To Serve and Be Relatively Bored
September 14, 2004

Dr. Mathra said to me, "You're really going to see a cross-section of the SF public." I don't know what he's talking about, I take the MUNI every day.

Jury duty's not at all like waiting in a queue at the DMV as I expected it would be. The waiting area was really nice with caramel-colored wood paneled walls that reminded me of my Dad's office. There was a bar running along the wall with laptop stations (and chairs, no standing necessary) complete with shaded lamps and modem ports as well as electrical outlets. Because I didn't need a modem port and I knew there'd be a hoard coming who did, I moved from my original position there. I relocated to another wooden desk area that gave me plenty of room to lay out my book spreads and open my just-returned iBook. However, the outlet I used sparked at me. I could have switched to the other one, but I was afraid that would do the same thing, and I'd like to keep uncontrolled electrical surges near my laptop down to a bare minimum. The chairs are high-backed and fairly comfortable. They hit me right where my back needs the most support, and I can slump and still maintain good posture.

I do think they intentionally put you in the basement to keep most cell phones from working. Once you get to the actual courtroom the judge does order you to turn off your cellphones.

Some youngish guy came in around 9:00 (we were supposed to check in at 8:30), swearing under his breath as he noted that all the electrical outlets were taken. Sorry dude, the early workaholic gets the plug. Live and learn, my brother. Live and learn.

Now, if you're going to be the name caller for jury selection, it might help not to enunciate as though you just came from the dentist's chair and got a mouthful of Novacaine. Either that or drink more coffee in the morning.

There are always those members of the public who feel it's their civic duty to maintain a running commentary with the person in the seat next to them. "I don't know, jury duty makes me wish for the Napoleonic Code. Judges are free and everyone's guilty." Nice. On the other hand, if he tells the judge that, he'll probably won't get assigned to a case. Or he will. Luckily, the woman at the desk next to me is deeply absorbed in Good Housekeeping.

Back at the cheeseshop, we were discussing what answers would get you out of jury duty. The Philosophizing Cheesemonger said I should say, "Your Honor, I have a singular view of reality, in that I don't believe anything here is real. Reality is a state of mind and, for me, it's tenuous at best." Don't worry Dad, I won't perjure myself. But it could be true. Especially after taking Dramamine for the bus ride down here mixed with Claritin for my allergies. The fact that the bus ride is only five minutes doesn't really enter into it, does it?

When they started calling names for case assignments, my stomach flip-flopped like it's the lottery or something. "Tell them what she wins, Irv!" "Why she wins a trial in the beautiful California Court System, Bob! Yes -- for six weeks to six months, this lucky lady will get to decide if the man who sneezed on his neighbors lawn did so with malicious intent!"

How should I have dressed today? Conservatively, as if I was going to work at the office? How do you think my "I'm Pro-Snark and I Vote" or "America is Scary" tee-shirts would have gone over on the lawyers?

I don't like the PC laptops that have all the icons for Windows or Intel all over them -- it looks messy.

Where's the video? I was promised a Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson video of jury procedure! Oh. There it is.

It started with a bunch of state pride stuff: "California, the greatest state in the union." Okay, I agree with that. Especially with the crashing surf and the vineyard shots. But no celebs! Not even Gov. Kindergarten Cop. Although, the video makes sure to let us know how current it is by having a fake lawyer saying, "Your Honor, I'd like to enter these E-MAILS and this COMPUTER into evidence." They ended the video with this bit of sop: "Many find serving on a jury to be a deep and moving experience and keep in touch with fellow jurors afterwards." Like camp.

If I was selected for a jury, I'd be afraid I wouldn't be able to pay attention to every boring detail and that my fellow jurors would then think I was hopelessly stupid. "Wait, what happened to the knife? I didn't hear that!" Also, answering the lawyers' selection questions in front of everyone is a bit like playing the name game on the first night of camp. "Tell us about yourself and also name the fruit you are most like?"

Should I tell them that if I'm told that what I just heard should be stricken from evidence and jury consideration I won't really listen to that directive? How does anyone really not consider what they just heard? ESPECIALLY when they're told NOT to think about it.

Maybe if I get selected, I'll finally figure out how the court reporter's machine works. Or I could Google that.

Because I promptly decided and then promptly forgot to bring my headphones for iTunes, around hour 4 I started looking through my computer and discovered that the only game I have is chess (which I've long forgotten how to play even after those late night sessions with my dad) and Deimos rising, Why don't I have solitaire and what is Fink Commander and why do I have that? It's really an unfortunate name, if you ask me.

In News:

After 6 months of slicing, wrapping, tasting, smelling, and learning, I've left the cheese business behind, and I'm back working as a cookbook editor -- my title is actually "Cooking Editor," which I find rather cool. I'm managing two of my own titles as well as helping the series editor to direct and develop the line as a whole. Words cannot even describe how excited I am about this. Not since college have I been so wholly absorbed in my work that I'm thinking deeply about every aspect of my project. This is not mere management or paper-pushing -- I'm thinking. I'm researching. I'm pulling from what I know and actually applying it. Who would've thunk?

My daily tasks include such things as consulting Bittman, Cook's Illustrated, or Peterson on the best time, temperature, and method to add stock to a soup. Or maybe it's figuring out what steps in the dish should be photographed. I even get to go to shoots (each book takes 3 1/2 weeks to shoot) and watch the food stylist, hand model, and photographer set up and photgraph the food. Every once in a while they ask the series editor which potatoes she wants (what looks better on film, the dark skin of russets or the deep golden flesh of a Yukon?) or if the scallions look fresh enough for the shot. Eventually it will be my place to answer those questions but I'm still just learning that side of things.

Unfortunately, in the extremely well-appointed kitchen (fresh fruit every day, as well as endless supplies of English muffins, butter, cream cheese, peanut butter, jelly, tea, coffee, and other stuff) there is a magnet slapped on the brushed stainless fridge that says "It's my kitchen and I'll fry if I want to," which means I always have that song stuck in my head.

We also got TiVo. Yes, we love it as much as everyone else. Yes, it totally rules our life now. We got it because our VCR is starting to shoot tapes out at us when we hit the "eject" button. I have to stand right in front of the machine to catch the fastball or risk tape injury. This tendency to bring the heat is a sign of worse things to come and I don't want to be stuck in the middle of a television year with a retiring VCR who won't even play the season out.

I really should leave any and all baseball metaphors to Sars.

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