Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Water fountains: best not to use them...

It's been a bizarre day down at the courthouse. (I thought I'd got all that civil service out of the way yesterday with all that curtained lever pulling, or syringe felt tip dot mashing, to be precise). I wandered into jury duty like it was a birthday party, and (eventually) got stuck on a thirty-day civil trial in a spanking white court room filled with some of the smelliest jurors and pockmarkiest lawyers this side of Vladivostok. But late in the afternoon the nice lady judge took one look at me, at the worn out knees in my trousers, at the circles under my shivering eyeballs, and she smelled the cheap cologne of a freelance journo whose ship needed more bailing than her court full of head cases. Let Gazpachot go, she decreed. And I ran for the parking lot.

But earlier in the day, I was called into another courtroom to hear more tales of civil woe. That judge was cool. He was in his chambers watching TV when we got back from lunch. We could all hear it, and so we sat eavesdropping in the drab brown room. Rummy was all washed up in Washington. (You're a heckuva guy Rummy, but now it's time to empty your drawers, take your wrestling thong, and go.) The judge came in and told us what he'd just seen on TV. He was a great talker, and you could only just catch the hint of contentment behind his robes. He went on to tell us that we should go buy water, since he wouldn't dare touch the water fountain in the courtroom (or breathe the air from the rusty vents). Ironically, this corroborated something I'd read on the internets just a few days ago, an investigative report into the gymnaseum drinking fountains of New York City - not only are they swarming with the usual host of flu and other bugs, but they also found traces of fecal matter along with tiny spores that lodge in your lungs and grow into something that looks like the inside of a pumpkin.

But back to court: My favorite part was when one potential juror was asked if he had any problems with the tort system. "I have problems putting a price on human life," he said, which was the first thing anybody in there had said that made any sense to me. The judge replied dryly, "Can this gentleman be excused from this case and can we find him one where he doesn't have to value human life as much?" Priceless.


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