Being a parent, as those with children know, is a job full of endless responsibility. Every once in a while, however, an opportunity comes up where the fact that you are a parent allows you to skip out on responsibility and leave those without kids wincing at you with hate.
Not so long ago I was summoned to jury duty. This was back when Maddie was still in the NICU, so I travelled to the courthouse in downtown L.A. and did the whole jury duty thing. I even went through the metal detector behind a crazy guy who kept yelling, “You are going to sterilize me with you inane machinery, sirs! I’m certain of it!”
Once upstairs I entered a packed room full of folks from college aged kids to retirees. I sat down and broke out the Steve Martin autobiography that I had brought on the advise of my friend Dana. She had correctly told me that bringing reading material was a must for those serving jury duty.
About five or six pages in a woman stepped to the podium and recited the rules of jury duty. I didn’t really listen initially, as I was too wrapped up in learning how Steve Martin learned how to play the banjo, but when the woman said, “The only people exempt are those over seventy or parents who are the sole daytime caretaker of a child under five,” I closed my book.
“Hmmm,” I thought. “I am a parent of a child under five, and yes, once she comes home I will be the sole daytime caretaker, but right now that isn’t really the case. Oh, well. I guess -”
The woman then said, “If selected you must be prepared to spend as long as six months on a jury.”
“Parent!” I screeched as I shot up waving my hands. “You got a parent right here!”
I was then sent to another building and required to fill out a form that asked strangely invasive questions such as what my highest level of education was. I was then lead by a drill seargent-esque lady into a giant room with hundreds of drones jabbing at ancient, Apple 2E-esque computers.
The drone I was placed in front of was a woman with a suspicious nature. She scrutinized my chart before looking me up and down. She finally said, “You really trying to be excused because you a stay at home dad?”
I nodded with a shit eating grin.
She squinted as if looking into the sun and said, “But this says you got a master’s degree.”
For a second I considered saying, “Oh really? I meant to mark the box reading “Some high school.” Instead I simply tried to look stupid.
After a long beat she nodded and said, “So you really stay at home with this baby while yo’ wife goes off to work?”
I looked down and mumbled, “I’ve been very ill of late. In fact I was in a car accident.”
“If you’re looking for exemption because of a disability,” the woman said, “that’s a whole other cubicle.”
“Oh, no,” I spat out. “I was just, uh, chatting. I do really stay at home with the baby.”
The woman stared at me a long, judgmental beat before stamping my paper and telling me I was free to go. I did my best not to show pure exhiliration as I rose and headed out being careful to reflect that I had recently been in a fictitious accident.
Once down on the street I did a jig of sorts despite experiencing the first of many indignities I would suffer as a stay at home dad. I then told myself that I would always stretch the truth whenever it would make my life as a parent easier, because, really, how often does being a parent make your life easier?