Monday, July 25, 2005

Civic Duty

What follows, an account of a day inside the Machine.

7:50 am. Arrive at gates. Empty pockets into plastic tray, pass backpack through strange machine. For vague reasons, small padlock, in backpack, is confiscated.

8 am. Arrive at waiting area. Fill out demographic form. Trade form for card enscribed "Panel #12, Seat #14". Sit.

8:30am. Ushered into new waiting area, this one front-facing, suggesting a place of worship. Told if we leave without permission we will have to come back again another day. Or will have a warrant issued for our arrest. Or will have a fine of not more than $2,000 levied against us. Watch film about the honor and gravity of our legal system. Fill out new form regarding race and ethnicity, reminded again of penalties of leaving, told to take a break for not more than 20 minutes.

9:30 am. Told we will know our status by 2pm. Not told what knowing our status will entail.

10:15 am. Suspicions of being trapped in Kafka. To avoid own obsessional tendencies, search out reading material. Find fantasy novel, cast away in adjacent waiting area, purporting to be the tale of a mad necromancer who seeks to overcome death so as to restore his wife, tragically slain.

11:30am. Another break. Again instructed on potential penalties of failing to be present at 12 pm. Eat cold Poptart from vending machine. Use bathroom.

12 pm. Return to waiting area, continue on fantasy novel. Learn that desire to overcome death is inherently corrupting and will certainly lead one to undertake unholy experiments on hapless, innocent villagers. Also, introduced to ironic hero, barbarian hunter of supernatural beings, who has contracted lycanthropy, thereby becoming an example of the very thing he hunts.

1pm. Reminded about penalties of failing to be present when role is taken and then dismissed for lunch. Wander to BestBuy, play a videogame involving driving a dirtbuggy around a track. Much prodigious jumping and crashing.

1:20pm. Shooed from videogame by angry gaze of desirous preteens. Return to courthouse.

1:45pm. Return Commiserate with woman whose purchased M&Ms won’t fall from their coil in the vending machine. Discuss shaking machine, but consensus is that high local concentration of law enforcement officers makes this unwise. Select Coca-Cola from soda machine, but root beer is dispensed instead.

2pm. Return to pews. Finish novel. Necromancer’s evil schemes thwarted thanks to a gypsy curse, the heroic barbarian, and a well-meaning but naive pair of apprentice necromancers. Fate of barbarian promised to be revealed only in a future work.

3pm. Told that all cases have settled before trial, due directly to our presence. Told about a card we will receive in the mail which is our proof of our service. We will receive this form in duplicate. One form is for our employer, and entitles us to a day’s wage. One form is for our records, and will excuse us from further service for a period of 3 years. If we are summoned again and have lost this form we will have to serve again. Thanked, and told to leave.

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