Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Excuse Me Sir, But Where Do I Go If I Don’t Speak English?

While of my fellow SU students are off on Spring Break in some random country acting completely retarded and proving once again to the rest of the world that Americans are the most obnoxious travelers ever created, I returned back home to NYC and went to the Bronx County Civil Court House for… (drumroll please)….


After accidently missing my first designated Jury Duty date way back in October, I was forced to show up on Monday to court to report for jury selection, despite the fact that I'm a student in college some 300 miles away from my home county. So, there I was, at 9 in the morning at the courthouse, looking for whatever chance I had to delay my designated service. I mean, I don't mind serving, but I can't risk missing classes at Syracuse over it, either. As it was, they were already attempting to take away my Spring Break away from me this week by making me serve, and there was no guarantee that my service would end before I have to report back to SU on Monday morning. After passing through the courthouse's security, I was directed into this rather cavernous room filled with potential jurors. Despite the presence of a seemingly unlimited amount of seats, they were almost all filled. Somehow, I managed to find a seat in some random spot within the torrent of bodies that packed the joint. Over the loudspeaker, a 50-something guy who sounded like he had been working at the courthouse for way too long was reading directions aloud and informed us of what was going to happen over the course of the day. In a particularly funny moment, the loudspeaker guy was announcing the groups of people who could be exempt from service, and after directing parents who could not serve as a result of a sick child or a child that could not go home by themselves from school, the guy read, "Now, for those people who can't speak English..." He hadn't even finished reading what he was going to say, when about half the room got up and started heading for the door. I could only shake my head at the nerve that these people had. There were people getting up to leave, claiming that they couldn't speak English, when just 2 minutes ago, they were talking to one another about how badly they needed a phone, in perfect English. Even the loudspeaker guy was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute! I'm pretty sure that not even 10% of you can claim that you don't speak English, especially considering that all of you were able to perfectly understand what I just said! Now, I've been working here for 25 years, and I've seen my share of ridiculous things, but this takes the cake. Wow, even I'm impressed. (Sigh) Only in the Bronx, do I see this kind of Twilight Zone crap!"

Most of those people wound up coming back to the room after courthouse investigators gave each person an English proficiency exam and warned them that if they left the courthouse, that courthouse representatives would be calling their homes and places of business in order to determine whether or not they did speak English. The consequence of a lie like that? A court hearing, a $2000 fine, and a contempt of court ruling. All that, just to get out of a day of jury duty.

A few moments later, the loudspeaker guy announced that students in school were eligible for an exemption as well, so that was my cue to get up and leave. After showing my school ID, I was granted permission to leave, and given a future court date sometime in July.

How do you say, "I can now lounge around and chill during the rest of my Spring Break," in English?



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