Blog: A Poor Excuse

Burt Ross

Let me be honest with you—there are not many advantages to having your home burn down. No matter how hard I try to convert lemons into lemonade, I seem to end up with more lemons. But I don’t give up easily, and I am constantly trying to find ways to reap benefits from this tragedy.

The other day, I got a summons for jury duty. I couldn’t buy my way onto a jury during my entire life back East. The judges and lawyers all knew me from my public life, and none of them wanted a loose cannon on the jury. 

Now that I live on the West Coast, I was looking forward to a new experience. Unfortunately, I am preoccupied with rebuilding my home and all that goes into the massive effort, so this really isn’t the best time for me to serve on a jury.

I felt I could easily be dismissed from this civic responsibility. All I had to do was tell the powers that be my house burned down. “I cannot possibly serve on a jury at this emotional time in my life,” I beseeched some court official on the other end of the phone. “See you the week of March 18,” was the short response.

All too recently, I was driving down one of the many hills on the PCH minding my own business. You know, one of those hills marked for construction but where there hasn’t been any work done there for heaven knows how many weeks. Suddenly a sheriff on a motorcycle came out of the bushes—a veritable ambush.

The siren went off and he pulled me off to the side. This officer was all business. He didn’t even smile, having just met me for the first time. I haven’t had a speeding ticket for half a century, but that was then and this is now. 

I decided to tell this serious man in uniform that I know Deputy Sheriff Treinen—no smile. Then I mentioned I know Lieutenant Royal—again not the slightest hint of mercy. 

“I know Mayor Jefferson Wagner.” NOTHING “I know Senator Henry Stern.” NOTHING “My father-in-law was an FBI agent.” LESS THAN NOTHING “I had polio when I was seven.” AGAIN NOTHING.

And then I hit him with what had to be the piece de resistance—the fact that would melt this officer’s heart and send me back on my way without a fine and the threat of traffic school. “Officer, I just lost my home to the fire,” I said softly waiting for the full impact of this utterance to penetrate a cold heart. A few moments later I drove off with ticket in hand.

Whoever said, “If you don’t succeed at first, try, try again,” didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.