12.20.2006

"This here's why motherfuckers go on the run!"

Today I got to go to Compton. That's right. W.W.A., right here. I had a small claims trial to do (I won), so I got my exhibits ready, drafted my chronology, put on my black skirt-of-intimidation, and set off.

Now, all courthouses now have security: metal detectors, armed sheriffs' deputies at the door, controlled entry, etc. Compton, for reasons that may be obvious, if you read far enough into the Wiki entry to get to the "Crime" section, has rather more rigorous screening than, say, Beverly Hills does. So the line to get into the courthouse, unlike other Los Angeles County Superior Courts, was some 500 people deep when I got there at 8:45 for a 9:30 hearing. Anticipating a different scene entirely, I was immediately anxious, but luckily reached H by e-mail (thank the gods for BlackBerry, kids, is all I can say for situations like this one) and he had D call the bailiff in the designated courtroom, who took my name down but also assured D that this was perfectly normal and they held court (ha!) until everyone got there, allowing an extra 30 to 60 minutes. Getting that all squared away meant I could observe the interplay of humanity around me....

So, first, interestingly, I was one of perhaps 8 people wearing what could even at a stretch be considered "business attire." The vast majority of ensembles ran to the Ecko Red, BabyPhat, Sean John, and Apple Bottoms sort, with an emphasis on men's jeans roughly 18 sizes too big for their wearers. Now, here's the thing: you're going to court, right? You're either there to sit on a jury, to pay a ticket or fine, to file a lawsuit, or otherwise to appear in court, either as plaintiff or defendant. None of the aforementioned labels are cheap, folks, so wouldn't the $200 you just spent on those stupid jeans go a lot farther at Macy's to buy one or two decent outfits so you look like you belong in the courthouse and not on the bus with the barred windows carting people off to County??

Second, I was one of maybe 4 whiteys in the line. Hi, stand out much? Yeah I did! Very unsettling. Got to talking with the elderly woman in line ahead of me, and her teenaged granddaughter, and watched with interest as the bee-phobic (surely there's a word for that) guy about 12 people back ran around and swore like a sailor as a bee dabbling in the rosebushes made straight for his huge bright yellow shirt (this was particularly eye-catching because the dude himself was probably 6'3" and a healthy 275, but the shirt was even bigger -- think 7XL or so.

So the two best conversations were these:
1) On the phone: "Yo, what up, my nigga?! I'm in line down the courthouse. Nah, I gotta hearing on my parole violation. ... Yeah... Well, I'm 'posed to get off in March, and I been paying my fines since I got out, and I got out two years ago, so I don' know what they'll do. Here's hopin'...."

2) After an hour's wait in line, shuffling forward in 4 foot increments, we all split into two lines with about 10 people ahead of us in each line, when it becomes clear that jurors can jump into the line right at the door. Some consternation on the part of everyone who can see this happening is expressed by the friend of the fellow going in for his parole violation hearing. He turns to the crowd and says, "This here's why motherfuckers go on the run!!"

This is now my new tagline. Whenever something's not going as anticipated, "This here's why motherfuckers go on the run!" Try it -- you'll find it's applicable to a wider range of situations than you expect!

Hey, if I don't see yas, have a holly jolly Christmas!!

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