Friday, August 22, 2014

"Countdown To Jury Duty III"

I dodged another bullet.

The cylinder has been spun, and now twice, the “Jury Duty” gun has gone “Click” instead of “Boom!”  Though unlike “Russian Roulette” where the gun inevitably goes “Boom!” – or the audience gets its money back – the “Jury Duty” gun “Clicks” five times, and you’re off the hook. 

Which is an entirely healthier arrangement.  (As well as a less than perfect analogy.)

Still, for a worrier like myself, pushing things off is emotionally excruciating.  Imagine a scheduled heart surgery where the surgeon comes down with a cold, triggering a last-minute rescheduling. 

PATIENT:  “Five days to heart surgery.  “Four days to heart surgery.”  “Three days to heart surgery.”  “Two days to heart surgery.” 

Oops, he’s sick.  Postponed for a week.

PATIENT:  “Nine days to heart surgery.”  “Eight days to heart surgery.”  “Seven days to heart surgery.”  “Six days to heart surgery…”

Can you imagine how agonizing that feels?  If you’re a worrier like I am?

Of course, that is also an imperfect analogy because, unlike the possibility of being relieved of Jury Duty completely, like the “Russian Roulette” “Boom!” your heart surgery is inevitably going to happen.  There is no, “The doctor was sick for a week, so no heart surgery.”  It does not work that way.  And neither do accurate analogies.

Three more days, requiring me to call in.   Time for a worrier like I am to think.  Dwell.  Evaluate.  And obsess.

The question of ”Sartorial Strategy” floats to mind.

“And now, for your listening pleasure, a medley of clothing options that will relieve me of Jury Duty.”

This concern overlooks two intervening hurdles – One:  That you are actually called, which three more “We don’t need you’s” and I won’t be – and Two:  Once called, that you are specifically empaneled, meaning you are included in a larger than needed jury panel from which the jurors and alternates are finally selected.  Many people go to Jury Duty and they sit in a room all day, never being empaneled, receiving seventeen dollars for their Jury Service, and then they go home. 

Cackling maniacally.

“Nyah-hah-hah-hah.  I beat ‘em!”

This may be a good time – though it is possibly too late – to repeat that I am not desirous of evading my civic obligations, only my civic obligations related to Jury Duty.  It would be entirely acceptable to me to perform “Alternative Services” for my community.  Clean up trash at the beach.  Read to a blind person who wants to be read to.

CONTRARIAN BLIND PERSON:  “Will you stop that!?  I am trying to think!

I am willing to sacrifice for my community.  Just not doing Jury Duty.  The question we now return to is,

“What could you wear to the courthouse to get out of it?”

This one is difficult for me, due to my conservative taste in clothing.  It is not easy blowing people’s minds with a closetful of “Earth Tones.” 

JURY SELECTOR:  “Beige and brown.  Soothing.  But not disqualifying.”

Since a plaid and paisley “Gross-Out Parade” is not on the table, what remains in the sartorial department is “Personal Grooming.”   I suppose I could mess a little with that.  Mismatched socks, for example.  “Accidentally” putting the third button into the second buttonhole, creating a hopefully concerning “This guy cannot even button his shirt right” impression.  I would, however, steer clear of  “leaving your fly open.”  Not because it’s disgusting, but because it’s a cliché.

JURY SELECTOR:  “We’ve seen that already.  You’re in.”

Wait, I just remembered.  There’s a third hurdle before actual Jury Duty.  There’s what they call the voir dire, where the empanelled jurors are all interviewed.  For me, the voir dire is like that “Escape Moment” they have at “Space Mountain” at Disneyland

Last chance to get off before the “Big Scary Ride.”

What I want to tell them is the truth.  That I feel uncomfortable sitting in judgment over other people’s behavior.  (And if it’s simply a matter of “following the law”, I’d like to ask what they need a jury for altogether.)

I want to tell them that I am truly skeptical of the “Adversarial System”, believing that the advantage in that procedure goes  – unfairly in my view, and possibly unjustly as well – to the superior attorney.

My concern is that those issues might never come up.  My mind then proceeds to the story a friend of mine named Dennis once told me about getting deferred from combat duty in Viet Nam by proclaiming that he could not wait to get over there and start killing people.  Maybe that’s my way out – to arrive at the courthouse carrying a noose!

Thoughts – not all of them rational – that arise while awaiting the impending interruption of my personal freedom.

The next call is tonight.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Countdown To Jury Duty II"

A retroactive retrospective, awaiting the “Guillotine Drop” of my Jury Duty.

August 4th, 2014.




I never know what that is.  There is no “red line” underscoring the second one, so my computer tells me it’s that one.  Not that this information is helpful.  Next time, I will not remember again.

However it’s spelled, it appears to be an admirable aspiration.  Taking things in stride.  “Steady as she goes.”  Living life as a Doris Day song:

Que Sera Sera.

“What will be, will be.”

That’s the objective.  “Bounce-hit”, as described memorably – at least for me – in The Inner Game of Tennis.  (And I don’t even play the game.  Why did I read the book?  To help internalize the concept.) 

Reacting to things comfortably as they come.  Yeah.  That’s the equanamitous – make that equanimitous – although that’s underlined in red too – ticket.

How close have I come to attaining that objective?

I am truthfully nearer the other end of the spectrum, where you anticipate the future with your eyes gaping in terror and your hands protectively covering your face.  (Or whatever you determine needs protective covering the most.)

Concerning my anticipated Jury Duty, it is now the Second Chapter of Five.  You call in, and if they say “We don’t need you tomorrow”, then you call in again.  The rule being, five “We don’t need you tomorrow’s” and you’re sprung.

I immediately consider the odds. 

“One ‘We don’t need you tomorrow’ down – and four to go” is literally accurate.  But what exactly, in terms of the probability of my ever being called does that mean?

It turns out, it means nothing.

I do not know the total number of Jury Duty summonses sent out every week, so I am ignorant as to “one-out-of-how-many” chances there are involved in my selection.  What I do know is this.  Though I could possibly be exaggerating about “know.”

As an overall “Rule of Thumb”, it is probably unwise to glean your mathematical understandings from a fictionalized stage play, as I obtained mine from Tom Stoppard’s magnificent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (first produced in 1966.)  Biographically, however, that was my only available option.

When I was in school, I dropped every math course they permitted me to, my only alternative then being to acquire my mathematical wisdom elsewhere, in this case from the highly trained actors of England’s acclaimed National Theatre.

Here’s what I learned from R And G Are D:  (And if it’s wrong, blame the playwright – his First Name:  “T.”)

You flip a coin, and every time you do so, it is a completely new ball game.  No matter which side it lands on, or how many times it consecutively lands on that side, the next flip is entirely independent of that track record.  Mathematical Conclusion:  Every coin flip is an individual “Fresh Start”, with an equal, fifty-fifty chance of being “Heads” or being “Tails.”  

That being the case – and for those with most rudimentary mathematical aspirations, it is – being told I was not needed for Jury Duty on Monday neither increased nor diminished the probability of being needed for Jury Duty on Tuesday. 

Or the following days thereafter. 

Scary Realization:  My future as to Jury Duty (and perhaps more of my life than I happily care to acknowledge) is entirely, unequivocally and agonizingly in the disinterested hands of “Random.”


I believe, the opposite.  (Which plays havoc with my equanimity.  Which I believe is correct.)   

I catch sight of the clock shaped like an old-time radio in my office, and I realize…

It’s Time.

(You cannot call in until after six P.M.)

I take a deep breath.  I pick up the receiver.

And, with a quivering “Pointer” finger, I press down the numbers.





My life moving inexorably towards its uncontrollable destiny.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Countdown To Jury Duty"

August the 2nd, 2014.

(NOTE:  I am aware that this is no longer exactly current, but I’m a few posts ahead {in case of illness or extended trips} and when I move posts around, I run the risk – and once the actuality – of losing one.  So I’m scheduling this now, sacrificing timeliness for laziness, with the near confidence {I am never entirely confident about anything} that the “Urgency of the Moment” is discernible in the writing.  Enjoy.  Retroactively.)

Today is a Saturday.  As instructed, I am calling in the weekend before to see if they need me the following Monday, August the 4th.  As I tap in the phone number, I can feel myself contracting my body into a ball so I’ll be a smaller target for Jury Duty.  Realizing how stupid that is while simultaneously not straightening up.  

My breath is short and shallow.  (As, I just realized, am I.)  I have already felt a tangible consequence to this unwelcome invitation.  Yesterday, I sensed the symptoms of an oncoming cold, signaling the possibility of “sicking” my way out of Jury Duty. 

Nah.  These symptoms are likely psychosomatic, a fact easily verifiable if it turns out they don’t need me and I immediately feel better.  Of course, my unconscious is much savvier than that.  I would probably continue feeling poorly for a couple of more days.  Masking the evidence of self-inflicted congestion. 


Not, like most people, because I resent the inconvenience involved in fulfilling my civic obligation.  But for two different reasons.  One is, I physically dread to my fundament any proximitous involvement with “The Authorities.” 

I have always been terrified of “The Authorities”, and the “official paperwork” the involvement with them invariably demands.  I have this – I will acknowledge unrealistic – fear of checking an inappropriate box and winding up in the military. 

Unlikely, I know.  But possible.  Which means I could possibly be deployed to the proverbial “Harm’s Way” and the next thing you know, my wife’s getting a telegram.  Or whatever a telegram is today.  Do they do it by e-mail? 


“The Authorities” calls up memories of being sent to the principal’s office, leading directly to detentions and “the strap.”  No good can come from contact with the “The Authorities.” 

“The Authorities” are grown-ups.  They are capable of anything.

The moment I got my Jury Duty summons, a litany of ratita yatita  “Worry Concerns”, irrational and otherwise, were immediately unleashed:

What if it’s a long trial?

What if the other jurors don’t like me?

What if I don’t like them, but they’re strong?

What if they vote me foreman?  (Or is it foreperson?)

What if they don’t, and the foreman (or foreperson) hates former Canadians?

What if I don’t understand the specifics of the trial?

What if I do understand them, but I am uncertain how to vote?

What if I am certain how to vote, but the attorney for the side I planned to vote against is so persuasive – which is why I mistrust the “adversarial system” – or cute – what can I tell you, I’m a man – I am no longer certain I’m right? 

What if I understand the applicable legal contingencies but I “illegally” sympathize with the defendant?

What if it’s a murder trial?  I could never vote for the Death Penalty.  Even if they killed me!  I know.  I’m just saying how much I’m against it.  But, impossibilities aside, face-to-face with that dilemma – especially if the “perp” remains dangerous to society – what exactly would I do? 

Are you finished?

Two more.  What if I complete my Jury Service, realizing only later that I have voted the wrong way?

And my greatest worry of all…

What if my anxiety level is so high that every fifteen minutes I have to pee?

All these questions resound cacophonically in my head as I call in to see if they need me on Monday.

When my call is answered, after entering my “JID Number” (Does the “J” stand for “Jewish”, or does everybody get that?), a sympathetic-sounding automated female informs me that they don’t.

Which means, to find out if they need me on Tuesday,

I have to do this all over again Monday night.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"An Experienced Professional's Guide To Worrying"

I am meditating in the morning, as is my routine.  I have decided to write a blog post about “worrying.”  My objective for today’s meditation is clear:

To keep myself from worrying I will be unable to pull it off.

After it’s over, I worry that I have not meditated successfully enough.


Time will tell about that one.  (Did I really need “about that one”… is a worry.  Do you see how that works?)

Worriers worry about everything.  (We can convince ourselves we are just being meticulous, but inside, we worry that it is simply “worry.”)  Worry – at least my own personal version – comes with a recognizable soundtrack.  A mechanical insistence, like the pounding of train-wheel pistons sounding like,

Ra-ti-ta Ya-ti-ta  Ra-ti-ta Ya-ti-ta

That’s it, all right.  The mere simulated reproduction generates immediate stomach cramps.


Stop it.

The one situation exempt from the worrier’s worrying are “unexpected circumstances”, when things happen so fast there just simply isn’t time.  A car comes out of nowhere and blindsides you into oblivion.  You can’t worry during a catastrophe like that.  Though you can worry you might experience one.  (Hence, my imaginary, although “real to me”, bumper sticker:  “I Brake For Shadows.”)

I shall not bleaken this post with a litany of medical concerns (“What’s that spot?”  “Why the persistent cough?”, et cetera, wherein “et cetera” means potential auguries of “bye-bye’”) certain to ignite an immediate “Worry Response.”  An upcoming doctor’s appointment can open the floodgates of agitation.   (What if they find something?”  “What if they don’t, but it’s in there, and hiding?)

It’s a beautiful summer’s day.  We do not need any of that.

I shall posit instead a “Worry Surrogate”, not to suggest it’s an unreal worry, just that the concern will not kill you.  Though – and this is no minor point – the worrier reacts to it as if it could.

Not long ago, it occurred to me to consider how much time in my life I have spent wondering, with insistent “Ra-ti-ta” accompaniment,

“Where are my sunglasses?”

I leave a restaurant.  I am halfway to the car.  I reflexively check my pocket.

“Where are my sunglasses?”

And the panic immediately sets in.

Until I check another pocket, and there they are.

Still, for one anxiety-infused moment, it was,

“What’s that spot?”

But for sunglasses.

“Where are my sunglasses?” is hardly a life-threatening situation.  If I left them somewhere, I can go back and get them.  And if I lost them, I can buy another pair.  The thing is – and I know this from experience – to a worrier, “Where are my sunglasses?” is, to the president, “How do I get them to stop fighting in Israel?”

A sudden, incendiary “Trouble Spot.”

Your mind immediately starts churning:

“Maybe someone handed them in.”

“Maybe they took them.”

“Maybe they’re not at the restaurant, they’re on the counter of the Menswear store we were in before that.”

“Maybe they’re in the car.”

“Maybe they’re at home.”

Ratita Yatita  Ratita Yatita!

Woe is me!  My poor sunglasses are

Ga-hah-hah hahne!

Okay.  (And stop sniveling.)

Tip One for Worriers: 

When you hear yourself thinking,

“My sunglasses!  They’re gone!  (Or “That spot!  This is bad!”) 

Immediately say to yourself:

“You do not know that.”  (As in “You have no unimpeachable evidence that that is the case.”  You may actually have no evidence at all.) 

Tip Two For Worriers:

If you hear yourself thinking,

“Oh, my God.  I’m going to have to buy new sunglasses!”  (Or, in the “spot” example: 
“I am quite imminently going to die.”)

Immediately say to yourself:

“It is not time to think about that.”  (This does not alleviate the worrying.  But it, more sensibly, pushes it back.)

Tip Three For Worriers:  (The “Big Boy” tip, because it calls for maturity.)

Consider the likelihood of the “Worst Case Scenario.”  And assess seriously if you can handle it.  (The “death” one is a little tricky.  But that apprehension, though ultimately inevitable, may upon rational evaluation in this case be an insupportable long shot.)

That’s what I’ve got.  Survival tips, from one chronic worrier to another.  Though I notice some people are reluctant to acknowledge their condition.

I encountered a “Closeted Worrier”, in the “Sports Section” of today’s paper.  Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, talking about the “Trade Deadline” and whether his recent uneven play made him worry about being traded.   Quoth Kemp:

“I wasn’t worried about anything.  I was just worrying about the game and worrying about what pitcher I was facing that day and what I could do to help us win.”

Did you catch the “giveaways” in that pronouncement? 

“Hey, Matty Boy.  Welcome to the club!”

The good thing is that your brain can only worry about one thing at a time, so there is no possibility of “overload.”  That is probably secretly my strategy.  Worrying about “sunglasses” blocks out more serious concerns.  The problem is, I forget that, and “sunglasses” becomes a serious concern.

I shall have to talk to myself about that.

In the case, for chronic worriers, our worrying is wall-to-wall.  I can now stop worrying if I can write this post.  I did it.  Next up:  I have to call in to see if they need me for Jury Duty.

Ratita Yatita Ratita Yatita  Ratita Yatita Ratita Yatita...