Twist Tied Past

Tonight at dinner I bit into my salad and found an unexpected treat. A twist tie from a bread bag or something had somehow ended up in my salad. I took it out and showed it to my waiter who then gave me the meal free, which was nice but not necessary, these things happen – I did continue to eat the salad, hell I love that thing. What was interesting was a memory got tugged out of the nether and put back into conscious thought of a time that had happened to me once before.

*activate wavy screen effect to simulate a warp back through the time-stream to see the story Jamez is talking about here*

Probably twenty years ago now I used to stop at the Kwik Trip on Main Street in Whitehall after spending countless hours at Dave’s Bar. Fortunately for me at the time not only was Kwik Trip open 24 hours a day, they cooked food… which was nice if you’re a drunk on a winter night in WI with no home of your own. On many a night I would stop there after running out of drinking money, or to pick up a cheap case of beer to take back where ever I was staying – usually just had enough for a lottery ticket or a burger.

(A completely different story at this quick trip I had one dollar left in my wallet – was out of booze and cigarettes and I decided to purchase a lottery ticket, that’s the logical thing to do in that situation if you’re a drunk. I scratched away and got three TV’s that means I won $100 and a chance to be on the Wisconsin Lottery TV show in Milwaukee which I think netted me a little over $400 – not that that was helping me get beer or cigarettes at this point, the $100 wasn’t instant and I was more pissed off than I was excited. On another note, recently that Kwik Trip sold two 1 Million Dollar lottery tickets, that would have likely pissed me off too as it wasn’t instant booze).

So I was pretty drunk the night I stumbled into the Kwik Trip, someone had probably pissed me off as I can remember being a little mad just getting there. Where were my friends? Hell I don’t know either passed out or still at Dave’s drinking away. I ordered my usual burger at the counter and waited at one of the tables until they brought it out to me. I was likely talking to myself, likely reeked of beer and might have smiled at the lady who brought it, but that might have taken too much effort.

I was eating away at the burger and fries and washing them down with a Dr. Pepper most likely – you can’t drink beer in the Kwik Trip, silly rules… then it happened, I bit down into the burger and bit something hard. I pulled it out and sure enough it was a twisty like the ones used for bread packages and such… My alcoholic mind did something like this:

Wow, I could have died. 

I wonder if someone is trying to kill me, does that girl know me?

Where am I? I thought I was at Dave’s? 

I could sue, I wonder how much money I could get?

If I sued then I’d likely not be able to buy beer here anymore, or maybe I could buy beer here but they’d probably find a different way to screw me over. 

It’s too late to buy beer at the store, damn it I hope there is some left at the house.

I might have a beer or two stashed in my room.

Why is this twist tie in my hand? Oh yeah…

What should I do now? 

I managed to get my head straight enough to figure out I should talk to someone at the store about this and got up and went to the counter. I told them I had found this twisty tie in my burger and I think I actually said “I should be mad about this I think” and then I’m pretty sure I said “Shouldn’t I be mad about this?” and “My burger should be free or something, I could have been hurt” probably a “this is unacceptable” as I always thought things were unacceptable. I tried very hard to be very upset but a part of me realized how drunk I was and I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep it together long enough to get the story straight. Most of me was convinced they’d accuse me of lying and placing the twist tie in there myself for attention.

I think I did actually get my meal paid for and I honestly forgot all about the incident until this night when I bit into the twisty tie in my salad.  Anyway, I just had to get that out of my head and on “paper” so to speak before it disappeared again.

Juror Number Nine

In DC I get a jury summons every two years. On most of these occasions the case has been a drug related offense and once I mention that I’m in recovery they excuse me, they never say “Oh you’re in a twelve step program you can’t be impartial” but they’ve never let me stay. I think I could be impartial in a drug or alcohol related case, I can differentiate between my own experience and events in other peoples lives… right? On a few of the times I’ve been called I was dismissed almost immediately with a group of other potential jurors, perhaps a judge was on vacation that day. I was even called once to be a member of a grand jury, I think it was, where each night before 6:00 I had to call a number to see if I had to be present at a jury the next morning – that was like two weeks and I’m glad I didn’t get chosen for that.

This time I was hoping for the usual result, maybe get released no later than 3:00 – but that was not to be. When the second group of jurors was being called my number was selected and I got in line with everyone else and waited, and waited some more. Then they sorted us by some means that was not apparent to us and marched us into the court room. I was seated in the jury box in seat number 9 and never moved from that spot, I kept waiting and waiting but they never asked me to move to the audience. The judge, avery efficient no nonsense type lady, asked us ten questions that might get us excused from the case. I can’t remember most of the questions but they were like: do you recognize anyone on the witness list? have you or anyone in your immediate family been charged within the last ten years for resisting arrest, property damage, reckless endangerment or …, and if there were any reason you felt you couldn’t serve on the jury (sick kid, wedding, whatever). I honestly couldn’t answer any of the questions “yes” so I didn’t. The judge still called each member of the jury up to the bench, one by one for about an hour and a half to ask if they had any of the questions answered yes – in that time I did get to go out to lunch after I talked to her. That afternoon they played musical chairs with the jury, pulling this person out and replacing them with another they shuffled folks about five times before the judge finally let us know that those of us in the jury box were the “winners”.

My fellow jurors (12 with two alternates) and I all listened intently to the judge explain all the rules as the trial started, she was telling us to turn off our electronic devices when her own cell phone beeped and she smiled and said, this is exactly why. She explained that the lawyers could say lots of different things in their opening and closing statements, but those were statements and beliefs not evidence. We were to judge the case based on the evidence and while the attorney might believe that what they are saying is true, if it’s not presented as evidence then we should not consider it to be so. I could be messing this up, but this is what I interpreted her saying. The judge then read off a long list of charges for the defendant, a young looking african-american male, evading arrest, property damage, reckless driving… there were a lot.

We then heard the opening statement from the government, the prosecutor seemed nice enough, talked clearly and smiled an awful lot. The defense opted not to give an opening statement, which is their right. Before we knew it we started to hear testimony from the first witness called by the government. A police officer one of two that were involved in the incident came and answered the prosecutions questions amidst the objections and questions from the defense and occasionally prompted by the judge who could probably tell we (the jury) were already getting tired of the mundane nature of the questions. The defense questioned the witness next and did manage to poke holes into his testimony. The defense attorney was an older african-american woman who took a few minutes to get out of her chair and a few more just to get to the bench for private discussions – all the jurors mentioned it or giggled when talking about it in the jury room.

We had a break and when we came back there was a new officer on the stand who’s answers to the same questions were remarkably different from the previous officer. There was even a large map where the first officer placed stickers where the suspect was first seen, where he jumped a fence and where he was apprehended but the second officer placed his stickers in different spots blocks away. One officer said it was too dark to see in the vehicle, the other said he saw three or four people in it…. it was really kind of funny and it took a bit of effort not to giggle.

Then the day came to an end and we were asked to return the next day for a 10:00 a.m. start, getting into the courthouse through the security line can take a good 30 minutes if its backed up.

All 14 of us were there by 10:00 and we sat in the jury room for 45 more minutes before we were called into the courtroom. Once there the judge apologized for keeping us waiting and then explained that all but two of the charges were dropped from this trial. All we had left to rule on was reckless driving and evading arrest. We had heard the judge talk to the attorneys at the bench – we could hear in spite of the white noise machine and she had berated the prosecutor for trying to prove charges without any evidence to back it up.

We then were treated to closing arguments from the government then the defense and then a rebuttal closing from the government. Lots of statements that had no basis in the evidence that was presented, lots of boasting and such but nothing that told me this kid was even in the car.

The judge then revealed that the two alternate jurors were to be excused now and that those two jurors had been picked at random before the jury selection process had even begun. The two jurors were #11 and #9. So that was it, I was excused and sent home, they told me if something were to happen to one of the jurors in deliberations I might be called to fill their place.

I didn’t get to discuss the case with my fellow jurors, I’d like to think that they also hadn’t seen any actual evidence linking the defendant to the crime. I’d like to think they remembered it’s “innocent until proven guilty”. But, I know that people perceive things very differently and what I saw as Keystone cops they might have thought of brilliant work… you just never know.

I’m glad that I got to serve. Was it inconvenient? sure. But I hope that if I’m unfortunate enough to end up on trial for something (it’ll likely be murder) that people would have an open mind and examine the evidence before deciding my guilt or innocence.

Ooooh That Smell

For a while now I’ve had super sensitive sense of smell. I think it’s getting worse… better… more intense maybe is the word I’m looking for here. Sometimes it affects what I’m tasting or maybe it would be easier to say that I can taste things in foods and liquids that others don’t. A few examples are listed below in no particular order.

  • Mildew on towels (fresh from the dryer or clothes line or hanging on the towel rack for however long)
  • My cats litter box is on the second floor of the house, I can smell if she’s used it from anywhere on the first floor or when I first get home
  • friends and strangers have bad breath that I’ve asked others about but they say they didn’t smell anything
  • perfumes and colognes can be detected strongly from a train car length away or a good block if the wind is blowing properly
  • something in my house smells like chicken, I can’t find it and I’m not sure what it is but I have lots of scented candles and odor eater things placed about to make the smell less evident
  • there is a tree near my house that smells horribly like stale beer
  • I can’t walk in the middle of the prepared foods part near the deli of the grocery store the smells of the foods in the buffet part is well, too smelly
  • dogs and cats – just touching them and I can smell them on me for hours after and I LIKE dogs and cats
  • sometimes when I’m sitting or standing next to someone I can detect that they’ve either been wearing the same underwear for a few days or don’t wipe well
  • there are things that I would have never considered to have a smell at all that have a smell
  • feet, gas, fish, body odor – none of these things would I consider to smell good anyway, but they seem to overpower my senses

If that’s not disgusting enough for you, some of the taste things include water or tea where I can taste sewage in them (what does sewage taste like? just like what it smells like) and milk starts to go bad to my tongue a week before the expiration date. I can actually taste when food I’m eating has been touched by something that isn’t on my plate – onions, peppers, fish – or maybe the preparers didn’t wash their hands in-between touching the items.

The smell of things can be so intense that I’ll stop walking down the street to avoid scents coming from someone, or move to entirely different cars on the Metro. At meetings I try to distance myself from smells. If someone comes into a restaurant and their perfume or cologne is too strong my meal can end up tasting like what they are wearing. It’s not every scent, it appears to be just some scents and I’m sure there is a pattern I’m missing somewhere. It sounds crazy.

When I smell something so strongly I often look around wondering why none of the people near me seem to notice and ask others if they can smell it – they say no. If you were Superman or Wolverine you’d go crazy being able to smell the things they can smell hell, I’ve been crazy a long time and I know this is driving me crazier. When I talked to my doctor about this he actually suggested I might be turning into a superhero – sniffing out crime… I like my doctor, he’s funny.

Friends have suggested I might be pregnant as they’ve experienced an enhanced sense of smell then, but the condoms have been intact – I know they are only 99.9% effective, but I’m fairly certain I’m not pregnant.

So after my doctor and I talked he talked to colleagues who didn’t know what this was either and then I had an MRI last week. The results of the MRI were normal or “non specific white matter change in some part of the brain, which is normal and doesn’t explain the smell symptoms” – but it does confirm that I actually have a brain in case you were wondering.

So if I offer you a breath mint or a stick of gum – you should really take it, especially if you want me to keep talking to you. If I don’t want to shower at your house or spend the night – it could be that I don’t like people but really it’s probably that your towels smell mildewy or that you have a pet who’s smells overtake all my other senses.

You might see me breathing out of my mouth a lot – yes I’m a mouth breather. I’ll be a mouth breather when I have to be and apparently I have to be a lot right now.