Monday, September 13, 2010

I? The Jury?

The jury summons arrived weeks ago, and I was dreading the inevitable day. Last week, I finally appeared in person, responding to the detailed invitation that dared to casually use the word, "Welcome!" in the first paragraph. Eight years drifted by since my last jury notification, and I lucked out then because my number never came up.

But this was far, far more concerning because I had been chosen for a grand jury -- five weeks as the member of a captive audience, forced to listen to seemingly endless whines and snorts from junior members of the district attorney's office. Hey, don't bother me, just take whomever you want to indict out back, give 'em the needle and indict them later. Surely, there's something in their past worthy of a prompt execution?

Obligation. Duty to serve. Your civic responsibility. You have been chosen to. . .

Whoa, hold on. Didn't I hear the same words when the Vietnam Era draft stopped by and invited me to a mandatory party I couldn't refuse? Haven't I been here before, same government but different circumstances? What more do you people want out of me?

"The vending machines are over there," offered a department of jurors secretary who unlocked the office door and beckoned me in. I was the first to arrive at this early hour. The only vending machine I desired was one from which I could buy an instant felony, so I could get out of this nightmare.

Other "Welcome to. . ." invitees began to arrive, and eventually we were all escorted into a large room with plenty o' seats, and checked in individually. "Look at this list," one court representative remarked to another afterward, "we've never had so many no-shows."

We had to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It's been a while for me. Did I almost start out with, "Oh, say can you see. . ." before I caught myself and got into step?

A film. Oh, GOD, not a film. But yes, 25-something minutes of CBS-TV's Ed Bradley (wait a minute, Bradley was a good journalist, but how long has he been dead?) and veteran actor Sam Waterston (who only appears dead on TV) explaining New York State's grand jury system. Okay, I get it, okay? I GET IT! Arghhhhhhhhh!

So, I learn that our job basically is to indict, to not indict or to push a case off to some other office. What the hell?! Seems to me, if your case is taking up my time and I have to endure walking and ultimately limping along for several blocks to reach the courthouse from the parking garage, you're on the hook, sorry.

Besides, how could I NOT indict anybody who comes under scrutiny? Better yet, let me decide who in this society deserves my personal indictment. First, I'd indict the so-called high school English teacher who promised my writing would never amount to anything. Okay, maybe she was right, but I'd still opt for indictment.

Then I'd indict Gray Barker, albeit posthumously, for the load of nonsensical UFO books I bought from his publishing company in my teen years. Books full of lies and fantasies written by charlatans don't age well as years go by, trust me. Saucerian Publications, you are served!

How about airline companies? Let's indict them for withholding the truth or flat-out lying about close and sometimes dangerously close encounters with UFOs, and for discouraging or flat-out muzzling their pilots from reporting such strange incidents.

Obviously, I would indict Congress for ignoring significant UFO evidence, available for decades in ample amounts from the meticulous files of competent private UFO investigative organizations and individual researchers -- and from the government itself.

But in stronger terms, I think I could easily go for an indictment of scientists and science-based "debunkers" who shamelessly continue to ignore UFO evidence. Chuckling and walking away, ladies and gentlemen, ain't science.

Regrettably, it's unlikely that I could indict members of the media who have darkened their profession's image for years by ignoring, potentially, the story of a lifetime because freedom of the press consistently allows them to exercise ignorance or to pick and choose stories depending upon. . .upon so many factors.

So I bask in the jury pool, awaiting my fate. The commissioner of jurors calls upon some to come up front, one at a time, and draw seven numbers each from a little rotating cage, numbers which will translate into grand jury members. I'm deliriously pleased-to-serve possible juror number 141. Crime must be rampant, for two grand juries at a time, 23 members per, are being formed, and we're already warned to expect attending jury sessions for about 15 out of 25 days.

The woman who draws first grabs her own number, personally assuring her future, as nervous laughter arises from the crowd, finding humor and a peculiar solace in anything that even sounds like irony. The fun continues. Ultimately, potential jurors are down to maybe 18 or 20, including me.

However, juror number 141 is not called. He is free to go, cast out into the streets for the next eight years, realizing all too well that fantasies of those he wishes to see indicted will never come true. Instead, stupidity, bad judgment, domestic violence and brutal divorces engulfing more than one out of two marriages in the USA will keep the courts occupied for years, even without the assistance of juror number 141.