Thursday, September 23, 2010

Close-in Lunch Counters :: Ideas Are Everywhere - Day Five

As proof that ideas are everywhere if you're just open to them, I'm posting a few days of a journal I kept while undergoing jury duty back in 2008. Note: These are unedited because I didn't want to lie to you or show you anything more polished than it really was.  If you think you can't write Sci Fi from your everyday life, you're really not paying attention.  Read more here.  -Scott


Day Five

So... I got called in on the big multi-week Superior Court Case. Which is all I can tell you at the moment.

I can’t talk about the case. It’s a rule. I haven’t been eliminated in the first few lightning rounds. One of the lawyers bears an unnerving resemblance to Conan O’brien’s sidekick. I forget his name.  Andy Richter?

Lunch, however… lunch I can talk about. And aliens. I haven’t been enjoined from talking about aliens. Strange how those two subjects tend to intersect.

The judge gave us an hour instead of the usual hour and a half right in the middle of the time during which the sign on the door of the 911 Deli warns that they won’t guarantee a turnaround of less than a half hour on any order.

Gotta love any business that can get away with that.

Instead I decide to run upstairs to the 11th floor cafeteria. I meant that literally. Run. Up. Stairs. It’s an odd fact of life here in the Pierce County Courthouse that the elevators only go up ten floors. To get to the cafeteria, one must walk up a flight of steps.

(How is this ADA acceptable?)

I tromp up the stairs, grab a soda out of the cooler, pour a cup of coffee and order a BLT. Get up to the front and the lady frowns at my debit card. “We only take cash up here.” As proof, she points to a handwritten sign (written with neon highlighters so that it’s darn-near impossible to read) posted on the glass next to the register. She smiles like I’m a street magician about to pull a hundred dollar bill out of her ear.

I step out the door and scan the top of the stairs. The door into the cafĂ© proper. Cast my gaze up and down the entire front of the line. The walls all around… no signs. Just the illegible one next to the register. Did I mention that it's about 5"x7"? And practically illegible?

Am I on candid camera?
Do they still have candid camera?

Don’t you think this would be good information for me to have had before I poured a cup of coffee and ordered a sandwich that you’re now going to have to throw away?”

We’ve never taken anything but cash up here,” she smiles again. I blink at her. I glance down at my jeans and tennies and un-tucked dress shirt, not to mention my red Juror badge and the cheery orange number 42 (they took away my big purple one). Do I look like I work here? Why would I know this? Never? Oh for...
(Deep breath)

Maybe she’s a vogon. That 42 might've been a warning from the universe.  I peer at her teeth, looking for telltale symptoms of alien ancestry. Hrm. No, she’s looks human except for the smile. Maybe she’s under an alien influence. Why is she smiling? Maybe not candid camera, maybe it’s some kind of behavioral experiment. Am I in a maze? If I eat the BLT will I get an electric shock?

I’m on to them now. Stick to your guns, man!

That sign should be over there,” I point back the way I came.

There’s an ATM on the first floor.” (Down and back up ten elevated floors and two flights of stairs… and it charges a pretty steep fee, which I noticed earlier.)

Yeah, I don’t think so.” I set down the tray and walk away. Enjoy my sandwich, lady. And my cup of coffee. If I’d turned left as I entered the maze, would I have been allowed to eat the BLT?

Customer service tip from someone who used to teach customer service skills:  Don’t smile when you say “no.” Smirking like it’s all some kind of elaborate inside joke that you get and they don’t isn’t going to win you any friends on the far side of the counter. I don’t care how often you have to say something or how tired you are of saying it: It’s the first time your customer has heard it. This doesn’t make them stupid, it makes them human. Treat them accordingly… unless you’re an alien. I'm not saying she was... I'm just sayin' someone should keep Sigourney Weaver on speed dial.

First floor lobby and back to the alien experiment-free 21st century and the wondrous aspect of a coffee cart: “Of course we accept debit cards.” I could almost kiss the girl behind the counter but I restrain myself. I’m a married man and what would people think? Surely Kristin would understand.

Definitely not an alien. Unless it’s the Kim Basinger “My Stepmother is an Alien” sort of alien. Ok, she’s not Kim Basinger, but she does have the cinnamon scone, cup of coffee, and someplace to sit, which makes her a perfect 10 in my book.

So here I sit, sipping my coffee and typing this missive to the world beyond these walls. If you should find this bottle adrift on the tides, pause, stranger, and ponder how far into the county’s hierarchy these alien influences have penetrated. If they’ve seized control of the food supply, what’s next?

Darn it. I really wanted that BLT. (I avert my gaze from the demonic gleam of the ATM. Must resist the alien influences!) Oh well. What can I expect from a place where the elevator literally doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.

Klaatu, barada nikto!

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).