In Part One I wrote about having a warrant and the weekend that followed. It’s funny, I remember going back and forth about putting the sexy bits with the wife in there. In the end I thought, “Meh, nobody ever reads my blogs.”
Most read blogpost ever.
Apparently, people really like to read about me having a warrant out for my arrest. Who knew?
On Monday, on arrest day, I woke up and tried to go through the motions. Like any other Monday morning, my middle child’s necessary school inventory became the world’s worst scavenger hunt and I was having none of it. “How do you have six pairs of shoes with only one shoe? That’s not your backpack, that’s your sister’s backpack! School starts in ten minutes, why are you still not wearing pants?”
I was sort of okay with that though. It gave me something else to think about. I got the last kid in van and seatbelted and returned to the house to get my phone, keys, and the novel I was currently chewing on. I had no idea how long this all was gonna take. That act, grabbing the book and catching my wife’s eyes as I did it—made us both acknowledge it.
“It’s going to be fine,” she said.
“I know it is,” I said.
I didn’t know it would.
I’d kiss and tell, but I’m on to you motherfuckers now. You actually read this shit.
I dropped the kids of at school and drove to Timmy Ho’s to pick up some breakfast. I’d never been arrested before, but I was okay assuming the dining accommodations weren’t five star. Besides, a hangry Jeff in court was bound to result in me sassing my way to an extended jail stay. I ordered some food and an iced coffee.
“I’m sorry sir, we don’t have ice.”
“We can’t put any ice in the ice coffee, sir.”
I took more than a few moments to question whether or not I believed in omens.
I ate my breakfast while listening to “Whiskey and Wimmen.” It was the most appropriate song I could come up with. There’s not a blues song about getting arrested for not filling out a jury questionnaire.
The breakfast didn’t go down easy. Realistically, I knew I was okay. As many people told me, the cops don’t show up at your door with a warrant and not arrest you. It just doesn’t happen. So likely this was all just a minor inconvenience. And I was 99% sure it was too but still…
Would I have to be handcuffed? Would I have to sit in a cell for a bit? Was I allowed to bring in a book? Please let me be able to bring in my book. I’m a kid from the iPhone age, I can’t handle that much time without some sort of stimulation.
I killed the engine and entered the Sheriff’s office, bringing only my book and my keys. I figured bringing a phone was a bad idea, even though live tweeting the festivities seemed like a golden opportunity missed. It was 8:30 by the time I got there and the deputy at my door had said to be there right at 8:00, so I half expected someone waiting with handcuffs. “Thank god you showed,” they’d say and slap them on me, toss me in the clink, “You thought we’d let you read a book in here? What’re you some kind of moron?”
What actually happened was a typical counter where you waited to be helped at. The two women behind it were talking about last night’s something-rather. All I could figure out is it wasn’t Game of Thrones. That’s the only show I know is on Sunday nights, but there was nary a mention of boobies or death.
“Hello, excuse me?” I said. Oh my god. I’m having to ask to be arrested.
“I’m here about a thing about a jury questionnaire?” I ended that with a question mark for you. I’m aware that’s not a question. That’s the goofy way it came out of my dumb mouth.
“Can I see your ID?” She took it and left the room. I sat in the waiting chairs and tried to read my book, but it’s hard to concentrate on Stephen King when you are in a foreign world. I watched a woman submit the paperwork to buy a gun second hand from a guy she met on Craigslist. I watched a guy ( a deputy I think?) come into work and get razzed by the remaining I-watch-something-other-than-GoT-on-Sunday-nights lady. “They let you work today? Aw, my morning’s ruined,” she said, smiling. I didn’t hear his reply, because by then the other woman was coming back with my ID.
“So, there’s a warrant,” she said.
“I heard as much.” Here it is. Time for handcuffs. Jail cells. Can I hide my book somewhere? Can I slip it under my shirt or maybe up my—
“Why don’t you just keep sitting there. The duty officer isn’t here yet. When he gets here he’ll take care of you.”
—pant leg? Wait. What? That’s it? I’m a known criminal with a warrant! I just sit here? Aren’t I a security risk? Think of all the questionnaires I could easily run away from right now.
I sat and read for thirty minutes till a old, bespectacled George walked in. I know his name is George because they all shouted it as he entered. Like Norm from Cheers. The woman pulled George aside and pointed to me. “He has a warrant. I already pulled the paperwork.”
“I don’t do anything till I’ve had my coffee.”
They all laughed. I have no idea why. I guess that’s classic George. He walked into the back and I was left to reading.
Another fifteen minutes went by.
George returned to me holding a piece a paper. “You Jeff?”
“Let’s walk over to the court then.”
We walked outside and toward the court, just like two guys walking to lunch. George didn’t cuff me. He didn’t even lead me by the arm. He had a gun though. Good to know I’m at least considered a little dangerous.
“So all of this is because you didn’t fill out a jury questionnaire?” he asked.
“I just got one. I guess I better fill it out, huh?”
I laughed. Classic George.
We went through a backdoor and he led me into another room with a help counter, only this one was about the size of a closet and the girl behind it looked frazzled. She held up a finger to George while she put three calls on hold. When she was done, they discussed which courtroom to put me in. George made another joke. When it was settled which judge would decide my fate he led me to an elevator.
We ride up, and boy does George like to smalltalk. I was nervous as hell, worried more than ever that I shouldn’t be carrying the novel I’m carrying, but I listened to a story about George’s attempts to get on jury duty. “I bet if it ever happened, I’d know the judge, all the lawyers. Heck, I bet I’d even know the criminal. Come on, just let me do it once.”
The elevator opened and he led me to a court room. Other parties were scattered about. Some were obviously lawyers. Some were obviously not. The lawyers hustled in and out of the room like there was a sports game playing in the lobby that they had to keep checking the score of.
“Just sit right here,” George said, so I did. He started to leave.
“What do I do?”
“When they call for you, introduce yourself,” he said and left. I sort of missed George.
I half read my book while half listening to the conversations around me. Lawyers darted out the room, then darted back in with more files or, “Okay, I just checked and he is here.” One woman yelled in a whisper to her lawyer about a series of text messages she received from someone called Mammy.
Another person in George’s same uniform brought me a clipboard and a pen. “This is the form you didn’t fill out,” she said. I filled it out and she took it. In case you are wondering, the pertinent information they lacked—the insufficient data required to start all of this—was my name, age, address, and whether I was willing to serve if I was over 70.
Bureaucracy is beautiful.
After about a half hour someone said all rise and we all rose. I put my book over my heart. I don’t know why. The judge came in, settled into her seat, and I sat down to watch a couple hours worth of court cases.
- Everyone is a Mr. or Mrs. in a court. Even if you have a big hippie beard and wear khaki shorts.
- Child custody battles remain the most fucked up thing we do as a society. Necessary? Probably. But I’ve had my fill for life.
- There exists a person that hasn’t worked in three years but can somehow afford the slimy lawyer to argue he should no longer have to pay child support on his three kids because he hasn’t worked in three years.
As the cases go on I wasn’t sure if it was more polite to read or pay attention, but I mostly did neither. I plotted how I’d talk my way into some leniency, and if that was or wasn’t a better strategy than trying to get them to admit that they had made the mistake. I adopted my best lawyer speak in my head, something between Jack McCoy and Atticus Finch.
When the room was mostly empty I heard someone tell the judge that there’s a few Jury Questionnaires. “Okay, I’ll do those now,” she said. Another guy and I were called forward and we settled into the up front seats. I put the book on the desk in front of me, then my lap, then back to the table. The guy next to me literally said, “Chill out, dude.”
“Now, I get two kinds of these cases,” the judge said. She looked right at us immediately with a smile of relax, kids, we are just gonna talk this through. She seemed the type that probably really likes George and his jokes. “The first type is someone who wants to send a message to the government. ‘I’m not gonna fill that out! No judge can tell me what to do!’
“The second group, which I think most people belong to, gets the mail and goes, ‘Oh a jury questionnaire,’ and then life happens and they set it on the table and the next day it gets mixed up with more mail. Then someone throws the whole pile away.”
She laughed. So did we. She looked to the Chill-Out guy beside me. “Are you trying to send a message today to the government, or are you part of the second group?”
“Definitely the second,” he said.
“And how about you, Mr. Conolly?”
“Oh I’m in the second group,” I said. We all smiled. We knew our lines in this play.
She then went into a spiel about how she hated to do this song and dance to good citizens but jury duty was important and there was “no better way to do it.” I bit my tongue at that. She let us go, so long as we agreed to fill out questionnaires in the future. We did. Then she apologized again, “There really isn’t a better way to do this, so please don’t bad mouth us,” she said.
I guess I wasn’t supposed to blog about it. Oops.
We walked out to the elevator and down to the parking lot, the other guy and I comparing notes of how it all went down. She never really gave us a chance in her rehearsed speech to give any explanations. Neither of us really pushed to make any either. It was clear she was letting us go from her first smile. Why rock the boat?
But talking afterward, we both knew we fucked up. We were both screwed over in the same way. Both of us had questionnaires sent to places we no longer lived. Worse, the same apartment complex. Obviously, there’s some glitch in the system. Her assumption that we were just lazy and forgetful meant that glitch never got caught. Our fear of what she’d do if we broke up her little lecture meant that glitch never got caught. If just one of us would have said something, that glitch might have—
Never got caught. Let’s be honest, even two of saying, “Hey, you screwed us over,” might have ended badly. It might still have been the best strategy to smile, nod, and walk away. There’s no telling.
What I can say is the idea that there is “No better way” is absolutely ludicrous. I was pretty lucky. People do spend nights in jail over this. Throw the morality of that out of the argument for a second and just think of the tax dollars. It’s 2016. We have telephones. We have the internet. You can’t think of a more efficient way of saying, “Hey, you never filled this form out,” than arresting someone?
Can’t get a hold of me? Here’s a crazy idea. How about the first cop you sent to my door has the form, “I have a warrant to arrest you unless you fill this out right now.”
“There’s really no better way of doing this, so please don’t badmouth us.”
I repeat, Oops.