Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Summons

Today, I received the most dreaded piece of mail known to mankind. More hideous that an IRS audit notice. More dastardly than an eviction letter. It was The Summons for Jury Service. We’ll get back to that in a minute. Right now I want to talk about the DMV.

I had a very offensive accusation hurled at me once at the DMV. I had moved back to California from Oregon, and I was at a Los Angeles DMV office re-taking the written portion of the driver’s test to get my California driver’s license back. I tried just honking three times and flipping them the bird, but I guess an actual California driving skills test was not required.

Anyway, there were 20 of us packed into the testing room, and at 6’-1”, I was far and away the tallest person in the room. In the middle of the test I stood up straight to stretch my back from the crouching position I was maintaining at my assigned wall shelf testing location, when the permanently grumpy horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing DMV proctor lady looked me right in the eye and shouted, “You deah! Keep you eye on you own paper!”

That was the point at which I ignored her surly, broken English request and actually took a good look at the other people taking the driver’s test with me. You have got to be kidding me, lady!?! You think I’m cheating off these people? I will guarantee that you and I are the only two people in this room who actually speak enough English to have understood that sentence that you, yourself barely formed! The lady next to me has her test upside down, and this guy looks like he couldn’t spell “DMV” if we spotted him all three letters and gave him six tries!

I take offense to the jury selection process in the same way. People have a right to a trial by a jury of their peers. If I am selected to the jury, you’re telling me that I’m a peer to the neck-tattooed idiot over there who “allegedly” held up the convenience store at three in the afternoon in front of the off-duty cop? Honestly, why do we need to keep saying “allegedly?” Look at this mouth-breather. He obviously did it, which totally offends me. What about him make us peers? Warm-bloodedness, I guess.

But that begs the question, do you want a jury of his actual peers judging him? Unemployed meth addicts are unreliable at best. They would never show up on time for the already ridiculously relaxed court hours, plus they might invoke the classic stoner “duuuude, he was totally framed” defense.

I guess the term “jury of your peers” might be misleading these days. Maybe we should change it to “jury of normal people.” No matter what we call them, though, we still have to find twelve people with enough free time to spend all day at the courthouse without getting paid to be there. Now, full-time writers are a good fit for jury service from a logistics standpoint, but a horrible choice from a practical view. They have lots of free time, but we writers are a weird group with wild imaginations. Trust me, you do not want your fate decided by twelve writers! They will convict you just because it makes a better plot for the book they’re going to write about all this.

Unfortunately, I am not a full-time writer yet. Since I can’t support my family on the $13 a year I make as a writer, I still have a day job. The day job tends to take up a lot of my free time. That makes me a bad fit for jury duty, from my point of view. The only people who actually have enough free time to serve on a jury are the unemployed. In my experience, people are unemployed for many reasons, but the vast majority of them are unemployed for reasons that make it impossible for them to be considered a peer of yours or mine, or of anyone who holds down even a part-time job.

Retirement from a lifetime career of steady work should be the only acceptable reason for unemployment when it comes to jurist qualifications.

Now, on the one hand, since I have no time to miss work and serve on a jury, I will do whatever I can to get out of it (short of actual lying, of course, Your Honor). I have to assume that almost all people in my position, meaning my peers, would do the same. So if all my peers are trying to get out of jury duty, and we’re as smart a group of folks as I think we are, there aren’t going to be very many of my peers in the jury box.

On the other hand, if I am ever accused of a crime that requires a jury to help get me freed, it will no doubt be a case of false imprisonment, and I will really want a jury of my actual peers to help me. Kind of a Catch-22, there.

Although… come to think of it, I’m no brain surgeon. I’m not really even that bright. I mean, I can hold down a job and raise kids, but let’s face it; that’s not exactly rocket science. I don’t really want a jury of my peers. I want a jury of rocket scientists and brain surgeons. Those guys are wicked smart! They’ll see through the evil DA’s lies and deceptions. They won’t believe that crooked cop’s story. They’ll get me off.

The problem is, the brain surgeons are the ones who really can’t miss work. I can actually miss work, I just don’t want to.

Although… It says here on my summons that “state law prohibits discrimination or retaliation against an employee for taking time off to serve as a juror.” Hmm… I mean, truth be told, I’m not really that important at the office. I could miss work. Might be kind of fun…

Anyway, the more I think about this, the more I think that DMV visit might actually have been the root cause of this whole problem. Not the ridiculous and insulting accusation, but the fact that I probably re-registered to vote in California while I was there, which is probably how I got on the jury pool list. A lot of good that did me!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

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1 comment:

  1. For the record, I don't consider stay-at-home moms to be lumped in with the unemployed. On the contrary. They are fullyemployed. Overemployed. Superemployed. Even if they only get paid in kisses and hugs.