Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cat's Don't Get Called for Jury Duty

Keeping Watch

It true, you know, that cat's don't get called for jury duty. When I said goodbye to Quint on Friday morning, that is where I was headed. Every other day of that week when I checked in to see if I would be required to show up, I was told that I wouldn't be needed. I figured I had it made. Why would they start a whole new trial on a Friday? Well, someone figured that there might be a need for a few more potential jurors on Friday and some random number generator in some government computer somewhere chose me. So there I was, saying goodbye to Carol and Quint and heading downtown with the possibility that someone might be crazy enough to want me to sit in judgement on someone else's future.

Quint, in the meantime, gets to sit in the window and watch the birds hopping around among the plants on the front porch, or take a morning nap in a nice warm sunbeam. Some years ago, I made this low bench to fit along the picture window in the living room just so the cats could lay there and nap or watch the birds. Carol hemmed the curtains for that window about a foot short so that they didn't interfere with the view. It's the perfect place for a cat nap, and most certainly a vastly more interesting place to spend the day than the jury assembly room in the criminal court building in downtown Los Angeles.

That's just where I was, though. I'd arrived early, about 9:15 a.m., checked in, found a chair away from the juror indoctrination meeting that was going on in the next room and opened one of the three books I had brought with me. An hour or so later, I'd finished up that book and had gotten up, walked around, stretched and returned to my chair. Nothing else had happened. Not a single one of the fifty or more people assembled there had been called to go into a court room. A few people were called to the check-in window to correct some error on the form they had filled out attesting that they were qualified to be a juror, but other than that, nothing had happened. I started a new book, Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, the "story of Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the opening of the American West," according to the subtitle on the cover. A few minutes later, a video played on the monitor in the corner telling all us potential jurors all about the wonderful places to eat and things to see in beautiful downtown Los Angeles. I went back to reading my book. At noon, they told us we could go to lunch, but that we had to be back by 1:30 p.m.

I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get some fresh air and take a walk. Out in the hallway there was quite a crowd waiting for the elevators to take us down to the lobby. Some of the more experienced jurors chose not to wait but to take the stairs down instead. Later, I counted the flights down from the eleventh floor, but on that trek it seemed like a lot more than there actually were. I was guessing around thirty-three by the time I reached the lobby (It was actually twenty-two). I walked out of the building into some lovely Southern California weather with big puffy rain clouds and patches of blue sky and sunshine. I had put a little point-and-shoot camera in my bag when I left the house that morning. I hadn't used it much lately, so I figured that the battery would have plenty of charge left to snap a few shots of whatever downtown buildings and street life that I might encounter. A quick word of advice here: Never forget to bring your spare battery. I turned on the camera and focused on the Los Angeles City Hall and almost immediately got a low battery warning telling me that there was not enough energy to actually take any photos, but that there was plenty left to look at the photos which I hadn't yet been able to take. I found that, if I was quick, I could turn on the camera and squeeze off a shot before the camera's little "brain" realized that the batter was too low to actually do that. I got two hastily framed, bad shots that way and gave up. Nothing left to do now but walk, so I did that. I walked around the block which is uphill on one side and downhill on the other, and then walked back into the building. I had some lunch in the cafeteria on the first floor and then took the elevator back up to the jury assembly room. I found a more comfortable chair and settled in for what promised to be a deadly dull afternoon.

At about 1:50 p.m. they announced that we weren't going to be needed after all and that we could all go home. Ahh, freedom, sweet freedom. I'd done my civic duty again and now I'd be off the list for another year. I celebrated by going shopping at Target to get some wrapping paper for a birthday present we were going to deliver over the weekend. I love going to Target but I never come home with only the items which I intended to get. This time I found a cool little cat toy shaped like a bird. It's makes little chirping sounds whenever you move it. Quint loves it. He played with it all night long. No matter where I was in the house, I could hear the little chirping noises as he prodded and poked at it. I wish I had as much fun with my toys and he has with his.

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