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.