Tag Archives: writing

How Jury Duty Made Me a Better Traveler

A while back I was seated on a jury.  Anyone who knows me in real life is well aware that I’ve been jealous of potential jurors for most of my life.  Weird, I know.  I still loved my experience and learned a lot, but my particular case was incredibly emotionally draining, as it was of the Law and Order: SVU variety.  But, reflecting back, aside from the stress there is a lot I learned about decision making and being fair. 

  1. Use all of your senses.  When viewing a witness and hearing testimony, you are not only permitted but encouraged to obersevre their posture, body language, the tenor of their voice and facial expressions.  It isn’t just what they say, but how.  In a case with no physical evidence, it was the star witness’s physical demeanor that really sold me, and others on the jury. 
  2. Consider the source.  A big sticking point for us was that two of the witnesses were not getting any benefit from testifying against the defendant, one even moreso than the other.  Their was certainly nothing in it for them other than the truth, as their lives had moved on and the players no longer mattered to them.  Likewise, consider who you get travel tips from.  A friend or blogger who had a great time and wants you to do the same is likely to be your best resource, moreso than a tour company or sponsored blogger with certain allegiances. 
  3. Be prepared.  Court rooms are cold, lunch breaks are flexible, and you may not even be selected to be on the final jury (there are two alternates).  So every day I brought a sweater, a good book, a silly magazine and some snacks.  While you can’t prepare for everything (like randomly being let out 2 hours early one day for unknown-to-us court reasons), you should prepare for everything you know of.  Similarly, there’s no good reason not to have comfy shoes, emergency funds and a good towel.  In fact, I would say treat it like a cold, unreliable courthouse: bring a snack, reading material and sweater and you’ll be fine in most situations. 
  4. Work with what you’ve got.  We were only given certain information, and the pertinent legal knoweledge.  We all knew Massachusetts had statutory rape laws, but for whatever reason they were considered irrelevent to the case, so we had to decide based on the facts we actually had in front of us.  When you’re traveling, don’t lament  the guide book you forgot, the local knowledge you don’t have, the clothing you can’t find.  Just take what you have in front of you and make it work. 
  5. Find a Way to Clear Your Mind.  Traveling can be stressful, and even mroeso depending on your companions and where in the world you are.  It’s extremely iomportant to have a reliable way to restore your sanity.  During the trial, I would lay on the couch eating cheese and crackers, talking to no one, watching tv and movies nonstop onDemand.  If I didn’t, I would get too freaked out.  Like traveling, I had limited resources available to me–I couldn’t discuss the trial with anyone, especially not my deposition-filming brother, and I wasn’t supposed to read the news.  When abroad, I prefer to write, go for a solo walk, do some yogo, or listen to great live music while in some form of transportation.  Find something that works, and apply as necessary. 

Tax Man

Trash on the side of the (unpaved) road in Porto-Novo, Benin. This is a relatively small amount of trash, for Benin.

My Friend Across the Aisle Mike pointed out something we often forget about: the benefit of taxes. Love ’em or Hate ’em, they aren’t going away.  The following are some examples of the things we have because of our taxes, things that we assume are basic, things that many other countries have never had.

  • Paved roads
  • Traffic lights
  • Cops who do things
  • The National Guard
  • Firemen, Policemen, Coast Guard et al
  • Stop signs
  • Roads with minimal potholes
  • 911, EMTs and ambulances
  • Free public education through 12th grade
  • A civil code that is updated
  • Public servants and bureaucrats who do their jobs without taking kickbacks
  • A government with a low enough rate of corruption that we’re actually still surprised and outraged when it does happen
  • Prisons with guards on the INSIDE, as well as separate prisons for men, women and children
  • A fully-functioning legal system

Some housekeeping:

I’ll be updating more on this later, but I’m taking part in the 21.5.800 project, which combines self-discipline, writing and yoga!  I figure what else am I doing until co-op starts?  So you’ll see a lot of that product on the site, as well as a better explanation of the project itself.

Most of my posts do not appear on the day they are written, especially when it comes to days of travel, and when I’m in places with poor internet, or when I just have my game together.  As a result, you’ll read about things like Jose Marti airport on the day I’m actually passing through Cotonou Airport in Benin.  And of course, I keep writing about the places I’ve been, long after I come home.  So don’t run away from the blog, there’ll be some changes around here soon!

After several weeks of silence, this is the best I can do

Currently, I am putting together a collection of the (worthwhile) plays I wrote in high school.  I’m also going to put together some of my better essays, but the plays have been a long time coming.  Ever since I realized in tenth grade that I could copywrite them as a collection, thereby getting myself in the Library of Congress as well as saving money by doing it in bulk, as it were, I’ve been meaning to get this done.  If I accomplish nothing else with writing, at least I’ll be in one library. 

And right now, it’s looking like I really will accomplish nothing else.  When home, I hesitate to visit my english teachers, who always look so disapointed to find I haven’t been writing, haven’t even taken a single english class in college.  I know I’m wasting my talent, but at least this way I can never fail at it. 

Let’s face it, I do best in a routine, when I’m forced with deadlines.  In middle school I truly became a writer because Mr. Blandini made us write for the first five to ten minutes of every class.  In high school, I took both English classes and playwrighting, both of which had solid deadlines.  Mrs. Burne made us write a Thoreau-esque journal every couple of weeks outside, and it was perhaps the best writing I’ll ever accomplish.  Now, with no english classes and a busy schedule, it’s easy to let the rejection-ridden pursuit of publication or performance fall by the wayside. 

Why haven’t I taken any english classes?  Well, i suppose it’s because if you can be anything besides a writer, you should be.  Which is essentially what i’m doing–finding ways to be successful without writing plays or poetry.  There’s also the bit where I outright reject the premise that one needs to major in english, journalism or literature to be a writer.  Writing is a core part of me, it’s who I am.  I simply am a writer, so it doesn’t much matter if i juggle knives for the rest of my life, because I’ll still write. 

Recently, though, I realized that one of my closest friends on campus had no clue that I’m a writer.  She reads this blog, but that’s about it.  It’s so strange to me that there are people who know me who have no idea that writing is such a big part of my life, especially given that up until college, I think everyone who knew me was aware of this. After a while you start to wonder, if everyone sees me differently, perhaps it’s because I am different. 

This scares me, because remember that since middle school, engineering was such a part of my identity.  I did a summer camp at MIT, I took advanced math and science classes, and I built robots on Science Team.  This was me for a long time, and it took a last-minute change to my NU application to see that it wasn’t anymore.  I think my uncle Paul is still not over it.  Freshman year of college, a close friend told me that international relations and medieval french literature were, “strange classes for an engineer.”  Strange indeed.  So if I can veer away from something as ingrained as engineering, why not writing?

It took a long, slow march of bad grades in algebra 2 and total disinterest in all classes required of engineers for me to see the writing on the wall.  How long can you be a writer if you simply don’t write?  How long does something stay a part of you if no one else can tell it’s there?