Jury Duty Survival 101

I could spend hours going through my initial thoughts when I got my jury summons, but if you’ve ever received one, the feelings are probably pretty universal:

  1. Oh crap.
  2. I hope my panel number doesn’t get called.
  3. How do I get out of this?

As luck would have it, from Friday through the next Friday, I kept getting deferred.  It was Friday afternoon, I figured I was in the clear.  Then I got the call to report to the Superior Court of Santa Clara.

So here’s what I learned along the way.

Before You Go:

Bring Your Jury Summons with your Parking Permit

I, of course, brought every conceivable piece of paper relating to jury duty including the envelope and everything I read from the website that I printed out.   You don’t need to go crazy, but you will need the summons and you’ll need the parking permit, too.

Dress Comfortably

You may be sitting for hours.  Heck, if you’re as unlucky as me, you may be sitting for months.  The trick is to be comfortable while you wait because you will do a lot of it.  A lot.

Bring Snacks

The food setup in the Santa Clara Hall of Justice consists of two food carts.  Both accept cash only.  Neither has anything you’d see on a Michelin star menu.  If you don’t want to end up eating crap from a vending machine, the cafeteria down the street, or Togos, bring your lunch or bring snacks.

Jury Duty is where diets to go die.

Bring a Water Bottle

Here’s something nice, the water is free.  In the Jury Room on the Second Floor, there is a water cooler (hot and cold).  Leave the trendy ceramic or glass water bottle or mug at home, it won’t make it through security.  A simple water bottle is the way to go.  Unless you want to shell out $2.50 at the cart for a bottle of water or use a cup from the water cooler and hope that you don’t spill or in any other way embarrass yourself.

Bring Entertainment

There are a few cubes to sit in with a laptop you can plug in.  If you don’t want to lug that around, you can bring a book or your Kindle or phone or whatever entertains you during the down time.  We even brought playing cards for a day or two.

I really don’t know how people did jury duty before mobile devices.  It’s not like you can knit.

Leave Early.   You’ll Need The Extra Time

Map it out, and leave early to account for traffic and sign in.  If you need to report for Jury Selection at 9:00, be there by 8:30 at the latest.  Why, you ask?  Because there’s this little thing called Security.  And Sign-In.  You may arrive at 8:55 thinking you’ve made it five minutes early and you’re good to go until you see the security line out the door and down the street.

Know Your Work’s Jury Duty Policy

This is a must.  Most cases last a few days, some a few weeks, and for us unlucky types, a few months.  If your work only pays for two days of Jury Duty, then you need to either take PTO for the rest of it, or go on unpaid leave.  You will definitely want to know this up front.

If this is an extreme financial hardship for you (not merely a financial or personal annoyance), you can petition the judge to be excused (more on that later).

Check  Online or Call In

There are two ways to find out if the panel you’ve been assigned to has to report to the courthouse or not.   You can call the number on your Juror Summons or you can check the website to see what the status of your panel is:

Juror Status

Do make sure you check the DATE of your service.  The panel numbers are reused weekly, so if you didn’t look carefully, it’s possible you could waltz in a week early.  You’re on the hook for a week.   Typically, the week starts on Friday and goes until the next Friday.  You may get postponed every single day.  You may get called to report the next day.  Check the website or call to know where you stand.  No one likes to wake up thinking they’ll be deferred again only to find they have less than 15 minutes to report to the court house.

When You Arrive

 

Parking

Set your Navigation System to the parking lot across the street.  Whatever you do, do not park at the meters.  Your Jury Summons has a parking pass.  If you park at the meters, you will not be reimbursed.

Santa Clara Superior Court – Hall of Justice
190 West Hedding Street
San Jose, CA
(408) 808-6600

Civic Center Parking Garage
171 West Hedding Road
San Jose, CA
(408) 293-0775

If you want to be on the same level as the pedestrian overpass so you’re not dodging traffic, park on the third level of the garage.  You can walk past the enticing vending machines (get used to those), the two pay kiosks and the (now defunct) attendant station, which has been replaced by the two pay kiosks.

Bring your garage parking ticket with you.   When you get to the Jury Clerk, she’ll take your Juror Parking Pass and your parking garage stub, stamp the garage stub, and return it to you.  If you left your parking stub on the dashboard of your car, you’ll be taking a nice stroll back to get it.

Pro-Tips:

  • Keep your parking stub far away from credit cards (they could demagnetize it)
  • Get your parking stub validated near the end of the day (less chance of demagnetizing)
  • Validate your stamped parking stub at the pay kiosk before driving to the exit gate (to see if it demagnetized)

You’re probably wondering why all this talk about demagnetizing parking stubs and validation issues.  I’m fairly certain that the City of Santa Clara has earned more money on stressed out Jurors whose parking ticket stub demagnetized (and paid just to get the heck out of there) than they have on monthly parking passes.

I have heard this story so many times, and experienced it myself twice, that it’s almost laughable how many times these parking stubs demagnetize.  I have been the person at the parking garage dutifully placing my validated ticket in the machine as I sit at the gate and have it not only NOT lift the gate, but demand $11.00 from me.

The intercom does not work.  Honking your horn does not get their attention right away and if it does, they don’t take kindly to it.  Either way, it’s stressful and humiliating.

The guys in the office are not actively seeking out potentially horrified jurors whose ticket demagnetized frantically pushing buttons and panicking at the increasingly long line of cars behind them trying to leave.   No one likes to wait when leaving the parking garage.  No one.

So you can either get out of your car, brave the stink-eye from all the people who unfortunately picked the same gate as you, and run across rows of cars to the office and tell them your ticket demagnetized OR you can check your ticket before you ever get to the car to make sure it works.

There used to be a guy that would check your ticket at the pay station, but he’s been replaced.  Now you have two pay kiosks to use to check.  If your validated ticket is fine, it’ll say PAID and you can be confident that when you drive down to the gate, the bar will lift.

If, however, even after getting stamped, you see that you’re being charged for a few hours or a full day’s worth of parking, congratulations.  Your ticket demagnetized.

If you pay because you just want OUT OF THERE and will sort it out with the courthouse or parking garage clerk the next day, don’t bother.  They won’t reimburse you.

If you take your demagnetized ticket BACK to the clerk in the courthouse to re-stamp, don’t bother, if it’s demagnetized, there is nothing she can (or will) do.

You have only one option.  Walk down to the first floor gates and go to the parking office.  Knock on the door, tell them your ticket demagnetized (and make sure you’ve had it stamped by the Court Clerk because they’re not dumb) and they’ll do some magic like give you another validated ticket.  Walk back to your car feeling secure knowing that when you get to the gate, that arm will rise.

Fun Fact: The elevators from the garage to the ground floor smell like burning.  They may function, but they SMELL like a cable is about to snap.  Just saying.

Security

It is quite literally like going to the airport, except you’re not heading to Maui.  As I mentioned before, arrive early.  Some days, there’s no one there and you breeze through security like petals on the wind.  Other days, the lines are longer than Star Wars ticket sales on opening day.  Security screening is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

Be prepared to put your purse, laptop, handbag, man bag, man purse, lunch bag, carrier bag, etc. on the conveyor belt to the right.

Be prepared to remove your belt, keys, watch, iPhone, etc. and place them in the grey bin to give to the men / women in uniform at the entrance.  If you go through the metal detector and it still goes off, check to see if your shoes have buckles or your boots have zippers.   Yes, there’s nothing like setting off that metal detector with 500 people behind you.   Super fun.  Not at all stressful.

Once you’re through, pick up your items (or get searched) and head directly to the second floor.  You can take the elevators in front of you or you can take the stairs to the right of the elevators.

Fun Fact:   Fit Bits don’t set off the metal detectors!

Sign In

Now that you’ve made it to the second floor, if you’re lucky enough to have no line,  make sure you have your summons filled out (you’ll see a sign as you’re standing in line that shows you what needs to be filled out) and sign it.  If you didn’t do it, you’ll be slowing down an already painful process and annoy everyone behind you.  It’s the part that verifies your address and your contact number.  Remember:  sign it.

Have the clerk stamp your parking ticket.   She’ll point you to the doors into the Jury Room.

Fun Fact:   Roz from Monsters Inc. works as a Court Clerk, you’ll know her the minute she opens her mouth.  Do NOT forget to fill out your paperwork.  I’m actually not kidding.  Just wait.

Panel Certification Form

Before you go through those doors, into the possibly crammed Jury Room, check the wall beside the clerk and you’ll see a few black slots with paper in them.   Those are panel certificates.  They have your panel number and today’s date.  Grab one.  This says to your employer that you were at court that day.  If you need to prove to your employer that you were at the courthouse and not the beach, you’ll want to pick this up EVERY DAY you’re in jury selection until or unless you get juror badge.  Again, pick up one each day.  They’re dated.

Jury Waiting Area

Once you’ve opened the door and headed into the Jury Room, you may be lucky and it’s completely bare.  Or it’s crammed to the teeth and you’re lucky if you can get a seat.

Pro Tip:   The Jury Room is a “U”, not an “L”.   Keep walking, turn right, and keep walking some more.  You’ll see a door.  That leads to another portion of the waiting area.  The place beyond that door is magic.  It has couches.  It has laptop cubes.  It has puzzles.  It has tables.

If you have to come back another day, there are TWO doors to the Jury Room, one as you exit the stairs (near the Interpreter Office) and the one by the clerk.  Almost no one thinks to go through the door by the stairs, except those savvy jurors who have been there for a few days of jury selection or have been assigned to a case.

There are doors smack dab in the middle of the jury room which you may be tempted to avoid because, well, they’re closed, but don’t.  Inside that area are washrooms, vending machines, a coffee vending machine (do not get the hot chocolate – it is nothing more than brown water), and a microwave.  The loudspeaker in which the clerk can summon your panel to a court room can be heard from anywhere in the Jury Room (including that vending / washroom area).

If you meander off elsewhere in search of washrooms or food carts on the first floor, you will not hear her call your panel so keep that in mind.

Panels vs. Departments

This trips up a lot of people so let me explain.  When you arrive for jury selection, you’re issued a panel number.  Pay attention to your number.   Your panel, as well as a bunch of other panels, may be called to one court room (a department).  You may hear something like,

Jurors for Panels 7, 9, and 11, please report to Department 42, Judge X, on the third floor.

What this means is that your panel, along with a bunch of people from other panels, have to all go to the same court room (or department).  Pay attention to where they send you.  They typically have the court room location associated with its department number on a printed piece of paper in the hall on the second floor.

Jury Selection Process

Report to Your Department

Ohmigosh, they just called you to a court room!  This is it!

Head to the court room like a lemming and pray the guy in front of you knows where he’s going.

You WILL be surprised to see the plaintiff(s)/defendant(s) standing there along with the prosecution and defense attorneys.  It WILL freak you out a little.  This went from some nebulous “man, I hope I get out of jury duty” to “holy crap, this is real right here”.

You’ll be directed by the deputy to find a seat.  Don’t be jerk and sit on the aisle because everyone will have to step over you to get to the wall.  Or, the deputy will call you out and force you to get up and move to the wall so they can fill all the seats and cram everyone in the court room.  There could be up to a hundred of people in that room with you.

Once everyone is in, they will quite literally take attendance.  This is why you want to be early.  Because, guess what?  If you are late, they can’t start.  Seriously, nothing happens until you arrive.  If it takes you 2 minutes or 10 minutes, we all wait.  They may have the Court Clerk page you a few times until you complete the walk of shame red-faced into the court room.

And just so you know, they take attendance after morning break.  They take attendance after lunch. They take attendance after afternoon break.   If you’re “that guy/girl” who can’t get your crap together to make it back to the court room on time, you are now effectively making one hundred potential jurors, the prosecution/defense  lawyers, court clerk, bailiffs, plaintiff(s)/defendant(s), and judge wait.  For you.  (And anyone else who couldn’t tell time or plan accordingly.)

If you think the stink-eye in high school is bad, be late.   See what it feels like in a court room.

Introduction / Process Explained

When you sit down and attendance has been completed and everyone is there (or someone bailed and the court is coming after them), you’re good to go. You’re all sitting there thinking, what next?

The deputy will ask everyone to rise and the judge will come in.   Once the judge has arrived, you’ll be allowed to sit down again.  The judge will explain what, in simple terms, the case is about, who the plaintiff(s)/defendant(s) are, how long the trial is expected to last, and what the general process is going to be for jury selection.

Civil cases are typically about compensation.
Criminal cases involve finding defendant(s) “guilty” or “not guilty” of charges.

Cases can range from mundane to reporters outside court every day to everything in between.

Court Exemption Requests

If you do not feel that you can participate for the length of the trial because you’ll be having surgery or it is an extreme economic hardship, you can petition the court to relieve you.  You will be directed to fill out a form provided by the deputy at your request and it will be given to the judge to review.  You may be excused, you may not.  If you don’t ask for the form when they offer it, you won’t be considered.

Compensation

You will be paid $15/day plus .32 cents mileage one-way.  You will have a check mailed to your house every two weeks.  It’s not $15/hour, it’s $15/day.  It basically covers your lunch.  That’s it.

Jury Questionnaire

After you’ve been instructed on the process, you’ll be sent back to the Jury Room with a questionnaire that involves the case you’d be a jury on.  They want to know about you, your history, if you know any of the participants in the case (not just plaintiffs/defendants, but witnesses, police, etc. as well), or if you have any ideologies or whatnot that can help them screen you out as an unsuitable juror or a particularly suitable one.

Filling out the Questionnaire saves them time asking the same question of over a hundred people.  Note, that not only will the judge question you (in front of everyone), but the prosecution and defense will, too.  And they will, in fact,  end up repeating some of the same questions over and over again, anyway.

If you lie or provide information that you think will probably get you off jury duty, don’t count on it.  This is not the judge’s first rodeo.  And for everyone that is sitting in the court room while you go on about why you’re so unsuitable, they can tell you’re full of crap.   It doesn’t always work, either.

When you have filled out the questionnaire on Day One, you’re typically sent home after that.  The completed questionnaires will then be reviewed by the prosecution/defense/judge.  You come back the next day.   Remember all that great stuff you learned about parking?  Remember your Department number?  You’ll be in the same court room every day during jury selection.

Day Two

The next day, when you return, the judge will have reviewed all the Jury Exception requests and potentially excuse 10, 30, or 2 people.  For the rest of you, despite your crafty answers that you’re sure will get you excused immediately, you get to be questioned.

When they call your name, you will be sent to either a free juror seat or an alternate seat for questioning.  That will surprise and scare the heck out of you.  They don’t question you from the gallery. They don’t do it privately, if that’s what you were thinking.  It will suddenly start to feel very real at this point.

First, the judge will question you based on your questionnaire.  Then the prosecution.  Then the defense.  In front of everyone.  What you answered on your questionnaire will be brought up in front of the entire court room.  You may get asked the same question by the judge, the prosecution, and the defense attorney.  In front of everyone.   That will be scary.  Or you may think it’s exhilarating.  For me, it was intimidating.

Pro Tips for Questioning

  1. Speak up.  So much time was wasted because the court reporter couldn’t understand a mumbling whisperer.
  2. Wait until the judge/prosecutor/defense has FINISHED their question before you start your answer.  The court reporter is recording EVERYTHING.  If you start talking while they’re still talking, it’s hard to transcribe.
  3. Do not simply nod or shake your head for your answer,.  You must answer “yes” or “no” for the court reporter to record your answer.
  4. Speak slowly.  Talking as fast Six from Blossom may be cute, but it sucks for the court reporter.  If she can’t understand you, she’ll ask you to say it all over again and you will be reminded to slow down.
  5. Be concise.  There is nothing worse than someone who loves the sound of their own voice.
  6. Be honest.  Not only can the court staff tell when you’re trying out that “how to get out of jury tactic” you read on Google, but the rest of us can tell, too.

Between the twelve jury spots and the extra alternates, they’re probably calling around twenty people at a time.  After the first batch has been questioned, the lawyers will look each of you up and down and then make their decision.  Maybe the prosecution likes you, but the defense doesn’t.  What that criteria is, I will never know because people I thought were gone for sure were accepted and people I thought were a shoo-in were excused.  And then that accepted juror was excused in the next batch.  It’s a mystery.

After the lawyers have deliberated, the judge will excuse people in big batches and if you are excused, your jury service is complete.  You’re done.  Off you go.  So many big smiles leaving that court room.

If jury selection isn’t completed on that day, you come back the next day.  If it doesn’t get done that day, you come back the next day.  Excuse.  Next batch.  Until defense and prosecution settles on the jury.  It can take one day.  It can take five days.  They can run out of people and have to start all over with a whole new series of panels.

You’ve Been Selected, Juror!

Even if there are prospective jurors still sitting in the gallery, if the prosecution accepts the jury as presented and so does defense, that’s it.

This will surprise and shock you.   Before it felt kind of real, now it feels really real.  One second you’ll be sitting there, thinking, “I’m an alternate, they’ll probably kick me when that other guy comes over.”  Then suddenly, in the next wave, Juror #3 is excused and you’re being put in their seat and you’re all being asked to stand and suddenly you’re sworn in.

If you wanted to get out of jury duty and you failed, accept it.  Now that you’re in it, take this responsibility seriously.   We all joke about ducking jury duty, but once you’re in, it’s as real as it gets.  Give it the respect and seriousness it deserves.

Juror Badges

While you’re still gasping for breath, you’ll be given instructions on what happens next.  They’ll probably dismiss you for the day, but not before they give you a green Juror badge on your way out.  This is gold.

This is your FastPass to the front of the security line.  It’s the one good thing about jury duty.  Not kidding, you can pass all those poor schlubs waiting in a long line out the door.  In fact, you are instructed to do so.  You’re a juror now and it’s critical that you’re on time.

This badge of honor alerts lawyers and judges of your status.  You will be instructed not to speak to anyone on the case directly (lawyers, plaintiffs, defendant, family, etc.)  so if you see your court’s prosecutor getting in the elevator with you, and you wonder why they ignore you completely – going so far as to not even look at you – this is because they’re not allowed to.   They will not say hi to you.  You can’t say hi to them.  You can’t say good morning.  You can’t say anything.  If you do, they’ll alert the judge and you all will be reminded in court, in front of everyone, not to do the thing they told you not to do.  It will make you uncomfortable because your natural tendency is to be polite and greet them.  It’s okay that it feels awkward not to.

Know this, If there is even a HINT that they think you overheard them speaking about the case, you will be called in and questioned.   If there is a HINT that you accidentally got chatty with a family member of a plaintiff or defendant you will be called in and questioned.  It’s a big big deal.

Research / Social Media / Gossip

You will be told not to research the case in any way.  You will be told not to talk about the case with your fellow jurors or anyone else for that matter, including your coworkers, spouse, best friend, favorite bartender, counselor, etc. until it’s all over.   This is going to be hard, but if you want to honor the case and the process, stay away.  You can’t bias yourself.   If you’re still coming in to work on the odd day between court dates, people are naturally going to want to know what the case is about.  You can’t talk about it.

The Case

Juror Notebooks / Binders

You will be given a notebook, a pen, and a binder.  The notebook is to, duh, take notes.  Some people try to record everything (and miss watching witnesses on the stand), some record Prosecution Exhibit / Defense Exhibit # / items so that they can refer back to them later.  Others simply record how believable they feel the witness is on a scale of 1 – 5.  There is no right or wrong way to do this.   You can’t take your notebook home and at the end of trial, your notes will be destroyed.

The binder contains the scheduled court dates, a list of restaurants, and a map of the immediate area.  This will be handy if you discover that almost everyone on Day One goes to Togos down the street, thus, massive lines and long waits.  The cafeteria down the street is not bad and the grill orders are pretty cheap.

From the Frying Pan Into the Fire

You will be surprised how quickly from opening statements the prosecution moves to calling the first witness or presenting their first piece of evidence.  If you think there will be some break or some time for you to adjust to this whole new experience, it’s doubtful that will happen.

If you’ve noticed any pattern so far in this blog post, it’s that you will be surprised.  A lot.  No, it’s not like the movies and TV.   Yes, you will need to unlearn a lot about what you thought trial was like.   No, it’s not like Ally McBeal.   It’s not even like LA Law or Suits.

You may find that it’s odd that after the prosecution provides this painstaking step-by-step process of introducing a piece of evidence or witness, that the defense painstakingly step-by-step must question that same thing.  You may think, they just said this, why is this other guy saying this again?

Foundation.  It’s one of the terms you’ll hear often as an objection.   Other terms you might hear are:

  • Hearsay
  • Misstates the evidence
  • Asked and answered
  • Speculation
  • Leading
  • Assumes facts not in evidence
  • Vague
  • Relevance
  • Argumentative

I’m not going to go into what they mean, but you’ll find the pace  and stops/starts a little jarring at first.  Like I said, it’s nothing like TV or the moves and the judge will tell you that, too.

Pro-Tip:   The court will try to make this experience as comfortable as possible.  If you are pregnant and need to pee, they’ll let you, even if it’s not a regularly scheduled break.  If you are hard of hearing, they’ll provide a headset for you to amplify the sound (take it off when Judge/Lawyers are talking at the bench).  If you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic and need to snack on something, you can have something that’s resealable (and not loud) or drink your water (from a water bottle) during the trial.  If you just need to stretch because your back spasms, signal the deputy discreetly and silently, and they’ll come assist you.

You will quickly find a rhythm once the process of presenting evidence starts, you’ll notice a pattern of breaks, process, and day-to-day activity.  You’ll not be freaking out when you walk into the building.  You’ll probably start to recognize the guys at Security, and they you.

You’ll see those Day One prospective Jurors and the looks of abject terror on their faces and smile and shake your head.  Oh, those were the days.  If your trial lasts longer than most, you may even feel like this is your “second job”.   You will be living between two worlds.  It’ll be a bit weird.  You may have even found your Juror friends you eat lunch with and hang out with on breaks.

This will become your new normal.

Deliberation

And then, all of a sudden and without warning, counsel is done presenting evidence.  Suddenly, they’re doing closing arguments and you’re finding out what the next step is.  You’re going to be shuffled out of the court room into the deliberation room with all your new besties to decide the verdict on all those charges or (civil case) compensation, or not.

You will be given instructions from the judge about the law as it applies to your case.   In fact, the judge will read those instructions to you.  It will take a lot of time.   If you’re freaking out thinking you can’t possibly write all this information down, don’t worry, you will be given those instructions in written form.

In our case, we only received one copy of the instructions.  We asked the court clerk for copies so each of us could have a copy to review and they did.  Your instructions will include everything.   Everything is spelled out.  You will even receive question forms, if you have a question for the judge.  You can’t speak to them directly, but you can have your foreman write them down and send them to the judge.  Know that those questions, will be read in front of legal counsel as well.

Be concise.  There’s only so much room to ask and only so much room for the judge to answer.

If this is a criminal case, deliberations are where those new best friends splinter like shards of wood.   Those of us in deliberation would sit in the Jury Room watching all the fresh new jurors laughing and chatting and we’d smile.  They’re still in the thick of evidence.  Just wait, we think to ourselves.  Just wait.

Choose a Good Foreman

You will be shocked at how something that clearly says X to you says Y to a fellow juror.  You will be frustrated that you can’t agree.   This is where finding a really good foreman comes into play.  They are your mediator.  They are the voice of reason.  Make sure you choose someone who is a facilitator, not a dictator.  If they have had previous experience on a jury before, that helps, but it’s not critical.  Pick smart.

Every deliberation is different so I can only provide generalities, but know that depending on the severity of your case, if it’s civil or criminal, there will be arguments, possibly tears, definitely outbursts, and the tendency to get snippy with each other.  If you can divorce yourself from your emotions and be respectful, you will have a better voice.  If you are a petulant child or a booming verbal tyrant, you seriously cripple your ability to persuade anyone else.

Be Heard / Fight for your Vote

Speaking of voices, don’t be the guy/girl that doesn’t speak up.  In the case of a criminal case, the vote must be unanimous.  If you vote in a particular way, be prepared to back it up.  Be prepared to answer thoughtfully and logically why you think the evidence speaks to you in the way it does.  Now is not the time to lob your immovable vote and refuse to discuss the matter further.

What doesn’t belong in deliberation because it just wastes time:

  • talking about evidence that wasn’t presented
  • wondering why certain witnesses weren’t called and what they might have said
  • talking about punishment
  • immediately finding the defendant guilty and forcing pieces to fit your narrative
  • ignoring the evidence you do have
  • ignoring the rules of law in favor of your own personal justice
  • the emotions of the witnesses
  • the emotions of the family, friends, or coworkers of the defendants or victims
  • the persuasiveness of the legal counsel

To be fair, it’s nearly impossible to do this because we all naturally want every piece of information possible to make the best decision.  We don’t know why they didn’t get that subpoena.  We don’t know why they didn’t have the defendant speak on their own behalf.  We don’t know why this piece of evidence wasn’t presented.   We wish there was a camera recording the whole thing to make this all clear for us.  Why didn’t they wear a GoPro with audio the entire time?

Your job as a juror is to use the evidence you DO have, using the specific instructions on the law as it pertains to your case provided to you, to make an impartial verdict.

“Beyond a reasonable doubt” and “if the verdict could go between guilty/not guilty, you must find the defendant not guilty” will be a mantra in your head because the judge will remind you that defendants are innocent until proven guilty.  Not the other way around.  That may stick in your throat.  It may leave a bad taste in your mouth.

It’s not complicated, but it IS complex.

Deliberation is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.  Why?   Because it is so damn EASY to judge people when there is no consequence.  Everyone talks about judging and how we shouldn’t do it, but we do it all the time.   You’ll judge this post.  You’ll judge that lame link whatsername posted on Facebook the other day.  You’ll judge so-and-so’s ridiculous (or super insightful) Twitter comment.  You’ll judge blah blah’s political stance.  You’ll judge whether or not you want to walk to your car in the dark alone or with a friend.

We judge instinctively.

When you’re a juror, however, you (and eleven other jurors) hold another human being’s life (or business or finances) in your hands.  Your decision not only affects the plaintiff and defendant, it affects families, friends, victims families and friends – everyone involved directly and indirectly, deliberately and superficially.   And when you realize that, especially in a tragic criminal case, you will feel that weight to your bones.   If you don’t feel it to your bones, you’re not respecting the gut-wrenching seriousness of the responsibility you’ve been given.

It won’t hit you while you’re duking it out with the other jurors, snacking on M&Ms in the deliberation room in your comfortable chair.

You have the unique experience of intruding on lives of people you’ve never met in a very intimate way.   You have been given a snapshot into their world that is no longer ‘normal’ because of an incident that changed the course of history for them.  You’re been invited into a situation that police, detectives, lawyers, judges, grand juries, families, friends, coworkers, public servants, experts, witnesses, labs, etc. have spent hours/days/months/years involved in up to their eyeballs.

It won’t hit you while you’re looking over photographs or transcripts, dissecting a critical moment in time that changed peoples’ lives forever down to its minutiae.

For you, it’ll be like, “Man, this deliberation is taking forever.  We’ve been at this for hours/days.”   For those who anxiously await your decision, every minute is an excruciating lifetime.  In your hands, you hold the promise of freedom, the hope of compensation, or the noose of punishment.  You hold closure, or lack of it.  You hold the end of a chapter in a very challenging book.

Still, it won’t hit you.

 

Verdict

It will hit you when the door into the court room opens and you see that everybody is sitting there, staring at you, waiting on your verdict.  You will feel the anxiety as you walk to your Juror seat and sit down, feeling the thick tension of the room.  You will feel your guts churning with anticipation as you look at the plaintiffs/defendants knowing their fate is already decided, but they have no idea what it is.

This is when it will hit you.  This is when it will become very very real.

And then the court clerk will start reading the charges and your verdicts.  And it will hit you like a kick in the stomach that you have directly and unalterably changed the course of people’s lives forever.

This may be a point of relief for you, if the case was simple and evidence was cut and dry. This may be a point of exultation for you as you grant compensation to a wronged party.
This may be a point of frustration for you, if it was neither of these things.
The may be a point of torture for you, if your case was complicated, or the evidence was incomplete or inconclusive, or the verdict would have been different if you’d had “more.”

Know this:  If you did your job, and you did it honestly and with abiding conviction according to the rules set before you, without bias or malice based on evidence presented alone, then that is all you can do.

Justice has been served.

The Aftermath

There is a point when you are offered an opportunity to speak to legal counsel and other parties involved in the case.  You don’t have to do this.  If you want closure, or you want to ask questions, this is the time to do it.  Likewise for counsel.

You’ll get to know a lot of faces very well over the course of your trial and, I would think, the other way around, but you can never speak to these people.  When the verdict has been read, you may see on those familiar faces expressions of acceptance or disappointment, frustration, heartbreak, anger, or relief.  Or all of the above.  You may hear sobs of heartbreak or sighs of relief.  You may see nothing at all because you can’t bear but look at your hands.

This time is an opportunity for counsel to talk about the “why’s” of your verdict and what could have helped you make your decision better.  You have an opportunity to ask your own “why didn’t they” do this or that.  You only get one or more pieces of the knowledge pie during jury duty.  You don’t get the rest of the pie until it’s over, unless you talk to the attorneys afterwards.

Maybe it’s too hard.  You can’t face the families or the plaintiffs and defendants.  Maybe you have given everything you had and you just want to go home and try to forget everything.  That’s your call and no one can force you to talk to anyone if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

 

Final Thoughts

Here’s the deal:  jury duty is actually fascinating if you approach it with the right attitude.  It is interesting to see how the process works.  It is humbling to see police officers, who can be a little scary, nervous on the witness stand because you see them as real human beings who are entwined in this thing along with you.  It is an education to discover just how different being a juror is to what you see on TV or in the movies.

It is enlightening to get past the assumptions of what you assume jury duty is about and actually do it.  It is wonderful meeting people you may never have had an occasion to meet otherwise.  After all is said and done, everyone involved at the public level seems to be genuinely grateful for your service.

I hope this post sums up the entire experience for me from the fun to the funny to the heartbreaking and frustrating.   That is what jury duty is all crammed into one surreal package.

I Love My Body

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”       (Psalm 139:14)

 

I love my eyes.  They see the beauty of the natural world around me and guide my path every day.

I love my nose.  It smells delightful aromas such as flowers, freshly baked bread, and wet grass after a rain shower.

I love my mouth.  It has been perfectly designed to enjoy food that sustains, comforts, excites and delights me.

I love my skin.  It protects me from the elements and holds me together.

I love my voice.  It is the perfect instrument to speak love, truth, encouragement, wisdom, and humor.

I love my breasts.  Though mine have never nursed a baby, I know there are countless women who have been granted this miraculous gift.

I love my heart.  It beats daily to worship my Creator, share His gospel, love my friends and family, and it compels me to feel compassion.

I love my hands.  They were skillfully crafted to allow me to write, create, greet, fix, play, doodle, and speak without words.

I love my stomach.  It proves to me that I am well nourished.

I love my arms.  They have the ability to support the weak, hold the devastated, motivate the lazy, and push open doors of opportunity.

I love my legs.  They carry me faithfully to any destination I choose.

I love my feet.  They direct me away from unhealthy situations or guide me to help others in need.

My body is perfect.

The Octopus Homocide

The title makes no sense.  I get it.  It’ll come clear later.

So, deciding to save some money on salon bills, I went to the pharmacy and picked up some Nice ‘n Easy to dye my hair.  I haven’t dyed my own hair since I was 30 years old and gainfully employed.  Looking back, I realize why.

So this is what happened:

I picked up the color that I thought matched my current hair color.  Went home and dyed my hair.  Okay, that’s the gist of it.  Here’s what I learned (or forgotten):

  • Don’t dye your hair in a sport bra to “save a t-shirt”
  • Use gloves when washing your hair
  • Check the back of your head before you’re “sure” you’re done
  • Methodical application not willy-nilly squeeze-n-pray

Okay, so a few lessons learned.  First off, I forgot how incredibly tedious dyeing my own hair is.  It took a long time and I couldn’t just sit there and read a book. I had to do it all myself and my arms got sore and I was getting dye all over my face and my neck and my back.  I freaked out thinking I’d completely dyed my shoulders and down my spine (later I realized it was just my tattoo – which one day I’ll get rid of, a story for another time).

Then I’m all, “Is it done yet?  Did I squish it all over enough?”  (The answer to that question, in hindsight, is a resounding NO.)

Then I look at the sink and it’s covered in purple.  And the walls.  And the floor.  And the mirror.  And now the cat is making his way towards the bathroom to see what’s what so I gotta slam the door on him lest I poison or dye him.

Finally, it’s time to wash this stuff out.  The directions say to lather your hair before rinsing the dye out.  I’m like, okay.  I can do that.  So I’m lathering up a storm, not realizing that my entire shower now looks like I got in a knife fight with an octopus.  There’s purple ink all over the shower.  I mean, if it was red dye, it would have looked like the pig blood scene from Carrie.  

I’m shocked and appalled and thinking, “Oh crap!  Ron is going to see this and fuh-reak out!!!  So I sacrifice one of our towels and I’m frantically trying to wipe up the shower, oh hey, and there’s more dye spilling down my face and arms because I didn’t think to – oh, I don’t know – completely rinse it out before cleaning the shower?  So that happened.

Finally, I get the shower clean-ish.  There are still a few drip lines on the wall but I’m hoping he won’t notice  (Or read this post.)

After that, it’s hurry up and wait to see how badly I messed it up.  Not too bad.  If I relegate myself to dark rooms.  There’s patches of grey, the top doesn’t match the bottom, and I got a crash course in dying your fingernails, but at least I saved money.  (Except that I’ll probably have to go to the salon next week to get it fixed.)

All in all…hair is free and regardless of what I keep doing to it, it keeps growing back, so all this will be but an amusing cautionary tale my husband warns me about when next I decide to dye it myself.

I do still have that second box…

(And, no, I’m not posting a picture.)

Top 12 Reasons I Should Be Banned from Wrapping Presents

If you could “fail” a skill, this is my skill to fail.  And here’s why:

  1. I use tape like it’s law enforcement
  2. Giving it “the college try” is an insult because preschoolers can do better
  3. Angry tape
  4. There WILL be blood shed
  5. I don’t overestimate paper sizing, I GROSSLY overestimate paper sizing (as in, you could fit a small village in the leftover paper)
  6. Presents aren’t “wrapped” so much as they are “inflicted”
  7. Even my cat knows it’s probably best to stay away during “the dark time”
  8. Square objects present more problems than round ones because at least you can carpetbag a round one
  9. Who tapes their own fingers together?
  10. My presents look like I wrapped them for someone who cut me off in traffic
  11. Leaving wrapping to the last minute – despite years of trying – does not make me better at it
  12. I look for reasons to distract myself elsewhere when I should be wrapping – like writing blog posts

CitiKitty Diaries: The Toilet Training Saga

Miko

This is the daily record of how I toilet trained my cat, Miko.  It just goes to show you that I need a life and my cat is dang awesome.  (I really do wish I had done this years ago.)

Tools:

I used  CitiKitty Cat Toilet Training Kit from Amazon (about $30.00) to toilet train my cat.  The inserts, while perforated, are a pain in the arse to remove.  I suppose that is a good thing since you don’t want them breaking while your cat is standing on them.   I ended up using an x-acto knife.  It’s basically like opening any toy sealed in hard plastic from Toys R Us so prepare to be annoyed.

Preparation:

I must have read the CitiKitty instructions fifteen times.  I also felt the need to order a book on how to toilet train your cat.  Talk about over-prepared.  I taped the toilet seat up and left this sign right above the toilet:

Cat Toilet Training in Progress

Day 1

I placed Miko in the cat litter on the toilet seat and he went pee right away.  He spent a good 5 minutes covering, but not overly exuberant with his pawing.  He really liked the catnip in his litter.  Tried to eat it (before he went pee).

Just fed him so we shall see how he takes to pooping with less litter.  I’m trying not to hound him and trying to clean up quick after him so it’s a clean area without smell.

Still waiting on Miko to go poop.  He’s not taking the bait.  Maybe I should shake him a little.  Just kidding.  Guess we will see when he really needs to go.  It’s after midnight and I need sleep so not while I’m awake, apparently.

Day 2

Two pees and no poops.  Getting a bit stressed over that.  He’s been eating and I have plopped him on the seat a few times and given him plenty of praise and affection, but either he’s holding it or he just doesn’t have to go yet.

He’s a real smart cat and it’s hard not to expect a lot from him.  I just need to remind myself to take it super slow.

Already 9:27 pm so I may miss the poop if it happens.  I’ll most likely be asleep.  I keep the doors closed so no pooping in our laundry.

Nate used the bathroom and put the CitiKitty tray down, but not the toilet seat.  If Miko had jumped up and that tray went flying training would have been over before it even started.

Luckily, Miko didn’t use the bathroom and I caught it first.

Day 3

Wheww!!  Guess what I woke up to?  Poops!  I’ve never been so glad to see my cat take a dump!   Right spot, no accidents, and me not around.

I had barely cleaned the seat and put new litter in his tray when he hopped up, interrupting me, and went pee.  Ohthankgoodness.

Ron and I went out to dinner and when we got back, there was a pee present waiting so that was cool.  Yes, I’m obsessed with my cat’s bowel movements.

Day 4

The cat didn’t have a surprise for me this morning, but after an hour or so of me being awake, he went pee with no problems.  Still waiting on a poop, though.  Seriously, I think he’s doing this to me on purpose.

Before noon, after he meowed at me, I wandered past the bathroom and he’d left a big present exactly where he should have.

And he discovered where I left the Ziploc bag of catnip and proceeded to attack it, trying to get it open.  But not after jumping in the garbage can, which was where I mistakenly put the wrapper that held aforementioned catnip before putting it in the Ziploc.

I’ve since put the catnip in a sealable container and far away in my office.  It looked like someone had stashed a bag of weed in my bathroom drawer so that is probably a good thing.

Almost midnight and looks like no more bathroom trips for Miko before I hit the hay.  I’m pretty sure there will be a surprise waiting for me in the morning, though.

Day 5

Woke up to a big pee this morning. Not too much litter on the floor either.

Another big pee just before 1.

No other activity for the rest of the day.

Day 6

Well, there was a nice big poop waiting for me this morning (where it should be) and a surprise on the couch.  The cat threw up all over Ron’s side.  So I think he was saying he still loves me best (not puking on my side), but that he’s not above barfing any place he likes.  Mental note:  teach cat to puke in toilet.  Anyway, it looked pretty gritty so I think it was due to me putting catnip in Miko’s litter.  He goes so crazy for it, I guess he was chewing down on litter, too.  So that’s bad.  Pretty glad we got leather couches and not suede.

So, no more cat pot, I guess.  He’ll just have to make do with plenty of praise from me.  Which he got.

As I was cleaning up, he hopped up on the sink and watches me and, again, the new litter isn’t down more than a minute before he’s on there going pee.  So I think he holds it while waiting for a fresh bit.  There’s probably not enough litter in his mind to do a second run.  It is an adjustment, I’ll admit.

And I’m real glad I’m home to pay attention to what he’s doing and clean up quickly afterward to keep it as pleasant as possible for him.

I remove one of the inserts on Sunday so it will be interesting to see how he handles it.

Day 7

Woke up to a big pee.

Cleaned his tray and had a back-to-back pee/poo presents.

He did a jump from the sink counter to the toilet tray, which was interesting.  Won’t be doing that in a few weeks unless he’s looking for a bath.

But so far this week no accidents so looks good for the next phase tomorrow.

Tomorrow we open up the first hole and see how that goes.  (Nail biter!)

I can’t imagine he will go again today, but he may later on tonight.

Day 8

Present waiting as usual.  Go, Miko!  So I cleaned up and as we were getting ready for church, I cut out the first insert and hope and prayed Miko would use the toilet before we had to leave so I could monitor and praise as needed.

He checked it out and spent a good five minutes peering into the hole.  I’m like, “Great job, sweetie, it’s a hole now pee in it!”  Before I stressed him and myself out I patted him several times, cooed at him, then left.  And sat in the living room with one ear trained on the bathroom.  Since all other doors were closed, when he wandered that way again I was on high alert.

Down to the WIRE!

I hear the familiar moving of litter for, like, ever.  Finally, he comes out and gives a quick meow.  I don’t know if that means, “Look at what I did!!” Or “Look at what you are making me do!”

I went in and saw most of the litter was gone.  I’m all, “Uh-oh…” I had read about a cat that just kicked all the litter into the toilet and just didn’t go.  Not exactly conducive to successful potty training.  So I started to refill it and, as an afterthought, put my hand in the litter and sure enough a small clump.  He’d peed!  Most of it must have gone into the hole (my boy has some aim on him!), but there was a bit.  I was so proud!  (Okay, I get that it’s kind of gross to put my hand on top of the used litter, but how else was I to know?  I washed ’em.)

No poops yet so we will see how that goes.

Near midnight and only the one trip to the bathroom that I mentioned earlier.

Day 9

Woke up to poops and a pee in Miko’s litter.  He’d pawed his litter enough that just the poop was sitting there right on top, but nothing was on the floor.  Go, Miko!  I was so proud.  If I could high-paw him, I would.  Maybe I’ll teach him that next.

Again, he went pee shortly after I changed his litter.

Day 10

Oops.  I slept in.  Nate had flushed the toilet so I don’t know if Miko had wicked good aim or just didn’t poop.

I did clean up when I got up and heard him meowing in the bathroom, but I couldn’t tell if he’d gone potty or just kicked his litter through the hole, freaked out, and gave up.

I guess time will tell on that.  Got my eyes peeled.

Okay he went.

Big pee and most through the hole.  A little later he went poop with me right there and all but one poop made it through the hole.  He was a bit put off by the sound of poops going to the water, but it didn’t deter him and he didn’t freak out by the sound.  Nothing like a hysterical cat running through the house, terrified, pooping along the way!

Wheeeeeeww.

Day 11

Bit more stress today as there was a lot of meowing around the toilet again.  Not stricken, but more help or unsure.

He managed to poop again, but I made the mistake of being there with him again and I don’t want this to be about me holding his paw every time he needs to go.

It really is hard to see if he went or not between the good aim and the pawing litter into the hole.  I suppose that is preferable to actually seeing excrement or urine on the white floor.

Day 12

When I got back from my meeting, Miko had pooped and peed all by himself without me.  So, yay!   No stress there.

In just a few days we go to the next size.

Day 13

Cleaned up this morning knowing he went pee, but again either his aim is stellar or he’s holding it in.

Cleaned up again later.

Caught him on the toilet as I walked by and stood there peering into the bathroom darkness.  I wasn’t sure if it was a cat shape sitting on the toilet.  When he hopped down I realized my mistake.  Probably thought I was a stalker.  He ended up not going.  Argh.  My bad.

His litter is clean so we will see what I wake up to.  Hopefully not a paw at my throat warning me never to watch him during his private moments ever again.

Day 14

Another successful day.  Miko is a champ.  He’s like the Rocky of CitiKitty.  Apparently Nate discovered poops and pee in the toilet this morning.

Actually, there was very little running outside to wash his tray today.  I just had to replenish litter.

He did a pee, I cleaned, then he hopped up and pooped right in front of me.  I’m like, “I thought I’d traumatized you.  I see now you enjoy an audience.”  Then Miko watched in fascination as the toilet flushed it all away.  Like pretty water magic that he wanted to drink.  Ew.

Not antsy or jumpy about the flushing at all.  He’s doing great, too.

Day 15

Worked like a charm today.  Only one trip outside to wash the tray with the hose.  I think the neighbors are beginning to wonder about me.

Day 16

Woke to shuffled litter so I assume Miko went.  I cleaned his tray and refreshed the litter, and he went pee almost immediately.

Day 17

He’s got this.

Day 18

A few repetitive quiet meows then he did his thing on the toilet.  I heard the plop, plop, plop.  I think he prefers me watching.  Great.  I broke my cat.

Days 19 – 27

Obviously more of the same or I would have written a small novel about it.  My cat is freaking brilliant!  And his bowel movements are super regular, too!

Day 28

Today is the first day on the last rung without cat litter.  I swept, cleaned the toilet, washed the insert.  So we will see how it goes.

The other day Miko was kind of needy and whiny.  I may have created an attention-seeking monster with all the high praise I give him after he goes.  He also seems to prefer that the toilet is flushed immediately after his first trip to the toilet for a pee so that it’s nice and clean for his poop.

No accidents!!  Success!!

Day 35

No insert, nothing.  Nothing but a toilet seat and my cat.  He’s meowy, but no problems. PHEWWWW!!

Training Complete

That’s all she wrote, folks.  It’s been barely a week and I’ve already acclimated to never ever ever scooping a poop again.

Number of times I said “poop”:  23

Boring Information That’s Actually Important

  1. Airplane safety procedures.  Do you know how to inflate that life preserver if the plane plummets into the freezing Pacific Ocean?
  2. The “do not top off” gas pump warning.  Other than the fact that someone can probably turn your car into a bonfire from the trail of gas trickling down the concrete, you not only just wasted several cents, but you’re gonna have to wipe the gas off the side of your car unless you relish damaging that expensive paint job.
  3. Wearing safety goggles.  It’s probably best to say adios to looking cool and hola to keeping your eyes in your sockets where they belong.
  4. Metal objects in electrical sockets.  Because you will, in fact, get a shock.  Sure, the sound is kind of fun, but the scare is not worth it.
  5. Letting steam out of the popcorn bag slowly.  It’s amazing how much hot compressed air really does burn like a freaking furnace to the face.
  6. Touching hot pans.  Remember when Mom used to nag nag nag about not touching the pan on the heated element?  And then, years later, as an adult – you did?  Call your mom.  Right now.  And say you’re sorry.
  7. Utilizing the toilet waste receptacles.  My gosh, please.  I get that you’re done, but I haven’t started yet and there’s a big piece of hospital bed paper sitting halfway inside the toilet and your bum has been on it and I really don’t want to touch it.  Oh, and for the love of Pete, it’s not like they need a sign to say this, but please flush.  Is it really so technical?  I hope you washed your hands!  Don’t even get me started on flow days…
  8. Reading IKEA instructions.  This is mandatory.  Unless you like sitting in your living-room with a small army of L-screws, bolts, wing nuts, square nuts, carriage bolts, hex bolts (now I don’t even know what I’m saying) and thread cutting machine screws with plenty of time to rip your own hair out.
  9. Mixing colors and whites in the wash.  However, if – like me – you do it enough times, someone else will eventually take over the laundry because he doesn’t appreciate pink boxer shorts.
  10. Microwave heating instructions.  Because if it can cook a cat, it can burn your meal.
  11. Washing labels.  Cashmere sweater + hot water + dryer = Barbie sweater.
  12. Signs about not feeding the animals.  You’re just giving them an entitlement complex.  It’s bad enough in America, must we inflict this kind of self-indulgent laziness on the animal kingdom, too?  Plus, as an added bonus, you might get your hand chomped off.
  13. Test instructions.  They really do throw in a curve-ball when they tell you any answer letter but “C”.  Alternatively, using pencil or a specific color of pen and getting 0/100 because the scanner couldn’t read your ink.
  14. Hazardous Materials warnings.  Well, if you’re wondering why your fingers are melting off, you might want to go back and check the label a little more thoroughly this time.
  15. Danger warnings.  Really?  If my parachute’s not totally secure and double checked, it’s possible I might actually die if I hit the ground at 90 miles per hour?  Well, that’s good to know.  How else can this little adventure go wrong?
  16. Reading ingredient labels.  It only takes one peanut allergy and a frantic drive to the ER for anaphylactic shock to encourage you to check those food labels.
  17. Movie theater etiquette clips.  I get it.  They’re not funny.  They try, but they’re not.  Now, you may not care that you’re not supposed to be texting, talking, laughing, encouraging your infant to scream during an R-Rated horror movie, or toss your popcorn around, but it’s a safe bet that someone nearby will inform you…with extreme physical prejudice…if you cheese them off badly enough.  If there was a public movie-theater shaming system, I’d contribute to it gladly.  And anonymously.
  18. “By appointment only” signs.  You only need to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous time sinks to make a mental note and do your homework next time.
  19. Higher education deadlines.  They really do not care if you miss them.  At all.  Really.  They’ll happily take your money and give you the F, not enroll you in the class, and/or not let you graduate.  Plus, you’re in college now.  Srsly?
  20. Instructions on ANY government form.  Because they also don’t care if you didn’t fill it out correctly.  They don’t even have to answer the phone so you’ll probably end up screaming at a recorded message.
  21. One size does NOT fit all.  Sorry, the label just lied to you.  They can say it in a million different ways and for a million different items, but it is NOT TRUE.
  22. Warning signs about walking on ice-covered lakes.  We’ve all seen the movies where people fall through the ice, get trapped underneath, and can only stare helplessly at the sky through the thick layer of frozen water as they panic and drown.  If that isn’t the freakiest way to die dumbly, I don’t know what is.  (Actually, if you give me a few minutes, I can probably come up with a few things.)
  23. Q-Tips in your ears.  Actually, I don’t know why not.  My friend’s mom in elementary school used bobby pins in her daughter’s ears to get out the wax.  This seems far kinder.  And I wouldn’t want to put my elbow in my ear, even if I could.
  24. Mixing bleach and toilet bowl cleaner warnings.   While the fecal stains may be make their way off your toilet bowl, your dead body on the side of the toilet probably isn’t worth it.  Combining the two produces a deadly chlorine gas.  Maybe it would be better to clean the toilet bowl a little more regularly.  Or poop at a friend’s house.
  25. This Side Up.  From fax to photocopies, nothing screams newb like receiving a blank document.  Especially if it’s a hundred pages and you went off to get a coffee.
  26. Expiration dates.  Unless you’re a fan of plenty of diseases, it’s probably a good idea to pay attention to these.  They’re not “best before” dates, but expiration dates.  As in “expire”.  As in “don’t eat it unless you’re desperate” and even then, have that clean toilet bowl ready.
  27. Flight Times and Gate Numbers.  There’s nothing more fun than running, last-minute, for a flight and discovering it left an hour ago, the gate changed to the other side of the airport, or the flight was yesterday.
  28. Pop-Up Messages.  Your computer is probably trying to tell you something.  Like, for instance, “do you want to delete all files and erase the hard drive?” is probably something worth reading before you mindlessly click that “OK” button.
  29. Staring at the sun.  Because you could, like, go blind or something.  Then you can’t stare at it anymore what with those damaged retinas.
  30. Backing over traffic spikes.  Sure, there’s that teeny tiny part of you that is exhilarated while you drive forward over these things, but imagine the ridiculous amount of tire damage you’d cause if you backed over them.  Maybe the pop! sound would be worth it.  For half a nanosecond.  Then you’d just feel dumb.

Excuses – But Better

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Do you ever have something come up and someone asks you about it and your reason (or excuse) is so dumb you wish you could offer a less lame way to explain it? Well, fret no more, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve done all the heavy lifting for you.

Acute Apathy Disorder

“I just didn’t feel like it.”

Apparel Misappropriation

“My sister swiped the shirt I was going to wear.”

Apparel Sanitation Deficiency

“I have no clean clothes.”

Benign Positional Stasis

“I’m grounded.”

Conflicting EleGrav Forces

“I fell.”

Domestic Fracture

“I broke up with my girlfriend/boyfriend.”

Emotional Attachment Failure

“I just didn’t care.”

Extended Photinus Pyralis Media Intake

“I stayed home to watch the entire Firefly series instead.”

False Depth Perception Calculation

“I walked/fell into a [insert object].”

Feline Agitation Miscalculation

“My cat scratched me.”

Financial Resource Allotment Deficiency

“I didn’t bring enough money.”

Global Communication Blackout

“My internet went down.”

Ocular Media Alternative

“I read a book instead.”

Olfactory Pheromone Resistance

“I don’t like the way he/she smells.”

Pet Product Extraction

“The cat/dog threw up.”

Social Incongruence

“I don’t like him/her.”

Vehicular Fuel Intake Adjustment

“I had to get gas.”

Waste Transit Redirect

“I had to take out the garbage.”

Monkee Money

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You may or may not know this about me, but I had a major one-sided love affair with The Monkees from the time they started playing the series reruns back in the 1970s.

In fact, by the time I was in grade 7, I had a full-on crush on Davy Jones. So much so that I wrote a story about meeting him at a concert and him falling madly in love with me. (Ignoring several key facts such as: I was only 12, he was over 25 years older than me, he lived in another country, I had zits and homework, and so on…).

I had a picture of Davy Jones dutifully taped to my locker in grade 12, I bought every Rhino album I could find on audio cassette in the late 80s, and even picked up a few books on them. I was a fan without the -atic.

I still am.

When Davy Jones passed away not too long ago, my mom found out first and contacted me right away to see if I was okay. I hadn’t realized that I was that transparent! So it got me thinking about them again, and Davy, too. I know that I have that story on a ruled notebook somewhere!

Suddenly, I’m on a hunt for the TV series and I’m buying both seasons on DVD from Amazon, tracking down the remaining Monkees on Twitter, and lurking (I mean “surfing”) their websites.

I can only imagine what it must be like to be so strongly and globally identified with a project that lasted perhaps three years (for the series, not the tours) decades ago.

Watching the show now, pre-MTV!, with the gags and the music brings me right back to those reruns after school, flopped out on my living room floor with my chin in my hands, glued to the television, thinking them all so clever and funny (and probably not understanding half of the real jokes).

So I picked up yet another book and, with it, came these cool Monkees coins. I have what I like to call my treasure chest (in actuality, it’s a Fallout 3 metal lunch box) that I put my Super Top Secret Special ™ stuff in. These coins made a spot in the vault.

10 Things You Don’t Say To Your Mate When Arguing

I’ve had plenty of arguments over the years.  Some of these I’ve used.  Some I haven’t.  Usually, however, if I did, the fight got worse.  Sure, I may have felt temporary pleasure over that “zinger”, but did it really serve me over the long run of the argument?  Not really.  Amazing, isn’t it?  The people we care about most in the world are the ones we let loose the rampaging rabid dogs of war the quickest.

Top 10 Things Not to Say:

  1. “Whatever.  I’m done.”
  2. “You obviously don’t understand.”
  3. “If you loved me, you’d know…”
  4. “I don’t care.”
  5. “It’s not my fault if…”
  6. “You always…”
  7. “I hate you.”
  8. “I never wanted…”
  9. “You’re such a…”
  10. “Shut up.”

It’s pretty clear why these don’t work, but – for the uninitiated – things like sentences that start with “You always…” are impossible to defend against.  Because they’re not true.  Obviously no one always does something.  If that were the case, they’d be doing it all day long, 365 days a year.  About the only thing you can accuse someone of always doing is breathing.

This gem is reserved for spouses and boyfriends.  The “If you loved me you’d know…” comment presumes mind-reading.  And if there’s one thing a man is not equipped to do when it comes to women, it’s reading her mind.  Believe it or not, ladies, we don’t think alike!  You know how you go out with your girlfriends and you finish each other’s sentences, and there’s all that, “I know, right??” that goes on?  It’s because we think alike.  We see things in relatively the same way.  We are built emotionally in-sync.

Men, however, are not built like us.  This is why when we whine and complain they want to “fix it” and we get irritated.  Our girlfriends don’t tell us what to do, they just listen, commiserate, and offer up another bowl of Ben and Jerry’s.  We’re hardwired differently.  Maybe some guys really want to “talk it out” and get all deep in the emotions and really gab, for hours and hours, about what’s bothering them, but most guys just want to say what’s on their mind, fix it, and move on.

Guys want us to respect them.  Love is easy for us.  Respect is hard.  Respecting a man means not embarrassing/criticizing him in front of his friends or family, not making him feel “less”, not attacking him for something he didn’t know he did, not assuming you know what he is thinking or feeling (lack of mind-reading goes both ways), not presuming his intentions, not talking to him like you’d talk to your girlfriends – he doesn’t think like they do.

Women like to marinate.  Men like to flash fry.

Here is something we should remember:  Productive arguments have conclusions, not concussions.

Top Ten Things To Say:  (and mean)

  1. “I’m sorry.”
  2. “Let me just see if I understand you right…”
  3. “I admit that I…”
  4. “Thank you.”
  5. “Do you forgive me?”
  6. “Can we take a minute?  I’m getting upset and I want to figure out why.”
  7. “I’ll be quiet and listen so you can make your point uninterrupted.”
  8. “I love you.”
  9. “I didn’t realize I’d done that.  What I’d meant was…”
  10. “I forgive you.”

Oh, words.  They’re so easy and cheap.  That’s why I put the “(and mean)” in there.   When we were younger, my sister would smack me and immediately say, “Sorry.”  Then she’d smack me again.  Again, another “Sorry.”   The word is meaningless if you don’t follow up on it with action and that usually means not doing the same thing you were sorry for over and over again.

As a woman, my particular brand of live ammunition is – you guessed it – words.  I can mire myself down so deep in the details of what my husband has said that, by the end, I’ve utterly tied him up in knots.  I’ve “wordsmithed” him into feeling frustrated and helpless.  That’s like having a debate with someone and having them throw in ridiculous curve-balls like “define logical”.

So as you gear up for that next round, consider this:

  1. Would you say that to your grandmother?
  2. How would you feel if the other person said that to you?
  3. Do you really mean that?
  4. Is this the most important person in your world?  Why are you treating them less than you would a co-worker, girlfriend, Starbucks employee?
  5. What is your goal in this argument?  Winning?  Understanding?  Compromise?
  6. Words are permanent.  People remember things long after the “I’m sorrys” have been said.
  7. Accepting responsibility and asking for forgiveness is strength, not weakness.
  8. Admitting mistakes is difficult, necessary, and builds wisdom.
  9. Love may conquer all, but it is not just a verb, it’s an action, too.
  10. Conflict is inevitable.  Choosing our response to it is 100% all us.

Ideally, the best thing to do is to recognize that you’re getting miffed, define it (what is really agitating you about what that person said or did?), own it, and articulate it.  If you can sort things out before the yelling starts, then you just saved yourself some grief.

I know, words are easy.