vending mojo, hoping that Attempt 4 will be the "charm" -- literally. My Man has expressed genuine concern about my sanity (I am, after all, technically unemployed and pouring money I don't have into a toy vending machine). He's afraid that I'm walking a thin line between safe driver and car wreck. He's even threatened me with, "I'm going to call your mother" (the ultimate threat between boyfriend/girlfriends, apparently).
Fine, put me in a crash helmet. As long as I get to take it off to make calls with a cell phone that proudly boasts a Patriots helmet dangling off the end of it.
* For anal accountant-types wondering how I have 35 helmets at 50 cents each but only spent $19, the answer is simple: some of the little plastic containers are blessed with 2-3 charms. Yep, I've gotten several that contained a crapfeast of helmets. In fact, there is a container in the middle of the machine that contains 3, yes THREE, Patriots helmets. The loser who gets this precious egg of joy will no doubt be a Dolphins fan.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
I'm a people-watcher. It's probably the biggest reason I moved to New York City nine years ago. Whether it's observing feces-smeared crazy people from a safe distance on the train or taking in an angry woman's threats to sue Macy's for not letting her return a sweater, NYC is a hotbed of people-watching activity.
This fascination explains a lot about my TV-watching habits. For example, I've been super Real World fan #1 since its debut in 1992 and am thrilled that the new season 21 was shot in Brooklyn. Not only do I get to observe the show's first transgender roommate, I get to see it all happen in familiar settings ("hey, I've had lunch in that place where Katelynn is coming out to JD!").
I like to think of my people-on-TV-watching as a self-guided anthropology course. It's only a matter of time before there are graduate courses on The Real World (if there aren't already), which I'd be very qualified to teach. I'm guessing I'm the only person who bought MTV's The Real World Hawaii: True Confessions, a 1999 tell-all book that currently has a place in my home library alongside other anthropological classics such as The Harmless People and Aztecs of Central Mexico. Seriously, I could talk for days about the impact of The Real World on our culture (so I'll stop now -- you're welcome).
A quick glance at some of the more academic titles in my home library, including a BEHIND-the-behind-the-scenes look at Ruthie and her drinking problem (center).
After a childhood of Sesame Street and The Electric Company, I've been trained for this line of study. Beyond voyeuristic pleasure, people-watching-on-TV can be very educational. For instance, I learned many things today that I would've never known if it weren't for CMT's season 3 premier of My Big Redneck Wedding, such as:
1. You can get custom wedding rings in camouflage.
2. Limos also come in camouflage.
3. You can get married in a duck blind.
4. When writing your own vows, anything goes ("I will drink beer with him always").
5. Same lawlessness for wedding cakes, which can be layers of cupcakes, Zingers, Ho-Hos, Twinkies and Jello shots.
6. Wedding toasts are also a free-for-all ("buuuuuurrrrrrp!").
This show has fast become one of my favorite anthropological studies (is it any wonder that MTV owns CMT?). How else would I know that deodorant can also be used on one's face to prevent unwanted perspiration?
From CMT's "Biggest Redneck Wedding Ever" in which Tom Arnold made Elaine and Bruce's dreams come true in the muddiest beer fest yet. Here, Elaine demonstrates how she plans to keep dry in all that mud and beer.
Friday, January 09, 2009
Even though I updated the blog two days ago, I'm compelled to write again to help process what happened earlier this evening (I try to limit entries to keep things interesting)...
So, I took my cat to the vet and it turns out the sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes I'd so been so naive to think were a kitty cold are actually symptoms of a herpes flare up.
Yes, at the tender age of 4, my cat Pumpkin has herpes.
Now, I can't vouch for her reputation prior to my adopting her last summer (for all I know, that far-away look she gets could be her reminiscing about dog-on-cat orgies), but I'm pretty sure she's been chaste the entire time I've had her. My other cat is a 12-year-old female tabby named Eve who doesn't seem to like a single thing about Pumpkin -- no kitty porn here.
So, I'm going with the vet's explanation that Pumpkin is an innocent who was born with the herpes virus. We can speculate about her mom's reputation but she, too, may have been born with it. I'm not in the blame game. Just trying to come to grips with the idea that cats get herpes, too. I was having a hard enough time with the idea that cats get colds (seriously, who knew?).
The vet advised that I treat this current flare up with Zithromax (another "cats can get this too?" moment) and try to avoid stressful situations for her. What qualifies as a stressful situation? "Something as simple as taking down the Christmas tree can be very stressful for them and cause a flare up like this." Really? So much for putting the laundry away -- I can't afford another vet visit.
I take comfort in the vet's advice that Pumpkin is not alone -- "feline herpes is just as common as herpes among humans, with nearly 1 in 5 adults infected." Not sure if there's a support group at my local Petco but I guess we can always start one.
Also, the vet says my li'l Pumpkin head can benefit from regular ingestion of lysine, an amino acid that competes with the herpes virus' growth. I've been told to get a $5 bottle of it from the drug store and sprinkle it liberally on Pumpkin's food. Dear God, what's the likelihood that CVS sells tuna-flavored lysine?
So, with a $30 prescription of Zithromax and a steady diet of lysine, she will be able to live a normal life. What a relief. Now she can do all the things I've always hoped she would do like kayaking, hiking, camping -- basically all of the outdoor activities that herpes victims like to do.
Yes, Pumpkin can feel good about that.
I had more fun doing this in Photoshop than any alleged "sane" person should.
One of the many, many herpes commercial spoofs out there (this one is a funny take on actors in those commercials).
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Written today in real time via my phone's handy "MemoPad" feature...
8:15 Leaving the house for jury duty in downtown Brooklyn. Game plan is to say whatever the hell it takes to limit the obligation to today.
8:54 Am still on train, wondering--and kinda hoping--that jury duty is like detention: doors close and access denied after designated 8:45 arrival time. Of course, given that I've ignored every jury summons sent to me for the last 8 years, I'll probably be arrested when I finally get there.
9:00 After clearing security, I rush to the Central Jury Room to find that I probably could've stopped for that Dunkin Donuts coffee I'm now dying for. Nothing but a pre-recorded "Welcome" message playing on several TVs in a large room (similar to what I imagine most classrooms at the University of Florida are like).
9:15 "Welcome" message is mostly unconvincing "you're lucky to be here doing your civic duty as an American" stuff but ends with a threat that strikes home (as a person with anger management issues): "Wouldn't you want someone like you on YOUR jury if YOU were ever on trial?" Okay, so no fake epileptic seizure. I'll stay and get some work done.
9:30 Black guy with MC Hammer-type glasses comes out of side door to speak at large bench in front of room. As he goes down the list of do's and don'ts, I am busy trying to see if they're prescription glasses, at least.
9:39 First glance at phone for time check and Facebook status update. "Jennifer has finally been coerced into jury duty after being threatened with a bench warrant (geez). Why don't they do the same for people who don't vote?"
9:50 Still in the thick of the do's and don'ts of jury duty as read by MC Hammer (the carrot on the end of the stick being you get credit and don't have to come back for 8 whole years). Laptops are permitted but cell phone use is prohibited except in lobby area; however, I'm making an exception for my BlackBerry since it's technically a teeny tiny laptop with cool ringtones.
10:07 What's this bullshit about smokers being allowed to leave for 10 minutes at a time?! There's even a specific warning to us non-smokers that if we leave for 10 min and return with a coffee from Dunkin Donuts (is MC Hammer a mind reader, too?), we'll be marked absent and won't get credit for today. I'm tempted to ask, "what if I smoke a cigarette upon returning from Dunkin Donuts?"
Central Jury Room in downtown Brooklyn, where my ass sat like a good citizen for most of today. At right, smokers exercising the 10-minute reward the court allows them for having a bad habit. Isn't coffee considered a bad habit, too?!
10:30 Am happy to see several friends have already commented on my Facebook status. I'm struck by Jason Roeder's comment, "It's not that bad. I helped put a rapist in prison. Not bad for a Tuesday." I'm almost inspired to want to serve today. We'll see; it'll be a game-time decision.
10:35 Unsure if I'm free to email/text, I keep the BlackBerry held low in the purse at first, typing and scrolling on the sly like a kid cheating on a vocab quiz.
10:45 Am now brazen with the BlackBerry.
10:55 Man, I am REALLY productive when being held prisoner! I've already sent like 10 emails, all related to work! Mental note: Must have my Man lock me in the home office M-F, 9-5 from now on (with the threat of arrest if I fail to show up).
11:15 A quick glance at one of the TVs (now broadcasting CNN) shows that 1) Senate Democrats are going to approve Blagojevich's appointment despite vowing to block it just days ago; and 2) it's already 11:15! Woohoo! Only two hours til lunch break and, more importantly, that coffee from Dunkin Donuts.
11:20 Decide to start keeping notes for a blog about this, ya know, just in case it ends up being some profound, noteworthy experience. That and it's more interesting than the book I brought (The Great Bridge by David McCullough).
11:59 The girl sitting next to me is really pissing me off with her restless leg syndrome. Doesn't she realize that our chairs are attached like some juror chain gang?
12:01 Wow, this is really starting to feel like The Breakfast Club. Where's Judd Nelson when you need him?
12:10 I'm overcome with worry that my name was called and I didn't hear it because I was too focused on work or glaring angrily at the girl next to me (enough with the legs already!).
12:15 Some businessman just broke the imposed silence by talking very loudly on his cell phone. The entire room is now focused on him and collectively holding our breath until his phone gets confiscated. (They promised!) I feel a communal sense of outrage and longing for a time when cell phones were "car phones." Airplanes and jury holding tanks are now like the protected wetlands of Silence.
12:23 So hungry. Can't go on. Can't believe I haven't moved from this seat yet. Can't muster the energy to check out the juror "lounge" next door. Have resigned myself to eating the remains of a Greens+ protein bar. 40 minutes until lunch!
12:30 Still haven't been called. If they don't call me, do I still get credit for sitting here all day? MC Hammer didn't cover that in his speech earlier and now he's disappeared into that mysterious side door.
12:31 Why does this girl insist on torturing me by shaking her legs and thereby my chair? Wasn't I nice to her earlier when I politely suggested Cliff's Notes for the GRE (after noticing she had a study guide for it in hand)? Is this the thanks I get? And why haven't I moved if I'm so annoyed?
12:37 Yay! I've been called! Am now in a MUCH smaller room with two attorneys for a civil case. Am filling out a form that I think will definitely disqualify me. For instance, the last box under "Highest level of education" is "More than high school."
12:40 They just announced outside to the other jurors that they're breaking for lunch early. Everyone in my little room let out a collective groan (or, in Brooklyn's case, a collective sucking of one's teeth and shaking of the head as in "bitch, please"). Luckily, the two attorneys made an executive decision and are letting us go now, too! DD, here I come!
1:05 DD coffee in hand, I rush over to the Vitamin Shoppe to get my Man one of the 3,000 supplements he takes (such a devoted girlfriend to take 5 minutes of my 58-min lunch hour for him. Of course, I could've waited until after 5 when I'm free to run this errand). Luckily, I know Brooklyn Heights pretty well so I save time by making a beeline to my favorite sushi spot on Montague Street. Okay, so I've only been here twice before but it still qualifies as my "favorite" for today's purpose. I was tempted to go to the Chipotle across the street but know the result would be horrifying breath for the rest of the afternoon (that jury room is way too small for me to kick the funk like that).
1:29 Good news: the lunch special here is retardedly awesome (3 rolls for $9 including miso soup and salad). Bad news: eating 18 pieces of sushi really fast is really gross. I feel like I'm in the hot dog eating contest out in Coney Island.
1:30 After wolfing 15 pieces of sushi, have asked for check so I have enough time to get back to court and compose myself. How the hell do people manage to eat lunch in one hour?! Unemployment does have its benefits, I guess.
If I ever do end up on a jury, it's sad to think how easily I can be bribed: one extra large flavored coffee from Dunkin Donuts and more than an hour for lunch.
1:45 Back in the court house, going thru security. One of the guards asks, "Toy car blah blah bag?" Excuse me? "Do you have a toy car in your bag?" What?! I look at him incredulously. But before I can advise him to recalibrate the X-ray machine, I remember that I've got a Priority Mail box filled with Christmas presents in my bag. Yes, I'm a procrastinator who multitasks by schlepping packages to jury duty in the hopes that I will finally mail them.
1:50 Tragedy strikes! While struggling to layer the peed-on toilet seat with TP (Ladies: most of you lack the quads needed for proper hovering so please, until you're built otherwise, sit on the seat), my Burt's Bees lip balm drops from my coat pocket to the sticky bathroom floor and rolls behind the toilet. Must hose it with antibacterial lotion when I'm done!
1:53 Lip balm sanitized, I'm feeling adventurous after refreshing in the bathroom. Have decided to wait for 2 o'clock in one of the other juror holding pens (with windows, no less!). Wish I'd known about this room before. Would've saved myself some aggravation from the likes of Loser McLegs.
2:11 We're all back in the little jury room...except for the two attorneys (who apparently refuse to eat lunch like they're in a hot dog eating contest).
2:16 So, if neither of these attorneys comes back, do we still get credit for today?
2:20 Excitement! The guy sitting in front of me got up and started looking everywhere for something. Within seconds, nearby jurors were asking what he'd dropped. "An earring" Yawn. "A diamond earring." All at once, 4 of us stood up to help him search the floor and his belongings. Boredom and luxury items breed helpfulness, it seems.
2:27 Earring found (was stuck to the bottom of his shoe -- these floors are a testament to the power of dirt). Nearby female jurors offer earring-and-pony-tail-wearing man unsolicited advice about the best kind of earring backs and where to buy them. I fight the urge to offer advice about how men should never wear earrings and pony tails without Zubaz pants.
2:29 Attorneys arrive. No apology for delay except a bizarre diatribe on "new rules from Albany blah blah blah we used to be able to choose 10 people blah blah blah and then interview them while the rest of you sat patiently waiting to be excused but now we blah blah blah have to talk to all 21 of you before we can challenge you as a juror." In other words, get fucking comfortable.
2:35 Playing musical chairs in a room the size of my bathroom with 20 other people while the attorneys have us move to chairs they just assigned 1-21. On the way out to get the judge, a joke from the plaintiff's attorney: "Be right back with the judge and a complaint box."
2:44 The judge, who looks ripe enough for Century Village, comes in and advises us to cooperate, be fair and impartial. On the way out, he also suggests, "And don't get old."
2:46 Attorneys already arguing about the process (should we separate triplicate forms now or later? Ask questions to group or individually?). Collective groan. I take comfort in the little bit of Dunkin Donuts coffee I managed to save for later. Truth be told (and why not? I'm in a courthouse, after all), this is the worst DD coffee I've ever had. I wasn't expecting greatness, though; it's from one of those half-assed DD kiosks set up inside a KFC/Pizza Hut joint.
2:52 Attorneys now ready to question us...just as soon as they figure out the new process. Something about this being a civil case between a bicyclist and a driver who hit him. Bootleg DD coffee nearly finished.
3:05 There's gonna be a riot! The plaintiff's attorney is in love with the sound of his own voice. After mauling British/American history ("there was a war hundreds of years ago for your right to have a trial before a jury of your peers..."), the defendant's attorney interrupted and asked to speak with him outside. Meanwhile, an angry outburst erupted in the small room about "why is this asshole talking so much?" "Isn't this what the trial is for?" When the attorneys came back in, one young white woman in the back raised her hand and objected, "All of this seems tangential. We've been here an hour and you've yet to ask one of us a question. How long is this process going to take?" To which, the plaintiff's attorney answered, "this is going to take until tomorrow at the earliest" (collective "bitch, please!!"). Then, he asked to speak to HER outside. She was excused and came back to get her things saying, "Oh, snap!" which was odd for one who just used the word "tangential" so nicely. But, yo, I can relate.
A shot of the two attorneys doing what they seem to do best: haggling while we wait. In the foreground is Pony Tail Man, who briefly lost his earring, giving us something to do besides wait.
3:15 Attorneys are both outside--again--talking to another juror who managed to scream something objectionable in the short time we were all assembled in the room. I'm cracking jokes at the fast-growing outrage in the room. "Damn," I quip, "I should've told them I hit a bicyclist on the way here!" Collective laughter. "Where's that judge?" I demand. "From the looks of him, he couldn't have gotten far." More collective laughter.
3:30 Can't imagine why the plaintiff's attorney would want to pick any of us since we're clearly on the verge of forming a lynch mob. Is it any wonder that this case has been dragging on since 2004 if the jury pool is biased within the first hour of meeting the plaintiff's attorney? For the record: not a single potential juror has been asked a question in the 90 minutes since we returned from lunch.
3:45 Huzzah! After haggling outside with each other and another judge, the attorneys returned and we've all been dismissed from the case! Being openly hostile has its rewards! After high-fiving each other outside the juror fattening pen, we all wonder with wide-eyed fear, "what now?"
3:50 Back in the Central Jury Room, it seems a bond of friendship was formed by the hostage-like situation back in the little room. Several of us have opted to sit near each other in the larger room despite many open seats elsewhere. Like a Rainbow Coalition of disgruntled juror rejects, we formulate a new game plan as a team: ride out the remaining hour and 10 minutes, hoping to not get called for another case.
3:54 I'm thinking about what the word "impaneling" might mean (it's plastered all over the place and keeps getting announced in conjunction with random names). Can this word be used as an adverb to describe home decorating circa 1972?
3:55 A ray of Sunshine! No, really, Nancy Sunshine, Kings County Clerk, just announced that those of us who haven't been picked yet are being excused! All we have to do is wait for our name to be called to receive our certificate of completion. Now, time for the juror graduation ceremony! Am suppressing the urge to hum "Pomp and Circumstance" and congratulate fellow jurors on making it through the day without being selected.
Nancy Sunshine, clerk of Kings County, living up to her name.
4:10 A graduate of jury duty steps out into the cold, grey winter day, praising the Almighty with, "Free at last, free at last!" Spotted: Nancy Sunshine at the door, thanking each of us as we raced for the nearest exit. I thought to tell her about the jacked-up questioning process and terrible experience we'd just had but then remembered, "Free at last!" and "I don't care!"
4:20 Now in line at the post office next door to mail the long-delayed Christmas presents. Was thinking about how I basically bitched and moaned my way out of jury duty, worrying that perhaps I've cheated my state and country in the process. Am also feeling sorta guilty about my part in inciting the near-riot (and then smiling coyly when the attorneys returned to find torches and pitchforks).
4:40 Waiting for the train home, my mood lightens when I think of all the work I managed to do while fulfilling my civic responsibility. I'm especially comforted by the thought that it will be at least 8 years before I'm called again for jury duty. Here's hoping that plaintiff's attorney manages to select a jury before then!
Closing argument: If you don't want to serve on a jury, you can safely ignore all summons for about 8 years. After you've exhausted time and at least one allowed postponement request, show up very annoyed and be vociferously hostile. Justice may be blind but she ain't deaf.
A parting sneer on the way out of the courthouse.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Next month will mark 14 years since I last had a drink of alcohol (no thanks to super douchebag chef Alain Ducasse for marring that streak last year -- see "What a Ducasshole!" blog). It will also be nearly 17 years since I quit smoking and 19 since I dabbled in drugs. During the intervening years, I've had an ocean of Sprite while steering clear of new addictions such as fantasy football and all-you-can-eat buffets.
And yet, my mind somehow managed to sneak in a very big one, right under my nose: lip balm.
Before today, moistening my lips with Burt's Bees honey lip balm was something I did every 10 minutes or so without thinking. But, while applying the gooey sweetness this afternoon, I remembered a seemingly-inconsequential exchange I'd had over the holiday with my Mom:
Sitting on her couch in RI, my Mom casually mentioned a story she'd seen on TV about lip balm addiction and how it reminded her of me. "Really? Why?" She raised an "are you kidding me?" eyebrow and returned to watching the "On Demand" yule log on TV. I went back to applying lip balm.
One week later, there I was, reaching for the Burt's Bees that's permanently stationed below the radio in my car. I recounted the story to my Man, who was sitting in the passenger seat, also applying lip balm. He scoffed at the idea. "Lip balm addiction. Please."
The idea continued to fester in my head. I Googled "lip balm addiction" on my BlackBerry and somehow managed an epiphany while weaving through heavy traffic on the BQE into Manhattan: "Christ on a moped, I've replaced alcohol and cigarettes with lip balm!"
Granted, enjoying my stick of goo won't ever have me wondering, "where did I park my house?" or "is this tracheotomy really necessary?" -- but it's still an oral fixation not unlike all the others I'd been so careful to quit.
And, I'm pretty sure it's an addiction: I tried going without it for the 20-minute ride home...and failed. Maybe it was the 28-degree weather outside or dry, heated air in the car but my lips "cracked" like Pookie in New Jack City with just one mile to go.
Smoking my tube of beeswax and then basking in the post-moisture high.
So, now what? Do I give this up, too? Take a Burt's Bees inventory and throw the cracksticks into the heap along with vodka and Marlboro Lights? That's crazy! I mean, even if I did, it'd take for-f'n-ever to unearth all of my sticky stashes -- there's a lot of honey lip goo flowing around here.
Consider this cursory glance around the apartment:
1. living room, on the stand near the couch
2. living room, hanging on the wall in my coat pocket
3. bedroom, on the bedside stand near my side of the bed
4. bedroom, on the desk by the computer
5. den, on the desk by the laptop
6. den, on the bottom book shelf
7. bathroom, two tubes still in packaging
8. dining room, at the bottom of my purse
9. dining room, in the outside zipper of my purse
10. right pocket of the hoodie currently on my body
Aside from being a great exercise to teach kids prepositional phrases, it's also a terrifying survey of lips whose thirst for beeswax seems unquenchable.
And, that doesn't even begin to touch the staggering number of J/A/S/O/N and Burt's Bees tubes in the apartment that belong to my Man, who is a bigger balmhead than me. He WEARS a tube of lip balm around his neck like a lifeguard, for crying out loud. His misplacement of my goo has led to many panic-stricken moments in which I race around the apartment like an asthmatic desperately searching for an inhaler. At this rate, our children might need lip balm in utero instead of amniotic fluid.
While I don't like the idea of being addicted, I guess there are worse things I could rub on my mouth every 10 minutes, like dog shit or random body parts (mine or otherwise). Today's realization just struck me as being a cruel joke: try as we might, we can never truly be free of addictions. Freedom is an illusion disguised as choice: good or bad, CVS or crackhouse, moisturized lips or black lung?
I applied lip balm no less than 20 times while writing this blog. Thinking about it seems to trigger the impulse to apply. I'll bet fellow balmheads applied several times while reading.
Surprisingly, there's a lot of attention being paid to this topic by reputable media outlets (the Washington Post -- really?). Just a quick search online turns up a few interesting nuggets:
Get over your lip balm addiction
By Julia Feldmeier | Special to The Washington Post
December 28, 2008
(which concludes with) Reach instead for your water bottle. Most of us don't drink enough water, and the hydration will only help your lips.
Beating Your Addiction (from the BBC)
(which claims) Lip balm addiction is just another form of substance abuse. Over time you become dependent on it, and getting out involves some necessary and unavoidable discomfort. In truth, you don't need the product, because most of the time you create your own problem - by licking your lips.
Lip Balm Anonymous (a parody set up in '95 by a Web developer)
Lip Balm Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from their addiction. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using lip balm and there are never any fees for membership as we are self supported through our own contributions. We are not affiliated with any sect, denomination, political organization, or institution.
Are Lip Balms Addictive? (a special page on Blistex.com)
(lots of blurbs from the media poo-pooing the idea of lip balm addiction) Excerpted from the Australian edition of Cosmopolitan Magazine, December, 2002:
"Since dry lips can be a chronic condition and balms provide immediate relief, habitual use may feel like an addiction," says David Leffell, a professor of dermatology at Yale University. "But there's no ingredient that causes a true chemical dependency."