Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Thoughts on travel logs.

August 14, 2017

I admit I was hesitant to post the travel log of my second trip to Chicago. Funerals are never fun to write about, let alone read about, and I’m sure it adds a depressing mood to this blog. But the good news is that I have just posted the last of its sad words.

The bad news is that I have no more travel logs to post.

Along with the logs from my trips to Chicago, I also have my trips to Montreal covered with descriptive summaries of the day’s events along with miscellaneous thoughts and observations. I posted that log on this blog, which you can find by doing a quick search.

When keeping a travel log, I have to use the humor it contains. Years from now when I re-read my logs, I’d rather be amused by these bits of humor instead of yawning through boring bits and pieces of what I did during the trip.

In my Montreal travel log, I created a separate section for my comedy bits called Stuff du Junk that had fictitious anecdotes such as this one that fortunately never happened during the flight:

We all got a bad scare then the oxygen masks suddenly dropped from the ceiling. As the passengers screamed and struggled to put the masks on, the captain announced on the intercom, “Sorry, my bad. Why the hell did they put the coffee dispensing button so close to the oxygen mask eject button?”

I also have a section called Thought Nuggets With Honey that I used to put in observations of life in Montreal.

Gilligan’s Island is enjoying reruns here, however, there are French voice-overs. By the way, Gilligan is pronounced “Geeley-GAHN”.

Adding sections like these to your own travel logs will spice up their pages, no matter where you may roam.

Another funeral in Chicago, Part 6.

August 14, 2017

Screaming Brats On A Plane

Flying home at last. Our mission is complete, Oma laid to rest and now we can fly home and resume our normal everyday lives. Now would be a good time to write any remaining thoughts on this trip.

I don’t even want to think about the state of Oma right now. Lying in her casket, same pose and facial expression, except 6 feet under soil. Every day she… that I’m sure you can figure out.

This has been one sad trip. I was right. After Ida’s funeral, the next trip to Chicago would be even sadder. And it was.

It just dawned on me that I truly will never set foot in Oma’s house again. I salvaged what I wanted and left the house for good before the closing. Too many items left behind, possessions of Oma and Opa, their fates up in the air. Truly, I think this is the last time I will ever visit Chicago.

This is it. Get me out of Chicago. NOW.

What reason is there to visit Chicago anymore? No more Grandma and Grandpa, no more Oma and Opa. They have all gone and so are the reasons to look forward to coming here again.

We can turn on our handhelds now.

Ta ta.

“Excuse me, do you know about dance in the hall?” – Man on the El

Getting ready to take off from Atlanta. On TIME?! Unreal.

Last flight home before my life returns to normal. That’s enough funerals for now. I mean seriously, 2 funerals in 14 months? C’mon. I don’t want to have to write a third travel log on going to a funeral.

Think about this. Yesterday, just yesterday was Oma’s funeral. That was a sad sight, my family standing by the casket weeping, but me, I was trying to stay strong. Not even thoughts of her being in a better place free from suffering could console me. I have no grandparents left.

We are getting ready to take off. Not quite on the runway but not quite at the gate either. Either way, we’re not moving.

Now we moving. I have left behind the sad city of Chicago, probably never to return. The only reasons Chicago was fun were my relatives, and they’re gone now.

There’s something fishy in the numbers.

1920 – Oma born.
1941 – Oma marries.
1951 – Oma moves to U.S.
1981 – Opa dies.
2001 – Uncle Vic dies.
2013 – Oma dies.

10 years between Oma getting married and moving to the U.S.

30 years later Opa would die.

20 years later Vic would die.

12 years later Oma would die.

Just looking for patterns.

Can’t think of anything else to write. I think I’ve got all the bases covered, Oma, Chicago, not coming back, death, the afterlife.

Unbelievable. Just months ago I visited Oma at the nursing home and now, she’s gone.

Now’s our turn to take off.

WHY THE LONG FACE, DIALER? FINDING IT HARD TO CONTINUE HOLDING THE CALLS FOR ME? WELL, GIVE THEM TO SOMEONE ELSE!

Yeah, tomorrow I go back to work. Back to making courtesy calls for AT&T for very little pay.

Why haven’t we taken off yet?

Can’t take off at 1 mile per hour. Yeah. It may save on gas but it doesn’t give us the lift to clear the runway.

Now we taking off.

Goodbye, Chicago.

Goodbye, Oma.

Goodbye.

Please don’t let there be a third funeral log.

The End

Another funeral in Chicago, Part 5.

August 13, 2017

Good morning. Nice day for a funeral, innit?

Got another line to cross. Not the Line Of Anxiety but not exactly smooth sailing either. So I’ll draw the Line Of Uncertainty. I can get through but not without a tight squeeze.

Today’s date is July 22, 2013, the time is 8:07am and I am dressed in pallbearer attire. Here’s the Line Of Uncertainty. See you on the other side…


Here’s the other side. Turn the page, please.

Our last night in Chicago. As I write this, Lisa and Rachel are sleeping but with the light on. I feel bad because I need the light on…

…to write.

Very, very emotional funeral for Oma. The pastor stressed the need to let her go because the body she once occupied is no good for her anymore. So she’s gone now. The very essence of Oma is gone, leaving behind the empty shell that occupies the casket. It all makes sense now. There is a next stage of life after this but the body I’m in right now is no good for this next stage.

Now Oma’s at rest next to Opa, the funeral is over with and we can all carry on with our lives. And yes, I touched Oma’s hands one last time before letting her go. I will not worry about her suffering in pain. I will miss her.

I’m guessing somewhere along writing these words, I’m going to start crying. But I don’t feel the urge to. Not that I’m not sad Oma’s gone. Of course I’m sad. But I’m staying strong. Just like Oma would have wanted. She really looked like she was at peace in that casket, even with her ear looking like it was pale from death. She’s gone now, but not from inside me. Time to get some sleep so I can be up and ready to fly home. More to follow after this intermission from Dreamland. Surely Oma will pay a visit…

Good night.

To be continued…

Another funeral in Chicago, Part 4.

August 12, 2017

It is 7:02. No problems getting up this morning of July 21, 2013. The sun was shining in the hotel room. Time to start getting things ready for the day ahead. Remember, the wake service is TODAY. The funeral is TOMORROW. I can’t wait when all these events become YESTERDAY.

After breakfast at Les Brothers, we went to Oma’s house. Doesn’t matter it got sold, it will always be Oma’s house. I was told I could take anything I wanted. Nothing from the kitchen, but I did recover the magnets from the fridge. I also practically emptied out one of her drawers containing office supplies.

For the first time in years, I went to the hot attic. Nothing there I wanted.

Then we went downstairs to the basement. It was messy down there and the air smelled musty. I was curious about the workshop in the corner and wondered if Opa’s jacket was still hanging in the corner. It wasn’t. I opened the door to a small cabinet and saw a strange bundle of weights attached to copper wires. When I picked it up, two wires fell down to the floor. I picked them up and put them back. Remember that.

On the way up I picked up a dirty penny bearing the year 1974. Later when I went to Vic’s old bedroom, I picked up a penny there with the year 1968. Remember. The 1974 penny came from the basement and the 1968 penny came from Vic’s room.

Then we had lunch at Jimmy John’s. Actually we got some sandwiches to go and ate them at the room. Oh yeah, we went to the cemetery to visit Ida and my other relatives’ graves. Curiously the ground above Grandpa’s grave was cracked. Is he trying to get out? Or has he already escaped?

Then we picked up Lisa and Rachel and now we’re back at the motel after an episode in which I could not enter the room due to a latch lever that had descended on the door, needing the services of the handy man in order for us to gain access to the room.

Now we are getting ready for the wake service. I will now draw a line that borders my anxiety and relief. That means as I write this, I am anxiously anxious and nervous. When I come back from the wake, I will be much, much less anxious.

So let’s draw that line now. I can’t wait to get to the other side.

Here we go.

I’m standing at the line now. How do I cross over?


Ah, so this is what the other side of the Anxiety Line looks like.

On the way to the funeral home, we stopped at Oma’s house one last time to give Lisa a chance to grab anything she needed. I pounced at the chance to grab something from the attic but didn’t find anything. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to.

I grabbed a few decorative objects from the dining room but for me the biggest find of the day was in the basement. I found a dirty ping pong ball on the floor by the ping pong table. Surely this was the same ball Opa used. I grabbed it and put it in my sports jacket. Truly, the biggest find ever. When I come home I need to put Oma’s stuff in a section by itself so I can relive her memory each time I pass.

I need to describe the smell of the dining room. When the air conditioning turned on, the scent of the nearby potpourri dish begins to circulate around the room. A nice floral smell but one that adds a very uneasy mood. Think about it. A house once inhabited by Oma whose wake service was to take place later that day? I smell the uneasiness in the air.

My heart was pounding of course when we got to the funeral home. Once I got accustomed to the sight of Oma in her casket, I crossed the line of anxiety and could finally relax. Oma really looked at peace in her casket. Oh wait, not Oma herself. The very essence of Oma is gone, not even in the room occupying her remains. She is free now, no more suffering, no more pain and no more dementia. Before leaving, I pounced on the chance while alone with her and touched her hands. The last of my anxieties vaporized. I sense Oma really liked that. I’ll do it again tomorrow but first I needs ta gets some SLEEP.

To be continued…

Another funeral in Chicago, Part 3.

August 11, 2017

Today is July 20, 2013. It is now 7:40am and I am sitting here in my underwear, writing these words. I am charging my Kindle, iPod and cell phone and need to finalize my packing. It is impossible to continue packing while writing so I need to put down this pen and continue getting ready if I am to make it to the airport on time.

The time now is 12:33. I am seated on the plane and awaiting takeoff to Atlanta. I am nervously anticipating the events that are about to unfold, but for now, the only thing happening today is just flying to Chicago. You need to think about this. As I write these words I am seated on the plane after having taken some time off to fly to Chicago. As I write this, I have not seen Oma since she died, I have not seen her in her casket and she has not been buried. Quite a departure from the old days when trips to Chicago were actually fun. Now there are no reasons to look forward to visiting Chicago. Who can we visit anymore? We can’t go to Oma’s house. That’s been sold.

The plane is now beginning its taxi to the runway to begin takeoff. Or was. It’s at a standstill as a final safety check is underway.

What can I say about Chicago anymore? My relatives are gone and so are the reasons to look forward to visiting there. It sure beats doing “courtesy calls” all day.

WHY ARE YOU SO DOWN, DIALER? MISS ME ALREADY?

Stupid Dialer. I bet you right now it’s trying to break into the aircraft communication system right now.

“Hello?”

I hear a voice on the intercom. Everyone is puzzled, me included. I don’t know how, but the Dialer broke into the aircraft’s communication system just to harass me.

“HELLO?”

Suddenly it dawned on me. I knew what to do.

“Hello,” I spoke up. “This is Michael with a courtesy call from AT&T. Before we proceed I need to inform you that this is not a sales call and our conversation may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes. Is this is the primary account holder?”

“This is,” replied the voice.

I nodded and replied, “I am calling to follow up on your U-verse service with AT&T and to thank you for your business. Do you have any remaining issues or concerns you may have with your U-verse TV or Internet service?”

“No,” the voice answered. “Everything’s working good.”

“Excellent!” I replied. “Do you have any questions about your U-verse TV service, features, Internet or e-mail, or your AT&T account in general?”

“No,” the voice repeated. “Everything’s working good.”

“Excellent!” I said. “If you have any questions in the future you can find us on the web at att.com. Thank you for choosing AT&T and have a wonderful day.”

“Thanks for the call.”

Click.

It was over. The cabin burst into applause as the plane took off into the cloudy sky.

Meh.

Oh yeah, the plane’s airborne now.

Too late to turn back.

Descending on Atlanta.

Pick your poison. Would you rather…
Land in Atlanta?
OR
Land in the Atlantic Ocean?
Toughskie.

Very smooth flight. Alas, the worst is ahead.

Chicago.

Two funerals, almost one year apart.

Flying across the sky, across my grandmother’s playground.

So Oma flew up here, probably a few days ago. How did the passengers react when they saw a casket being loaded on the plane?

Atlanta is approaching fast.

Time for the Jolt-O-Meter. Too late.

Welcome to Atlanta.

After a quick ride on the train to Gate C, I am now on the plane that will take me closer to Chicago. It is absolutely too late to turn back now. Oma is waiting. Why let her down by not showing up.

The plane is now pulling away from the gate. It’s easy to forget this happens constantly all over the world. As you read this, yes, there is a plane pulling from the gate like this one is.

Raining outside. There was a very strange noise coming from the floor, as if someone were sawing something. The pilot made some announcement that it was raining and “blah blah blah DELAY.”

I did hear about the lightning strikes.

This is starting to feel like an ill-fated flight.

Plane hasn’t moved. It is still raining.

FLIGHT 392 – WE WILL NEVER FORGET?

It is now 4:19. We should’ve been airborne by now. But no. Stupid stubborn thunderstorm has crept into the area and is causing misery. We’ve been sitting on the ground all this time. We should’ve been flying over the clouds. What’s going on? Why can’t I go to Chicago? I’ve gone this far.

I tweeted, “Rain, rain go away, let this airplane fly today.”

I look to the left and see that repulsive sight of rain. It’s taunting us, supposedly daring us to challenge it. “Yeah, you may have a winged marvel there, but nothing tops the power of Nature! PHEER US!”

Stupid drops of water. This is called an airplane, not a waiting room with wings.

It’s slowing down, right? We can leave now, right? No? Why not? Nature, you are worse than the Dialer.

The passengers are totally losing it. They are yelling, screaming, cursing, singing Justin Bieber songs and threatening to “take matters into their own hands”. One of the passengers kicked in the door to the cockpit, seized the pilot and tied him to the top of the airplane and proceeded to steer the plane into flight amidst thunderous applause.

No, the weather seems to have cleared up enough to finally allow takeoff.

The trip can proceed as planned. Good.

The trip can proceed as planned.

The funeral.

Ugh.

The joy of resuming my trip has diminished.

They want us to power off all electronic devices.

Alas, the perks of pen and paper.

To write…

Once again the plane sits still in Atlanta. I imagine there’s a long line of planes waiting to take off.

#3 for takeoff.

See? I was right.

Planes waiting for takeoff to take their passengers to funerals to bury their Omas.

The funeral.

Once again the sight of Oma in her casket comes to mind. Remember, I have not seen her yet. Needless to say, I’m nervous.

Why? To watch an old woman sleep?

A meticulously detailed statue.

I have to keep in mind what Oma was going through. She was suffering from dementia and it was only going to get worse. Each time we visited her at the nursing home she would sink deeper in her dementia. I still recall that time she was carrying around a stack of empty papers she said would serve as “proof”. Proof of what, only she knew. We had to play along with Oma’s fantasy and it was painful. Adding on to the pain was knowing it was only going to get worse. Okay, so we didn’t want her to leave us, but at what cost? Her dementia would have left her much worse than she was when she passed.

Finally, the plane is in position to take off. Sure enough, there’s a line of planes behind us, waiting to take off as well.

Finally, the plane is accelerating to takeoff speed. Huzzah.

Yay. We airborne now.

The plane is climbing the sky now soon to rise above the clouds, out of reach of thunderstorms.

I feel pressure on my ears as the plane reaches cruising altitude.

Turbulence. Nature is not finished with us.

Fly above the clouds where the sun shines.

There we go.

The cabin just got brighter.

Cool, we can now turn on our electronic gadgets. Ta ta.

Plane descending down to Chicago. That means it’s time to power off my electronic device. Alas I can still write. It’s hard to see how the flow of ink can interfere with the aircraft’s sensitive electronics.

The flow of ink.

To write…

I’m Mike Towrite.

I’m eager for this trip to end. I’d rather the plane descend back home in West Palm Beach.

Back home to Renee, Roxie, collection calls and courtesy calls.

The funeral.

Tomorrow. I see Oma in her casket at the funeral home. Tomorrow. The wake service.

Oma died one week ago. How can she wake up now?

And how will Oma make her presence known? Last year, one of the floor lamps mysteriously flickered and went off. Towards the end of the service, the light turned back on.

No doubt it was Ida. Probably saw some dust.

Now it’s Oma’s turn. How will she make her presence known? I’m sure you know the answer. Wondering about that does take my mind off the sad occasion.

The plane is continuing its descent.

Chicago, now nothing to me but a dead city, is underneath.

The sun is coming from the left side of the aircraft now. I’d think that’s Oma, testing me. Is he coming to my funeral? Oh wait, there he is, writing in his thought book. Good. He does love me.

I do love you, Oma. And I miss you already. So how’s life with Opa?

It is wonderful to be with him again. I thought that day would never come. But it did. He was there, right at my bedside. When I saw him, I knew there was nothing to be afraid of. He took me back. And I am happy now.

The plane is closing in on Chicago now.

Did the landing gear do down? I think it did.

Closer, closer, closer…

Landing…

Welcome to Chicago!

My first night. I am checked in the motel and have commenced to do some writing before I turn in. Still too much going through my mind right now, especially the events to unfold tomorrow. As I write this, the time is 10:30. I will turn in after I translate these thoughts to words on paper.

I had dinner with my parents at Barraco’s. We had Chicago style pizza and talked about Oma and her declining health. My mother mentioned this trip to Chicago could very well be our last. With our relatives gone, there really is no reason to come here anymore unless we want to visit their graves. It’s still not the same when these relatives were around and happy to see me. Now they’re gone.

My father brought up the topic of visiting Oma’s house one last time before the closing. I can help myself to anything I like. That’s going to be an emotional visit for sure.

Now for the plans for tomorrow. After I write this, I am going to sleep. I need to be up and ready to go to breakfast at 8. Then we will go and pick up Lisa and Rachel from the airport and then grab a late lunch before the WAKE service which has not happened yet. Tomorrow. We see Oma in her casket. TOMORROW. Scary. Monday. We go to the FUNERAL. That hasn’t happened yet either. Sad. Thing is, as you read this, all this has happened. It’s all part of your memory now, and as of right now, it’s up to me in the past to create the memories of the future you now possess. It’s all up to me now. I won’t let you down. Good night.

To be continued…

Another funeral in Chicago, Part 2.

August 10, 2017

Today is July 17, 2013. Three days before I fly out to Chicago for Oma’s funeral. The week is progressing at a snail’s pace and the wait is agonizing. I am so ready for this to be over. I am nervous about the sight of Oma in her casket and the emotions that will flow throughout the services. I am not looking forward to this. I will be happy when this is over and Oma tucked away next to Opa. That means as of right now she has still not been buried and I have not even left yet. I don’t know if Oma is still in Jupiter or Chicago. Probably back in Chicago undergoing final preparations.

One thing of solace at the moment is my birthday, exactly one week from today. When next Wednesday comes, all this will be over. The trip to Chicago, the viewing of the body, the wake service, the burial and the flight home will all be over within the next 7 days. Life will be back to normal with the exception of having no living grandparents.

To be continued…

Another funeral in Chicago.

August 9, 2017

Beginning with this post I’d like to share my second travel log I wrote during a trip to Chicago in 2013 for a second funeral there in just over 12 months.

In recent months, my sole surviving grandparent whom we called Oma had been in residence at a nursing home receiving nursing care and attention. At first she seemed to respond to the attention but in recent weeks her health had seen a steep decline.

So there I was riding the train on July 11, 2013. I had just finished another punishing day at work. I already had my cell phone off when I boarded the train and left it off during the ride home so I could relax. As I got closer to the Mangonia Park station, I turned the phone on in anticipation of the usual barrage of voice mail when I received a text message from my parents.

Oma is getting worse. She might not survive the night.

The shock I felt was similar to jumping in an electrical swimming pool. I was overwhelmed with sadness, shock and despair and it set a very dark mood for the rest of the evening. I knew Oma had been in declining health but didn’t think she’d take a turn for the worse, not after all the impressive feats of recovery she’d pulled off in the past. I began to anticipate losing my sole surviving grandparent, just a year after my other grandmother died.

After I got home, there was a message on my answering machine from my father, who wanted me to call him for news on how Oma was doing. That gave me some hope that she was beginning to recover. However, when I called home, my dad told me that Oma had never regained consciousness since returning to the nursing home and was exhibiting shallow breathing, both of them clear symptoms of dying. The news did not sound good at all and further saddened the mood of the evening.

The next morning, on July 12, 2013, right after waking up, I cautiously approached my cell phone and checked it for any new text messages from my parents. There were none. I was relieved, assuming Oma was still hanging on. She was always strong.

I proceeded to get ready for another day at work. As the morning progressed I began to worry about Oma. When my morning break came I went straight to my locker, turned on my cell phone and nervously watched for any new text messages. There were none. Good. Oma still hanging on. Who knows, she may even be alert. Again I was relieved. I turned off the cell phone and put it away.

I worked some more until lunch and as my lunch break approached I was again getting nervous. When I sat down to eat, I turned on my cell phone and again, no text messages. Again the usual assumptions of Oma hanging on and possibly making a recovery. That put my mind at ease for a while but towards the end of the shift I began to worry again.

When I left work for the day, I turned on my cell phone one more time and was again relieved when I got no text messages. I began to assume that Oma was still hanging on and still had hope she was recovering. I walked to the train station as usual and caught the next train home. The interior of the car I boarded had the coldest temperature I ever felt. It was so cold in the train that the windows were fogged up. It felt like riding in a refrigerator.

When I finally got off the train at Mangonia Park, my cell phone rang. It was my mother, calling to report that Oma had passed away earlier in the morning. That means she was already gone when I checked my cell phone earlier in the day, but my parents had held off telling me the news until I got home from work. When I heard the news that Oma had finally passed, I felt relieved that she was no longer suffering. I had spent the day agonizing about how Oma was struggling with dementia and poor health and it briefly felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. No more worrying. She’s in a better place now in the company of her family. I can imagine that Opa, Uncle Vic, Uncle George and the rest of the family were waiting for her. Oh yeah, and her faithful dog Chips at her side.

Over time though, relief gave way to sadness when I began to realize I had just lost the last of my grandparents. Yet another branch has dried up and fallen off the family tree. I’m still not fully recovered from losing my other grandmother and the loss of Oma only prolongs the grief. Never again will I see her smile, not will I feel the tender touch of her hugs. Even during her last months she still had that personality that was unmistakably Oma. I will miss her smile, her laugh and her cheerful personality that made every trip to Chicago memorable. All that’s gone now, never to return. Chicago just got darker and sadder with no relatives living there now. This is sadness beyond comprehension that continues to follow me everywhere I go. And here I am at work, having just requested the time off to fly to Chicago for the funeral. As of right now, Oma has not been buried yet, and I am nervously anticipating what will be one of the saddest trips to Chicago in recent memory. That means as of right now, I have not attended the funeral, not have I seen Oma since she died.

I leave for Chicago in 3 days. I already can’t wait for this to end.

In the meantime, I have found great solace in knowing that there’s some Oma inside of me, along with Opa. They both produced my father, and my father produced me. Therefore I carry traces of Oma and Opa as well. I carry them both with me and will continue keeping them with me wherever I go.

Always.

To be continued…

Stunned scientists confirm dissipation of global warming.

August 9, 2017

If we believe in this headline, maybe it’ll happen.

Get busy believin’.

Remembering record stores.

August 6, 2017

At one time, there were plenty of record stores all over town. Only recently did I realize their disappearance over the years.

When I was growing up, I went along with my father to a record store that actually sold vinyl records. He purchased the soundtrack album to Saturday Night Fever, which came on two LP’s. I will forever be haunted by the brand-new smell of the album after the plastic wrapping was removed, which really added to the fresh sound of the music.

I also remember the time when record stores sold cassette tapes, even as compact discs began to take over the music media industry. I would walk into a record store and find the inventory of cassette tapes along the wall and the CD’s displayed in bins throughout the rest of the store. I built quite a collection of cassette tapes, most of which I still have today. And yes, I still have the dual cassette deck to play them on.

I remember a lot of the record stores that were around town, especially at the malls. In fact, it was the main reason for my going to the mall in the first place. One of my favorite record stores was Spec’s, which had a large enough inventory for me to find what I was looking for. Sam Goody was another favorite place to shop, along with Record Town. I also liked visiting Peaches, whose stores always had that unmistakable smell of incense sticks on sale there. They too had a large selection of music.

These days, record stores just aren’t as commonplace as they used to be. Spec’s has long since gone, and so has Peaches. The mall near me that once had both Sam Goody and Record Town has seen them both disappear. I don’t know which malls still have record stores anymore, but I’m sure it would mean a longer drive. Yes, Walmart may sell music CD’s, but it’s just not the same as visiting a standalone record store. It’s depressing to see this era of history come to a premature demise.

Thoughts on jury duty.

July 16, 2017

Last week I was chosen to serve on a jury for a criminal trial. Now that the trial is over and the verdict delivered, I believe I can now share my thoughts on this whole experience.

After two days of enduring an unexpectedly lengthy jury selection process, I was among the fourteen individuals selected for the jury. During this process, the judge said something that I will always remember. “Who’s winning right now?” he asked. “The defendant. There hasn’t been any evidence presented yet to prove his guilt, so he’s got the lead.” That drove home his point that the defendant was innocent until proven guilty.

After we were sworn in and seated, we received instructions from the judge about the trial. During this time I caught a quick glimpse of the defendant, and that’s when it dawned on me. For the first time in my life, I had to judge another human being and decide if he was in fact guilty or innocent of his crime. An awesome responsibility had just been placed in my hands. This was not going to be an easy task.

Once the trial got underway, I learned the details of the case. It seems the defendant wanted to go to a gentleman’s club with his best friend, but he had no way of getting there in style, so he stole his girlfriend’s mother’s car and used that to get to the club.

This is where things get interesting. When the two men left the club hours later, the police were waiting with an arrest warrant for the defendant’s friend on some felony charge and tried to block their car from leaving the parking lot. The defendant was still able to drive off before leading the police on a high speed chase that ended when his car crashed into a retention pond one mile away from the club.

A few minutes later, police arrived at the scene and the two men tried to swim away to avoid capture but they soon found themselves struggling to stay afloat when they reached the deep end of the pond. The police managed to rescue the defendant but his friend drowned. The defendant was charged with grand theft auto, fleeing and eluding, and first degree murder.

During the trial, we heard hours of testimony from officers involved in the chase. We also saw videos of the chase from dashboard cameras well as a surveillance video of the club’s parking lot that showed the beginning of the chase. We also saw photographs of the scene of the accident at the retention pond and the heavy damage sustained by the car during its escape.

The prosecution tried to argue that the defendant should be held responsible for the death of his friend, but from reviewing the dashcam video footage we could see the two men swimming vigorously away from the car in opposite directions while trying to avoid the police. At first the friend began swimming towards the shore but turned away when he saw the officers trying to rescue him. The murder charge didn’t fit in too well with us in the jury, so we found him not guilty of first degree murder and guilty of fleeing and eluding along with grand theft auto.

The American justice system may have its flaws, but I think it actually worked at this trial. The jurors were impartial and open-minded enough to give the defendant the fair trial he deserved. The deliberations were done with respect to the evidence, testimony and the context of the law without the interference of any personal beliefs that would have impacted the outcome of the trial. In the end, everyone felt good about the verdict they reached to bring the trial to its satisfying conclusion.

This was the first criminal trial I served on, and I found this whole experience educational and very rewarding. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.