Starting right after Labor Day, thousands of Baltimoreans who have dodged jury duty for years will receive invitations to spend a day or so at Circuit Court. Until now, the busiest court system in the state has relied on voter rolls to fill jury pools. But, because thousands of people have tried to avoid jury duty by not registering to vote, those of us who were eligible to take part in elections were asked often -- some say too often -- to take part in trials. So, to fatten the pool of potential jurors and make the system fair, the Baltimore Circuit Court sought permission to draft jurors from driver-registration records. Register or reregister to drive a car in Maryland now, and a Baltimorean automatically becomes eligible for jury duty. (Licensed drivers will still have the option of not registering to vote.) The Court of Appeals approved the plan and the city recently came up with the $12,000 to pay for the computer work involved. It's expected that the switch will increase the number of potential jurors by close to 50 percent, adding another 190,000 names to the list. To those of you who have been avoiding jury duty in Baltimore and don't like this move, I say: Nya-nya nya nya-nya.
Of course, even with the changes in the jury system and the expanding pool they will create, no city judge expects people to suddenly stop offering creative reasons to be excused from the duty. Here are some of the more interesting ones that arrived at Circuit Court over the last year:
"I took Benadryl at 4 a.m. and overslept."
"I can't deal with this till my twins are older."
"There is no way [the juror] can come because he's in jail in North Carolina.
"This is an inconvenience in my timing."
"I am gay and biased against straight people."
"I'd be happy to do it but not on my birthday."
"I have hemorrhoids and need to sit in water twice a day."
"I'm under a doctor's care for confusion."
"I am a mask maker by trade and [October] is the busiest time of year."
"I believe all defendants are guilty and all deserve to pay the [damage] amounts of suits against them, with interest."
A dog that will be missed
We don't usually publish canine obituaries, but I'm making an exception for Thor, the 8-year-old Great Dane of Velma and George Bosley, of Randallstown. For years, Thor was a regular visitor to the patients at Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital and Chapel Hill Nursing Home. "He was a pet therapist and a Pet on Wheels," Velma says. "Hundreds of people knew him. In the hospital and the nursing home, they'd pet him and hug him. Some of the folks would even kiss him and one lady wanted to give him money." Thor died of cancer recently. This morning, there will be a memorial service, including a viewing, at the Humane Society of Baltimore County, Nicodemus Road, Reisterstown.
Mfume and the Nation
From Peter J. Boyer's flattering profile of Rep. Kweisi Mfume in the latest ( Aug. 1) New Yorker:
"Mfume told me he regrets that the [Nation of Islam's] agenda has been obscured by charges of 'alleged' anti-Semitism. 'The problem is that the anti-Semitic rhetoric, whether real or imagined, does not allow for the broader message to reach beyond the black community,' he said. 'Whether real or imagined, it has certainly created a barrier.' Mfume knows very well that there is nothing 'imagined' about [Louis] Farrakhan's or [Khalid Abdul] Muhammad's incendiary remarks, but he also knows that the connection the Nation of Islam has in the black community, especially among young men, is powerful and in many respects beneficial. In that perspective, for all the outrage prompted inside the Beltway and on the op-ed pages by Mfume's 'sacred covenant' [with the Nation], the controversy may well be a net plus for the Black Caucus and, of course, Mfume."
For the sake of music
What we heard about this week's Jimmy Buffett concerts at Merriweather: "Jimmy put on a great show, but I paid $27.50 for the privilege of standing for three hours in a crowd of seriously drunk and drugged people, including some men who urinated in public. The concert was seriously oversold and management failed to tell us ahead of time we couldn't bring lawn chairs. Many left them by the gate, and some of them were stolen. There was no security patrolling the parking lot beyond the guys who tell you where to park, and the lot was littered with many broken bottles. I've seen Buffett before at Merriweather, and it's never been this bad. Did I mention the underage teens passed out on grass?" A longtime Parrot Head who paid $55 for a ticket to the Saturday night concert said: "That's a very accurate description, a typical Jimmy Buffett concert."
Goodbye, Penny Weis
Penny Weis has, unfortunately, left her job at Baltimore's Better Business Bureau. It's a shame to lose such a helpful person -- and a perfect merger of name with job. (And, no, she hasn't been replaced by Pound Foolish. Deborah Harrison is the bureau's new director.)
Snowblowers in July
Seen on the TSC (Tractor Supply Center) signboard along Route 140 outside Westminster: "Snowblowers are in. Be prepared." I think the temperature was about 97 the day that message appeared.