... not quite
Along with the Summons for Jury Duty pictured here, the Commonwealth also sent me detailed instructions about what and when to do the listed duties two months down the road. I put the papers aside to be read closer to the time of my command appearance. At present, I was overly busy with other committments that required my immediate attention. Whew! Good thing they gave me advanced notice. Similar to Scarlett O'Hara, I'd think about this new unwelcomed happening another time.
Finally, I got the rest of my life in order and Judgement Day was close at hand. Anxiety set in, but when I mentioned it to my 80-year-old sister-in-law on the Friday before my Wednesday appearance date, she said she had been excused from jury duty for the past ten years. She unnecessarily suggested that I check it out.
At that moment, it was after 4:30 in the afternoon. The Cambridge courthouse was closed until Monday. That gave me two days to "prepare my case" and eat extra combat-anxiety calories. It was then that I read the papers that had accompanied my legal invitation and, sure enough, age seventy was the time of optional refusal....especially if one sometimes doubted the quality of one's reasoning and decision-making. (I added that last.)
Sure, I should have let them know immediately that I had two more candles on the birthday cake than they required for free choice, and, sure, the date of judicial decision was practically upon us, But.....what if I had died after being registered for that day? Wouldn't they have had to find a replacement under those circumstances? Couldn't they do the same procedure while rejoicing that I was still alive....just old?
When I inquired about public transportation routes to the Cambrige Courthouse, the MBTA man on the phone told me to get off the train at North Station and transfer to Lechmere. The young lady on the North Station platform contradicted my original orders and told me to wait right there and take the next train to Haymarket. Neither of us knew that a power outage had stopped the flow of inbound trains for well over a half hour. That's how long it took me to decide to go upstairs to the street and try to find another route. As I walked toward the strange territory of the Green Line, another woman said I could walk to my destination and pointed out a reverse direction. After ten minutes of that caper, I stopped into a bank and an officer sent me on to nearby Haymarket. The train retraced the trail I'd just blazed, and three stops later I asked a fast-walking young woman to guide me to the Middlesex County Courthouse. She was three decades younger than I and never broke her stride.
Upon arriving and taking a few minutes to catch my elderly breath, I took the UP elevator, got off when the doors opened and asked directions to my goal. I was told to get back on the elevator and go to the 5th floor! (I hadn't noticed that all of us had disembarked at FL3)
Again, at my judicial floor goal, no one in authority was visible....just reading, talking, waiting potential jurors. I finally found an office with informed professional help in uniforms. Halleluyah! The nice man behind the desk said I could have telephoned! I almost replied, "Ha! Your phone rings busy." Instead he got my birthday facts, assured me with cheerful authority that there was no need for me to serve. Just like that. Two seconds and I was let off the hook....or, perhaps I should say, "Given a reprieve." He showed me what he had written on my paper. "Excused LATS Court office 02. DOB 9/26/28." I asked for an office copy for my safe deposit box at the bank!
THEN we found out he was from an old Malden Suffolk Square family. He lived on the southeast corner of Washington & Clifton Sts. (I had lived on the northeast corner of the same streets.) His cousin, Miriam Cohen nee Bendell, worked with me for twenty years. His father was Miriam's father's brother! Talk about Old Home Week for the newly reprieved.
Two hours later: 10:00 a.m.!! After an uneventful "high" trip back home, I was in end-of-the-line Oak Grove station, waiting for a bus. A young-ish foreign man (could not speak English well, so comunicated by showing me a paper) wanted directions to the Registry of Motor Vehicles which was a half-mile up the street. After giving him directions, I felt we were two slightly confused citizens, getting lost while trying to abide by the rules of this great and glorious government. He smiled, but he had no idea why I shook his hand with good-natured gusto as he thanked me and I sincerely, in a language foreign to him, wished him good luck with his adventure.
June 1, 2001