Friday, August 25, 2006

The Road to Gresham was Paved with Good Intentions

As I was saying yesterday, I got called up from the waiting area at 11:00 A.M. to learn that my jury duty was to take place in Gresham, requiring an expedition to the nether reaches of suburbia the following day. (For the rest of Tuesday I was excused.) It wasn’t jury duty that I minded (Remember? I told you I’m over that.) It was the trip to Gresham.

The desolate tundra that is, in the cobwebby travel annals of my mind, Gresham, sprawls itself over the earth, coating it with asphalt in the form of five and six lane sidewalk-less boulevards lined with unsightly industries like car lots, shopping malls, and fast-food joints.

Am I being unfair?

I don’t insist that it’s a completely accurate image, but somehow that’s the image that has wormed its way into the ‘impressions’ department of my brain over the years. (I heard they rejected Wallmart, though, which sounds hopeful….) Other suburbs evoke in me the same allergic reaction. They’re all exactly the same, identity-less, across America. To me they represent what happens to urban design when it is left in the hands of developers and revolves around the car instead of the human being, and they depress me horridly.

Hence my bad attitude.

I arrived at the Gresham courthouse at 11:00 Wednesday morning, a two-hour lateness which I blame only partly on myself. The rest I blame on the rudeness of the Gresham courthouse staff person I spoke to on the phone, the distance of the Gresham courthouse from my home, and my genetic lack of aptitude for orienting myself in three-dimensional space.

As a first step, those of us assigned Gresham duty were to call there Tuesday evening to confirm need for jurors the next day. However, the evening phone schedule provided by the Portland courthouse did not jive with reality at the Gresham courthouse, and the promised live staff person proved unavailable. A blunt recording instructed the caller to appear the next morning.

My hopes dashed, I held out for the possibility that the recording was outdated, as recordings are wont to be, and called at 8:00 the next morning hoping to be told I didn’t need to make the trip.

Hello, I’m calling about jury duty.
Yeah, you need to show up.
Do you know if ….. do they know yet if jurors are still needed for today?
You need to show up at nine o’clock to find out.
Oh. Ok, well I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to get out there, so… what happens if I’m a little late?
You can’t be late. You’d better hit the road right now, because you have to be here at nine o’clock.
It’s kind of a ways out there. Is there any chance that I could be in the Thursday group?
No. You have to show up today.

It wasn’t what she said as much as how she said it. After being treated like the Queen of Citizenship at the courthouse in Portland , I was completely unprepared for this kind of reception. This woman was so curt, and so abrupt, and so condescending that she brought out my inner eight-year-old, and I suddenly felt all crabby and resentful.

I didn’t actually depart from my dwelling till 9:30, which I openly admit was, in part, lame. But it was also partly necessary. I’m not a person who can just hurl myself willy-nilly out the door and expect to arrive somewhere. I need to seriously plan, much like the early explorers planned out a trip to the New World or the North Pole. I need to get out maps, compass, and sextant, and plot out the entire journey, with the help of the Personal Orienteering Aide I am very lucky to have (whose name starts with L). Plus I need to throw together a lunch – I’m not about to go launching off to remote Gresham, land of the burger joint, without something edible in my luggage.

Now that I’ve finally come to the BIKE part of the story, I fear my blogging time has run out. I’m going to have to wrap this up tomorrow, which is unfortunate after you’ve slogged along with me all this way through some of the most dismal parts. But you should definitely come back for the ending. Is it a happy ending? Well, it depends on your point of view. Nevertheless, I can promise that someday you’ll thank me, someday when you get called to jury duty, because you’ll know what to expect, you’ll be prepared, and equipped to work the system in such a way that you can serve without all this tedium.


Post a Comment

<< Home