We the Jury 

Unreal performs our civic duty, learns a whole buncha acronyms (OMG!) and gets an earful from an unhappy parker. Plus: A local blogger pauses to reflect upon...the RFT.

When the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court came a-callin' with a summons for jury duty, Unreal jumped at the invitation to participate in the American justice system, St. Louis-style. Though we were totally stoked at the pay (a cool $12 per day!), that paled next to the actual experience of performing our civic duty. The lowdown, straight from our journal:

Dear Diary: We just arrived and were given a juror's badge and a mimeographed booklet called "A Handbook for...Jurors." The glossary provides handy definitions for words like "lawyer." The woman next to us in the jury pool is reading Black Women's Erotica. As much as we pride ourselves on our ability to make small talk with people based on what they're reading, we get beaten to the punch by the woman on the other side of Miss Erotica Reader, who offers an enthusiastic, "Sometimes sisters just have to do it for themselves, hunh!"

Guess what, Dear Diary! If you're a hotshot prosecutor, you get a blond, goddess-like intern. If you are a not-so-hotshot defense attorney, you get a pimply dude who looks like he maaaybe was born in 1991. The (female) bailiff just made a whispered phone call to inform someone that the blond intern has "legs for MILES!" Given that we'd already made our call during recess and described them as "legs for DAYS," we should probably be disqualified from that little jury.

Voir dire time, Dear Diary! (That's Jurorese for "the examination of prospective jurors.") "Do you trust the cops?" "Have you ever been the victim of a violent crime?" "Have you ever committed a crime?" When they get to that last question, everyone raises their hand. One woman says she once stole a pen. Another was reprimanded for being noisy when she was nineteen. After a guy answers "Which one?" when they ask about his assault convictions, the prosecutor says he doesn't need to hear about misdemeanors that occurred before the Kennedy assassination, and everyone else's hand goes down.

P.S.: If firsthand smoke is what you puff yourself and second is breathing it in, third is sitting next to a longshoreman for six hours, breathing in his shirtsmell.



What Does "PCP" Stand For?
Unreal thought the going got tough when kids started saying something was "hot" when they really meant it was "cool." Now come The Acronyms.

"Parents don't have a clue as to what their children are saying on-line, or more importantly, what's being said to them," Don Schnure, president of St. Louis-based Parental Control Products, LLC, states in a press release. Schnure's company recently launched a new Web site, teenchatdecoder.com, which aims to help benighted parents navigate their teens' acronym-heavy verbiage. Users simply punch an acronym into the decoder and it spits the hidden meaning.

Say you come across a typical teen sentence like, "INALB IMOBO you're ABFL whose RVD but DH DGARA that I was DBA JAWS in the LBR when you were PDOMA as I was BAG and ROFLAPMP." Enter the acronyms, and voilà! "I'm not a lawyer, but in my own biased opinion, you're a big fat lady whose really very dumb but darling husband doesn't give a rat's ass that I was doing business as just another windows shell in the little boys room when you were pulled directly out of my ass as I was busting a gut, rolling on floor laughing and peed my pants."

Unreal feels positively edified!

Ever wonder what your teen means when he counsels a friend about "CLMs" or cautions that "YMMV?" Of course you have! Well, let Schnure and company lift that burden of doubt clean off your shoulders. Turns out the kid's already got his mind around big-picture concepts ("career limiting moves") and is aware of the high price of petroleum products ("your mileage may vary").

Teenchatdecoder.com also includes an interface for users to submit new acronyms. Unreal is all for the wisdom of the crowd, so we offered up a handful of common phrases from our own teen chat files:

BBW Build-a-Bear Workshop

ANAL Am not a lawyer

STD Sigma Tau Delta (The International English Honor Society)

PPS&M Please pass the sardines and mustard

SIYRFGU Sex is your reward for growing up

IWPODTCAPSAMPWHSGSP I was profiled on Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" series and met Parkway West High School grad Stone Phillips



Local Blog O' the Week
"The Mosquito Eater"
blog.hofer.us
Author: Jim
About the blogger: Jim has three children. His hobbies include coaching hockey, ruminating on politics and playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Recent Highlight (July 28): I walked into Crazy Bowls for lunch today, and the cover of the Riverfront Times was staring up at me.

The RFT will do anything they can to try to get readers, so this wasn't too surprising coming from them, but I'm wondering what fallout, if any there will be.

But it begs the question, "What would George Bush be like if he had been raised a Muslim in a country that hated the west?" Bush is fanatical about religion now, so you have to think that he COULD be equally fanatical as a Muslim raised in another environment. There is a chance that there were a series of events that gave Bush his sense of faith, and absent those events he would have been a much different person.

How much of what a person is like is based on there upbringing and environment and how much is based on how they interpret information and how there mind works? Essentially it comes down to the biology vs. environment question.

This core question has changed my opinions significantly over the past several years. I've run through the "What if's" for my own life and knowing that I could have just as easily been born into a poor/abusive/immigrant/rural/urban family instead of a supportive middleclass suburban family, has made me change my opinions about everything from foriegn policy to welfare to immigration to taxation.

There are certain things about me that I think are not environment related (open-mindedness, desire to learn, etc.), but I wonder if in the wrong environment these personal traits could have been squelched instead of allowed to flourish?

Know of an Unreal-worthy local blog?
Send the URL to unreal@riverfronttimes.com.



Commontary™

Tickets, Please!

This week's installment comes to us from Stace England of Cobden, Illinois, who writes:

Several months ago on a visit to your wonderful City Museum, I was improperly issued a parking ticket for a sidewalk violation. I say "improperly" with confidence because I was not parked on a sidewalk. The ticketing officer was still there and I politely asked him to exit his vehicle so he could have a better sight line between my car and the curb. His response to several requests was, "I've already written the ticket." Since I had young children with me and was getting nowhere with the officer, we left, confident the great city of St. Louis would have some way for me to remedy this from my home in Illinois about 110 miles away.

That was apparently naive thinking. I was told correcting the mistake would take two trips to St. Louis: one to set a hearing and another for the hearing itself, both during working hours. I contacted the Parking Violations Bureau, the mayor's office, the Citizens Service Bureau and others, offering evidence and seeking assistance. All indicated they were "powerless" to do anything. I now have had added-on fees totaling $120, and your wonderful city bureaucrats have turned it over to an aggressive collection agency.

The English language has a very specific word for all this: extortion.

Since it is not human nature to support entities that practice extortion, my family will not be visiting St. Louis any longer. We will take our weekend trips and vacation dollars to the very welcoming city of Memphis, where after dozens of visits we have had nothing but pleasant experiences. Memphis' remarkable revitalization can, no doubt, in part be tied the very welcoming nature of its city officials. Until St. Louis adopts similar practices, it will continue to lag behind other U.S. cities. It's astonishing St. Louis can't comprehend something so basic.

The departments involved in this racket should be ashamed of themselves, and residents ashamed for the way it tarnishes your city. If one person had reached out to us, we'd be coming back.

Farewell and godspeed.

Ever get the urge to jump up and ____ this damn town? Tell Unreal about it! unreal@riverfronttimes.com.

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