I wouldn't call myself a religious fanatic, but I do have my beliefs. Contrary to popular opinion around the office, I don't see myself "going to hell in a handbasket" just 'cause I "request" that everyone adhere to deadlines. But, I will be the first to offer up at least one irrefutable fact: That the good Lord, the "Big Street Rodder" in the sky, does have a sense of humor.
I am sitting here writing this month's editorial as I "cool" my heels in the Superior Court of California, County of Orange, Central Justice Center. No, I am not in jail (so he says, Man. Ed. DB)...it's just my turn for jury duty. Apparently, the fact that I'm the editor of STREET RODDER, and have to meet deadlines, doesn't mean a whole lot to the Superior Court of the State of California. What's considered a hardship to me isn't exactly considered a hardship by the court--too bad. It turns out, if you are a student or a teacher you can have your jury service rescheduled for the next school break, which is very thoughtful, but apparently magazine deadlines don't fall into the same category. I thought about skipping out on jury duty but the $1,000 fine and five days in jail showed me the potential error of my thought process. (Could you see me in jail with Big Ernie?) Besides, I really should be giving back to the community I live in, no matter how much I wish they had called on someone else.
So far it hasn't been all bad. The parking is actually pretty good, in fact, good enough that I can drive my lakes modified since the structure is both covered and in a secure area. (Well, as secure as anything in a state that claims its four seasons are fire, flood, riot, and earthquake.) I am located on the third floor, which isn't that high, but I am more worried about the seven floors above me should this trial leave the fire season and continue into earthquake time. The only real car-cruising drawback to the courthouse is its location. Downtown Santa Ana isn't really a fun place to be driving a roadster in the middle of August.
I do get paid and it's a surprisingly good sum compared to my present salary that I receive for working on STREET RODDER. According to the State of California I am entitled to $15 a day plus 34 cents a mile. Of course, that is only one-way and starts with the second day of service. I guess they figure the effort I put forth on the first day of jury duty wasn't worth their effort to get me there. (Geez, even the federal government allows me 36 cents per mile.) Oh well, at least SRM has agreed to pay my salary. But there is a catch. In fact, while work is all in favor of me performing my civic duty, they are equally in favor of me meeting my deadlines. In other words, I can spend my days on jury duty as long as I spend my nights at the magazine meeting deadlines. Sometimes it's tough walking that fine line between civic and financial obligations.
The working conditions at STREET RODDER and the Superior Court are surprisingly similar. Neither places have any windows, the rooms are dark, and one is not allowed to appear in short pants, tank tops, or bare feet. But the air conditioning is second to none. I freeze at work and apparently I am going to freeze in the courthouse as well. At least SRM has casual Friday that allows us to take certain liberties with the corporate dress code. I usually opt for summertime shorts and whatever manufacturer's t-shirt is clean. Not this time, it's business attire for the courthouse--somebody shoot me please. I have also been warned that airport-style screening is in affect. "All items including knives, guns, chemical sprays, scissors, knitting needles, eating utensils, or any item(s) deemed dangerous by the Sheriff's Department will be confiscated." Well, I have done enough traveling this past summer to have learned that ritual.
Interestingly, the court provides a limited number of carrels. (Don't feel bad, I had to look that one up myself.) Turns out it's a small private cubical typically found in a library for attending to ones own work. Just goes to show you that I may not have spent enough time in the library while in college. The courthouse carrels have power outlets for computers and telephone hookups as well as worktables. That's good, but apparently I am only one of hundreds called for jury duty this day and a laptop computer isn't as novel an item as I may have thought!
Okay, the time has come. Apparently the way it works after you find yourself sitting in what appears to be a veal-feeding pen for upwards of a full day someone comes in and calls out names. If your name is called you go to the next step where the trial that you may hear is explained. Then comes the questioning. Apparently there is a chance I will be hearing a case regarding stolen cars, can you believe that! I wonder if I will make it past the questioning segment. I can see the lawyer now...asking me about car thieves. He will be especially fond of my interpretation of the death penalty. In the future I will let you know how this turns out. Or, maybe you will have already seen this on the evening news.