To get along in the Army, it has been said, you have to learn to hurry up and wait. The same goes for jury duty.

On any Tuesday or Thursday at the Circuit Court in Annapolis -- these are "jury days" -- you'll see dozens of bored men and women passing the time as best they can.

Some get a little work done. It's not unusual to see a potential juror talking into a small tape recorder, apparently preserving a great idea or dictating a memo.

Some even make use of the time by working on lap-top computers.

But for most jurors-in-waiting, reading is the best time-killer. If reading is becoming a lost art, how do you explain the newspapers strewn on the benches in the jury's waiting area?

Some jurors show up with nothing to read or do. These are the scavengers, waiting for a chance to grab a discarded newspaper.

But these ill-prepared jurors no longer have to be trash pickers. About three weeks ago, a shelf was erected to hold about 300 paperback books from the county library.

Stickers on the books instruct readers to take the book and drop it off at any library branch when they're done.

County jury commissioner Norma R. Ford says the books are a hit with jurors. The selection ranges from Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steel to Kurt Vonnegut Jr., from "Gentle Conqueror" to "Fatal Vision" to "Ivanhoe."

But here in the courthouse, literally a hall of justice, no sign of "Presumed Innocent."

SOURCE: Jay Apperson


So it's come to this. So this is how desperate one gets for a crumb of revenge.

Justice? Forget it. A little revenge will do.

The things you find out in a gas station on Ritchie Highway. Life during wartime.

The incident to be described occurred way back in the good old days, when regular unleaded went for about $1.18.9 a gallon and you could still walk into a tavern and get a full glass of beer and a kind word from the barkeep. That was three weeks ago.

We were young and angry. Who knew how bad it could get?

It could get this bad: I left the apartment in Eastport for work the other morning and the station on the corner was showing regular at $1.27.9 (Why don't they just say $1.28, tell me this). When I returned that evening it was $1.29.9. I've seen digital clocks on banks where the numbers didn't move that fast.

This station in Eastport, it would appear, has a direct line to the Middle East. Hours after Saddam's troops moved into Kuwait, the station in Eastport jacked the price a penny, way the heck up to $1.07. The thieves.

So on Ritchie Highway a couple of weeks back I was pumping gas into the car and bile into the bloodstream. Self-serve -- sure, that figures. Become an accessory to your own stick-up. Stick-up yourself. And how.

Pump all of $6 worth, walk into the station to pay. I hand over a $10 bill and the attendant (accessory to theft by gouge) starts making change.

He brings out a $5 bill, then a single and begins to hand it over.

Nothing more than a moment, a tick of a second hand elapses here. Even less time than it takes the station in Eastport to hike regular unleaded from $1.27.9 to $1.29.9. In this instant a glow comes over me. I say nothing, which is not the usual course.

Sure, let him hand over the $6 change instead of $4. Go ahead, do something totally out of character. Wallow in it. Get right down with these bastards. My own little rip-off. My $2 worth of satisfaction. Pound of flesh? Forget it. I'll take 3 ounces sliced thin. This is what it's come to. I experience glee, real ring-your-doorbell-and-run kind of stuff.

But wait a minute. Something's clicking in the attendant's head. No. NO NO NO. He sees the goof. He puts the five back in the cash drawer and peels off three $1 bills making $4 change. He hands it over.

"I guess you'd have liked that, huh?" he says. Saddam's business partner.

"I wasn't going to say anything," I say. That's bad form: Boy, was I going to get you, if you crossed that line in the sand.

I pocket the $4 and walk out. There is no justice, not even a tiny bit.

But you knew that.

SOURCE: Arthur Hirsch

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