An Invitation From The High Sheriff

An Invitation From The High Sheriff

On Friday, I was having a perfectly satisfactory day.  Irma, she of the cleaning fetish, was doing her thing with the vacuum cleaner and the radio.  Then, it all changed.  I heard somebody on my TV say something about a court case.   My brain seized.   My heart palpated.  I did my stumble-run into the kitchen and started flinging old mail from one pile to another.  No luck.  At this point I started screaming for help.  Irma calmly held up the notice and asked, “Is this the one?”    It was the one all right.  The one from the High Sheriff.  And it said I better show up at the courthouse on Monday morning at 8:30 unless I was ready to die.   Well, I thought, I might as well die because I am never awake at that ungodly hour of the morning.   It isn’t as if this were news to me.  The invitation arrived a couple of weeks ago.  I forgot.

An Invitation from the High Sheriff

Irma has had more judicial experience than anybody I know so I trust her judgment.  She advised me to go immediately to the Clerk of Court’s office to whine.   If I don’t, she said, the Sheriff will come for me on Monday.  It happened to her once.  She related this with somber authority.  She directed me to the “big courthouse”.   The one with the guards and the x-ray machine at the door, you know.  Yes, I knew.   She agreed that I looked just about right for dismissal after she did a quick inventory of my appearance.  Yesterday’s unmatched, wrinkled shirt and pants from the top of the pile on the chair in my bedroom.  The shoes, a faded red pair of Crocs, that match nothing anybody owns.  My hair, the envy of every kid in town who sprays, waxes and gels to get the equivalent effect.  Now for the hearing aids, and I’m all set.

The Ears That Don't Work

I grabbed the hearing aids (the ones I don’t wear) from their box and stuck them in my ears…dead batteries included.  These state of the art digital pieces of junk have directional microphones.  The wearer can set the direction and volume with these microscopic buttons on the tops of the transformers that go behind the ears.  Apparently I set them once, accidentally, and have never been able to re-set them.  I could hear better without the things anyway.  Hey, they were expensive and my daughter says I can’t hear, so I gave them a try.   I never dreamed that one day they would be worth every cent and every single annoying trip to the audiologist’s office.  Their singular failure has endeared the things to me for life.

It was only after the fact that I read the Texas Government Code relating to the hard of hearing:  § 6 OR HARD OF HEARING JUROR 2.1041. DEAF. (a) A deaf or hard of hearing person is not disqualified to serve as a juror solely because of hearing loss except as provided by this section.  I had no idea that deafness would fail me here too.  Thank goodness I did not know that piece of information on Friday afternoon at 3:30.

I arrived at the courthouse and was let in by three extraordinarily accommodating and smiling men in brown uniforms…with big guns strapped on.  Obviously, they considered me to be a harmless, rather mindless old lady.  They directed me, fingers pointed, down the hall to the elevator.  Third floor; take a right; you can’t miss it, they said in that tone reserved for daft old ladies.  I smiled and thanked them.

The Clerk of Court was wearing a pair of too-tight jeans and a tee shirt.  She was friendly.  I couldn’t hear a thing she said with those earplugs in my ears.  I turned my head in what I knew was a foolish posture so she could see them.  I gave her my best geriatric smile as I leaned in toward her over the counter in a convincingly earnest effort to hear.  Without a single reprimand, she took my card with no information completed on it.  In an apologetic voice, I threw in that I have a familial tremor in my writing hand.  So far, so good.  She’s swallowing this spiel hook, line and sinker, I thought to myself.

It was too late to get an affidavit signed and approved by the judge before  Monday morning.  I was about to feel slightly claustrophobic until she said she could “fix it up” so I wouldn’t have to appear ever again.   She would grant me an extension until July.  I must have given some kind of performance.  She reassured me that she was entering all of this in her database (“computer”, she said) and helpfully wrote down the date on my summons:  July 9 and suggested that I write the date on my calendar.  I would be seventy years old by then, she said.  Problem solved.  I think I will adopt her.

45 Comments on “An Invitation From The High Sheriff

  1. Is it a daughter thing to tell ladies that they are getting deaf? Mine did too. I could never hear what my sons were mumbling at me and she always “translated”. It is understandable that she was becoming peevish. She was the only one who hadn’t needed braces on her teeth. I thought that once they no longer had braces, communication would become easier. It didn’t. So I trotted off to the whatever-ear-doctors-are-called and was tested. I was told that my hearing was excellent and, armed with an “expert” opinion, I returned home to inform my offspring that, as they were speaking to me in a foreign language (to wit.: French) I would appreciate it if they could make an effort at enunciation. Why, I queried (rhetorically, as it turned out), could I perfectly understand my daughter, who was also addressing me in French, but could not hear what my sons were saying? They needed to enunciate and project their voices which, although soft and soothing (and greatly appreciated for that reason) were apparently not adequate for communicating with their Australian-born mother whose native tongue was English.

    It didn’t make any difference of course. But at least I had the satisfaction of being able to tell them that I wasn’t going deaf. Back then.

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  2. What a wonderful story…full of drama and at the same time completely funny…and I love the title! Sometimes stories are much more interesting when about something which didn’t happen, as opposed to something which did happen. If that makes any sense at all….

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    • Of course, it makes perfect sense. Do you ever say senseless stuff? 😉 I hadn’t thought of it in that way, but you are right. Thank whatever gods may be that it was about what did not happen!

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  3. Thanks for the wonderful laughter that you have drawn out of me in the wee hours of the night. I shared this with Elizabeth and she was greatly amused as well. She was called to jury duty while pregnant with our son. It was not an easy pregnancy, Elizabeth seems to go for challenges. We were able to get a medical slip from the doctor to avoid the whole mess. I suppose you could have claimed to be pregnant, that would have disqualified right there. 🙂

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    • As I read this, I could not see anything past “I suppose you could have claimed to be” without scrolling down, but I started laughing. I knew how to finish that line without looking! Ha Ha. You are more clever than I. I do believe I could have carried that off with a straight face. Oh, how I wish I’d thought of it. What fun that would have been! Crap! I’m always a day late and a dollar short… 😉

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  4. You are hilarious! ‘Show up at the courthouse unless you are ready to die!” Anyone who has received a summons to appear for jury duty will identify with that line….my stomach is in a knot and I’m putting the blanket over my head at the thought of it!

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    • You made me laugh. A blanket over your head. I love that image. I know. I hate those summons.

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  5. i was never called for jury duty until i was about 47, and even then it was because i specifically called my county courthouse and told them that i had never been called and wanted to serve. meanwhile, i know people who’ve been called about once every two years. only explanation is someone has my name on a “don’t call this idiot” list.

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    • BTW, Brains, where is my critique? Alex got one. I did not. Do you think an old lady would be crushed if you told her how her sentence structure is awkward, how she mixes up past and present tense, how she mixes us first and third person, how she dangles participles and everything else, how she includes a totally irrelevant sentence about the clerk’s appearance? I am laughing here. Don’t you dare to go easy on me because you don’t take old people seriously. 😉

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      • i don’t normally critique blog posts because i consider it – usually – informal writing. i’m sure i’ve got errors in mine, spelling, occasional punctuation, but they’re typo’s, not errors. yeah, that’s the thing. typo’s are okay, they happen. but when someone doesn’t know what the rule is and they get that wrong, like the guy i posted about yesterday, then that’s different.

        but also i’ve spent 30 years learning and practicing language, so i can’t expect the average person to know what i know. i’ve posted about errors in “time” magazine, and that’s way wrong compared to the average blog.

        and i take old people seriously because, according to my kids, i’m one too.

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        • I know. I can hardly concentrate on what the writer is saying when there are such glaring errors up front. The writer loses credibility immediately. However, he has the job; we don’t. I suppose “who you know” counts for more than what you know….

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    • Cross your toes that you never have to see a pair again! The damn things do not work.

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  6. You are such a talentous writer!!
    I imagined the whole scene and it was quite entertaining.
    Thanks for your comments, I just got a notification form wordpress saying that you were the 1000th like on my blog! 🙂

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    • Ah, “The Thousandth”…a position of historic significance. I am honored! Do you think WP is pulling our collective leg? 😉

      Glad you enjoyed my little story. I WAS panicked, believe me!

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    • In order to do that, one has to show up. It was the showing up part that I did not want to do. Yes, you’d get denied by one side or the other without trying. Trust me. Nobody wants the likes of you on a jury. Or me either. I was excluded on the first round every time I showed up to serve.

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  7. George, I’m back in town, and back on-line. This is the first place I came, and I am not disappointed. While this can’t have been fun at the time (I know how stressful it can be dealing last minute with a jury summons (my envelopes always manage to get buried in my piles of mail that I haven’t sorted through), you certainly have recreated an absolutely hilarious scene. I was laughing my head off while reading this. You are an incredible writer!

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    • Boy, am I glad you’re back home! I know you brought some fantastic pictures with you. You can’t just say you’re off to D.C. without any explanation at all. 🙂
      Thanks for laughing at this silly post. I really did panic when I realized I was going to have to show up on Monday morning. What I thought was really funny was that Irma agreed I looked like a daffy old lady! I love Irma.

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      • I’m glad to be home, too. Although an academic conference (The Renaissance Society of America) offered a chance for our family to visit D.C., where the weather was almost summer-like for the first part of our visit, I had limited opportunities to take photos (although I did take a few, so I’ll be posting them over the course of the next few days.)

        Your post is far from silly, George. Your writing captures everything: panic and all. This would be a fantastic piece to develop for publication somewhere (although you’d obviously have to submit it as “fiction” or the High Sheriff may just come get you yet.

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        • Ha Ha. He is a caricature of himself…waxed handlebar mustache, Texas cowboy hat, boots and the whole thing. I suspect he’s rather harmless, actually. I might have voted for him; I don’t recall.

          Thanks for the compliment, but I have begun to notice a certain careless disregard for mixing verb tense, first and third person, dangling everythings, etc., in what I type now. There was a time when I would have been horrified by that. Oh, well. You guys are kind, tolerant souls. Maybe you should call me on it. ??

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  8. Thanks for sharing your experience! Too funny and real. I will keep it in mind if I get a summons. Yet I think you would have made a fine juror.

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    • I would make an awful juror. I’d end up going along with the others just to get out of there. Then I’d feel guilty forever because I didn’t take a stand. Now, that’s a nightmare scenario I’d just as soon avoid. I am entirely too serious about everything to serve on a jury!

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      • George, you would solve the case and put everyone straight. Just like on “Murder She Wrote” or Miss Marple, but you would be better because you have had more life experience tan those two. 🙂
        BTW: With the American justice system’s attitude towards illegal stimulants, how does the Sheriff get away with being High all the time? Must be the Texas hooch down there.

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        • Ah, that Texas hooch! The High Sheriff in our town is the quintessential Texas sheriff. Waxed handlebar mustache, boots, cowboy hat and the whole nine yards. Honestly, I can’t believe anybody takes the man seriously. Apparently, you gotta’ “be from here”. 😉

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  9. That’s a good one, George! The ol’ girl still has a few tricks up her sleeve, thanks for the laugh today!

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    • Lori, I suspect that this description is entirely too close to the reality of the thing to be funny. Oh well, if you lose it, use it… Or something like that! 😉

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    • Thanks, Ana. I was panic stricken when I figured out that I might really have to show up at the court on monday!

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  10. That’s so funny…I’m still laughing. I loved the description of your hair! I already knew the condition of your clothing, of course!!!

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    • Hey, don’t be letting the secret about my two-day-old wrinkled linen dress code out! The hair looked more like nursing home hair than a kid with a hairdo mission. I was in a total panic about that summons.

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  11. So, the point is that all clever and ingenious people avoid jury duty and the only jurors are those not clever or with nothing better to do. And these are the folks they pick to decide on what’s just and fair. Not really fair is it? I have done my best to avoid jury duty but in NYC there are no exemptions any more and watching the antics in the court is quite entertaining. In one jury pool of at least 300 in a large auditorium like court, the judge started by saying, “This trial will likely go for 6 months. Any jurors with a problem with that, come to the bench now.” A moment later 296 people rose to approach the bench. I wonder what the remaining 4 people had in their lives, that they were free for 6 months.

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    • I did not mean to say that all jurors are unintelligent people. Of course, that would be untrue. In our little county, I think most busy folks try to avoid the duty if possible. I thought it was absolutely hysterical that 296 of the 300 rose to approach the bench! What happened? Did the judge excuse all 296? Nobody has six months free to serve on a jury. You made me wonder how the court finds such people. In high-profile cases, I admire people who are able and willing to serve. I would not want to be in a position of determining a difficult life or death case. I don’t think I could do it. I wonder what kind of personalities can do that?

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  12. Very entertaining George, but you have to consider the possibility that it might be very interesting to sit in the court and learn how justice is handled in your state. All the same, I understand very well your reluctance to be imprisoned in order to judge others. And this gave us another look at you.

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    • Shimon, I have been in court several times just long enough to hear the preliminary statements by opposing counsels. I have a very good friend who is an attorney in the state. I have been sued for millions of dollars in a case that dragged on for a year, and I have dealt with every aspect of court filings and pre-trial procedures.
      I have filed a lawsuit too and sat in arbitration on it. Now, that is fun if you don’t care one way or another about the settlement. This lawsuit was filed as a matter of principle. I didn’t really want money. The attorney and I shared the settlement and had a good time of high-stakes poker that day!
      I have no interest in sitting on a petit jury to hear whether some thief really did steal a truckload of bicycles. The courts here are generally unaccepting of women like me. I have been rejected by one side or the other in every jury duty case on which I was summoned to serve. I suspect both sides want less discerning people. Once anybody states that he owns a business, he’s almost always rejected by either the prosecution or by the defense. Some people actually enjoy serving on petit juries. Those are the small cases not involving federal crimes. In those cases, guilt or innocence is almost always obvious from the outset. I am a hermit, you know. The older I get, the more uncomfortable I am in crowds like that.

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      • Okay, I understand better now. I was able to sympathize with your unwillingness to serve, for whatever reason… but I didn’t know of your experience with the courts. Here they don’t have the jury system, and I have always been quite satisfied with a judge deciding (or 3 judges in a serious case), and had a few minor brushes with the law, but I always use a lawyer to represent me so that I don’t even have to appear in court. All the same, it is fascinating to hear of the jury system, and there were a few cases in the past (that I read about) that made me really wonder.

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        • I asked my attorney friend once how she felt about having juries decide cases. I thought I would prefer to have a judge to decide any case in which I might be involved. She prefers juries. I suspect having people who can be persuaded might provide a better chance for a more desirable outcome for attorneys. Judges are not required to be educated or trained as attorneys here, you know. I find that incredible. Here, anybody can file a lawsuit no matter how frivolous it might be. I was sued for a copyright infringement that I had nothing to do with. Our legal system works very slowly. Lawyers are expensive. The poor who are unable to pay must settle for public defenders who generally are not very good. There is always a backlog of cases in every court here. Our system is not perfect. Our Supreme Court is not perfect either. Those judges sit on the Supreme Court by presidential appointment for life. Within the last ten years, I have seen people appointed to that court who should not have been. Those judges are partisan political appointees who aren’t always the best and the brightest among us. I fear that ideology will invade the judicial system in ways that are harmful. I hope I am wrong.

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    • Not my best, but I was mightily relieved to be granted the extension. It was a big deal to me on Friday! I did not want to serve on that jury. I really do not hear well either. I am joking about this, but it was not funny at the time.

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  13. I live in a small town and at least once a year I get called up for jury duty, and have managed to avoid it each and every time, but telling the court that I refuse point blank to stand in judgement of a fellow human being… that’s God’s job… not mine!

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    • I was always rejected too when I made statements that did not set well with the presiding judge! One would think they’d give up on us, huh? I think we are chosen by drivers’ license numbers randomly chosen by some program. I could read the Texas Government Code if I cared, I guess. They tell us that it’s our civic duty to serve. I suppose it is. I just don’t want to do it.

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