June 06, 2007

Today, I’m serving my second day of jury duty in Manhattan—a surprise, since I was sure I’d be blacklisted after my first.

While my bag was going through the X-ray machine, the guard looked at my bright pink pants and silver shoes and said, “You don’t look like someone who would bring knives to jury duty.” Before I left, I had thoroughly searched my bag for the knife I brought on Sunday’s hike through Central Park with Steve Brill. I never found it, so I assumed I’d taken it out the night before.

“Oh yeah, my Swiss Army knife. I thought it might be in there,” I replied casually.

“Not one knife, but two!” he said with a little more alarm.

I didn’t know what he was talking about. Had someone planted weapons on me? Was I unknowingly part of some violent plot to make a statement about the inhumane process of sitting crammed in a bleak room while hoping your name would never be called? Or was it a joke? Maybe someone thought it would be funny to get the girl with giant bows on her shoes in trouble.

He dumped my bag out on the table: A Food & Wine cookbook, a folder full of recipes to edit, New York magazine and (oops!) a box holding two E. Warther & Son knives. Right! I brought the handcrafted paring and butcher knives home to test but forgot to take them out of my bag. I could feel the blood turning my face as bright as my pants. I felt dizzy. I muttered something about being mortified. I looked up and he was laughing at me. “We've got a knife carrier here,” he yelled out to his buddy, another guard who winked at me. He escorted me to a third guard, who took my knives and wrote up a slip for them.

“I’m not even going to ask,” he said, smiling.

By then I had regained my composure. “No, you see, I work for a food magazine. They’re kitchen knives. I was going to test them. I swear. I’m not violent. Unless I’m cutting up a chicken.” He gave me the slip to reclaim my knives at the end of the day, which I did. He remembered me right away. “Knives. Food magazine. Here you go.” I thanked him and started walking away.

“Are you back tomorrow?” he yelled to me.

“Yes. I promise I won’t bring these back,” I responded, anticipating some sort of scolding remark.

“I was just going to tell you to bring me a magazine,” he said.

When you hear the guards on Centre Street talking about the best wines for summer and the merits of grilling over wood, now you’ll know why.

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