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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Exhausted For a Reason

On Tuesday I said I'd explain why I was so exhausted during jury duty on today's blog. And if you've been reading my blogs for a while, you know there's a story.

When I was house hunting after moving to Georgia, I picked a house on one of the steepest hills in my subdivision. It's not fair to say I didn't think about it because I did, but I thought about it like a Minnesotan. Basically, I thought: That hill in winter? Oh, wait, this is Georgia, they don't get snow down here like we do at home. This will be fine. I'll stop in my car at the bottom of the hill to get my mail and drive up. No problem.

And I really did love that house. It was the right size, it had the open concept I love, it had a lot of light in the living room, and because of how the house was situated on the hill, in the summer I didn't even know I had neighbors because I couldn't see anyone's home. It was like a private retreat.

Reality set in when I had to take the trash and recycling up and down that steep hill.

The situation got worse when my knees were hurting. A lot. I was fourteen years old the first time I saw a doctor about my knee pain, so this is something I've been dealing with for a long time. Going up the hill was fine. Going down the hill was frequently excruciating. And then my father moved in with me after my mom passed away.

He would go up and down that steep hill every single day to get the mail. I couldn't tell him not to do it because then he'd be trapped inside the house, but I worried all the time that he'd fall. Clearly, we couldn't stay in this house indefinitely. My knees were only going to get worse and my dad was only going to get older. We talked and decided we needed to find a house on a level lot. We started looking and I was constantly checking the realty app on my phone.

We wanted a ranch and most of the houses down in this area are two story. We wanted a certain location because of my commute time and most of the houses were farther out. The few houses that came up in our target area and in the right price range were too small, too beat up, too not right for us.

After about six months of looking and not finding anything, I put money down on a lot. We were going to build a new house. I didn't want to build. It would mean months of having to check on the building, to make sure they were doing good work, to make sure what we wanted was being carried out. It's stressful and not something I wanted to do.

And then a house came up for sale--the exact house we were going to build. After disappointing house after disappointing house, I didn't expect this one to be a winner, but I wanted a look of the floor plan live. I'd only seen it drawn out on paper or on YouTube and it wasn't the same thing. I also prefer modern/contemporary style and this house had oiled bronze hardware everywhere! Oiled bronze faucet, drawer pulls, light fixtures, shower head, you name it. Ugh! It also had vanilla cabinets which wouldn't have been too bad except that they were etched in black which made them look traditional too and worse of all, it had that rope-styled molding at the top. Way too traditional for me.

I warned our Realtor that we only wanted to see the house and measure some of the rooms. We weren't going to buy it. Then we walked into the house.

The first thing our Realtor asked was why didn't we want to buy this house?

It was immaculate and everything was in good condition. As it should be since the house was only about 18 months old. It was perfect for us. The location was perfect. And even more perfect was it alleviated the stress of building. And I could replace the oiled bronze...some day.

We decided to buy the house. We moved three days before I had to report for jury duty. That is why I was so exhausted. We were unpacking way too many boxes.

More about the move and the ordeal that was next week.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Day Three of the Hostage Situation: Jury Duty Day 3

I arrived at the courthouse early again because of the parking shortage and clearly I wasn't the only one with this idea because I didn't get as great a spot as I had hoped. Don't get me wrong, it was a good spot, but not the row I was hoping for.

My attitude was kind of bad too on this day. I was exhausted--I'll blog about why on Thursday--and I was tired of sitting in that room. Plus, I'd been there until 6pm the previous day and I was less than thrilled to be back. Did I mention in an earlier blog about this ordeal that everyone else I know who's been called for jury duty was released after one day? Not me.

As I went through security, I recognized some of the deputies--that means I was definitely there for too long. I joked with them about why no one likes jury duty then reported in at the desk. "I'm here for day three of the hostage situation," I said. The two ladies laughed, but I wasn't really joking.

There was more talking today. A group of jurors started a card game. Everyone came prepared to keep themselves occupied for a long time. I brought my notebooks along again, too, but I wasn't in the mood to do any work. I did some talking. I played some games on my iPad. I checked in on social media. I decided that I'd be like the world's worst hostage because I was just pissy at this point and wanted out. Hell, I'd even go through another round of dire voir rather than sit in that room for hours on end again.

We were left to our own devices until 11am when a judge came in. All the cases had been disposed of--except for one. They needed us to stick around for that, but they wouldn't be ready to question potential jurors until 2pm so we could have a long lunch, just be back before two.

I checked the time, did some figuring on how long it would take to drive home and then back again, factored in the parking situation and decided to stay put. I'd brought my lunch in a cooler, so I went out to my car and had a sandwich. There was still a lot of time to kill before 2pm so I talked to one of my writing buddies until about 1:30 and then I went back inside. I know I mentioned that electrical sockets were at a premium and my phone battery was getting low.

So I sat there for half an hour and then it was 2pm. No activity. 2:15, 2:30, 2:45--nothing. Finally, at 3pm, the judge returns. The case was disposed of and there were no more trials they needed us for. We were released!

Part of me rejoiced. Part of me was crabby as hell that the defense and prosecutor didn't reach a plea agreement at 11am. I could have been home for hours! Grrr.

I picked up my letter for my employer to verify that I'd been trapped in a room with many other people for three unbearably long days and then I escaped. I swear I've never been so happy to go back to my day job in my entire life!

Jury duty was hideous, but oddly enough one woman wanted to volunteer to be involved with more trials. Go figure.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Murder and Mayhem: Jury Duty Day 2

I'm rarely bored, but the first day of jury duty was extremely tedious and it was amazing how exhausting it was to be trapped in that room all day doing nothing. On Day 2, I brought writing notes with me. I knew I wouldn't get any work done, but I thought I could transfer them into notebooks. I didn't count on other jurors suddenly getting talkative on the second day. On day one everyone pretty much stuck to themselves. I did get some note transcription done, but not as much as I'd hoped because I was called upstairs to be questioned for a jury.

It was 10:40--that time is emblazoned in my mind--and they called up 59 jurors to be questioned for a  trial. Our case? The murder!

We had to be seated in the order in which we were called. I was juror number 48 of the 59. This would end up being important later. The seats were hard wood and not at all comfortable and I was seated in the second row behind the defendant. He was dressed nicely in a suit and tie and was wearing glasses. He looked nothing like the picture in the paper from when he'd been arrested.

Yes, I'd read about this case in the newspaper and I knew there'd already been a mistrial earlier this year. One of the early questions--possibly the first question--was if anyone knew anything about this case. I raised my hand and so did 2 other people. Sadly, this did not immediately disqualify us.

If anyone thinks it would be exciting to be called for a murder trial, let me tell you it is sadly disappointing and mostly boring. They started the dire voir questioning (Or is it voir dire? I distinctly remember it being called dire voir, but when I searched online, they say is is voir dire).

Anyway, they started asking questions of the jurors in a large group. The prosecutor started asking if anyone knew people who might be called as witnesses. There were a lot of police officers and sheriff's deputies and we had to EMTs in the panel. Guess how many law enforcement officials they knew? Yep, pretty much all of them. And each time they had to be asked if they could be fair and impartial given their relationship to the witness. The prosecutor even apologized for asking it over and over again, but said it was needed for the record.

It took forever to get through the names and I swear, he mentioned half the people who live in the county. The rest of the questioning didn't get much more interesting especially when the defense kept asking about who was familiar with the weapon that was used in the murder. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney asked questions about it, including who was a firearms expert? Well, crap, we're in Georgia and everyone is carrying weapons down here all the time. Half the room was an "expert." OMG, that was also long and boring questioning.

I did mention my author status because at the beginning we were asked to stand up, say our name, where we lived, and who our employer was. No one cared about what I did for Delta, but I did get asked questions about being an author toward the end of the ordeal.

I also got called into a private session that I didn't expect. That wasn't about being an author, it was about what I knew about the case from the newspaper. It was unsettling to walk into a room and have not only the judge, prosecuting team, and defense team there, but the accused murderer as well. They asked if I would be substantially prejudiced because of the news article and I said, marginally, not substantially. And before I left, I closed with something I've seen on T-shirts for writers: Anything you say or do can and will end up in a novel. No use taking any chances, right?

As it turned out, I didn't need to worry too much. The jury along with three alternates was picked by juror 37. Remember, I was juror 48.

Finally at 6pm we were dismissed by the judge with the caveat to return on Wednesday. The groans were audible. BTW, the jurors who weren't called up to be questioned for this panel? They were allowed to leave at 10:40 in the morning! I would have liked to have been one of those people.

PS: The murder defendant was found guilty, but the trial started on Wednesday (the day after the jury was seated) and ended the following Thursday, so I could have been trapped for 8 days!

Join me next week for the third day of jury duty.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Trials and Tribulations: Jury Duty Day 1

I have a bunch of things to blog about--October was a super busy month for me--so for the next while, all my posts will be about what happened that month. I was going to do it chronologically, but then I decided to talk about them as they came to me.

For the first time in my life, I was summoned for jury duty. In October, a month that was already hyper on the busy scale. I could have deferred it, but then I thought what if I get called again at an even worse time than right now? Besides all the people in my department who'd been called for jury duty served one day and were released. I could afford one day to get this over with.

I arrived early on Monday, before the courthouse even opened, but I have a problem with getting lost even with GPS and always leave extra time just in case. This time I didn't need it because the courthouse was easy to find, but as it turned out, arriving early was a good thing because there wasn't enough parking in the lot and people who got there later had to park illegally. They were told not to worry about it, but I know I would have stressed over it anyway.

We had to pass through a metal detector and none of us knew where to go--the jury pool was all clutching their summons, me included. I finally asked one of the deputies. We received a sticker that said "Juror" and had to wait in a big holding room.

On the first day, I grabbed a spot next to the outlet so I could charge up my phone or iPad if I needed to. There was a big movie screen like they have in high schools pulled down at the front of the room and one of the local affiliates was left on all day long. It was a stark reminder of how bad daytime television is.

Day one had one group pulled up to be questioned/considered for a civil case and late in the afternoon, a second group of 25 was held for a panel interview and the rest of us were told to report back on Tuesday.

What? I said. Everyone only serves one day. That's when I was informed that they had a lot of cases this week to seat juries for including two big ones--a child molestation trial and a murder trial. Gah!

Now I've been told that attorneys don't like to seat authors on juries. I don't know if this is true or not, but I was going to wave my author banner like a madwoman. I didn't want to be seated on either jury, although given my strong opinions on what should be done to child molesters, I was pretty sure they'd never put me on that case, but that did leave the murder trial.

Since I talked so much already, I'll save Day 2 for another post.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Review: Beauty and the Beast

Just when I was considering whether or not to cancel my Netflix subscription, I noticed Beauty and the Beast was available for streaming. This is the live action version starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. Since this is one of my favorite animated Disney movies, I decided to see what they'd done with real people.

I don't think I need to worry about spoilers here, right? Everyone knows the story of Beauty and the Beast? Recap in a nutshell: Belle takes her father's place as a prisoner in the castle and falls in love with the beast who is really a cursed prince.

As I was watching this version of the tale, I realized that it had been a very long time since I'd seen the animated version of the movie. Because of this, some of my comparisons/recollections might not be right, but I've decided to go with what I remember and hope it's accurate. This is extra complicated because when the Broadway show came to Minneapolis years ago, my mom and I attended the show. I recall that as being very close to the movie, but it might not be and it might color my recollections, too.

I thought Emma Watson fit the part of Belle well and I enjoyed her performance. Dan Stevens was good as the Beast, but not quite how I pictured the prince. This wasn't a huge issue since he spends very little time as a human.

Then there was Gaston (played by Luke Evans). I don't remember his character being that evil in the animated version. Yes, he was an arrogant buffoon who thought Belle should be glad to have him, but in this film he was frightening with his narcissism and the-end-justifies-the-means actions. Again, my memory might be wrong, but I really don't recall him being a real danger to the h/h.

Speaking of darker, I think there was less music in this version than the original Disney movie. Yes, the big, big songs were there: Be Our Guest, Belle, and Beauty and the Beast, but wow, it sure seemed as if a lot of the other music was different or missing all together.

My last complaint is that the relationship between Belle and the Beast seemed quick and lacking in any real depth. I'm trying to remember if the animated movie was the same way. Maybe it was. There are things I'm willing to forgive in an animated movie aimed at children that I'm less willing to overlook in a movie with live actors.

Despite all this nitpicking, I did enjoy this movie a lot--enough to watch it again if time allowed. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours and I thought the performances were good. And hey, it's Beauty and the Beast!