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Jury Duty Duty

Juror 4067

Juror 4067

I prayed for more snow and school closures. Dismayed there were only 2 inches of snow at 11 p.m., I reluctantly set my alarm for 6-ish a.m., knowing I’d snooze it after tuning in to WBAL radio to learn if the City Courts would be closed. My first Jury Duty in Maryland loomed ahead in the morning—a morning after Baltimore suffered an attack of snow.

Handicapped Ramp looking north, uphill, to St. Paul Street

Handicapped Ramp looking north, uphill, to St. Paul Street

Baltimore does not react well to snow. Whether it’s due to being full of Southerners who become panicky at the first flake of the white stuff, or the fact that people are used to driving recklessly (i.e. ”normally”) and get frustrated because icy conditions force them to think twice about passing a right-turning vehicle on the right for a change, driving here after a storm can be fraught with danger and obstacles. Although I thought I’d built in enough travel time to arrive at the Courthouse—after finding the parking garage—by the 8 a.m. call time, I did not factor in how impossibly choked the beautifully plowed I-83 would be at that hour.

Woe, how naïve l am. I’m glad I had a thermos of strong coffee in the car.

“Accessible Entrance on Fayette Street” sign

Jury Duty was still ahead of me and I was worn out from the trip! Less than 10 miles from town, it took me the better part of an hour to get to the parking garage. Waze failed finding an alternate route; actually my phone is on its last leg (phone fail imminent!) and kept shutting down mid-calculation. Fortunately I’d looked at the original directions before leaving home so I wasn’t entirely lost. That is, I wasn’t lost until I started heading toward the Courthouse. I pulled up a map, and intrepidly started the trek … only to find myself four blocks northwest of my destination and panicky because it was 8:35. LATE! will I be fined? Jailed? Told to come back another day?

And then the phone battery died. Again. Time for a new phone, for sure.

Drizzle dappled my non-compliant phone screen. Happily a woman told me which way to walk as her son had been on jury duty last week.

Limping due to a sciatica flare up, I found the building and the Fayette Street entrance with a ramp (which the Jury Summons instructed to use; the building’s address is on Calvert Street). The clerk told me to go out, walk up the block and around the corner, to the St. Paul Street entrance.

St. Paul Street Courthouse Entrance

St. Paul Street Courthouse Entrance

A statue of Cecilius Calvert, Baron Baltimore, etc. (see link for entire title), graces the St. Paul Street entranceway. So does a familiar blue Handicapped Entrance sign—at the bottom of a dozen-or-so steps—directing one to the first entrance I’d tried! I pulled myself up the first flight using the cold, wet handrail. My coat’s belt set off the metal detector, but luckily the sandwiches in my bag passed. I muddled anyway to the jury assembly room at 8:50. I had arrived!

The Jury Summons had assigned me Reporting Number 4067. Happily, by the time I entered, 4000 through 4100 had been invited to line up, check in, and get paid. $15 will cover the parking and the $1.50 diet Pepsi I bought from the machine in the Jury Assembly “Quiet Room.” With a bad case of “dead phone-itis,” I whipped out my extra-long phone card and charger I’d thoughtfully packed, found a plug, and settled down. Hmmm, no wi-fi. Sigh. Now that my “duty” had been done, I was ready for Jury Duty.

Or was I, I wondered?

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Cacophony

Just viewing the photo makes my ears ring! The cacophony of car horns, traffic, and the swirl of people on an average day in midtown Manhattan makes me woozy. It’s too much: too much noise, too many people, too much aggression, everyone vying for their place.

NYC at Noon

NYC at Noon. © JustHavingFun

When I lived in New York City I learned to walk with arms akimbo, elbows out, so I could have my own space on the sidewalk and not be run over by some mindless drone looking at his cell phone screen while zooming down the street.

The endless jockeying and competition, the noise pressure, and the thump thump heartbeat of the City are a siren song for some but alas, not for me. When crossing the street became an art form as skilled as ballet, when maintaining my four-square feet of personal space became an obsession, when the subway became my greatest source of entertainment, I knew I had succumbed. I was indeed a New Yorker.

Ya gotta love it! Or hate it! But nobody can stay neutral about it: New York. Everywhere you look something new pops out. One day you may see performers, the next day pigeons, then the glitz of Broadway and Times Square, and the next day homeless people, but something always catches the eye.

But oh, the sounds! The noise. The cacophony of car horns and trucks backing up, scratching against the strains of street performers and buskers. The subway cars that sound like the opening strains of “Somewhere” from West Side Story: There’s a place for us…. Yes, there’s a place for us going uptown.

I took my fingers out of my ears and held up the decibel meter when the train approached the platform. It routinely topped 85 dB. “Mom, you look silly,” my children decried. “Nobody does that.” “I do,” I countered. My hearing and tinnitus thank me for blocking some of the extraneous sound.

Nowadays, out of the New York zone, I swallow fewer headache remedies, don’t need earplugs except when running my blender, and my ears are buffeted by the sound of rain drops hitting the pavement on my porch…

…and fire engine and police sirens of the uneasy urban soundscape which comprises Baltimore’s night.

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