Not Just A Duty, But A Privilege

I almost forgot that I’d gotten the summons for jury duty. Luckily, I found myself looking through some paperwork on my desk at home for something else entirely, and unearthed it in time to avoid inadvertent contempt of court.

Now, I’ve gotten these summons before. Call the number the evening before, hear the clerk read off which group numbers need to report to the jury assembly room, and realize with relief that I’m in the “all other group numbers, your service is complete” category.

Not this time.

I called on Sunday night for my Monday morning summons, and got the all clear. My service was for two days, though, so I had to call again on Monday night to check on Tuesday’s potential service — my instructions were to call at 11:15am to see if I’d be needed for a 1:30pm reporting time.

To paint a picture here: it’s been nuts at work. I took a brief three-day vacation at the end of last week, and came back to all sorts of issues with my two major projects. As far as deadlines are concerned, I really couldn’t afford this half-day of jury duty, much less any additional service beyond that. I had an 11am meeting, so I didn’t get to check my status until I got back right before lunch.

Group Numbers nine through 36 were to report. I was in Group Number 34.

So. Jury duty. I scarfed down my lunch, took my unused yoga clothes and my work laptop to the parking garage and stashed them in the trunk, then walked the ten minutes to the courthouse.

Did I mention that I work downtown?

I got there early on purpose, so I walked around the courthouse and snapped some pics.

Statue of President William McKinley

I finally went inside about a half hour before my reporting time, and was greeted with a security check-in, complete with metal detector for me and x-ray for my purse. The signage claimed that I’d have to leave my cell phone with security, but it must have been old signage, because all of us who passed through security and were milling around outside the Jury Assembly room all had our phones on us.

It surprises me sometimes how little some people pay attention to instructions. When we entered the Jury Assembly room, we were given a stack of colored papers and were told to read the green one. The green one gave instructions on how to turn your summons into a Juror nametag with the plastic sleeve they provided, and said what to do with the other paperwork. No problem! Nametag assembled and attached; I’m not re-donating my juror fee back to the cause, so no paperwork there; evaluation of the process is to be filled out and returned later; appropriate papers returned to basket at desk as instructed.

I realize now that many people were just waiting until we all filed out of the Jury Assembly room later on to return their paperwork, so they wouldn’t have to get up twice, but I’m pretty sure a lot of the jury candidates just didn’t read it or didn’t read it thoroughly.

At 1:30pm, to start our afternoon, we watched an orientation video. I wish I could find it online, because it started out with what seriously looked like the witch scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but much more somberly acted. The point was that, in medieval times, people were often tried by ordeal instead of by a jury of their peers. For instance, the accused might be bound and thrown into a body of water; if they floated, they were guilty.

Unfortunately, the video then moved on to much more boring stuff, like the difference between Municipal Court and Common Pleas Court, and became a review of Senior year Government class.

After the video came roll call — all 47 of us were present and accounted for. Then we all followed the bailiff upstairs to Courtroom 7, on the fourth floor, Judge McDonald presiding.

The next three hours were spent determining which of us would stay and which would go. We learned that the trial was a murder trial, and that drugs and firearms were involved. During Round One, anyone who felt that they might have reason to be excused was given the opportunity to speak to the judge and counsel privately in the judge’s chambers. My only concern was when we’d be released each day, since I have to be home in time to tag-team Aaron for Connor-watching. I was assured that each day would end between 4:30 and 5pm. So, back to the courtroom I went. Probably a dozen jurors escaped during Round One.

Round Two involved questioning by the prosecution, then by the defense attorney. This was the more interesting part of the process for me, as it gave me an insight into what an attorney’s job might really be like, and what the judicial process really entails. Twenty-some of the potential jurors were called to sit in the jury box — I was one of the dozen or so who remained in the back of the courtroom in case a juror was dismissed during the process and they had to fill an empty spot (which did happen for three people).

We got to hear the Prosecuting Attorney explain things like circumstantial vs. direct evidence, and hear his explanation of how “beyond a reasonable doubt” does not mean “beyond the shadow of a doubt.” We got to hear all about the occupations and affiliations of this interesting cross-section of society who had been called together to try this young gentleman (and, incidentally, only one juror was of his ethnicity — not sure how that qualifies as a jury of his peers). We got to watch about a dozen potential jurors go discuss their experiences with drug and alcohol use/abuse in chambers, in private, since the case involved narcotics.

Little things that I thought were interesting: the attorney used a large 11×17 piece of paper with sticky notes to identify each potential juror. Also, since the court uses a stenographer, each person had to be identified verbally for the record, which makes for a level of formality that isn’t seen much in daily life. (Think bank teller, or church.)

There were some jurors who seemed like very interesting people. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to blab their life experiences all over my little piece of the internet, but I wish I could have gone and had lunch with a few of them: the insurance agent, the bus driver, the disabled veteran. Fascinating cross-section of society.

Finally, Round Three involved Counsel approaching the bench and muttering and pointing and removing sticky notes from the giant piece of paper one by one. That took about 20 minutes or so at the very end of the day. In the end, they had twelve jurors and one alternate; ironically enough, many of the people whom we all could tell did not want to be there got chosen to sit on the jury.

They let us out at 5:00 exactly. I wished I could have had more time to just wander around the courthouse and snap some photos and admire the architecture. I’d noticed as we were getting ready to enter Courtroom 7 that there was wiring that wasn’t inside the walls of the courthouse, but running atop the architectural elements inside the atrium areas. There were also some great Ionic columns and other architectural details I would have loved to photograph. As it was, I did get a shot of the stained glass windows and an explanation of where the name of Lucas County comes from:

Robert Lucas

Texted Aaron, hoofed it to my parking garage, and made it home just 20 minutes later than usual. And that was my half-day at jury duty.

I’d say it wasn’t a half-day wasted, either. I found the whole process really fascinating, and if I hadn’t been so uptight about getting home to Aaron and Connor in the evenings, I really wouldn’t have minded serving on the jury.

I’ll be watching the local news on Friday evening to see how this young man fares at his trial. Innocent until proven guilty, guys.

More Than We Bargained For

Aaron and I were driving out to the University Parks Trail for a pleasant autumn walk when we spied a large wooden sign with red spray-painted letters: COMIC BOOK SALE.

“…Did that just say ‘Comic book sale’?” Aaron asked me. I answered him that, yes, it did.

We drove up McCord Rd. in silence for another block or so before Aaron turned onto a side street to head back the way we came. I checked the funds in my wallet: $7 cash. We figured that would be plenty for whatever we found — and, if it wasn’t, we’d just ask the seller to hold our loot for 15 minutes while we located the nearest ATM.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to make an emergency ATM run, but it wasn’t for a lack of things to buy. We pulled up to the sale to find several large tables lining the perimeter of the front yard: one side was mainly figures, one was larger books and collections, and one was filled with longboxes of single-issue comics. The proprietor of the giant comic sale promised us a good deal on whatever we found. He just wanted it gone.

I’m admittedly not the biggest comic fan. OK, I’m not really a comic fan at all, but I don’t dislike them by any means. I just never really started reading or collecting on my own. So, I followed Aaron around the sale, looking at what he looked at, and ponying up my $7 for a set of Sandman figurines he found.

As we completed our transaction and did the requisite haggling, we learned that the man responsible for all these comic goods actually used to own a comic shop in Sylvania (just northwest of Toledo), and that it had gone out of business. He’d been trying to liquidate his figures and comics for a few years, and the packaging and boxes were starting to show wear and age, and were no longer suitable for collectors. We told him we’d spread the word about his ongoing sale (weekdays and weekends, as long as the weather holds out).

We departed the comic book yard sale with our booty and headed back northward to hit the trail.

Until we both started to smell something. Something… shitty.

One of us must have stepped in dog shit at the damn yard sale.

I checked my shoes, carefully. I was clean. Then, as he drove, Aaron pulled up his left foot to check his shoe—

And got dog shit all over his right hand.

I located a napkin in the glove compartment and wiped the shit off of his palm and fingers while he drove one-handed. Meijer sounded like a good, close place to clean up, so we took yet another short detour from our original agenda to take care of business.

Turned out that Aaron had barely glanced the dogpile with his left heel, so he had it up the back and side of his left shoe, and up in his treads a little. There was also a righteous smear on the floor mat. So, the floor mat got carefully folded up and put in the floorboard of the back seat, and we both went into Meijer and cleaned up. Then we turned right back around and went home to put the shitty floor mat in the washer before it stunk up the whole car permanently.

So much for our pleasant autumn walk.

Let this be a lesson, I suppose, to all yard sale goers: watch where you step, or you may go home with more than you bargained for.

TSA Geeks

At the Providence Airport, after you check in and get your boarding pass, you have to take your own luggage to the x-ray machine and stand there as it’s scanned and inspected. Aaron and I only had one large bag for the two of us, so we both took it down to the x-ray machine and handed it to two TSA gentlemen, who fed it through. We walked to the end, where our bag emerged and was tagged, then we turned and went back the way we came, bidding adieu to our luggage.

As we passed the first two TSA agents on our way out — young men, probably in their mid to late 20’s — one of them called out to us.

“I was telling him,” one guard said, pointing to his partner, “that he needs to watch Serial Experiments Lain. He hasn’t seen it.”

After a moment, we realized that they had seen Aaron’s Serial Experiments Lain shoulder bag. We cordially agreed that, yes, this guy really needed to watch Lain. It’s a great show.

Then the guy who hadn’t yet watched Lain saw my Mr. Spork shirt. “Great shirt!” he called out, grinning. “Is that from Woot?” I answered that, yeah, I got it from Woot.

At that point, we excused ourselves with the normal pleasantries — “Have a good weekend!” — and made our way to Security. But we found it pleasantly strange to discover fellow geeks as TSA guys in an unfamiliar airport.

Interesting Visitor

I just had the most interesting experience. I was down in the basement, messing around online, when I heard a knock on the door, closely followed by the doorbell. I had the door open and the screen door locked, so there was no pretending I wasn’t home once I saw that it wasn’t UPS. It was an older gentleman, bearded, tallish, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. No clipboard, no nametag.

“Hello,” I called from the screen door.

The man introduced himself by telling me that he lived on the other side of South Avenue, was a retired English teacher and amateur astronomer, and was working on his third novel. He said that he takes a long walk every day — I was his last stop, and he’d walked three miles already — and that he stops along the way to ask if there’s any yardwork or odd jobs that he can do for a couple of dollars. We talked politely for a moment, and I assured him that, no, I’d pass on the offer of yardwork.

Then we chatted for a while longer, briefly discussing his trip to Ireland, where palm trees apparently grow in people’s back yards, because of the warm Gulf Stream bringing the large seeds up to the isle; his trip to northern Canada, where the nights are short and late and the sun barely moves from east to west; our trip to Japan and the accompanying God-awful airplane flight; his novel-writing experience and our mutual respect for short story writers; and his stint in the National Guard during the May Day riots in Washington, guarding the White House, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Vietnam vets who were accustomed to shooting human targets and feeling mighty uncomfortable about it.

Then he apologized for taking up so much of my time, and I assured him that I’d enjoyed talking with him — which, oddly enough, I had. He said, “Dou itashimashite,” which means “You’re welcome” (I think that may have been all the Japanese he knew, but it’s more than most). I couldn’t call up an appropriate answer in Japanese, so I answered him with a basic hai, and bid him enjoy his three-mile walk home.

I’m not entirely sure how much of that was factual, but he was certainly an interesting fellow. I didn’t mind talking to him, really. If he came back some other day, I’d probably talk to him again, and ask him if either of his novels have been published.

The Perils of Suburban Life

There’s some sort of little-league football team that’s been practicing in the vacant grassy lot across the street from our house. Mind you, we live on a dead end, so when all the parents come to watch little Tyrone and Jamal play football, they park their cars / trucks / minivans / SUVs such that our comings and goings are challenging at best. They don’t seem to comprehend that it’s a big, open field, with plenty of room for you to park your vehicle. No, they have to park either on or in the street, often simply stopping to idle in the exact middle of the street, forcing me to come to a complete stop and glare at them until they get the idea and move to the side so I can get around their giant SUV and actually park in my own goddamn driveway.

We were upset on Tuesday morning, when the garbage men actually took the giant branch that had been sitting on our curb for two weeks; that branch had kept the annoying minivan fucker from parking in front of our house. Somehow, though, the inconvenience must have trained Minivan Fucker not to park in front of our house anymore, as she’s continued parking in front of our neighbor’s house.

We’ve had quite enough of the peewee football practice, thankyouverymuch. We’re ready for it to be over, or for it to move elsewhere.

This evening, they seem to be having some sort of cookout. There’s a charcoal grill puffing smoke and tables laden with buns and paper plates. The boys are playing football without their pads and uniforms, and someone is booming rap music out of their truck.

The good news is that this could conceivably be the end of peewee football season. The bad news is that I have to put up with rap music and hollering kids (and parents) for a few hours.

I think it’ll be worth it in the end.

Earwashing

I’m not quite sure what happened.

One of my co-workers had mentioned this week that he had to have his ears cleaned by his doctor. A few of us ended up discussing various good and bad ways to clean out your ears: borax, hydrogen peroxide, Q-Tips, etc.

This evening, I decided to clean out my ears with hydrogen peroxide and a warm water rinse, just like Mom used to do. Did it shortly after dinner. One capful of peroxide in the ear, head tilted all the way to the side, with a washcloth standing by for drips. After the fizzing died down, I flipped my head over, washcloth to my ear, and dumped the peroxide out of my ear onto the cloth.

When I came upright again, I felt a little funny. Dizzy, almost. I figured it just had to do with me having my head on its side, and went ahead with the second capful of peroxide. Same thing — I was *really* dizzy when I straightened up this time. But I still had to rinse, so rinse I did. One capful of water in the ear, same way.

Then I was unusually dizzy, but not off-balance. Not too much, anyway. Almost disoriented. Nauseous.

I laid down on the couch to watch World News, then changed to the Food Network to watch Good Eats. Still nauseous.

Even now? Still kind of sick to my stomach. Something went horribly wrong during what should have been a welcome ear-washing experience, and I’m still not sure what.

And I didn’t even get to wash out my right ear.

Update, 8/18/06: I did some Googling to see WTF I ended up doing to myself. Read on to see the sources I found…
(more…)

Giving Blood Can Be Fun

I donated blood for the first time yesterday.

It wasn’t bad.

Sky Insurance, across the street from the Sky Service Center where I work, hosts a blood drive every so often. I’m not sure what made me decide to donate this time, after being eligible for 13 years and never having done it before. It just seemed like a simple thing, a no-brainer. I asked our department’s regular blood donor about the process, and we opted to make back-to-back appointments and walk over together.

I’d like to give a detailed account of everything that went on, just for my own journaling’s sake — but, honestly, it was pretty tame. Jess and I went in, read the blue binders of donor prerequisites and information (no, I haven’t visited the UK recently and gotten the bird flu or mad cow or some other fool thing, but thanks for asking), and finally were invited behind a privacy screen for our mini-physicals. Basically, they pricked my finger and checked my iron levels (which were declared safe enough to allow me to donate), took my blood pressure (which, from what I could tell, seemed to be 120-something over 88 or so), and had me answer the insipid questions I’d already read in the blue binder.

Then it was go time. I climbed up into the bed thingie and offered forth my right arm. Got swabbed with iodine a couple times, had tubing taped to me and a blood-pressure cuff wrapped around my arm, squeezed the squishy ball like the nice lady asked, and pointedly looked at the ceiling while she stuck me with the needle.

It wasn’t bad. At all.

The needle only stuck a little. I don’t have a “thing” with needles like *some* people I know (ahem), and I haven’t been to a doctor in years, but I know enough about myself and past needle experiences that I know I’m OK if I don’t know the exact moment of insertion. If I watch, I get all tensed up and it makes things worse. So, when I felt the moment coming, I looked up at the ceiling and let the nurse do her stuff.

The nurse, Michelle, had told me to squeeze the squishy ball every five to ten seconds. I was hesitant at first to squeeze it too hard; I could feel that there was a needle in my arm, even though it wasn’t painful, and I was worried that squeezing too hard might *make* it painful. After a while, though, I got up the nerve to squeeze a little harder than just with my fingertips, and it was just fine.

Then I got really brave, and took a look at my arm. Attached to it was a length of tubing. Clear tubing, made an oddly opaque red from the inside. From the blood coming out of the crook of my elbow. I could feel warmth where the tubing was lightly fastened to the inside of my wrist. It was strange. But I was OK with that. At that moment, I actually wished I’d brought the digital pocket camera to take a picture of my arm as I was donating blood, because I thought it looked so… unusual.

After a few minutes, I noticed that Jessica’s blood bag was starting to fill up. I wondered how the staff knew when the bag was full. As if on cue, the metal arm holding the blood bag tipped downward with a clunk. A balance scale! Not even a minute later, I felt my own stand clunk, and one of the attendants came to disconnect me. I don’t recall the exact sequence of events, but she took the blood that hadn’t made it into the bag and filled up several vials — for testing, presumably. Handy, that — very little wasted blood. Once she was done, she deftly removed the needle from my arm and pressed gauze to the puncture, telling me to apply pressure and hold my arm up over my head. No problem.

Jessica and I lay there on our elevated beds with our elevated arms, feeling only a little silly, with the Sky Insurance employees watching us through the windows from their smoke break outside. Then we got bandaged up — “This stays on for five hours,” the nurse said as she applied a standard-looking medical-grade Band-Aid. “This stays on for one hour,” she added, applying some folded gauze on top of the bandage and securing it with medical tape. She then instructed us to spend ten minutes at the “canteen” before we left.

One small bottled water and two chocolate-chocolate-chip cookies later, we were on our way back to work.

As we left the building, Jessica asked how often I’d given blood. When I told her this was my first time ever, she said she had no idea I hadn’t given blood before. Apparently, I was a “champ.” 🙂

I was a little fuzzy for the rest of the day, and I took a nap after work. The area inside my elbow didn’t bruise at all, though. Not even a little. I can still see the stick-mark, but it’s only sore when I deliberately press on it.

That wasn’t bad. I’m planning to do it again, next time Sky Insurance holds a blood drive. I could make this a habit.

Things I Shouldn’t Share With The Entire Internet

I haven’t been to a dentist in… *counting on fingers* …probably five or six years.

When I did go last time, it was in Parma (where my family no longer lives), and I had several visits’ worth of very deep cleaning. My gums hurt like a bitch for the next couple of days, but I actually felt a lot better about myself afterward. I was even OK with letting loose a big, toothy smile every now and then (even though my teeth are still crooked).

I kept up with my “tooth maintenance” pretty well for a couple years. Brush twice a day, use those crazy orange Stimudent sticks, floss (sometimes), and swish the mouthwash around. It was a pain when I still lived in the dorms and had to cart all my tooth maintenance sundries down to the bathroom, halfway to the other end of the wing. But I digress.

After a while, my tooth maintenance fell by the wayside, and I returned to my old habits. Suffice to say that, if I’m running late in the morning, I’d rather spend two minutes throwing together my lunch than brushing my teeth. My only saving grace at this point is two years of the Atkins diet: no refined sugar. Or, rather, very little — I won’t pretend I don’t ever cheat and buy a cookie or a Frappucino out of the vending machine.

So, from what I can tell (and I’m admittedly not a dental professional), I have much less plaque than I had before. I’ve still got tartar, though, and it’s pretty gross. See, my bottom front teeth are very, VERY unstraight — one grew in almost entirely behind the others, so only one-third of the middle of the tooth is actually showing. Someday it would be cool to have my teeth fixed, I think. Aaron thinks otherwise, since he had braces when he was a kid and didn’t take kindly to it. But, again, I digress.

Here’s the entire reason for this blog entry.

I was in the bathroom just now, examining my bottom front teeth, and being understandably grossed out by the amount of tartar buildup behind the teeth. They all come together in funky ways, and the tartar tends to fill in the cracks where they’re crooked and don’t meet the way they should. It’s weird. Anyway, I stuck a finger in my mouth to pick at it, maybe see how thick the layer of tartar was—

And a piece of tartar CAME OFF.

OMG gross.

What was grosser was that its absence left a weird depression/hole in the normal profile of the back of my teeth. Also, where the tartar had been encroaching on my gums, they were much redder than the rest of my gums. That was also pretty gross. I stood there in the bathroom with an extra pair of tweezers, peering into the mirror and trying to pick off the rest of the chalky tartar behind my teeth.

And I thought to myself, “If Aaron were here, I’d just show him. As it is, I’m probably going to blog this.”

Anybody in the Toledo area know a good dentist or dental hygenist?

Some complete stranger is going to find this blog entry and comment on my hygiene like this person commented on my lack of style. Heh. I’ll try not to be offended.