Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ms Drill Instructor

There I sat in this corral of lambs for the slaughter. The line was still encircling the room like a giant python about to constrict us foolish sheep engulfed by it. It writhed slowly about the outer edges of the room, some never-ending body with no head and no tail.

I had chosen a seat at the very rear corner of this captive audience. It had been relatively easy to get to and I was not entrapped in the middle of a row where people would be crawling over me to come and go nor would I be climbing over them. It didn't take me long to realize this was a mistake.

It was getting rather warm in the room, so there was a small advantage being on the outer fringe. I had a teeny pocket of space rather than total engulfment by bodies all giving off heat, but it wasn't much comfort. It was still hot and I was beginning to sweat. Where was the air conditioning?

My real difficulty was hearing.

A woman's voice suddenly came out of somewhere to the front right of the room, the furtherest point from where I sat, and was saying something to we of the mob. I strained forward to hear. Now I know when I came in there was a podium with a microphone attached front and center , but for some reason she chose to stand to the far side of it and speak without amplification.  She was reading a list of names. Here and about the room someone would get up and go forward toward her direction. I couldn't see her because of the continuing line snaking through between her and I. I could barely hear her because as soon as she began calling her list odd cliques in the line just behind me began chatting about the minutia of their daily life in raised, giggling voices. Also at that moment I found the air condition as it suddenly snapped to life above my head with a constant hiss.

And so it went. The line limped along and a distant voice called forth bodies and I leaned further and further over listening for my own name. 

And then, finally, the line ended, its tail wiggled by and around and everyone coming had come. Every seat was filled and bodies stood or sat against the walls all about, with some small globs standing in the middle of the center aisle and another cluster of souls grouped near the entryway. Perhaps with the movement of feet done or just having grown use to this environment, I could hear the woman better. She was not calling names at that moment, she was saying she saw women standing and gentlemen should give their seat to the ladies.

Hey, what happened to the demand for equal treatment between the sexes? I though women had fought hard for the right to stand uncomfortably in a crowded room? Should they be forced to give up what they earned now for the sake of a seat?

Actually, because I'm an old guy from a different time when gentlemen did do such things for the fairer sex, I had just been about to give my seat to a woman standing by the wall opposite me. For one thing, I stand all day on my job so felt I am used to being on my feet for long periods, but with that announcement I was caught between gallantry and shame. Getting up now wouldn't appear a polite gesture, it would simply look like I was goaded into it. Maybe that is how all the men felt. Perhaps they had all been on the verge of sacrificing their hard plastic chair to some dainty lady along the wall and now they felt chided and reluctant. I saw no movement among the seated to change positions.

But I did. I left my chair and walked down along the left wall and squeezed in between a surly looking young man and a young woman seated on the floor.

I admit it wasn't all altruism. From this vantage point I could see the speaker and more importantly, hear her better.

 As I stood there I noticed the pretty young woman at my feet wore a very low cut top, one very revealing from my height above. Obviously I must be a sex pervert for it took me no time at all to notice this. Oh come on, I may be an old man, but I'm not a dead one.

The distant woman, who was obviously our caretaker for the day,  continued to call names. I saw those who came forth go to her one by one. She handed them a sheet of paper, whispered something in their ear and each then went to a table where a pail of pencils sat. They wrote something on the paper and brought it back to the woman, then returned to their seat. Rats, I though she was calling people to go to courtrooms. No one was going anywhere. The crowd was becoming a bit overbearing as time passed. I was waiting for my name so I could find out what this ritual was about, but before I was called she shifted gears.

And now finally, she moved to the podium with the microphone. Apparently she could not get to this microphone earlier because of that python snaking around the room. Now what she said was loud and clear.  She ordered everyone to listen up as free parking was about to be awarded.

"Take out your parking stub," she said, "and hold it up."

"Its like the lottery, isn't it?" I said to the surly looking guy. He just nodded, but surlily and gazed disdainfully at his parking stub. I, of course, had no stub.

"Look at the number below the name of the lot," the woman said. "If you see a number 43 below that name, then you have free parking. When you are dismissed for the day you will go to the garage. You will find your car. You will then start your car and you will drive to the gate. You will put your stub in the slot and the gate will rise, and you will go home."

My Surly did not have a 43 on his stub.

"If you do not have a 43 on your stub," said the woman, "look below the name of the lot. If you have a 44, you have reduced parking. When you are dismissed for the day you will go to the garage. You will go to the walkup pay window and you will pay $7.00. You will now have ten minutes to find your car and get to the gate. If you do not get to the gate in ten minutes, the reduced rate will go up to the regular fee and you will pay $10.00.

"Therefore, people, I suggest you find your car before you go to the walkup pay window."

She then called roll for those in jury type Capital Murder.

Ouch! Capital Murder, don't want on that jury, oh, no, no, that isn't going to be over in a day for sure. She called out the names and each person was to answer if they were present. We got some "here"s, some "yes"s and an occasional "present". Then we got someone who corrected the pronunciation of their name. 


The woman in charge looked at this person. "Folks," she said, "I am going to mispronounce some of your last names. I am going to mispronounce some of your first names. This list is in alphabetical order. You should know about where you will be. If I call something near close to your name, just answer here."

I liked this woman. She had a sense of humor, she made us laugh sometimes, she made the day bearable, but she had the look of a former drill sergeant. I remember when my daughter got through Basic training and came home. She told us the first thing she learned was when the DI said something you don't roll your eyes. She had and the next thing she knew she was doing pushups in a mud puddle with a fifty pound pack on her back. This woman calling roll looked like if she said, "Get down and give me twenty" you would get down and give her twenty and throw in an extra five just to be on the safe side.

She must have called over a hundred names before she asked, "Anyone here jury type Capital Murder whose name I did not call."

A man in the back raised his hand.

"What's your name?"

He gave it.

"You jury type Capital Murder?"

"I don't know," he says, "what's a jury type."

"Okay people. Pull out your summons. Look in the upper right hand corner. You will see the words 'Jury Type'. Sir, do you see the words Jury Type?"


"Do the words, 'Capital Murder' appear next to jury Type?"


"Then that is why I did not call your name, sir."

As I stood there, still waiting to hear my own name called for something, for anything, a young white man walked by a couple times.  He wore a Phillies T-shirt, satiny white basketball style shorts with a red stripe down the side and a Phillies baseball cap turned backward upon his head. Blast, I guess I could have worn my plain black hat, right way around, after all. And to think I was worried about courtroom decorum!

Someone in a uniform came in and handed our Drill Instructor lady a paper.

"Quite down out there, people," she said. "I'm going to get some of your out of here. I call your name you come up and form a line at the door. Your bailiff is Jeffrey. He will instruct you as to where to do. The paper you are handed, do not read it, it will only confuse you."

She now read off a batch of names and people filed out the entryway.  She turned and looked at them.

"What I tell you? I told you, do not read it, it will only confuse you. See now, you're reading it and now you are confused." She turned back to the rest of us. "When I tell you to do something, do it. I'm trying to help you people up here. Listen to me. I tell you, 'Don't read it'; then don't read it! It will only confuse you."

She called another batch, who marched out, then another and another. These were the prospective jurors for the capital murder case. There must have been well over a hundred of them. Yeah, that trial isn't going to be over in a day or two. It'll probably take them two weeks to impanel a jury.

Of all the people there this day, I only heard one familiar name, William S. It wasn't a common last name like Smith. It was a fairly uncommon one, so I wonder is it was the Bill S. I once worked for 13 years ago. He was called in one of these batches and sure enough as he walked down the aisle I could see it was him, looking 13 years older (as if I didn't). Poor fellow, he was on the capital murder list.

Once the capital murder unfortunates had left the room, she called everyone from the four corners of this world who were left into the main room. Those back in the little vending machine cafe adjoining the room were ordered forth. We were all told to find a seat and sit. Now she said she was going to call the petit jury type roll call.

Some guy in the back raised his hand.


"What's petit mean," he asked?

She raised an eyebrow and answered, "Small."

I am meanwhile trying to determine the time on the watch of a man across from me. I could not quite get the angle of the hands. It looked to be perhaps a bit before 10:00 or a bit after 10:00 or it could have been about 11:00.

She was calling roll. Again the "yeses", "heres" and "presents" until she came to a man seated to the front of me. She called his name.

"Shake 'n' bake," he answered.

She sternly repeated his name.

"Here, " he humbly replied.

When she called my name I gave a stout "here" in return.

Darn, I wish I could figure out the guy's watch. How long have we been here and then I heard my name called again.  She was back to calling little groups to her. I was going to find out what the mysterious paper was. I went forward and was handed the questionnaire I had filled out and sent back right after I received my summons. Two areas were highlighted in green. She whispered in my ear I must fill these space in. One was for my work number, which I had left blank because at the time I had no idea what my work number was. The other was Race. I had deliberately left that blank on principle. (It is too long to explain my stand on race here, that will take some future post.)

I went and filled in the spaces, hoping the number on the little folded yellow Post-it I fumbled from my wallet really was my work number, and returned it to her. I wasn't about to argue my theory on race with the sergeant. I had no intention of doing pushups in a mud puddle. I handed in my completed form and returned to my seat.

When, I wondered, will we ever be called to a jury if at all?

If not at all, when would we be dismissed?

And what was the time on that guy's watch?

The answers lay ahead.

1 comment:

Ron Tipton said...


Another masterpiece! When you're done with your jury experience (if ever and there is some question about that as I read your post), you'll have to put your experience in a book.

Don't you just love they way they herd everyone around like cattle? I was only called to a jury once back in the 80's. I had a similar experience. The only saving grace was everyone was treated the same way, like cattle (or sheep in your case.)

About at years later I got a notice for jury duty but I didn't have to show up at court, only call on the phone for two days, which is a much better way of doing it.

I have a feeling that eventually Delaware will get around to calling me for jury duty. I'll never be put on a jury though, of that I'm convinced. They don't put smart people on juries, or at least people who look like they can think for themselves.

So why won't you put your race down on a form? Just being different? It better be a good reason.