I should take a vow of silence.
Just keep my trap shut. I must resist nearly all temptations to mention books, writers, movies or historical events around most people.
That point was driven home to me again during jury service earlier this week.
I know better yet I keep making the same mistakes– mentioning books, writers, historical events and old movies.
I’ll give you very recent examples that should remind me at all times not to attempt discussing anything literary, cinematic or historic.
When amiable Bailiff Bill escorted my jury through a maze of halls in the Lee County Justice Center the other day he discussed the complex and its buildings.
I asked if he knew the story of the 1915 Lee County Courthouse. He didn’t. I rattled off the highlights of this story I find endlessly compelling.
The Lee County Commission voted 3-2 in 1914 to build a new courthouse, replacing one built in the mid-1890s. A faction in town opposed the move and trundled by railroad to Arcadia seeking a court injunction to stop the new courthouse.
While that group was traveling to see a judge, the county commission chairman gathered about 150 men and by the light of a bonfire dismantled the old courthouse. The county commissioner sat nearby cradling a shotgun as the men took the courthouse apart.
I love that story. Nobody asked a question about the incident. But Bailiff Bill, a very amiable sort, I should note, did mention something like, “We have an historian.”
On another trip through the back hallways hidden from public view, Bailiff Bill discussed a little more about the justice center.
I asked him if he knew that Sean Connery once made a movie here in downtown Fort Myers and used the courtroom at the old courthouse. He did not know about that.
My fellow jurors didn’t seem interested. They didn’t ask what was the name of the movie or when was it released or who else was in it or what was it about or was it any good? Those are all questions I would have asked.
I should have kept my trap shut. Nobody cared or seemed interested. I should have taken a vow of silence before jury duty.
Anyhow, I told Bailiff Bill I thought “Just Cause” was released in 1994. I was wrong. It was released in 1995. I was astonished when I just looked up the cast of this courtroom thriller. In addition to Connery, the cast included Laurence Fishburne, Kate Capshaw, Blair Underwood, Ed Harris, Ruby Dee, Scarlett Johannson, Ned Beatty and Hope Lange.
Good thing I didn’t know all that off the top of my head.
Nevertheless, I should have taken a vow of silence before entering the jury room.
When we were stuck at in the jury room for a good two hours at one stretch, I sat in a chair a couple of feet away from the conference table. Looking at it, I was reminded of a great scene from the 1957 courtroom classic “12 Angry Men.”
In the scene, Henry Fonda, playing the jury’s conscience, sticks a knife into the conference table. I mentioned that scene from that movie. I was hoping to spark a conversation about the movie.
Alas, nobody seemed to know what the heck I was talking about.
Yep, a vow of silence seems in order.
Note to self: Shut up!
But I did show some restrain in the jury room. I thought the defendant in the case, Johnny Fred Byrd, has a name right out of a John Grisham novel. I thought about mentioning that observation but refrained.
My fellow jurors didn’t seem like the sort who read novels.
I think I should show more such restrain.
As I was walking the Pinellas Trail this morning thinking about this blog post, a conversation I had with a fellow a couple of years ago popped into my mind. He mentioned something about a new friend who had moved to town from St. Paul, Minn.
He said he didn’t know much about St. Paul. I said about all I knew about St. Paul is that it’s the hometown of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
That comment was met with a blank stare. Apparently, the fellow had no idea who this F. Scott Fitzgerald fellow is or was.
Yep, a vow of silence is in order. Not to self: Shut up!
That reminds me of a great line from a Ring Lardner story, “The Young Immigrunts.” The story’s young narrator asks his father if he’s lost. The response: “Shut up, he explained.”
Anyhow, if you bump into me at Publix or a gas station or a bookstore and I don’t speak to you please note it’s nothing personal.
I’ve taken a vow of silence. I’ve told myself this: Shut up, I’m explaining.
But there is a secret password to get me to break my vow of silence: Zelda.