Saturday, August 2, 2014

8.2 Saturday (Expostulation of St. Hilarion)

Last month, I received a summons for jury duty. When I espied the errant document in my daily ration of paper recyclables, I did what every true-hearted patriot does - I smote my breast, I rent my garments, I bemoaned the day of my birth, I imprecated whatever gods and sprites of the metropolis, the marketplace and the hearth had failed to forestall this nuisance, this blight upon the daily life of an unoffending, right-thinking American. 

My household god and favorite party guest

When at last Reason regained her throne and I fully appreciated the gravity of my situation, my best thoughts turned promptly to how I might avoid the necessity of answering the summons. Then, remarking the inescapability of it, how to insure that I might seem sorely unqualified to sit in judgment on any of my peers, either by the prosecution or by the defense attorney, and so be summarily dismissed with scarcely a glance or an afterthought. My helpmeet suggested that my red spectacles might be sufficient to set me off as eccentric in some indefinable and slightly disturbing way.

I knew I needed stronger stuff. But in the event, my imagination failed me. At the appointed hour I appeared at the county court with about a thousand of my fellow citizens, prepared to take my chances in the lottery and, if need be, improvise some peculiarity which might absolve me of further meddling in the affairs of any of my fellow citizens. Should I sit in judgment on a civil case involving some paltry sums of money, I was prepared to proffer capital punishment as a universal panacaea, even though it leaves the creditor no recourse (in that single item it is perhaps inferior to debtor's prison). If it were a capital case such as murder, kidnapping, or default on a student loan, I was prepared to maintain that the death penalty is morally repugnant in any circumstance whatsoever. I thought, this country being what it is and treating its criminal element as it does, that I had my bases covered and was probably due home before lunch was cold.

In the large auditorium where prospective jurors were herded, everyone was handed a questionnaire to complete with the usual information, plus an additional personal section in which you were asked to list hobbies and interests, what TV shows you enjoy, what radio programs you listen to, what you read, and so on. I sensed the opportunties this afforded me to compromise my eligibility ("Well, right now I'm just finishing Mein Kampf"), but my morale was undermined badly enough that I omitted the section. Large crowds tend to undermine my morale anyway, and this one was no exception, down to the staple character of the large gathering, the guy wearing shorts to show his prosthetic leg to advantage.  

"I was just gonna walk around the mall all day but I got jury duty."

I had nearly reached the lowest, dampest point in my emotional puddle when I spied him standing in the line at the counter to get his questionnaire from the jury commissioner. I knew it was a fateful moment, an avatar of true genius, the convergence of role model and disciple, a Svengali to my gormless acceptance of my unpleasant fate. He was the Kafka-esque Ubermensch, a hero with a thousand possibilities, one not to be trifled with by either prosecution or defense, in a word, the answer to all my questions, the end of my jury time. It was just a guy with a pony tail, a baseball cap on backwards, wearing a freshly minted black T-shirt, white Gothic script across the front, each letter terminating in gorgeous pink flames, that spelled "hatebreed."

Brilliant. My heart surged with a newfound hope. Why, I asked myself, hadn't I thought of that?

"Uh, sir, you're free to go home."

No comments:

Post a Comment