Friday, October 06, 2006

Chury Duty

This is an e-mail I sent to my manager and teammates last week.

Note: This is edited to remove any crap that identifies me or my Borg employer. My Borg employer is not the "soul-sucking habitrail" employer referenced at the beginning of this blog, by the way. I paroled myself from that puke pit about a year and a half ago. My new Borg employer pays shit because they have no clue that the cost of living here is nearly 300% higher than that of our HQ location, but the bennies are spectacular and the job is fun. Well, fun if you're a raging geek, that is. Since I'm a raging geek, it's fun to me. Anyway, I took out the stuff that identifies my current employer by name. Trust me, though, you've heard of 'em.

Please bear with me for a moment as I relate the events of my day yesterday; I promise that there is a point to all of this. (If you just don’t feel like reading it, you can skip to the end.)

~3:00-4:00 AM: (not sure of the time): As I am preparing to go to bed (no comments from the peanut gallery on my nocturnal habits, please), I hear the sounds of large objects being thrown around the back yards of several of my neighbors’ brownstones (sequentially, not simultaneously). At first I think people are arguing. Then the clatter comes closer and I hear my next door neighbor saying, “he’s trying to break into my house!”

I call 911 to report that there is a man in my neighbors’ back yard who is trying to break into their house. The 911 operator has me describe the man, which I do (although since it’s dark, all I can say is that he has light hair, what may or may not be a blue jacket, and a light hood on said jacket. As I’m describing the man, he ducks behind a chair in what I assume is an attempt to hide from whomever is describing him to the police. However, since I am behind him and the chair, this isn’t a very effective tactic on his part. It is later determined that the man doesn’t speak English, so I now have no idea what the ducking was all about.

While I wait for the police to arrive, I watch out the window to see what the would-be burglar is doing. He is mostly lying down on the cobblestones in my neighbors’ patio area, alternately yelling in Russian, moaning and crying. He doesn’t seem to feel any pressing need to leave, although at this point, four brownstones full of people are looking at the guy in the neighbors’ back yard.

The police arrive, graciously using neither lights nor sirens and therefore not waking up the rest of the neighborhood. I poke my head out of my front door and direct the cops to the house next door. The crazy cat lady from the end of the row of brownstones is standing on the sidewalk in her muumuu, shooing the police towards the neighbors’ door and telling them that they have to go through the house to get to the back yard. Two police officers go to the neighbors’ yard. I, of course, am now back at my bedroom window shamelessly rubbernecking.

The police quickly determine that the man does not speak English when he babbles at them in Russian and doesn’t follow their directions very well. The police direct their flashlights at the man’s face and one of them says, “I can’t tell what he’s on.” I am inclined to agree with the officer that the Russian man is on something. Meanwhile, the Russian man continues to babble and try to get off the ground, but it’s fairly clear that he’s not babbling at the police; rather, he still seems to be speaking to the voices in his head.

Six more officers enter my neighbors’ back yard and proceed to look at the man. Nobody figures out what he is on, but the yard is now packed full of blue uniforms. I take this opportunity to ask, “will this get me out of jury duty tomorrow?” The cops laugh, but do not indicate whether or not this will get me out of jury duty.

~5:30 AM: I finally drift off to sleep once the adrenaline has worn off.

7:30 AM: I awaken and bolt from my bed because I was supposed to get up at 6:00-6:30 AM so that I could be at the courthouse at 8:30 AM to report for jury duty and hopefully request a postponement. I later realize that I set my alarm for 6:00 PM rather than 6:00 AM.

How much is that inflatable-vaguely-animal-looking-dragony thing in the window...RUFF-RUFF! How much is that I-forget-the-rest-of-the-words...RUFF-RUFF!8:00 AM: I sit down on the R train, now on my way to the courthouse listed on the jury notice.

8:40 AM: I am lost in downtown Brooklyn.

8:55 AM: I wait in line to clear security at the courthouse listed on my jury notice.

9:10 AM: I am wandering around the courthouse listed on my jury notice. I cannot figure out where jurors are to report, so I ask a clerk. Said clerk informs me that I’m at the wrong courthouse and proceeds to point me to another address buried somewhere else in the jury notice.

9:15 AM: I am now standing in a much longer line at the other courthouse, waiting to again clear security so I can show up for jury duty. I note that there are a lot of other people clutching jury notices and console myself with the thought that at least I’m not the only person who is woefully late (I don’t realize at this point that they actually have people show up at different times for duty and that the others in line may not actually be late). In any case, I’m hoping that my tardiness will result in my jury service being postponed because I’m such a loser that I can’t even make it to court on time.

It's a prison! No, it's a courthouse! Wait, what's the difference?9:35 AM: I present my jury notice to the two jury-wranglers at the head of a room full of hundreds of prospective jurors. One of them notes that I am late. I say, “yes, and I’ve been wandering around every courthouse in this city.” The other wrangler says, “oh, are we still putting the wrong return address on these things? I thought they fixed that. Yup, there it is, wrong address.” He then performs origami on my jury notice, hands me a small piece of it back, and directs me to take a seat. I now realize that my tardiness isn’t going to free me from jury service.

~10:10 AM: Approximately thirty names are called, my own included, and we are directed to follow a court officer back to the courthouse where I originally reported, because we’re assigned to a civil case. At least I know exactly where that courthouse is since I was just there.

~10:30 AM: Myself and the rest of my herd are squashed into two pews in a tiny courtroom and handed questionnaires that are intended to help determine whether or not we should be excluded from the jury due to conflicts of interest.

~10:40 AM: Attorneys for the city and the plaintiff inform us that this case involves somebody who is suing the city and asks any people who work for the city to raise their hands. Those people are then sent to a different trial. Half of the jury pool is eliminated by this process. I raise my hand to ask if having the city as a client is relevant and am told that they’ll determine such when they question me.

~10:45-11:15 AM: I have apparently been tagged as the designated translator for non-English speaking potential jurors, for I have now assisted a Chinese knitter and a Hispanic cell-phone-packager in filling out their questionnaires. I have also told them that they don’t need to be nervous (because I realize that it’s highly unlikely they’ll be selected for the jury since they speak almost no English).

11:15 AM: Ten of the remaining sixteen potential jurors are seated in the jury box for voir dire (where the attorneys ask questions of the potential jurors to determine if they should be excluded from duty). In a civil trial in NYC, there are six jurors and two alternates for each trial. The potential jurors for this case are told that the case involves a man who was riding in a dollar cab that was hit by a garbage truck, that he is suing over damages to his shoulder and his knee, and that he is NOT suing for damages that were the result of a previous accident. The last statement causes the city attorney to pull the plaintiff’s attorney out into the hallway so that they can argue whether or not he should have said anything about a previous accident. This happens several times during the course of the day. These attorneys like to argue in the hallway.

11:20 AM: The attorneys begin the process of questioning potential jurors. Among the questions that they ask are the following:

Have you ever been in a car accident?

Did the car accident result in serious injury?

Have you ever had injury to your knee or shoulder?

Have you ever had surgery on your knee or shoulder?

Have you ever witnessed an accident between a garbage truck and another vehicle?

Are you familiar with the intersection at which this accident occurred?

Do you recognize any of the names of people involved in this trial? (doctors, plaintiff, city employees, cab driver, etc.)

If you were to determine that the plaintiff’s injuries are not the result of THIS accident, could you send the plaintiff home with no monetary award whatsoever?

Do you have any strongly positive or strongly negative feelings about the city?

Do you know any sanitation workers?

Do you understand what we’re saying? Is English your first language? Okay, you didn’t understand that either, did you?

I would like to take this opportunity to note the following about my own potential suitability for duty on this particular jury:

I have been a passenger in approximately seven car accidents, driver in another two (one my fault, when I was 16, one not my fault, when I was 28).

I have had surgery on my left knee.

I have had injury to my right shoulder (tendinitis) and subsequent physical therapy for that shoulder.

On the qualification questionnaire, I have selected the checkboxes indicating that I have relatives to whom I am/was close who worked in law offices (1), worked in the insurance industry (1) or worked in the medical profession (5).

On the qualification questionnaire, I have also selected the checkbox stating that I have witnessed a crime (the night before, no less, but I’ve witnessed other crimes, as well).

12:45 PM: We are released for a ridiculously long lunch period, the attorneys having nearly completed questioning the first ten potential jurors.

2:15 PM: We shuffle back into the courtroom to complete voir dire.

2:45 PM: The attorneys leave the courtroom to determine which of the ten potential jurors they’ve just questioned will be released from service.

2:50 PM: All but three of the first batch of potential jurors are released. The Chinese knitter isn’t really sure what’s going on, but she sees everybody leaving and follows them. She looks at me questioningly and I tell her that she can go home. She is very happy. The retired grocery store manager, who is the only person in the room who did not raise his/her hand when the plaintiff’s attorney asked which of us would rather be somewhere other than here, is very happy to have been selected for the jury.

2:55 PM: The remaining six potential jurors are seated in the jury box. The three confirmed jurors have been sent home and told to report for duty on Friday morning, which is when the trial will begin. I am the second-to-last potential juror to be seated. The questioning process, summarized, is as follows:

Candidate #1 works for Sirius, knows Howard Stern, has parents who sued somebody as the result of a car accident and has himself been sued because he was driving a Ryder truck that hit somebody. He also has something to tell the attorneys in private that may affect his suitability for duty.

Candidate #2 is the Hispanic cell-phone packager and answers all questions with “okay”, “I no know” or “no understand”.

Candidate #3 speaks some English but does not think that he could send the plaintiff home with no money even if he determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were not the result of the accident with the garbage truck.

Candidate #4 asks me for a piece of gum. Upon questioning by the attorneys, he reveals that he has been unemployed for ten years due to disability. He used to be a computer technician. When asked whether his disability would prevent him from sitting on this jury, he says that it would. Confused, the attorney asks him if his disability is physical. He replies that no, it is psychiatric and that it would prevent him from sitting on a jury. Noting that he has a Russian accent, I begin to wonder if he might have been in my neighbors’ yards earlier that morning.

Candidate #5 is me.

I work for BorgCo. I can tell you my job title, but it won’t make sense to anybody who doesn’t work there. I’m a computer geek. Yes, that’s what I wrote on the questionnaire; funny, ha ha. [Please note that the crazy Russian man next to me goes bananas when he finds out I work for BorgCo. He is apparently very impressed. He also takes all possible opportunities to note that since I am Borg, I will not have any sympathy and therefore will certainly be able to send the plaintiff home without any money. (“Yeh, you BorgCo. You heve no sympetee.”)]

The city is a client of BorgCo. Well, no, I don’t have any fear of ruling against the city due to them being our client; everybody is our client. [Russian man says, “yeh. You BorgCo.” Again.]

Yes, I have been in car accidents. Well, okay, they were a long time ago. No, there weren’t actually any serious injuries. No, just bruises.

Yes, I’ve had surgery on my left knee. Well, no, it wasn’t due to injury, it’s a congenital (born with it) defect.

I had surgery because my patella isn’t where it’s supposed to be. The surgery was to clean out the cartilage and perform a ligature release to see if the patella would move to the correct position, but the ligament was already too loose for a release to be performed.

Yes, I would have to have additional surgeries on both knees in order to correct the problem. No, I have not had them yet because I have not found the problems to be great enough to warrant the downtime.

No, I am not without pain. I can tell you that it is going to rain. No, you do not need to have your umbrella today; it will likely be tomorrow or the next day since my knees started aching yesterday.

Yes, I have had a shoulder injury. It was tendinitis. No, I would not confuse my shoulder with the plaintiff’s shoulder.

Candidate #6 is an Indian cab driver who is very familiar with the intersection at which the plaintiff’s accident occurred and he proceeds to argue that he doesn’t think there is actually an intersection there because most of the roads in that area are dead ends. He also doesn’t think he can be fair in this case because he has been in “many-many. Many. “ car accidents. When the city’s attorney informs him that he has absolutely no further questions for him, the cab driver proceeds to object and list more reasons why he is an unsuitable candidate. Finally, the city attorney says, “sir, I guarantee that you will not be sitting on this jury. That is why I have no questions for you. Okay?” Cab driver is very happy and sits back with a satisfied smile.

The plaintiff’s and city’s attorneys leave the room to confer. Crazy Russian man informs me that I “are be churor”. I disagree with him, pointing out that I have been in car accidents, have had knee surgery and have had shoulder injuries. He replies, “you want bet? We goink home; you be on chury. You BorgCo.”

3:20 PM: The attorneys return to the courtroom. The city’s attorney says, “Ms. Borgette, you are juror number four.” When I grimace, he adds, “congratulations. The rest of you may leave.” The court officer then tells the others to wait while I am processed and takes me into a back room where he gives me a juror card that is valid for a MONTH and then explains that he only does that because he hates filling out the cards and that no, I shouldn’t worry about being stuck here for a month. I am directed to return Friday morning to begin the trial, which is expected to last through next Wednesday. Thursday (today) will be spent finding four more jurors (we hope). We then chat about his son who is studying CS at Stonybrook and I inform him about our college hire and internship programs and give him a URL. I am such a loser.

4:30 PM: I arrive home, exhausted since I’ve had approximately eight hours of sleep since Saturday. I attempt to set my out of office assistant, but my VPN is not connected and will not connect. Eventually, I go to bed early and sleep for a long time.

End of the story: I’m on jury duty at least through Wednesday of next week.

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