Famous Last Words In The Courtroom.

     I am now a citizen who can stand tall, proud and free. I have cast off the oppressive shackles of adolescence and moved into adulthood through the prestigious path of social service. Check me out.

     Several weeks ago, my mother called me to tell me I had received a summons from the Hartford County Superior Court. I immediately panicked, but managed to speak calmly and clearly to my mother. "Mom," I said, "I want you to know that it's a lie - a horrendous, impossible lie. First of all, where would I even get that kind of stuff; and second, how could I possibly fit that much in there? It's a conspiracy, I tell you! Conspiracy!"

     After calming me down, my mother managed to tell me that it was just a letter summoning me for jury duty in January. Unbeknownst to the FBI, my secret factory to overstuff pierogies full of high-quality imported Scottish goat cheese continues uninterrupted.

     At first, I was overjoyed to be called for jury duty. Everyone says it's a big hassle, but I'd never done it before, and I figured the first time couldn't be that bad. I assumed that the Legal System In Action would be exciting. It sure makes for riveting television, at least, and television never lies to me.

     When I got my "Confidential Juror Survey," I was reasonably excited. I was going to be a part of something special; to help someone in need of justice; to change the world … or, at least I would, if I didn't go to school out of state.

     On the juror survey, I was given a list of eleven different situations that would prevent me from having to serve. Listed were such tantalizing statements as "I do not speak or understand English," "a judge of the Superior Court has found that I exhibit a quality which will impair my ability to serve," and "I am Governor."

     Since no selection described my situation, I considered selecting one of the other options available to me. I could either go to the court speaking some sort of gibberish language and gesticulating wildly, legally change my name to "Governor," or tell the judge that every time someone says "Your Honor" I launch into a musical medley of "Man Of La Mancha." I eventually decided against these plans and settled on just telling whoever was in charge that I would not be present for the case. I assumed this would take an hour at the absolute most, and I would then be allowed to leave with a smile on my face and a Snickers bar in my hand.

     The only way I could have possibly gotten a ruder awakening is if Andrew "Dice" Clay jumped on my bed at five 'o' clock in the morning wearing squeaky clown shoes, shouting a lengthy string of epithets the likes of which have never been heard.

     I arose that fateful morn and drove to the courthouse at 8:30 A.M., where I met the dozens of other prospective jurors, none of who looked happy to be there. We then watched a high school health class-quality video about the responsibilities of jurors. After that, I sat, listening to other people's names get called. I was to do a lot of sitting that day.

     After two hours of counting ceiling tiles, a woman arrived with a stack of videos for us to watch on a big-screen TV, but what I thought to be salvation turned out to be an even more sinister form of punishment as a jury of my peers elected to view "My Best Friends Wedding." I didn't think it was possible, but my hatred for Julia Roberts actually grew that day.

     To prevent myself from strangling someone, I wandered over to the magazine rack, where dusty periodicals went to die. Unfortunately, this appeared to be a rather exclusive burying ground, as the only magazines here were "Vogue," "Modern Parenting," and "Home & Garden," all of which are extremely relevant to me as a non-stylish, urban bachelor. Nevertheless, I sat down and started reading.

     When four-thirty rolled around, there were only five jurors left, and we all sensed an unspoken bond of unity and strength that was last felt during the Battle of Britain, except for that one gentleman who confided in me that he would now be paying the fee for skipping jury duty instead of wasting his time again.

     At 4:45 I was finally allowed to leave with nothing more than my shattered belief in an efficient justice system and a pocketful of justice department pens I stole for ironic value. Say what you will, but at least now I know how to get the most nutrition out of my homegrown vegetables for my children - and I'll look damn good doing it, too.