Nowhere, Man

Life after graduation is unsettled, and unsettling. Something as banal as a juror questionnaire brings the point home. My son hasn’t lived with me since that fateful day in August, 2012 when I tried to say good-bye to him in front of G-entry at MacGregor Hall. I couldn’t eke the words out, and he laughed at his old man. He’s my boy.

Since graduation, there has been a nagging question. Where does he live? Sure, home is where the record collection is, but that doesn’t suffice for the questions posed by official people. Where does he vote? What address goes on his tax return? Does he keep his New York driver’s license? Simple questions, and yet, the answers were problematic.

He took off for the left coast after college to work with a start-up of dubious merit. Neither we nor he was sufficiently certain that it would be a long-term proposition, no less permanent. From the outset, the promise was only a few months, pending demo day’s outcome.

After surviving that, faith was lost in the founder’s ability to manage, to perform. There was never enough certainty to put down roots and commit to a life in Calfornia. Plus, he didn’t actually like California, where he thought the people were rather dull-witted.

And so, his official address remained mine, even though he neither lived here nor had any intention of returning. The problem wasn’t that he wanted to fool the world by establishing a false domicile, but that he had no real domicile yet.

Soon enough, we drove across country to bring his meager possessions, consisting primarily of the aforementioned vinyl record collection, back to civilization. He lasted with me less than a week, before he was off to Cambridge, Massachusetts. He bunked down with a friend, who had enough floor space in his apartment for his air mattress, while he sought new gainful employment. Surely, this wasn’t his residence, but it was where he laid his head.

When he got not one, but two, jobs, he committed to a sublease in a group apartment with some grad students, set to expire at the end of August. I sold his California car, as he neither needed a car when the T line was a block away nor had a place to park it anyway. And he went to work daily, which was really what it was all about anyway.

Then came the juror questionnaire. It was delivered to my home with his name on it, because that’s the only official address he’s ever had. It asked the usual questions, whether he spoke English or had been convicted of a felony. Then there was the dreaded question, whether he lived here. It required the form to be signed under penalty of perjury.

Being who I am, and a dedicated aficionado of the jury system, I couldn’t just ignore the questionnaire and await the jury summons that would inevitably follow. But what could I say about his residence? No, he didn’t live here. But no, he never established residence anywhere else, either.

The form required two pieces of proof if a person claimed to not be susceptible to jury duty based on residing elsewhere. This is a perfectly reasonable, if not necessary, request, as people avoid jury duty like the plague and are, despite the importance of the oath, fully prepared to perjure themselves to get away with it. So, it wasn’t sufficient to merely respond that he didn’t reside in the county or the state. It had to be proved. And not merely proved, but proved in the manner prescribed by the jury clerk. They needed two documents to establish residence elsewhere. And the document had to be “official.”

That was not, unfortunately, the way his life had gone. He had a sublease, but no utility bills, as they were included. He received pay, but by direct deposit. He got no statements from anyone, as everything was done paperlessly. As far as the things a jury clerk might desire, he didn’t exist where he was, though he was certainly there.

On his behalf, I called the number on the questionnaire, which was immediately answered, much to my surprise and pleasure. That was where my pleasure ended. The clerk who answered was rather stuck in her ways. As I explained the problem, I pictured her finger running down a checklist, the weapon of choice for clerks.

She was unmoved by my son’s problems, and finally told me, “it’s just a questionnaire. Wait until you get the jury summons and hopefully by then he’ll have the documentation he needs to get out of it.” I replied, “so you’re telling me he should commit perjury?” That got her, and she said “please hold.”

A few minutes later, the boss-lady jury clerk got on the phone. I explained the situation again, this time with greater brevity as I had the time to hone my words, and she told me, “I understand. I have kids too. If you can send me anything, even a magazine subscription label, to show where he lives, I can accept it as sufficient evidence that he doesn’t live with you.” I responded, “magazine?” to which we both chuckled, but I told her I could find a few things to show where he now lived, at least for the moment, and thanked her for her help.

I have no memory of this being an issue when I graduated from law school. It never occurred to me that wherever I was would be anything but my home. It’s unlikely that my son will have any memory of this being a problem when he’s my age either, but for now, he officially lives with me even though his room is empty.

28 thoughts on “Nowhere, Man

  1. PDB

    Even with direct deposit, there should be some sort of paycheck statement that shows deductions for taxes/SS/medicare/etc. Unless your son’s employers were paying him as a contractor.

    1. SHG Post author

      I often marvel at what makes someone think I’m a blithering idiot and the proper comment is to write something inane like this? Am I that stupid that you need to write this? Please tell me why I am such a complete moron that you can’t accept what I’ve written at face value, and instead I need you to leave me this comment?

      1. Billy Bob

        When I lived in N.Y. once upon a time, I ran into some bureaucratic snafoo somewhere. The disheveled clerk said to my face, “Look, just play the game!” True Story.
        Fast Forward: We don’t live in New York any more; nor New Jersey, nor CONnecticut. Nice place to visit though!?! We were not good a playing their games.

    2. Patrick Maupin

      Yes, everybody wants their gig-job W2s to be scattered around the country at whatever flop-house they happened to be staying for the two months they spent at each job.

      It makes it like a fun scavenger hunt in February and March of the following year.

  2. Billy Bob

    Can I move into your son’s empty room? There’s nothing I would rather do than perform jury service in the Empire State.
    P.S. If your son should get a driver’s license in the Commonwealth, he will eventually get a notice for jury service without any silly juror questionnaire. That comes when you actually show up. Incidentally, if he does not establish legal residence somewhere, he cannot register to vote. I can’t see traveling a couple of hundred miles just to vote. (Maybe “absentee”?) However, voting is everyone’s civic responsibility, as you lawyer types are fully aware. And that should extend to family member, even if they’re couch-surfing.

    An extended adolescence is a wonderful thing! Fulfilling your civic duties, not so wonderful, until such time as you’re sitting at the defense table witnessing voir dire. Ha. And praying for the best.

  3. Allen

    What’s a land line? A check, please. Mail, you mean with those sticky things? All right you smart ass, I get it. Their world sure isn’t ours. Our youngest hit the road on Wednesday after some previous fits and starts.

  4. el profesor presente

    The latest Trump era outrage is that people who identify as address-fluid can no longer feel safe. By demanding his “documents” (I can’t even with that word) instead of accepting his lived experience they are literally denying his no right to exist.

    I suggest a campaign of escalation. First a twitter hashtag, then a spree of hate crimes to start a conversation, then an occupation of the administrative building until demands are met. This always works, and his boss has to give him paid time off for it.

  5. B. McLeod

    Hundreds of thousands of people in this country today have no fixed place of residence. If a jury questionnaire goes to a place where they formerly existed, they never even learn of it, let alone worry about responding. If a jury summons comes, same thing. I suspect the systems generating the summonses actually make no attempt to find these people. An increasing sector of our society is simply off-grid when sought via the old, fixed-place-of-residence construct, and they aren’t all young people trying to sort out what to do with their lives.

  6. JAV

    “i have enclosed in this envelope some lint from the pocket of my son’s favorite dungarees (picture of said young man in dungarees included). if you send this to one of your state’s fine forensic labs, you will be able to prove he currently resides in Cambridge MA.”

  7. wilbur

    You coulda’ just told them your son is a hobo.

    I think that’s a protected class, too.

  8. neilmdunn

    Hire your son and list him as a branch office manager(in the town of his choice)of the new corporation you will be founding and then becoming the officer/s of your choice (and even include letting other family members become officers). The necessary paperwork should follow. And if not, it should be great family fun anyway. Have a great start up weekend.

  9. TRB

    That was poignant, Scott. Truly. If he doesn’t read your blog, you should send him a link to this post.
    My oldest is off to college in another year, and I imagine I’ll experience much of the same. It’s bittersweet.

  10. Richard Kopf


    I heartily agree with TRB that the post was poignant. But the issue you highlight is not limited to those young people like your recently graduated MIT-educated son.

    The problem of “residing here but not here” is compounded when children, long ago grown, have jobs and live their lives overseas. They need a stateside physical address for such things as voting, paying taxes, maintaining professional licenses and the like.

    Our 42-year-old daughter has spent her career teaching in Colombia, Kuwait, Indonesia and now China. Sometimes she returns for a 10-day visit with her Czech/Canadian husband and our three grandchildren who were all born in the PRC. Unlike our son and family who have become Australian citizens, our daughter is legally a resident of Nebraska despite the fact that she is seldom if ever here.

    When she last got a jury summons to state court uncertainty ensued when local court officials could not determine whether she was obligated to fly back to suffer through voir dire because she was, as a matter of law, “here.” In the end, it all worked out after I sent a letter together with the power of attorney she had given me, explaining the situation.

    So, our here but not-here-girl was excused. The world has shrunk to the size of a postage stamp that no one uses anymore.

    All the best.


    1. SHG Post author

      I’m afraid poignant is a by-product of age and distance. I’m less sentimental when I have to pick up dirty socks. Sorry.

      I suspect my son, and even more so, your daughter, are outliers to the norm, but I also suspect the outliers have become a significant portion of people who don’t live the way we did a few generations ago. People have changed; systems remain the same. And I suspect the problem will continue to grow and get worse as the world gets smaller, life-styles adjust and the only official “proof” of our existence is virtual.

  11. Jake

    I had a sublease when I lived in Cambridge too. Next time you visit him to pick up the laundry here’s a couple of places to make sure you both get a square meal:

    – S&S Deli (Anytime)
    – East Side Bar and Grille (Sunday Brunch)
    – All Star Sandwich Bar (Best lunch spot in town)

    1. SHG Post author

      I just got back from Cambridge, but he lived there for four years and has his favorite places. Perhaps he’ll enjoy yours as well.

  12. Lee

    I can relate, Scott.

    My oldest got his ‘dream job’ in Manhattan last fall after graduating from Baylor in May. He lived in a group-type home until the NYC authorities pulled their license and is in short term housing until June. He will probably not bother with a NY state driver’s license, is paid by direct deposit and his GQ subscription comes to my house.

    At least come June, he will have a lease, but for now he is still officially a resident of Sugar Land, Texas. And we miss him (but have his two brothers’ dirty socks to deal with, so we are coping).


    1. SHG Post author

      Your son has a GQ subscription? No wonder he ended up in Manhattan, though I suspect Williamsburg would suit him as well

      1. Lee

        He is the artistic one who got a Fine Arts degree but works as a designer at a company that assists start up companies. He is also the only Apple user in the family. 🙂

  13. Tom H

    Sadly, this happens in old age too. You wind up in an old folks home and your mail goes to one of your kids 3 states away.

  14. MonitorsMost

    Reading between the lines, someone is trying to serve your son through abode service and you are trying to defeat service of process with this post. Well done

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