Jury Duty and The Stenographer

A month ago I got a summons in the mail stating that I would have to go to the local courthouse for jury duty. Two days ago, I went.

For that month long wait, I probably thought about the upcomming date at least twice a day. I wasn't pumped about missing a day of work, and I definitely wasn't excited about the possibility of being selected for a case.

The night before I went, I found out that they were actively trying to select the jury for the Tyler Clementi case.

I got more nervous.

I asked my girlfriend, Allie, if she would drop me off at the courthouse, and on the way there, we listened to the radio, when, amazingly enough, an NPR reporter brought up the case! He said that they were having a difficult time assembling a jury for the case, because many of the potential juror's had a viewpoint that got them instantly dismissed.

While Allie and I stared at each other in amazement, the reporter elaborated that many of the jurors believe that the existence of the trial itself suggests that the defendant must be guilty of something. Why would they have a trial unless he did something to warrant it?

There it was. The key to my freedom.

We pulled up to the courthouse where a line of half-awake zombies wrapped around the block, and I could see several Court TV news vans gearing up to report on the big trial.

A little more confident of my dismissal, I hopped on the line.

15 minutes later, I sat in a huge room watching a quick instructional video about how we are serving our country by appearing for jury duty. It looked exactly like every dystopian future I've ever seen in a movie. Just footage of a man's head explaining to us how lucky we are for living where we do, and how we must give back to our country.

Another 15 minutes later, a few of us, split off from the massive pool of jurors, are stuffed into an elevator, on the way to a court room to learn what case we'll be interviewed for. I rehersed my story. I practiced the lines in my head.

"Well why are we here unless some of the charges are true?"

The moment I entered the room, everything changed.

First, we weren't being interviewed for the Tyler Clementi case, which made me breath a sigh of relief, and then realize that I would have to come up with a new excuse.

Second, I almost instantly stopped worrying about that the moment I noticed the court stenographer.

She was fascinating.

Either superhuman or subhuman.

Possibly a ghost.

More likely a zombie.

Sunken eyes, sallow skin, long spindly Nosferatu fingers.

I have no idea why her typewriter thing had such a small keyboard, but her frightening goblin fingers flew over the little keys, while paper the width of a standard receipt spewed out of the back. Why don't they use regular paper? Do they have teeny filing cabinets?

As she typed, her empty eyes fluttered around in her hollow skull. They found me, and stayed. She had chosen me.

To be fair I was staring right at her, likely with a mask of horror on my face, so I can't blame her for staring back.

I still don't know what I was really looking at, though.

Her life is based on converting the sounds she hears into words on a page. Without a break. For hours. There's no way that she has a mind. It would get in the way!

She's just a funnel. Sound goes in her ears and becomes an electrical impulse which flows down her arms and out of her fingertips. She can't possibly process all the legal bullshit that's being hurled at her without end.

Why don't they just use a recorder? She's basically a modern equivalent of the birds in The Flintsones movie that are meant to "record" conversations just by remembering everything everyone said!

She's not real! She's an animal who serves a singular purpose.

Speaking of being an animal, she must be completely wild outside of that courthouse, right?!

From 5:00 in the afternoon until 7:00 the next morning, I bet she's chugging whiskey, joy riding, and hitting mailboxes with a baseball bat.

She must have SO much pent up energy.

It's either that, or she's just as hollow outside of work and she walks around staring at everybody, listening in on conversations and reflexively moving her fingers in the air, phantom-typing.

Maybe they roll her chair into a closet at the end of the work day, and she sleeps in there.

Maybe I'm just wrong and that's not a person. She's a very sophisticated machine used to transcribe conversations, and they wanted it to look human.

They almost got it right.

I kind of hope that she has some sort of effect on what she writes. I hope she's able to add something personal. I hope the transcription of my interview went something like this:

"Judge: Can you think of any reason why you would not be right for this case?"

"Fat Moron: I can't afford to miss work."

"Judge: Fair enough, you're dismissed."

"Fat Moron lumbers out of the room."

"Someday I will absorb his soul."