Before I get into anything, I'd like to mention that today is Vincent's "faux-birthday." It was a year ago today that he decided I would be taking him home from New York City Animal Care and Control. He's still a nut! That, of course, is a good thing.
This week was a least a bit out of the norm for me. With BB12 going on, it seems like I've just been working, blogging, eating and sleeping way too little. While this past week's holiday didn't mean all that much in my eyes as I was working a full week anyway, this was the week of my jury duty.
I kept my ongoing record of never being selected to sit on a trial. I actually (for the first time) made a panel for a case and got to watch other people go through the voir dire. But, although they did excuse some of the jurors, my number wasn't called. It was for a civil case, a slip and fall personal injury one. I would have preferred a criminal case just because I find that more interesting ... but I wasn't chosen at all.
As a person who enjoys both writing and television, I've decided they should do a show called 'Jury Duty.' It would have to be scripted due to all the secrecy issues, but it's the reality which got me thinking. More so than when I last served in another quieter more suburban county, this jury duty stint was truly an adventure in people-watching. It was like the parade that used to go through the old Barney Miller police station gone modern day.
Just a few of the characters I observed:
- Beloved NJ Transit Bus Driver - I took a very early bus over there as I had to report at 8 AM and wasn't sure where I was going. I didn't know the bus driver. But apparently everyone else did. No fewer than six women got aboard and kissed him on the cheek while as many men enthusiastically shook his hand. I guess he was a regular driver coming back to the route or something. He's a good example of some of the folks who work for NJ Transit. He made a point of not only telling me where I wanted to get off, but gave me exact directions to the county courthouse. He was a good character ... most of the ones coming up are just strange characters.
- Ripped Pants Touchy Feely Girl - When you wear six-inch stilettos and super-tight pants to a jury room, you're sure to split out the whole rear seam. Using the pay phone near where I was sitting, "Mommy, mommy, [Spanish] pantalones ..." Later in the day, when I went to use the restroom, she decided to caress my hair. Who does that to a stranger? I don't even like people that much in my own personal bubble or close talkers, say nothing about a stranger mauling my back and hair!
- Praying Singing Tapping Slapping Man - He started out quietly, a fairly distinguished-looking middle-aged black man dressed in a business suit. Then I saw him gesturing. I thought he had an iPod or something. As the day went on in the jury waiting room, he got more antic in his gestures, tapping loudly on chairs and slapping his hands on his legs as he sat. Then he burst into LOUD song -- "Lots of joy came into my life ... the lord ..." -- THUMP, SLAP, THUMP. While he had a rich baritone voice, everyone jumped and stared. Can you see him sitting on a jury? "The defendant is charged with murder." "Lots of joy ... oh, Lord..." Maybe it's a unique ploy to get out of serving?
- Woohoo Cell Phone Ticket Jersey Girl - This loud, yet physically attractive white girl, tried to live up to the Jersey Shore stereotype. Overly dramatic with a loud laugh, she got a cell phone ticket during our lunchtime and came back to the jury room swearing loudly and yelling that the cop was out of line. Since it's a construction area (they have all of the area around the courthouse all askew), it's a double fine. She went up to the one panel with me and was called when they dismissed a potential juror. You're supposed to say "Here" for the voice recognition equipment. Instead, she yelled "Woohoo!" She ended up being dismissed as she knows the doctor involved in the case.
- Bag Lady Crazy Woman Juror - Dragging a backpack on wheels and four other bags, I only noticed her after we returned from lunch. As she was totally unkempt, greasy hair, made manic furtive looks around like so many drug addicts and street people exhibit, and she was talking to herself, I thought she sneaked into the courthouse somehow. She plopped herself down on a chair next to Praying Singing Tapping Slapping Man and started going through her bags. Pulling out a canister of something, she pulled her shirt open and started shaking it on her chest. Talcum powder maybe? I don't know. It was enough for even PSTS Man to be taken aback. She also went to the panel on the 14th floor with me. Without saying anything, she bolted from the courtroom with the bailiff on her heels. He came back rolling his eyes. We didn't see her until we were excused to go back to the jury waiting room. She was getting off the elevator ... soaking wet and dripping. I think she washed her hair in a restroom sink.
- Judge With No Socks - While finishing my lunchtime freedom (I had wandered taking photos and eating at Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits), I sat for a while reading on a bench outside the courthouse. It was about 90 degrees with a breeze. The man sitting next to me wore a dress shirt and tie, khaki slacks, loafers, no socks and real tanned ankles. A county sheriff deputy (they're the ones in charge of the courthouse) sat next to him and they talked like old friends. The GLBT Woman (next) sat next to him and commented on the no socks. He said that whenever it's over 85 degrees, it's a no socks day. He turned out to be the judge hearing the case in the panel I went to. I just kept thinking of his tanned ankles whenever I looked at him.
- GLBT Woman - She was a normal looking and acting white woman, perhaps a bit butch but that's nothing really. But wearing a neon t-shirt emblazoned with GLBT causes in bold lettering might not be the best decision for courtroom attire. When called for the panel, she put a sweatshirt over it. She actually ended up on the jury. Mind you, I followed the attire rules and wore business casual kind of clothing, no logos, no t-shirts, no shorts ... and I didn't even wear jeans which many people did. A man wearing forbidden shorts also got on the jury.
- Gruff "I'm the Authority" Entrance Deputy - I told him before I went through the metal detector that my knee replacement would set it off. He insisted both knees had metal in them. They don't. Unless someone sneaked metal into my right knee since this spring when I was last metal-detected, it ain't happening. He finally shrugged and acted like he didn't know why I was lying to him after wanding my knees. By the way, the right one didn't set off the wand. Later, during lunch, I asked him if I could take a photo of the rotunda and the huge circular staircase. "No cameras allowed in the courthouse!" Of course everyone has cell phone cameras and laptops with cameras with them, plus he let my purse through not once, but twice, with my camera in it. It's a shame -- that courthouse is stunning and historical.
- Wipeout Man - In the voir dire, they ask each juror about their jobs, their families, and even what television shows they watch. When one man mentioned watching CSI, the judge scoffed and said it wasn't a criminal case, there would be no forensic evidence. One man, who came across as such a serious guy, had a serious job, dressed well for court, is a grandfather replied when asked about television ... Wipeout! Spontaneous laughter all about. "I mean it. I like that show! Have you ever watched it?"
- Talking Man Who Understands Nothing - While in the waiting room I noticed this man had cornered and was practically sitting atop of a young man who looked very uneasy about it all. He talked quite animatedly for more than two hours, close talking and I haven't a clue what was being said. I wondered if the younger man knew him. At the voir dire, I decided he didn't. "What do you do for a living?" "Thirty-five years!" "Okay, but what do you do?" "Retire!" "Okay, you're retired, but what did you do when you worked?" "Thirty-five years!" Dismissed.
- Really Late Man - Remember, we were supposed to be there at 8 AM. This dude strolls in at 3:40 PM and shows his jury summons to Walter, the jury manager. "I need to get excused." Walter looked at his watch and asked, "What do you do for a living?" "I'm unemployed," the scruffy late man replied. "Go to the office and you'll be rescheduled for next week. Be on time next week."
The unveiling and ceremony went down while I was at work yesterday. I took this shot after dark from across the street when I got back to town. I'll get a better shot in the daylight. It's a tribute to four fallen officers on the force killed in the line of duty -- one killed in race riots in the 60s, two in the early 70s and the sole woman officer murdered in the 80s right up the street from me. If I'm not mistaken, I believe the rehab of the main train station is also dedicated to her. Plainfield Police, Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.
... swiftly fly the years. (From Fiddler on the Roof) This is last night's sunset as I saw it in Bridgewater, NJ.
After working all day, he was oblivious to my camera on the train.
I guess he has job security these days, although it's a shame it's even needed. The gang-related shootings continue in town but they're not accurate shots. The murder rate itself remains fairly low. No, the woman talking to him is probably not a gang member, more likely a friend or acquaintance. Watchung Avenue, Plainfield.
One flower is in full bloom while its neighbor's time is gone. East Second Street, Plainfield.
As I waited for the NJ Transit bus for my jury duty, I was treated to this view. Berckman and East Second Street, Plainfield.
Built during the depression, this is one nifty-cool building.
Built in 1903, I can't fit the whole thing in my photo. There's also a round rotunda section and a fourteen-story tower full of courtrooms. It's supposedly haunted by the ghost of Hannah Caldwell.
Again, I was too close to get the whole building in my shot -- I was actually more interested in the weathered boards over the windows. The faded sign painted on the building read "Union County - A Republican Party." But I loved those boards. That's what this is all about! Elizabeth, NJ.
These guys guard a rooftop in Elizabeth. They're not gargoyles, they're not quite griffins. Maybe they're grifgoyles.
Originally founded in 1703, this church is amazingly tall. This photo doesn't do it justice. Elizabeth, NJ.
... by a flag. The church steeple is yet another historic church on Broad Street and the tower is the Union County Courthouse tower. Elizabeth, NJ. Also note the historic bank building, now a Wachovia.
Since I got to town early, it was only about 7:15 AM. Nonetheless, there were plenty of pedestrians and folks heading off to work. What surprised me, the Hello How Are You Person of Plainfield, is that other people greeted ME first! During my early morning exploration, five different people gave a friendly hello without me making the first greet. Wow. Elizabeth and Plainfield both have reputations for being on the rough side. Elizabeth is the fourth largest city in NJ more than double the population of Plainfield. You don't expect friendly greetings on the street from strangers. But I got them. Only in the morning, not in the afternoon when the sidewalks were full and it was jostle time.
My gosh, I thought the litter problem in Plainfield was bad. This is horrible! Elizabeth, NJ.
where to go to why don't you go
where fashion sits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Different types who wear a day
coat pants with stripes and cutaway
coat perfect fits
Puttin' on the Ritz
(As sung and danced to by Fred Astaire and a host of others ...) I love this art deco marquee at the Ritz Theater! Another historical treasure in Elizabeth, it still hosts shows and is way cool.
If my math skillz are still any good, we're talking the town was settled in 1664? For the United States, that's ancient. In Europe, it wouldn't be much ... but here, we're talking OLD.
This statue stands to the side of the courthouse entrance. Union County Courthouse, Elizabeth, NJ.
These children were in the window. Luckily the boy decided to sit down or he would have had to get the blur treatment. Parents? Where? Broad Street, Elizabeth.
The tranquil early morning streets gave way to loads of pedestrians and extreme traffic jams all afternoon. It doesn't help that two blocks of sidewalks around the courthouse are torn up and closed. Broad Street, Elizabeth, NJ.
Broad Street, NJ. Edited for color/black & white.
Looks more like a Hall of Shame. But decrepit tends to attract me for photo fodder. I believe this was also on Broad Street.
Are YOU lookin' at ME?"
Okay, Vincent. Don't go all Taxi Driver on me. I'll let you drape yourself over my shoulder in a minute. Happy faux-birthday! You're a great cat!