Sunday, November 30, 2014

now what you hear is not a test

The early 80s was a transitional period for music. The brief Disco Era was on the decline. The mainstay rock-and-roll heavyweights were still trying to maintain a grip on the once-mighty genre now categorically referred to as "classic rock." A wide variety of music jammed the radio airwaves, from the sappy sentimentality of Air Supply and Melissa Manchester to the faux macho bravura of John Mellencamp (still sporting his tough-guy "John Cougar" moniker), to the frenetic energy of budding new-wavers like the Human League and Adam and the Ants. And I listened to all of it. I had no real choice. In those days before Spotify and iTunes, you listened to what the radio told you to listen to.

In the early 80s, I was a struggling art student earning tuition money by working in my cousin's health food restaurant. By day, I was packing away burgers and Philly cheese steaks, while at night, I would offer baked eggplant and bulgur wheat casseroles to a regular crowd of gaunt, pale tree-huggers who all looked like they could benefit from a good steak.

After classes, I would rush to the restaurant, ditch my imitation leather portfolio and tie on an apron. The building was a tall narrow structure, so the kitchen was on the second floor. As I was pulling my hair back into a ponytail on my way down the stairs, I passed by Tony, who was elbow-deep in a sink full of soapy water. Tony was hired to do a little bit of everything. He could shove a pre-made casserole into the oven. He could sweep the back-porch seating area. He could assist me behind the cafeteria counter at particularly busy times. But, mostly, he could keep the kitchen in a state of sparkling cleanliness. Tony was a great guy and he opened me up to an unknown world out side my small, sheltered, white, Jewish, Northeast Philadelphia existence. As Tony scrubbed that stainless steel to a mirror-like shine, he found his groove from the unusual tunes coming from the radio perched on a nearby windowsill. I had never heard anything like those sounds. It was rhythmic, tribal, raw and infectious. No radio that I owned ever picked up sounds like that. Tony closed his eyes, bobbed and swayed his head and, at machine-gun speed, harmonized with the singer.
It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under
He followed the line with a guttural, yet musical, laugh — ha ha ha HA ha. He continued. It was awesome.
They pushed that girl in front of the train
Took her to the doctor, sewed her arm on again
Stabbed that man right in his heart
Gave him a transplant for a brand new start
I can't walk through the park cause it's crazy after dark
Keep my hand on my gun cause they got me on the run
"Oh my God, Tony!," I sputtered. I couldn't get the words out fast enough. "What is that?"

"That's the joint, man!," he smiled and replied and that was all the answer I needed.

Of course, it was the ground-breaking hip hop classic "The Message" by South Bronx pioneer rappers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. I needed to own it. It was the most incredible thing I had ever heard, cutting through the FM radio sameness of Foreigner/Eagles/FleetwoodMac. I couldn't get it out of my head. The next day, I ran to The Sound of Market Street, a store where I made the majority of my record purchases. I wandered into a section of the store that I usually ignored. It was the R&B section. The walls displayed LP sized singles by bands I never heard of — Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force. (There was Fab 5 Freddy, who I heard mentioned in a Blondie song, but, at the time, I didn't know what Debbie Harry was talking about.) My head was spinning. I grabbed an armful of random selections, making sure that a copy of "The Message" was among them. My next few hours at art school were difficult ones. I knew those disks were in my bag, just aching to spin on my turntable at home. And, when I finally arrived home, that's exactly what I did.

Soon, I was buying full-length albums by RUN-DMC and LL Cool J, along with more 12" singles by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Sugarhill Gang. My collection was supplemented with "The Message II," "Apache," "New York New York," and "White Lines." I knew every word, every beat, every scratch and every rhyme and proudly sang along. Among my friends and their unwavering allegiances to The Cars and Huey Lewis, these songs were like my dirty little secret.

Suddenly, someone in "mainstream recordland" got wind of this surging genre. Next thing I knew, aging rock relics Areosmith had joined forces with DJ Run and his cohort Darrell Mac to pump new life into the leering schoolboy anthem "Walk This Way." Now, rap had crossed the race line and it was everywhere.

Next on the mic is my man Hank.
C'mon Hank, sing that song.
But sometime, when I wasn't looking, rap got angry. Rap got ultraviolent and misogynistic and a bunch of other things it never was. And it lost its uniqueness. Somewhere, rap — that shining pillar rising above the bland sameness of commercial music — got boring.

Recently, Henry Jackson, better known as the Sugarhill Gang's "Big Bank Hank," passed away at 57 years old. His death brought back vivid memories of that new discovery. It was a small piece of time that, because of the combination of the innocence of the moment and the subsequent years that have passed, can never be duplicated.

Monday, November 24, 2014

under my wheels

My next-door neighbor rear-ended my car while it was parked (parked!) in front of my house. He rang my doorbell and sheepishly admitted to the accident (details of which were revealed by his mother later*) in an awkward exchange on my front porch. I contacted a friend who owns an auto body shop and my car was soon off for repair, with the entire cost rightly footed by my neighbor.

After a week or so, my car was returned to me as good as new (or as close to new as a ten-year old car can get). I was not really inconvenienced by its absence, as I take the train to work daily and I rarely drive on weekends. Why do I have a car then? Well, I'm not going to walk to the dry cleaners and I regularly go to concerts that are not at venues located on convenient train routes. 

When my car was returned, it was pointed out that both rear tires were in pretty poor shape. "How on earth did they even pass inspection?," was the actual assessment. I promptly made an appointment with my mechanic and I dropped my car at his shop the night before, leaving my keys and instructions in a sealed envelope that I shoved under one of the locked garage doors. The next morning, he called to say that the front tires were just as bad and he recommended replacing them as well. So, eight hundred bucks later, I was back in business. I got my car back just in time. That evening, I had plans to go to one of those "off the train route" concerts, this one remotely located in South Philadelphia.

Warning! Warning! Danger! Danger!
I hopped into my newly-tired vehicle and set out for the show. Just as I took the on-ramp to Philadelphia's notorious Schuylkill Expressway, I noticed the ominous glow of the tire sensor light on my dashboard. "Yikes!," I thought, "What didn't the mechanic do?" Here I was, doing 60 miles-per-hour on what could possibly be poorly-attached tires. Or maybe I had a flat. I lowered the radio and listened carefully, trying to slow down as cars whizzed by me on either side. The angry tire light remained at a steady amber gleam. Mocking me. Warning me of impending trouble. I pictured a tire loosening from its mount and bouncing across the four lanes as I skidded to my death on a bare, spark-spewing wheel hub. With panic being to set in, I frantically anticipated the next exit. I was approaching Girard Avenue and I passed. I was in enough trouble already without having to worry about the sketchy neighborhood surrounding the Philadelphia Zoo. ("Wow! A faulty tire AND he got shot seven times and robbed. Poor guy.") I opted for the 30th Street exit instead, where I would feel safer in the vicinity of a heavily-trafficked train station and several well-lit high rises. I pulled over into a taxicab stop and jumped out of my car. I authoritatively inspected each tire with a few kicks from my boot. I encircled my car a few more times, like most mechanically-deficient guys, half-expecting and secretly hoping a flashing neon light and a cartoon arrow to pop up and scream "Here's your problem, idiot!" But, no such luck. I called Mrs. Pincus and told her I was blowing off the concert and heading back home. She suggested I take a different route, avoiding the high-speed requirements of the Expressway. I obliged. I got back in my car and carefully maneuvered my way into traffic and through the city to Broad Street, a main thoroughfare, though punctuated by traffic lights at nearly every corner. I slowly drove the thirteen miles to my house.

When I finally arrived home after the grueling, white-knuckle journey, envisioning my demise at every trolley track and pothole, I dropped my car off at the now-closed mechanic. I scribbled a note describing my ordeal and, leaving my key, shoved another envelope under the locked garage door.

I called the mechanic bright and early the next morning. He said he was working on mu car as we spoke. It was not a problem. He explained that the tire sensors work differently in older cars and he only needed to make a small adjustment or two. He assured me that at no time was I ever in danger.

I missed the concert, but better safe than splattered across the asphalt... or however that saying goes.

Nice work there, Alex
* She told my wife that her son, Alex, was very upset by my reaction to the accident. I was puzzled by this, because I did not yell or even raise my voice. I slowly walked to the curb where my car was parked and evaluated the damage aided only by the illumination of a nearby streetlight. When I saw the giant crack in the spare tire cover, I muttered, "Well get it taken care of." and I walked back into my house to finish my interrupted dinner. I later found out that, near tears, Alex asked his mother, "Why doesn't Mr. Pincus like me anymore? He liked me when I was a kid?" Oh, I don't know, Alex, maybe it has something to do with you just hit my fucking car!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

potatoes are cheaper

See those big, unusual vegetables piled up and ready for market? Do they look familiar? I didn't think so, because you have probably never seen them before. Those things are called "yams." 

Look at my giant yam!
Yams are part of the species of flowering plants called "monocots." This group of over 59,000 species includes orchids, lilies and tulips, as well as wheat, sugar cane and bamboo. Yams are native to Africa and Asia. They can grow to up to four feet in length and weigh in the neighborhood of 150 pounds. They have a rough skin, which can be difficult to peel and tough white flesh, which softens when cooked. They are rarely sold — or even seen — in the United States.

So, what are those neon orange things surrounded by mini-marshmallows, brown sugar and a boatload of butter that Grandma prepares every Thanksgiving? Um, they're sweet potatoes. I don't care what Grandma says, or what you've been told. They are sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes aren't even in the same plant family as yams. Sweet potatoes are related to the morning glory and the popular Asian vegetable water spinach (not actually spinach) and come from the plant species of "dicots," as opposed to "monocots."* The oranges ones, the yellow ones, as well as the exotic purple ones — they are sweet potatoes, too. Hell, sweet potatoes are only distantly related to other varieties of potatoes. 

Bruce doesn't know
what he's talking about.
When did the confusion start? When slaves from Africa were brought to the United States, they called the misshapen potato with the orange flesh "yams" because they resembled the true yams from their native land, though much smaller. Over the years, the name stuck. In order to reinforce "truth in advertising," The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that commercially grown and marketed sweet potatoes labeled with the term "yam" must also be accompanied by the term "sweet potato."

This week, when you are filling your shopping cart with all the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving feast, know that those things that you're passing off to your family as "yams," are nothing more than sweet potatoes. No matter what you or the signs in the produce section or even Bruce® says. They ain't yams.

Good luck trying to convince Grandma, though.

* If you are really interested, you can read more about dicots and monocots here. Or you can invite a botanist to Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

baby, what a big surprise

Nearly every morning, I see this guy on the train. He's one of those people that — just based purely and superficially on appearance — you know is an asshole. You know the type. I can't quite pinpoint what it is about him that assures me that he's an asshole, but I know that he is. It may be his default facial expression. It's sort of a haughty sneer; mouth turned down slightly at the corners, furrowed brow, heavy-lidded judgmental eyes. Maybe it's that fact that, despite numerous cautions and warnings from SEPTA, he still insists on placing his expensive-looking briefcase on the seat next to him. Perhaps it's the one time, on a particularly crowded train, the only available seat was the case-filled one next to him. When I asked to sit, he hesitated before he moved his bag and then refused to give up the full 50% of the seat. He encroached on my space for the entire journey to work, trying to edge me out onto the aisle. I think he even leisurely crossed his legs at one point, revealing a designer sock between a tooled-leather shoe and a hairy shin.

Know your train.
This morning, I saw him in his usual spot (last car, left-hand side, briefcase on seat). The train was unusually empty this morning, so I grabbed an aisle seat on a three-seater two rows behind him. I removed my book from my messenger bag and began reading. Suddenly, someone's cellphone began to ring. The ringtone wasn't the generic, factory-installed, synthesized series of "beeps and boops". This was a customized ringtone. A popular song chosen specifically to reflect the owner's light-hearted and carefree outlook on life. A song that hearkened back to a simpler, less-complicated time in the owner's life, when innocence was the driving force and the sweet sounds of four mop-topped lads from Liverpool held a place of high esteem. Someone had purposely sought out and selected the Fab Four's international chart-topping hit "She Loves You" as a way of alerting them to an incoming call. 

It was the asshole.

He fumbled from pocket to pocket in a mad search to locate his phone. All the while, the bright vocals of Lennon and McCartney soared loudly above George Harrison's jangly guitar, filling the train car.

"Wow!" I thought, "Maybe I had this guy all wrong. No asshole could possibly have a peppy, cheerful song like 'She Loves You' as their ringtone!" I looked up from my book, cocked my head, and silently pondered this guy again, reconsidering my earlier stance. 

Then he stepped out into the aisle, blatantly cutting in front of a woman trying to exit the train. He had that regular scowl on his face. 

Looks like I was right all along.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

trash — pick it up!

Those of you who don't live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Eastern Virginia and parts of Florida don't know what you're missing. We get to go to Wawa, the greatest of all convenience stores. Forbes Magazine knows what I'm talking about. They ranked Wawa 47th on their list of the largest privately-owned companies.

Last night we ran into a rare customer service mishap in the usually cheerful and efficient Wawa. A faux-pas so rare that — for a minute there — we thought we were in a 7-11.

My wife and I stopped for sandwiches at Wawa and, while they were being prepared, we grabbed two corn muffins from the self-serve bakery case for tomorrow's breakfast. The usual clear plastic bakery bags had been replaced with smaller bags usually reserved for soft pretzels. They were even imprinted with the UPC code for pretzels. With no other option, I shoved two muffins into the bag and got in line at the checkout. When it was my turn, I handed the cashier my bar-coded order receipt for the sandwiches, along with the muffin-stuffed bag. Without batting an eye, the young lady scanned the bar code on the bag. The cash register screen identified the purchase as "two pretzels" at a cost of $1.19. Mrs. P. brought the discrepancy to the cashier's attention.

"Those are muffins," she noted, "not pretzels. I'm not sure if muffins are the same price."

The cashier was just as confused. She sought assistance from the store manager. The manger, an unusually unfriendly fellow, corrected the item and informed the cashier that muffins were $1.59 each. The item was voided and the right price was entered. Because I pride myself on being honest, I joked that I would have felt bad cheating Wawa out of eighty cents. The cashier awkwardly smiled, obviously not getting my attempt at humor.

We picked up our wrapped sandwiches and, as we crossed the floor towards the exit, a doughnut rolled across our path. We looked in the direction of the rolling pastry. The manager was dumping every last morsel of doughnut, cruller, croissant and — yes! even muffins! — into a large, industrial-size trash receptacle.

Mrs. P spoke up. "You're throwing everything away? After we just paid full-price for those muffins? Even though you charged us the wrong price and we honestly paid the higher price. Now you're throwing them away?"

The manager stared blankly at us. "Well, we're getting a delivery of fresh ones."

So, how were we rewarded for our honesty? We paid full price for muffins that were 90 seconds away from becoming trash.

Thanks, Wawa.

* * * * UPDATE * * * * 
Wawa redeems themselves with a letter of apology and a ten dollar gift card. Muffins for everyone!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I just might stop to check you out

I have grown to really detest organized religion. I was never a very religious or spiritual person. I had no religious upbringing at all. Sure, I knew I was Jewish and, thanks to my many anti-Semitic neighbors, I was regularly reminded. But I rarely attended services and only observed holidays if it meant a day off from school. 

When I met my wife, I was perplexed by how observant she and her family were. I found it interesting, and both historically and culturally stirring. Although I still wasn't buying into the spirituality, I was impressed and even proud of the centuries-old traditions. When our own immediate family increased by one, we instilled and exhibited the same traditions and pride to our young son. We celebrated Shabbat each week with challah and candle-lighting. We attended synagogue, not only on the so-called High Holidays but for lesser holidays throughout the year. Our son went all through Jewish day school, becoming quite knowledgeable in the history and origins of his religion — knowledgeable enough to wage heated challenges to some concepts and interpretations, much to the chagrin of his teachers. He even accompanied my father-in-law — his beloved Zayde — to the services held at a small Orthodox shul, where, despite his young age, he held his own amid the old guard.

A few years ago, my father-in-law — a very pious, learned and traditionally-minded man — was unceremonious dismissed from his long-standing position as Head Usher at High Holiday Services by a younger, disrespectful regime that had moved into control at his synagogue. He was removed without a "thank you" or grateful sentiment of any kind by a bunch of self-righteous machers, most of whom were shitting their diapers when my father-in-law was already davening shachreit. I felt this behavior went against the very basic foundation of religion. That this was done by a committee under the auspices of a religious organization made it even more unconscionable. Is this what they learned from the teachings of the Torah and the message of Talmud? Ugh! With my already waning beliefs, this was the last straw.  I was so done with religion and synagogue and services and all of it. As far as I was concerned, it was all bullshit. Total, unscrupulous, nonsensical bullshit. I vowed never to cross the threshold of a synagogue again.

Yesterday, I broke the promise that I made to myself. I begrudgingly squeezed myself into a suit and tie and accompanied my wife to the Bar Mitzvah of the son of a childhood acquaintance. I wasn't happy about going to synagogue for any reason, but, I love my wife, so I went.

The service was called for 9:30 on a Saturday morning. We swung into the parking lot at five minutes past the delegated time, just in time to see the Bar Mitzvah boy's grandparents walking in to the building. Jews aren't exactly known for their punctuality, hence the "ish" that is routinely added to appointment times ("Okay, Phyllis, I'll see you around 10-ish for a nosh."). We parked, walked up and through the doors, where we were greeted by an older woman wearing too much make-up and a name tag (designating her importance, as Jews love to show their importance). 

"Helllllloooooo!" she welcomed in a sing-songy voice, stretching the two-syllable word to an impossible nine syllables, "Have you been here before?" and without waiting for an answer, she continued, "Just ahead to the left and then up the stairs." She extended her age-atrophied arm and gestured in the general direction of "to the left."

We approached the sparsely-populated sanctuary where the rabbi — a frail-looking, pale young lady with unkempt hair and a shmata tied around her head — was leading the service with a whiny, yet earnest, voice. The hallway just outside the main sanctuary was dotted with many more name-tagged "potentates," each with their own self-appointed job. There was the smiley lady who was giving out the little Xeroxed programs, explaining what the heck is going on here for those who may have stumbled in just looking for a place to warm up for a bit. Then there was my favorite  — the old guy who was silently checking every male head for the presence of a yarlmulke, like some kind of inventory manager for God. He was also charged with distributing talllit (prayer shawl) to those gentlemen he deemed too stupid to know whether or not they were wearing one.

We chose a seat in the fifth row, just behind my in-laws. All religious services have struck me in a humorous way. I have always equated the ceremonial liturgy and chanting with the incantations I heard in horror movies or tongue-in-cheek recitations delivered by an angry Agnes Moorehead on Bewitched. Is the effectiveness of prayer determined by the proper order of the words? If you stumble over a phrase or leave out a word, does God dismiss the entire plea as null-and-void? If you ask any of the regular ritual attendees, you would think that's the case. 

One of the most intriguing phenomenons of the morning service is how many people sit in their seats with an open prayer book in their hands and pay absolutely no attention to the service. A lot of people (mostly women) aren't even facing front. They are more interested in what every one else in the room is doing. Who's walking in, who's following along, who's on the right page, who's talking to their neighbor. All of these things are way more important than worshiping the deity of choice. Also taking precedent over God is: what is she wearing? who is that new man Sheila is sitting with? and the ever popular I think Bernie is here with a shiksa! The very idea!

Look, I know I've come down pretty hard on religion. I understand that there are a lot of people who find solace and comfort in it. Just not everyone. As the years go on and generations beget generations, the interest in religion grows thin and religion itself becomes less relevant.

It's funny how my feeling towards religion were brought to a head by actions taken against my father-in-law. It's funny because this story is gonna piss him off.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

good morning, worm your honor

Last week, while all of you patriots were performing your civic duty, I was watching a 55 year-old rerun of Make Room for Daddy, a show I don't particularly like. But, given the choice, I was glad to have endured a half hour of the insufferable Danny Thomas – hamming it up and mugging for the camera – than to flick a little lever in a voting booth and pretend that my vote makes a difference.

I have not voted since Barack Obama became president the first time. Actually, after the embarrassing debacle that was the 2000 presidential election, with its lengthy recounts, ballot tampering and infamous "hanging chads," I swore I would never vote again. But, I gave in to some heart-stirring "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave" sentiment and voted in several more elections over the next eight years. 

Until that one day.

It was early in 2008. I came home from work, slung my jacket on the back of a living room chair (much to the on-going dismay of Mrs. Pincus) and began to leisurely rifle through a stack of the day's mail. Among the catalogs and utility bills, was an ominous yet important-looking envelope. It was addressed to me and featured a governmental return address in the top left-hand corner. I frowned. I slipped my index finger under the sealed flap, carefully sliding it along and tearing a neat opening along the fold. I removed the machine-folded single sheet of paper and began to read. I scanned the first few sentences following the cold salutation. When I hit the fearful gist of the communique, I involuntarily reacted.

"Dammit!," I uttered aloud, "Jury duty!"

But this was no ordinary jury duty. No sir. This was not of the "One Day. One Trial" variety. This was a call from the federal government. I was to report as part of a pool of prospects for service on a Federal Grand Jury.

On my designated day, I assembled, along with 74 others selected from the registered voters representing seven counties in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A low murmur filled the cavernous marshaling room of the federal courthouse, as numbers were called and the potential jurors were chosen. A grand jury is comprised of 22 jurors and two alternates. The alternates do not have to report for jury duty until one of the actual jurors is excused for valid reason. As the selections were made and my chances of being chosen slimmed, several of those already picked conferred with a court officer. Obviously they pleaded a convincing case of family hardship and were instantly excused. Replacement alternates had to be chosen. My number was the last one called. In the immortal words of Maxwell Smart: "Missed it by that much."

I was told by an official that, as an alternate, it was very unlikely that I would ever have to report. 

Six weeks later, another ominous-looking envelope was delivered to my house. When I read the contents, I, once again, involuntarily reacted. Only this time, I yelled instead of uttered.

"FUCK!," I screamed with enough vocal power to rattle some dishes in the kitchen.

A Federal Grand Jury convenes once a week to hear testimony (or parts of on-going testimony) from witnesses questioned by a federal district attorney. There are no attorneys and no judge. There is a District Attorney, the members of the jury and a court reporter. After enough evidence is presented to satisfy the D.A., the jury discusses and rehashes until a decision to indict (or not to indict) is reached. Sure it sounds interesting, like something right out of Perry Mason or Law & Order, but, believe me, it isn't. It's boring. Witnesses are boring. Testimony is tedious. People are inarticulate and downright stupid. Some District Attorneys think they are auditioning for a role in Inherit the Wind. But mostly, it's monotonous. And I sat through that bullshit for the initial term of eighteen months — plus a six-month extension — for a grand fucking total of two fucking years. Every Thursday, I was excused from work to sit in a federal courthouse and listen to a parade of morons get schooled in the ways of the law. And that applied to both sides of the witness box.

Some of my jury mates had never been to the "big city" of Philadelphia in their lives and were bewildered by buildings taller than three stories and the fact that people wore shoes all the time. One guy sat in the first row of seats and read the newspaper during testimony. One guy rattled and crinkled a cellophane bag of candy as witnesses spoke. Another guy slammed his head against a rear wall as he dozed off to sleep. These are the people who are deciding your fate, Mr. Criminal, so you best keep to the straight and narrow. 

The jury on which I served heard predominately cases of fraud (identity theft, credit card scams, bad counterfeiting), although, due to overflow and crowding, we sometimes heard cases of another nature. One of those non-fraud cases involved an online child-pornography distribution ring. During some of the most disgusting, stomach-churning testimony, the DA asked if we would like to see examples of images that were seized. The jury collectively cringed. One guy — the bag rattler, as a matter of fact — cleared his throat and suggested that we should view the photos to help us decide on an indictment. The assistant foreperson  — an outspoken young lady — shot up out of her seat and pointed an accusing finger at her fellow juror.

"We don't need to see any of that!," she spit, "I don't need to see every bad check that was passed in a fraud case!"

I did, however, learn a few valuable lessons from serving on a Grand Jury:
  1. Never ever ever ever buy a used car. There is an excellent chance that the odometer was turned back. More than excellent.
  2. Don't trust anyone who works in a bank. For the price of a few bouquets of flowers and a dinner or two, tellers are giving out your bank account information like it's Halloween candy.
  3. Criminals get caught because they are greedy. If everyone who ever perpetrated a crime would have quit after one time, satisfied with whatever they got, they would have gotten away with it. It's when they want more and want it faster  — that's when they get caught.

And the most important lesson I learned? If you don't want to be subjected to the insipid task of jury duty (federal or otherwise), keep your name off of the voter list from which potential jurors are culled. And how does one stay off of voter lists? By not voting, of course.

Believe me, this nifty little certificate ain't worth it. Neither is voting.