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The Home Team / Ups and downs of a cockeyed optimist

Published 10:35 am, Wednesday, February 13, 2013
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I think it started in junior high.

I was a Dodgers fan. My friend Richie Hapern was a Giants fan. Every year on opening day I'd make him the same bet: that the Dodgers would go 162-0 for the season. Of course I didn't really believe they could do this. But I got great odds: 162-1; it was my penny against his $1.62. I remember thinking, well, they have a 50-50 chance of winning on opening day; that's not bad. And then they have a 50-50 chance of winning the next day. And a 50-50 chance for the day after that. ...

All they have to do is win all their 50-50 chances.

These days, when my Knicks are down by 15 with five minutes to go, I still think they're going to win. The other team went on a run to go up by 15; why can't the Knicks do the same and even things right back up?

When my sons were applying to colleges, I always expected they'd get in to every single school -- even the ones where no sane person thought they had a prayer.

When my dermatologist sends out a skin scraping for a biopsy, I never lose any sleep. I just assume it's going to come back benign.

The down side of living life like this, of course, is that when the Knicks don't make that comeback, or when my son gets rejected, or when the dermatologist tells me it looks like skin cancer, I'm really bummed. Most people cushion themselves from this kind of disappointment. Me? I never see it coming.

The up side is that for all that time until the crushing setback, I'm pretty damn happy.

This week I was scheduled for jury duty. I'd already asked for a few postponements, so this time I couldn't put it off. Sure, I had a few things coming up on the calendar that would be problematic if I was actually selected for a jury, but that wasn't going to happen. The last few times my name had come up I'd either called the evening before and was told I wouldn't be needed, or I showed up at the court house but was never even pulled out of the "holding pen."

This time, when I called 5:30 Monday afternoon about my scheduled Tuesday appearance, I was surprised to hear: "All jurors summoned for tomorrow, Tuesday February 5, 2013 are ordered to report."

Hmmmm...

Tuesday morning, after killing some down time in the huge waiting room for potential jurors, I listened as the names for the first panel were called. "Henry Herman" was on that list.

Surprising...

More down time in the smaller panel room. Prospective jurors getting called one by one into the courtroom for the voir dire. Mine is the second name called.

Things were not going as planned.

I listen to instructions from the judge. I answer questions from the defense attorney. I answer questions from the prosecutor. I'm told to wait outside the courtroom for just a short while.

Aha. So here's the part where I get excused.

I'm asked to return to the courtroom. I sit down in the little compartment next to the judge. He tells me I've been selected for the jury in this case. He tells me who I should see for the specifics: When the case begins, what time I need to report, where I should park, etc., etc.

This is not what I was expecting at all.

On my drive from Stamford back home to Westport, I mentally begin rearranging my calendar. Cancel that Virginia trip. Postpone the start of the writing course I'm supposed to teach. Prioritize the work that has to get done before my jury-duty stint begins.

I sit down at my desk. The phone rings. According to Caller ID, it's ST OF CT JUDICIAL. I answer. The caller is the clerk who'd just given me my marching orders as I left the courthouse.

"I just want to let you know that your case has been settled. You won't need to report. Your jury duty for this time period has been fulfilled."

Yup. Just as I always thought.

"The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website, at http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, email him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.