Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Several things about and inspired by jury duty...

On the way in, the man in front of me had a small knife on his keyring. The jury selection card clearly said "no weapons", but perhaps he thought more along the lines of a tank. Or perhaps he didn't think of it as all, since it was just a part of his keys. It was a very small knife, and certainly much smaller than all of the pocket knives I've ever carried nearly every day of my life since age six. He went up to the guard, put in his keys, walked through the metal detector, and the guard said to him: "Next time, leave that knife off of your keyring." Next time? Apparently you get a free weapon check-in if you're a first time juror. And how the hell does he know this *is* the first time for this guy? It made me feel all the safer watching people who I assume were lawyers going through the "non juror" lane, and setting off the metal detector while carrying big, bulky boxes of stuff. The security at my place of employment is laughable, but it doesn't draw attention to how laughable it is by having a big, screaming alarm go off every time someone steps through it... only to be ignored by those in uniform who are intently looking at women's handbags.

Also, I saw further evidence to feed my dislike of the general mindset of police. Who did I see speeding recklessly through the parking lot? Was it the jurors, happy to get a close spot? Or the jurors, happy to be let go? Nope. It was the pigs, blasting through a parking lot that was chock full of people at noon. No lights or sirens. And it was more than one car, and they were not rushing off to the same destination. Unless the destination moved to opposite ends of the lot.

It cost me over $110 just to get to the court and back. Cab fare was a hefty $55 one way. Learning this last night did not improve my general state of rage.

Hmm... I was thinking about this in the cab ride back, so I may as well type this one out. Those of you who know me know I am generally pissed off most of the time. I go from minor annoyances to more vociferous rages to occasionally turning color and losing the ability to speak. Having been pissed off for most of my life, I've been able to distinguish the differences between the moods, and I know which ones are minor, which ones are dangerous, and which ones make me feel like splitting the Earth in twain. The minor to semi-dangerous ones are, for me at least, relatively harmless. Those are the times when I call upon my inner rage to do something ridiculous like lifting up a couch by myself. Or move a filing cabinet that's full of crap. Because, to look at me, you wouldn't think I could do any of that. But I can, with the right amount of rage. The more dangerous ones still let me do that, but it's harder to control. I'm still capable of general speech, but it may be interspersed with growls or something that sounds like Klingon. This was much more common in my teen years, and has dropped significantly as the years have gone by.

The most dangerous type, though, is the type I was experiencing last night. Quiet, all-consuming rage. My chest was hurting from holding in the screams of utter frustration and pain I wanted to inflict on the computer that chose my name for jury duty, the person who programmed the computer, the people he worked with/for, his friends and family, etc. etc. Large parts of my brain are taken over by these thoughts. My brain holds lots of room for lots of thoughts, but those all get pushed down into a corner and locked in a box for the duration. And that's the dangerous part. Logic and reason go out the window. I'm a reasonably logical man. I figure stuff out for fun. Having that part of you go away and be replaced by a cold yet burning emotion is not at all enjoyable.

Let's put it this way.... If I were Bruce Banner, I would be green most of the time. Not greenish. Not sea foam. Emerald, baby. Quite possibly glowing.

On a good note, though, the trial I was supposed to be grilled about was settled. So I shouldn't get called for jury duty for four years. Time to start planning a name change...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

One of the things I came home to was a jury duty notice. It asked me to call on Friday. Being the anti-phone person that I am, I went on their website instead, where I learned I got a reprieve until Tuesday. I looked at the site again today after work, and learned that I have to go to Riverhead tomorrow at 9 am. I've been seething ever since.

Maybe I'm being petty and selfish, but dammit I've done my share of serving the public. I've done more than my share. I've done the share for every member of my family and then some. If they ask me any questions, I'm going to tell them the truth: I pretty much hate everything featherless with two legs that doesn't fly. Equally. It's just easier that way.

Learning this at the tail end of the first day back to work in two weeks, which just happened to be the day after a computer shutdown... which, for those of you fortunate enough to not work for the IRS, means that when the IRS has a long holiday weekend, they like to turn the computers, printers, and monitors off to save money on electricity. Nice enough idea, but it invariably means that they end up wasting four or five dozen times that amount of money because when the stuff is powered back up, it doesn't work. Today's fun came in the form of a fried circuit board. (Which is quite good when smothered in sausage gravy.) This meant that my entire department, about 200 people or so, couldn't work. At an average of 25 cents per person per minute, you do the math from 8 am until 2pm to see how much the government wasted today. I don't like to think about those things much. Well, that's not entirely accurate. They worked, but they couldn't enter any of the information into the computer system. So whatever information they haphazardly scribbled down will later be deciphered and input incorrectly when the computers are back online. Usually by a different person, on a different shift. So there's no hope of someone going "Is this a G or a 6?", because the illiterate dullard who scribbled it in crayon is home and in bed by 6pm to rest up for the long day of nothing the next day.

Did I mention I'm not looking forward to jury duty? The thing I hate the most will be the waiting. I'm going to have to bring a couple books. I read five books on the trip to and from Florida, and very little while actually in Florida. If I sit still for too long with nothing to occupy my brain, I shut down and fall asleep. I really hope I don't just sit there all day.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

This may or may not be quick...

"Breath" and "breathe" are two different words. They mean different things. "Breath" is a noun, and it's what you take when you "breathe", the appropriate verb. I just looked at a well-meaning, professional website, and it espoused the right for everyone to "breath clean air". No, I'd much rather breathe clean air, thank you all the same.

It's thing like this that drive me insane. Sometimes I feel as if I'm the only person who notices these things. I find typos wherever I go. Really. In Vegas, on the Star Trek experience, inside of a mock shuttlecraft with full Star Trek decals and artwork and with the full and glowing approval of the fine folks at Paramount is the word "teleportationm". This is not in the new part of the experience, but the part that has been up for several years. In the MICU waiting room at the VA hospital in Miami, a professionally-engraved sign lists the things visitors must do "durning" visits. I had no idea Charles Durning was a vet, or that he was sick enough to warrant his own visiting hours. Today, while having breakfast/lunch/dinner with my wife, one of the items on the menu at Okey Dokey's was "Toas" chili.

She wonders why I scream whenever I go outside.
Back from Florida. During this unpleasant trip, I've had a revelation. Not about anything too Earth-shattering, don't worry. Spending time in the Miami area (kinda), I was struck by the fact that you don't need to know a lick of English to survive in this country. That really pisses me off, because the last time I checked English was still the official language of the US. Don't get me wrong. I know full well that there are people living in this country who can trace their ancestry back to the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock who can't handle English too well. But they still speak/spell some bastardized form of English. What I'm talking about has to do with the almighty dollar in the form of multi-lingual packaging. If you're in Canada and a package has both French and English, that's to be expected. A very large province of Canada has French as its official language. The US has English, and that's it. So why are more and more products featuring labels in both English and Spanish? Simple. Money. "Hey", says corporate America, "since there are so many people in the country who have Spanish as their primary language, let's spend a little on the extra ink so our products have two languages! If they can't read English, they can read Spanish, and if they can read Spanish, then they'll buy our crap!" Brilliant business sense, lousy for the country. Now there's even less incentive to learn English, so why bother?

At work, I deal with people who can't be bothered to try to learn for themselves. I see this as the same concept, but on a national level. Seeing it at work makes me really, really pissed. Seeing it on a national level brings me to a whole new level of pissed that I didn't think I could achieve. Let's just make everything easier for everyone. Can't read a road sign? Here's a happy picture. Can't read English? No problem! We'll advance you to the next grade anyway. And you probably can't read because there's something wrong with the test, not because you're a fucking idiot.

My niece and nephew I fear for, since the current trend of dumbing-down everything is on the rise. When they get to be my age... I don't want to think about it. Unless a new Renaissance of education comes about between now and then, I'd expect they'd carry on a better conversation with a bowl of salad than with a human. If any of you have ever wondered why I've never, ever, wanted to be a parent, here you go. I would never want to subject another child to the revelations I've undergone over the years. Or, worse, watch as an offspring of mine turned into an idiot because of the world around him/her/it.

I'm done for now. More later.