My Day In Court
William Phillips
      I got a letter summoning me to “The Hall of Justice”; there was no way to get out of it. Then I spent days preparing for this very important civic duty. I looked up maps and pictures on the computer. I practiced saying court type phrases like, Your Honor, if I may approach the bench, with all due respect and if it may please the court. I knew it was important to talk this way after watching Perry Mason.

      The summons suggested that I be there at 7:45 because court started at 8:00. It warned, that it took half an hour to get through screening. I think they meant clear customs.

      On the appointed day, I started downtown stopping for twenty minutes on Lake Ave. for construction. After that delay, the trip was just as I had planned. The parking garage no problem, I got a good place to park and walked towards, "The Hall of Justice".

      That was the last I saw of sanity. Leaving the parking garage, I entered into a large atrium. The space had plenty of doors going outside but apparently no other place to go inside. I immediately went into survival mode. Stay calm and follow the crowd, just pretend you know where you are going. Using my intuitive skill at observation, I noticed people disappearing to the right of me. They were going through a small door that turned out to be an elevator. With confidence, I stepped through the door and found myself in this box with another person. At this time, I realized I had no idea where I was going. Then I said, in a calm voice, “I hope somebody knows what button to press”. The only other person with me asked where I was going; I said “Jury duty”. She spoke confidently that it was on the second floor. Then she pressed the two button. The box creaked and seemed to be moving. A light lite up with the number two, the door opened. We were at floor one, the atrium. She pressed two again the box moved with the same uncertainty as the last time the light announced two, the door opened and we were on the first floor. A new passenger got on board, pressed the two button, the box complained the doors opened, it was two. I guess the button recognized his authority and the doors had opened as planned.

      I stepped out of the elevator, turned a corner and I was at the end of the longest line ever. In front of me was a long room with a line that went down it, doubled back, turned and went to a door. Past the door was the security checkpoint. The line was moving slowly. I looked around, what I saw were the worst dressed people I have ever seen all in one place. Getting people off the street does not mean the entire street, the whole length. That is where they appeared to come from. My next thought was, “this is court, and how can anybody dress like this in front of a judge”? Don’t they know how to dress before a judge? The saying used to be there are three occasions that require dressing up and court is one of them. The other two are weddings and funerals.

      It was after some brief conversations with those around me that a young man spoke to me, telling me I wasn’t dressed right and that I would be picked first. The woman next to me said I should take off my tie and put it in my pocket. I realized then I was the one who was dressed wrong. I was the only person among several hundred who was in a suit and tie. I was confused; I never thought I would ever have to dress like a homeless person. Is this the way it is in a city? Have times changed so much that sloppiness is the excepted norm? This is court, where is the respect for the court, the judge, a governmental building? This was all new, a real shock to me. This wasn’t the world I had grown up in. The rules had changed.

      When I reached security, I could see it was like the security in an airport. I had to put anything I was carrying through a machine, take off my belt, remove my watch and empty my pockets. On one side of my jacket were the usual keys, change, and wallet. The other side contained dog biscuits that I put on a tray to be x-rayed. They weren’t taking chances, those biscuits could be a powerful explosive meant to destroy the justice system of the county or even bring it down. I passed through the magic arch without incident hoping my fillings would not set it off. Then I was free. At that point, my pants were falling down as I struggled to save my dignity I was blocking traffic and told to go to a table to recover my belongings.

      I stepped away from the table with my belongings and myself in control. When I looked up I could see a large arched doorway, but it was blurry. Everything was blurry, signs, people, furnishings, everything. It was the ointment. I had eyelid surgery the week before and needed to have ointment over my eyelids. Just at that moment, the ointment had melted and oozed down across my eyes blurring my vision. I pressed on.

      Passing through an arch, I stepped into "The Hall of Justice". The hall was very large with enough room to hold a family of wooly mammoths, with grazing room. One side was lined with doors; the other side was lined with elevators. I couldn’t see what was at the far end, it did not look important. Looking around there were no signs or any obvious direction to go. This was no time to panic. I fell back on my reliable survival instincts and knew I just had to follow the people. Because there were so many of us in line for jury duty there would certainly be a crowd going in the right direction. I also knew from being in big important buildings that you always got on an elevator from a large entrance hallway. Watching the blurry figures going to an elevator I decided that is where my destination would be.

      With the confidence of a person having a treasure map, I boarded the elevator. Once in and the doors closed I realized I didn’t know what floor to go to. Other people were pressing buttons and thinking some of them would be jurors I said, "I am glad someone knows where we are going". Then, a woman next to me said, "don’t you know where you are going?" I confessed that I didn’t. Then, she asked me where I wanted to go and I said that I was going to jury duty. From that answer, she told me, it was on the first floor and this was the fifth floor. I said, I thought if I just followed people, I would get to where I was going. To which she added the information that not everyone was going to the same place.

      I pressed one, and was back where I had started. With my instincts used up and my intuition silent. Then, I decided I had better get some help. I could see figures across the hall dressed in white uniforms and decided they would be my best help. The white uniform was a deputy sheriff and she knew where I wanted to go.

      The directions given to me were to go to the end of the hall and through a door at the end. As I looked into the distance, I saw a small opening in the far wall. The deputy sheriff told me to go through the door, go past a food stand. If I went right, I would find a door that lead to a long twisty hallway. If I were persistent enough I would make it past the door and into the hallway. She was right, it was long and twisty and if I hadn’t been told, I would have looked for something else.

      At the end, I reached an opening through that door, I could see down a wide hall with another arched opening beyond which there was a desk. A distinguished looking man stood behind the desk watching me approach. I walked as steady as I could, although by this time, my approach was a bit uncertain owing to blurred vision and confusion from wandering the halls.

      Reaching the desk, the man seemed to examine my appearance. He asked me if I was fit for jury duty. When I said, "I was", he asked me if I had any health problems. I said, "I had diabetes". He looked at me as if he wasn’t impressed. Then he asked if I had a breathing problem. I told him I had asthma. He had noticed I was breathing heavy and wondered if there was some kind of health problem. His next step was golden. He took his pen and marked my summons as ineligible. He put it in his pocket. I thanked him, turned away and started back.

      Through the long twisty hall and into the large hall of justice. “That was easy”, said I. Then where was the exit, I no longer wanted to play building explorer I just wanted to get home. There were exit signs but I didn’t know where they would direct me. I knew there were many doors from the building and I didn’t want to come out the wrong one. I asked and got out. The garage was easy until I got to the gate. A woman helped me use the gate and then gave me some gold coins for change. I assumed they were some kind of tokens and said, "What am I going to do with these". They were dollar coins. The ride home was a straight shot, I could only wonder why, I didn’t see Superman or Batman after all it was, "The Hall of Justice".