Hiatus

It’s been a month since I last posted anything.  Since that time, I started an extended running odyssey and have been documenting it at my other blog, I’m Gonna Be 500 Miles.  I haven’t had the chance to really focus on anything creative, so this blog has been collecting dust.  I’m not abandoning it, though!  I will come back when my time clears up, which unfortunately may not be until late-September.  But I will be back.  Promise.  Until, follow my running adventures!

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What Happened, Part 3: A New Disease

I’m awake.  I’m tired, but I stay awake.  I try lying on my back, my right side, my left side,  my back again, my stomach, my right side again . . . I can’t get comfortable.

I know when I’m about to drift off usually because my mind starts thinking odd thoughts seemingly on its own.    Suddenly the people I’m thinking about start talking on their own.  Other people I hadn’t been thinking of start entering the room.  We’re outside suddenly.  I’m in a car.  I’m at a football game.  The dream is starting.  My subconscious is opening itself to me.  It’s comforting.  Finally I start to get those odd thoughts.  I just need to let it take me now.  Just relax and let go.

No!  Something stopped me!  I’m fully awake again.  What was that?  My heart.  My heart knew I was falling asleep and it stopped me!  It was like a quick burst of burning sensation in my chest.  It knocked the sleep out of me.  This isn’t good.

OK, just relax and try again.  Stay in that same position.  Your head is resting close to your sleeping wife.  This is truly comfortable.  This is ideal.  Breathe slowly.  Just let your mind go again.  Ah, here come those thoughts again.  How wonderful!  I’m talking with an old friend.  He’s telling me strange things.  Just go with it.

No!  It happened again!  Why is this happening?  What is with my heart?  OK, try that thing you did when you couldn’t sleep the night before the bar exam.  Lie on your back.  No pillow.  Rest your eyes.  Don’t force them shut, just rest them.  Say the Hail Mary in your head over and over.  Don’t worry about how many times you say it, just keep saying it.  Let the voice in your head change as it wishes.  Don’t worry about the time.  Don’t worry about sleep.  Only focus on repeating this prayer over and over again.  Keep going.  Don’t stop.

It’s not working!  I’m not sure how much time went by.  20 minutes?  An hour?  I don’t know how long I’ve been lying here.  All I can think about is having to get up in a few hours, and that time seems to be quickly approaching.  Against my better judgment, I get up to check the time.  1:40am.  If I fall asleep now, I’ll have about 5 hours sleep under my belt going in tomorrow.  It’s not a lot, but right now that sounds glorious.

I get back into bed.  My wife wakes up.  She asks if everything’s OK.  I tell her I can’t fall asleep.  She’s concerned.  She asks if I want her to stay awake with me to talk.  I do.  When she’s sleeping and I’m not, I get more anxious.  I feel alone.  We stay up and just talk about whatever, but she’s very tired and starts dozing off.  I don’t stop her.  Why should she suffer just because I can’t sleep.

Another hour passes.  And another.  I’m not looking at less than three hours of sleep if I can manage to fall asleep now.  But I can’t!  My damn heart keeps flaring up the moment I start to drift off.  I’m not going to fall asleep.  It’s stupid to even try at this point.  But I can’t go into work like this.  Having only slept a few hours the previous two nights, going in this morning on absolutely no sleep would be a disaster.

Screw it.  I wake my wife up and tell her I’m calling in sick this morning.  She’s relieved to hear it.  She falls back asleep.

Sick?  I don’t get sick.  I haven’t missed a day of work or school on account of sickness in what, six years?  Seven years?  I don’t even get colds.  I’m impervious to disease.  It’s one thing I know I can offer that few others can.  I can be counted to never call in sick.  That’s me!  But here I am ready to call in on my fifth day on the job.  I couldn’t make it out of the first week.  It will seem odd, but who cares?  I don’t.  I’m not going in.  I keep my alarm on.  When it goes off, I send emails to whoever letting them know that I won’t be in today.

The freedom of knowing that I don’t have to worry about sleep anymore is relaxing.  It’s such a relief after hours of agonizing over falling asleep.  Who cares if I don’t fall asleep now?  I’ll just lie on the damn couch all day or for the next three days and rest then.  I’m at peace with this.  I rest my head next to my wife.  The odd thoughts come.  My heart doesn’t flare up.  I drift away.

Morning comes.  The alarm goes off.  I wake up, eat breakfast, put on my suit, and go to work.  Of course.

 

Day five.  I’m here.  Whatever.  I hang out and observe a misdemeanor court in the morning.  The assigned attorney actually isn’t employed by the DA’s office.  There’s a program where attorneys can sign up to work for the office pro bono for four months at a time.  It’s to help gain experience and possibly get your foot in the door at the office.  This attorney is a recent Marquette grad.  He needs a job, but in this market nothing is popping up.  So he’s giving away his services.  Three years of law school, tens of thousands of dollars of debt, nights of endless studying, taking the damn bar, all so he can have the privilege to work for free for four months.  What an industry.

Am I keeping guys like this from getting a job?  He clearly knows what he’s doing.  He’s not saddled with the handicap of expecting everything to be run differently.  He went to law school all of three blocks from the courthouse.  He’s been studying Wisconsin law for years.  And yet I have a job while he’s working for free?

I ask the guy if I can treat him to lunch to pick his brain about how the office works.  He agrees.  He doesn’t know my ulterior motive.  Right now, I don’t give a damn about how the office works.  I’ll figure that out next week and the week after and so on.  I want to hear about his story.  I want to hear about the massive amount of debt he’s got.  I want to hear about how he’s been wanting to work at this office for years.  I want to hear all that, because I want another reason to leave.  It’s chickenshit, I know.  I already know I want to leave.  I already know that I probably won’t.  But I just want another reason, and maybe this will be the one that pushes me to “probably will.”

We chat.  We eat.  He’s not too talkative about his problems.  I understand, I mean who am I that strangers would just want to open up to me?  He’s a good guy, though.  Whatever happens with me, I really hope things work out for him.

We head back to work. I watch court for a few hours, then head back to the charging area.  Everyone’s in a great mood.  I join them in that mood the best I can.  If nothing else, I’ll have the next two days to myself.  I haven’t looked forward to a weekend so much in a long time.  Until then, people are chatting.  People are laughing.  People are swearing.  Finally, 4:30 comes around.  Everybody leaves early.  It’s the weekend.

 

The two days off bring a new sense of optimism.  I survived the first week!  That’s the first step.  Maybe I will be able to do this for the long-haul.  I start to open up to people about it.  I finally call my mom back.  I tell her that it was tough.  I tell her about everything that went wrong.  But I’m not overly negative.  She thinks I’ll be fine.

My wife and I go to a party at her aunt’s house.  I talk about the job to her family there.  Some stuff.  Overall, the talking helps.  It really helps when I hear somebody respond with shock or disgust.  “Wow, they really don’t seem like they have their act together!”  Thank you, I really did need the validation.  You have no idea how much at this point.

I sleep fine Friday night.  I sleep fine Saturday night.  No heart flares.  Just hitting the pillow and drifting off like I’m used to doing.  Then Sunday night comes, and I’m antsy.  I hit my pillow and it’s more of the same.  I start to drift off, my heart flares up.  But then I focus.  I focus on an event.  I focus on a memory.  I relive that memory.  I don’t let my mind get away from that memory.  I’m not going to worry about anything right now, I’m just going to be inside this moment again.  A little time goes by, and I fall asleep.  I get six hours of sleep.  It’s wonderful.  Things are looking up.

What Happened, Part 2: Can Anybody See Me?

I go back into the room with all the attorneys, trying to act as nonchalant as possible.  We talk for a bit, I think.  Probably more like they talk for a bit.  They’re swearing so much.  I try to force myself to be comfortable.  Just smile and laugh when appropriate.  Too soon to interject with any joke or anecdote today.  Maybe by the end of the week.  Nobody’s even looking at me.  How many new people do they have coming in and out of here that they just let one stand there and not inquire about anything about?  I’m new!  Isn’t that alone somewhat interesting?

After a while, we all disperse.  I see one of the attorneys from the room in the hallway.  He’s looking at his phone, maybe texting, maybe surfing the web.  I decide to force the issue.  I stop to chat with him.

“Hey, it’s Bob, right?”

“Yeah.”

“How long have you been working here.”

“10 years.”

“So I take it this place is alright, then.”

“Yeah.”

“Did you work anyplace else before here such that you can compare it?”

“No.”

“OK, then.  I’ll see you around.”

His eyes were on his phone the whole time.  Maybe it’s an important message he’s reading.  Or maybe he’s just a dick.

I go back to the void that is allegedly my office.  I leave my pens and my legal pad on my desk.  Finally, there’s something useful in the room.  I head out for the day.

I drive to pick up my wife.  This time, I can’t even chat.  I’m upset and she knows it.  We drive home without saying anything.  We go inside and don’t talk for a while.  Finally, I do talk.

Breakdown #1.

It’s loud.  It’s frantic.  I’m jumping around.  I stop to sit, then I stand up and jump around some more.  I start yelling that I made a terrible mistake and that I shouldn’t be there.  She’s scared.  I can’t blame her, I’m out of my mind.  We go for a walk to try to calm me down.  It doesn’t work.  Finally, after my mind going back and forth about whether I actually could develop the gall to quit after my second day, I resolve that I will stick it out for one solid month and then see where we go from there.  I can do that!  If I just tell myself that I can leave after a month, I’ll stop worrying so much!  That night we go to bed and I fall asleep no problem.

I wake up at 4am.

Not totally unusual, but this time my mind starts up and it doesn’t slow back down.  Come on, just relax and go back to sleep!  You don’t want to be groggy as well as stressed out at work!  Not happening.  I give it an hour, but nothing’s happening.  I can’t find a single position that is comfortable.  My wife is sound asleep next to me.  I wish I was her right now.

At 5am, I give up.  I get up before anything useful can be accomplished.  I go and watch a bit of the early-early local news.  At 5:40, I get my gym stuff together.  I head out to the gym and get there just as it opens up at 6am.  I get two miles in on the track, but obviously I don’t have the energy that I normally have.

I get back home at about 6:50.  My wife is up, and she’s worried.  She’ll be worried a lot the next few weeks.  I shower, eat my usual eggs and toast, and off to the highway again.  Off to my secret parking spot.  Off to the security dance.  Off to confusion, stress, and awkwardness again.  Day 3.  Just 29 days to go.

 

I had no point-person to turn to on my third day.  My trainer had kicked his heels clean of me yesterday afternoon.  I don’t really have a place to be or anybody to see at this point.  I go back to the room where all the attorneys were hanging out, the cussing matriarch’s temporary office.  The matriarch isn’t there yet, so I wait.  8:30 comes and goes, as does 8:45.  She shows up at about 8:50.  She tells me to shadow another attorney on the floor for the day to get a handle on how cases are entered into the system and the paperwork that’s involved.

I can do that!

I find a guy who’s about my age.  I had been introduced to him before.  He’s an ex-cop who just started a few months ago.  He’s alright, but slow to really warm to people.  Either that, or he just really doesn’t have much of a personality.  Nice guy, though.  I think we’ll get along fine.  He shows me the process.  Every case, no matter how small and mundane has an officer come in with the reports to talk about the facts.  He listens and read the reports and puts about 1200 marks in the computer system.  Then he quickly types out a probably cause reports for a proper information.  He then swears the officer (HE swears the officer, hand up and everything!) on the veracity of the information in the report, then packages everything up to get ready to send to the preliminary hearing.  Throughout the process, he says to me once or twice something infuriating that I’d hear many more times throughout the next week or so.

“I’m sure you did this in Arizona.”

No.  No I did not.  I did not because the process is very different down in the desert.  Down there, things actually make sense!  OK, I concede that had I gone to law school in Wisconsin and did my internship in a Wisconsin office, the procedures in Arizona would probably seem batshit crazy to me.  But I didn’t.  I was trained in a completely different manner, and I need training.  I need much better training than what I’m getting.

Lunch time comes.  Today, I am not buying a lunch.  I brought a microwavable soup and an apple.  I am set to eat on the cheap!  Somebody had told me that a lot of the attorneys eat in a large conference room on the 8th floor, on the other end of the building from where my office is.  I head down there.  As I walk up to the door, a 30-something attorney is coming out.

“Can I help you?”

“No, I was just coming in.”

“Do you work here?”

“Um, yeah.”

From the room, which had gone silent when my attempt to enter was blocked, comes laughing voices, “It’s the new guy!”  I get let in.  Awkward, and I’m sure I’m red-faced (as I’m prone to get).  I find a seat at the crowded table.  There’s over 20 attorneys in here.  They’re talking about cases and whatnot.  I can’t follow any of it, obviously.  And of course, they’re swearing.  I eat my lunch without saying a word.

He has me do some menial tasks to make me feel useful.  I take some papers to this woman.  I go ask this one guy a question.  I go copy a CD of photos for disclosure.  I’m doing stuff, man!  During one of my gopher stops, I introduce myself to a member of the staff.  I say it’s my first week.  She says that she remembers how hard it was when she first started.

“Why’s that?”

“Because they don’t train you here.”

“They really don’t train you, like at all?”

“Nope.  It’s pretty bad.  They just toss you in there.”

“Wow.  I thought it was just me!”

It’s not just me!  It’s not that they just figured that I’d know exactly what to do because I was a prosecutor somewhere else!  They don’t train anybody!  They are that stupid!  They are absolutely OK with have ridiculous amounts of incompetence and inefficiency in their office!  The thought is equally terrifying and freeing.  At least I can stop worrying about when they’re going to teach me the ropes any further.  They’re not!  OK, then.  Eff it.

At the end of the day, a more senior prosecutor comes in to chat.  He’s slightly plump with a white mustache.  He is the walrus in this story.  He talks fast, but listens fast, too.  He’s direct, and he points when he talks.  He asks what schedule I have.  I say I don’t have one.  He says that’s going to be fixed.  By the end of the week they’ll have a plan for me that will start the following week.  Until then, I should just stick around with the ex-cop and keep learning about the charging process.

Hey, that sounds like a plan.  A plan!  Relief!!!  I say to the walrus, “I know we just met, but I am not above hugging you right now.”  He smiles.  Amusing.

Things are looking up.  I head back up to my office.  In the elevator with me is a female attorney who I had heard had attended the University of Michigan.  I try to converse, and try to be one of the group in the only way I know how at that point.

“So, you went to Michigan?”

“Yeah.  And you’re a Spartan, right?”

“You’re goddamn right.”

I feel majorly awkward saying it.  I swear, but usually I’ve had a few or I’m watching sports.  I don’t swear at work!  But there I did.  It felt wrong.  I resolve never to do it again.  They’ll just have to deal with my clean mouth.

I head home with the positive news that they have a plan for me.  My wife is relieved.  Dinner.  Some TV.  Bed.  I fall asleep, no problem.

This time, I wake up at 3am.

I’m up, and I already know how this story goes.  I don’t even give it ten minutes.  I get out of bed.  I read a bit.  I watch late-night Christian TV (we get a Christian channel despite not having cable, and some of their programming is just too oddball not to watch).  Some two and a half hours later, I head to the gym again.  I’m becoming a 6am regular.  Two miles more.  I usually can do three or four when I’m just casually working out, but I don’t have the energy today.

Home.  Shower.  Eggs.  Toast.  Tie.  Suit.  Kiss goodbye.  Highway.  Parking spot.  Security dance.  I’m in.  Day 4.  28 days to go.

 

There is nothing particularly note-worthy about this day.  I observe more case entering.  I perform more menial tasks.  I am given a case to enter in myself!  This is learning.  Just doing something right away that counts.  I do it well enough, I think.  Whether it’s good or not is inconsequential.  It’s in the system.

The day drags on.  I have lunch in the big room again.  Soup and apple again.  I’m probably going to lose weight on this job.  Afternoon drags like the morning.  Things are boring, but I can handle boring.  I’ve been bored most of my life.  This is what I’m good at.  I’m tired.  Of course, I’ve been up since 3am!  I start to think that I hope that doesn’t happen again tonight.  But then an awful thought creeps in.  It’s one of those thoughts that just slides in without much notice but then sets fire to your brain.  It’s the worst thought I could possibly have.

“What if I can’t fall asleep at all?”

That’s a bad thought.  Don’t think that!  You know it’ll just stress you out and it’ll be a self-fulfilling prophesy!  Don’t worry about it.  Just go home and relax.  You’ll sleep fine tonight.

I go home.  Dinner.  TV.  Brush teeth.  Contacts out.  Lie down.

“What if I can’t fall asleep at all?”

I don’t fall asleep.

 

What Happened, Part 1: Training

“Welcome to the office!” he exclaimed with genuine excitement in his voice.  But this same person, along with each of the other six attorneys who interviewed me ten days ago, had told me that there would likely soon be cuts for the first time in years.  People would probably have to be let go, and being the last one in, I would be the first one out.  This could happen as early as April.  I bought a ticket for a sinking ship. 

My first day.  It’s a Monday, the last Monday in January.  I leave the house at about 7:45.  The sky is grey and there’s snow and ice on the ground.  Certainly, it’s cold.  The wind stings any uncovered skin.  It’s the kind of day where it almost doesn’t matter whether it’s day or night, because the sun ain’t coming out regardless.

I drive downtown via the highway and park in a spot that is marked for 30 minutes max, but I know from experience that they never ticket there.  I’d park closer or in a lot, but the County doesn’t cover employee parking.  So, I take advantage of this freebie rather than pay $3.50-6.00 every day.  It’s about a ten minute walk from there.

I have my best suit on, a Jos. A. Bank charcoal grey.  It’s the only suit I have that isn’t starting to fray a bit.  I like this suit.  I feel professional in this suit.  I wore it once for every multi-day trial I did in Tucson.    It’s the best I have to offer my new employer.  I carry with me my Coach file bag that my parents gave me as a graduation present two and a half years earlier.  It’s starting to look worn and the strap is about to break at the clip.  There’s nothing in it save for a pen or two and a legal pad.  This is the Milwaukee DA’s office latest hire in all his glory.

I’m nervous.  I have serious trepidations.  What if this isn’t going to work out?  What if the judges all have unbearable god-complexes?  What if I don’t like my co-workers?  What if I made a huge mistake by jumping back into prosecution?  What if the move was God’s way of getting me out of that line of work, and here I was spitting at His grand plan by sprinting right back into it?  It’s the first day of summer camp, and I don’t want to go!

Come on, get over it.  What a whiney tool.  It’ll be fine.

There’s only one entrance I can use right now, in the basement of the garage.  I get in the security line with a handful of civilians.  It takes about five minutes to move through.  I don’t know anything about the people I’m standing and waiting with, but I can’t help but figure that at least some of them are criminals.  Why else would they be coming to the DA’s building at 8 am?

I go through security as a civilian since I don’t have my credentials yet.  I wait in line to put all my effects into a bin and walk through a metal detector and then get wanded when the detector buzzes as I pass through.  Probably my shoes.  It was always my shoes.  The wand goes up and down my body.  Yep, the shoes.

I watch several ADAs stroll right past this line with just a quick flash of their badge.  This is one of the perks that you don’t realize how much you love until you don’t have it.  The world stands and waits to be frisked while you step on by without breaking pace.  But I don’t have an ID badge yet, so belt off, pockets emptied, prepare to do the turn.

I wonder if I’ll work closely with any of those passing ADA’s.  Will they be easy to work with?  Funny?  Do they like to chat about sports and music?

I get in the elevator and head to the sixth floor, the main home of the DA’s office.  I arrive in the office about ten minutes early, as I’m prone to do.  I let the lady at the desk know that I’m there and she calls for the man who is to train me.  The waiting area is old.  It looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 50s or maybe 40s.  There’s a long bench if you want to sit.  It’s old and it’s hard wood.  It’s not comfy, so I stand.  On the wall there are photos of every DA in Milwaukee’s history.  I read their names to pass the time.  A defense attorney comes in to pick up disclosure for a case.  I try to stand like a professional as I continue to read the names in case he happens to look over and wonder whether I’m a lawyer or just some kid nobody.

About 15 minutes later, out comes my trainer, a veteran who’s worked in the office for 27 years.  He was the first person I met during the interview process.  I could tell that he’s good-natured, but grizzled.  This job is what he does and what he does well, but it’s clearly gotten to him a few times over the years.  His sighs betrayed him during the interview.  He’s ready to retire.

He greats me warmly with a good handshake.  He introduces me to the secretaries up front and then takes me down the hall.  My God, this place is old.  The carpeting is old.  The walls are old.  The desks are old.  The doors are old.  It doesn’t feel classic.  It feels old.  He introduces me to a few more people: the file clerks, the IT guys.

Then he stops introducing me to people.  He talks to people about work as we’re walking by without even mentioning who I am.  I just stand there.  It’s awkward.  This happens more than once.  I guess they’re used to new faces, because they don’t enquire about the new guy.

He leads me into the DA’s office (as in, the actual DA). It’s time for me to be sworn in.  I like the DA a lot.  He’s pretty young for having such a powerful position; I peg him in the 44-46 range.  He comes across as extremely genuine.  He’s a guy you’d love to have as a neighbor.  He’ll talk to you about your likes and his likes.  He’s not trying to sell you anything. He’s not trying to earn your vote with every encounter.  He’s a political office-holder, but he isn’t a politician.  He’s a prosecutor.  He’s a good guy.  He might be the best boss I’ve ever had.

I get sworn in by repeating a few lines with my right hand raised.  I actually fudge a line a little but keep going.  I finish with “So help me, God” and I get a great handshake, a warm smile, and a hearty “Welcome to the office!”

Welcome to the office . . .

I tried not to think about the elephant in the room.  I enjoy the moment the best I can.  At that moment, I’m a prosecutor again.  I’m a professional.  I have a job.  I have a future.

Now, it’s training time.  My trainer takes me over into their computer lab.  It’s another old room with four computers set up in a line against the wall.  These are old computers and they run slow.  On these, he’s to show me their company computer system in all its complexities.  He gives me my system login name.  It’s my last name with first initial.

They misspelled my last name.

“What?  Really?  How is it supposed to be spelled?  Oh geez.  I’ll give a call to the computer guys to get that fixed.”  He does call them.  They aren’t around.  For the foreseeable future, I have a new spelling to my last name.

We spend the rest of the morning on the computer.  I learn how to mark sick days, vacation days, personal days, yada yada yada.  It’s far from a simple system.  This is nothing I’m going to get down until I have to actually use it.  I just want to get through this painfully dull system training so I can get on to forgetting about it.  I’ll just ask someone in a few months when I want to take a vacation day.  Plus, I never call in sick, so no worries there.

We also go over the office policies.  I’m given this huge packet of policies and the guy proceeds to read them to me aloud verbatim.  It’s excruciatingly boring.  I can clearly read this on my own time.  Besides, I already know I can pretty much sum it all up already: Don’t be an unethical dick.  Thank you.  This lasts until lunch.

He lets me go for lunch at 11:30.  He tells me to meet back up with him at 1:30.  Two hours of nothing.  I didn’t bring anything because I wasn’t sure if I’d have a place to store it.  I buy a sandwich in the cafeteria in the basement of the courthouse, grab a seat at an empty table, and stare out the window into the alley as I eat.  There’s nothing to see, just the outside.

With nothing to do, I pull out my legal pad and start writing.  I write the beginning of a screenplay for a scene in a movie idea I’ve had floating around.  It’s a take on the Death Wish storyline: personal tragedy leads to distorted perceptions of justice.  I write for about an hour and a half, then I head back up to the 6th floor waiting room.

The afternoon follows the same script as the morning.  I’m at a computer and the old grump is showing me how to use it.  I’m barely paying attention.  He barely cares.  Three more hours of this, just me, him, and these old computers.

I ask him  about getting my ID badge.  He says the woman, the one woman, who handles that is out and she won’t be back for at least a week if not more.  I guess I’ll have to do the morning security dance for a while longer.

I start having really bad thoughts.  It’s been almost a whole day, and all my fears and concerns about working here haven’t been erased yet!  I start to fantasize about leaping out the window and running to freedom.  Shit.  Seriously, what if I just stood up, said “You know, I think I made a mistake here,” and walked out?

Such a drama queen.  Of course, I do nothing of the sort.  It’s just the first day of summer camp, after all.  In a few weeks, I’m not going to want to go home, so the pattern goes.

He lets me go at 5:0o.  I walk back to the car, and it’s already getting pretty dark out.  On the way home I swing by to pick up my wife from school.  She is the entirety of my support system in Milwaukee.  She’s been supportive of me in whatever I’ve tried.  She knows that I gave up a lot to come to Wisconsin, and she wanted so bad for me to find success here and be happy.  A week earlier, she had tears of joy and relief in her eyes when I told her I got the job.

She asks me how the day went.  I can only say, “I don’t know.”  I was serious.  It wasn’t a good first day.  I didn’t meet anyone I’ll be working closely with.  I didn’t even get to see where my office is going to be.  I don’t know where I’ll be working or what I’ll be working on.  It was bad, but it was just a first day.  We go home, eat some dinner, watch some TV, and relax.

I get a voicemail from my mother.  She, too, was concerned about my happiness in Milwaukee.  She, too, was ecstatic when I got this job.  Right after I told her, she posted the news on Facebook.  I think she’s only updated her status three times in the years she’s been on Facebook.

The voicemail is pure anticipation.  She’s giddy and wants to know how the first day went.  I don’t return the call.  I’m not ready to talk about the job with anyone yet.

I try to stay positive.  Starting tomorrow, hopefully we’ll surely quit with this menial computer shit and move on to training about Wisconsin law and procedure.  I’ll meet my fellow ADAs.  I’ll shadow one or more of them for a while.  I’ll set up my office.  I’ll meet the judges.  I’ll ease into handling a courtroom.  Within a month, I’ll be a seasoned veteran again.  I’ll be comfortable with my job, and I’ll be pulling in a solid paycheck.  Life will surely be good.

I go to bed that night, and I sleep.  I sleep like I had slept every other night, fine.  I sleep all the way through the night.  It will be the last good night’s sleep I’ll have for weeks.

Day Two.  I put on my second best suit, a Men’s Warehouse navy blue pinstripe.  I park in the same place and make the same walk.  I get in the security line with what might as well be the same group of criminals, and I do the security dance.  I go to the same waiting area and wait some more.  I don’t have an ID badge so I can’t just walk in, and I don’t have an office so I wouldn’t have any place to go if I could.  I read the names of the past DAs again.  I wait for about ten minutes.

My trainer comes out and takes me back to that damn computer lab.  More computer training!  Wow.  My name is still wrong for my login.  It will fortunately be fixed by the end of the day.  They get my name down.  At least that problem is over with.

I learn about charging a case and putting it into the system.  It’s another unnecessarily complex system.  I’m certainly not going to get it now.  How about I team up with another attorney who is currently charging cases and watch and learn from him/her and maybe do one or two myself with him/her watching?  How about no.

I enter a fake case into the system.  In doing so, I get a look at their files.  They are disgustingly disorganized.  Papers just tossed in with no order.  It’s the same whether it’s a felony or misdemeanor file.  I am not used to this.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  Wouldn’t somebody have come along by now and said, “Hey, we need to have more organized files around here”?

Computer training lasts all morning again.  I welcome the lunch break like a dying man welcomes a paramedic.  I get another sandwich, find an empty table, and let the negativity consume me.  I think for sure I made a mistake.  I shouldn’t be here.  They’re going to fire me in three months anyway.  What’s the point?

I think about it logically and try to mentally slap myself in the face.  Snap out of it!  You’re such a baby!  So what if this is boring!  So what if the place is old and disorganized!   You’re going to prosecute again!  It’s what you do!

The negativity doesn’t go away, though.  I start to write again.  I start another movie scene, but I preface it with a cry to the gods for help.  I beg the universe to let this writing be a ticket out of this path that I’m on.  Let me write a best-selling novel.  Let me write an award-winning screenplay.  Let me write a hit song.  Just let me go.  I’m feeling desperate.

After lunch, my trainer shows me around the 8th floor, where many ADA offices are.  He introduces me to a few of them and the legal secretaries.  We walk by an empty office.  He stops, and looks in.  I look in, too.  There’s a desk from the 60s, a wooden chair from the 40s, a small shelf, and a phone.  That’s it.

“Well, I guess you can take this office.”

Wait, that’s it?  There wasn’t an office ready for me, so you “guess” I can take this one?  “There’s not much left in here.  All the others must have gotten to it.  That’s usually how it goes: when an office clears up, people scrounge for the stuff inside it.”  HUH?

He checks the phone.  “Nope, that doesn’t work.”  Then what is it doing here?  “I’ll give a call to the computer guys about getting you a computer in here.”  So until then, I do . . . what?  Stack matches?

I start to wonder if the office is this disorganized for every new hire, or if it’s just me.  It seems at this point like they told me I had the job, and then completely forgot about it until I showed up.

He takes me down a few flights to the charging offices.  The ADAs give up their courtrooms and regular offices for a week every five weeks and work solely as case charges in specialty case-charging offices.  I follow him as he talks to a few more people, forgetting to introduce me some more.

He takes me into an office where four or five ADAs are hanging out talking.  He starts up a conversation with the oldest of the group; a woman of about 50.  They’re chatting about whatever, and she starts swearing.  She uses profanities like they were commas.  I’m just standing there listening.  Nobody even acknowledges I’m in the room.

Finally, he’s done talking and walks out.  I start to follow.  I hear from the room, “Wait, why is the new guy following him still.  He’s supposed to stay here, right?”

I stop in the middle of the hall.  My trainer continues to walk away.  He continues down the hall, turns through a door, and he’s gone.  A day and a half of  computer-system tutelage and  policy-manual-reading later, he’s done.  Nothing on Wisconsin law and procedure.  No observations.  No oversight.

I’m supposedly ready to work now.

Training is over.

Unsolicited Commentary: Gay Marriage WTF?

In the wake of North Carolina becoming the 30th state to put a ban on gay marriage in its state constitution, President Obama finally “came out” and expressed his support for gays having the right to marry, while concurrently expressing his belief that states should maintain the power to decide that they don’t, thus making his endorsement about as profound as if he had come out with his support for butter pecan as the best ice cream flavor.  I wonder if gays in North Carolina were able to find anything to be grateful about within all that confusing double-talk.

And so we trudge on with this issue.  It’s a civil right.  It’s not a civil right.  It’s an abomination.  It’s beautiful.  It’s natural.  It’s a choice.  People say it’s an issue that states should not be allowed to vote on.  Others say it’s something only the states should be able to decide.  Still others say it’s an issue for the states IF the states agree with their side.

Of course, you know what I say.

What the f***?

First of all, I’m far from an all-knowing wisenheimer on all issues gay . . . . (pause so you can look up the definition for “wisenheimer”) . . . (Ready?  Good).  I grew up in a Catholic community in smallish Midwestern town in the 80s and 90s where the subject was rarely broached.  I don’t really even remember it coming up in church or religion class, although admittedly I usually wasn’t paying attention.  There were a couple of times when gay characters popped up in TV shows I watched.  I don’t remember how I reacted to those characters, but I do recall being weirded out when a character came out in the comic strip For Better or Worse.  Yes, I read that strip.  It was somewhere on the page in the vicinity of Calvin & Hobbes as I recall.

In middle and high school, I sometimes used “gay” and “queer” in place of “stupid” or “lame,” and “fag” as a malicious way of putting our (presumed straight) cohorts down.  We all did.  As it turns out, I did know some people then who turned out to be gay, but I had no idea at the time.  I’m not sure when I actually made my first openly-gay acquaintance.  Probably college.  I don’t think I had any gay “friends” in college, though.  Not because I was avoiding the possibility.  It just didn’t happen.

When I did AmeriCorps after college, I got to know and hang out with more gay people than I ever had before.  It wasn’t weird.  I got along with just about everyone there, regardless of their sexual orientation.  I made friends there that were gay, and I’d still be friends with them to this day if they were around here.

I don’t think I ever had any really close friends that were gay, though.  They were in the friendship zone, but I don’t think any gay person ever made it into the inner-circle.  I can’t say why.  It just didn’t happen.

I’ve never been to a gay wedding.  I haven’t been invited to one.  I haven’t been to a gay couples’ house.  I haven’t been invited to one.  That might say something about unnerving about my general pleasantness.

I stopped using gay slurs years ago.  I get the chills whenever I hear someone use them now.

So, that’s where I’m at now.  That’s the crux of my experience when it comes to gay people.  With that, I’m supposed to pick a side: pro gay marriage or anti gay marriage.  Here’s what I can deduce:

Am I anti gay marriage?  Yes.  In the sense that I don’t want one.  OK, I’m already married, so I don’t want another marriage to anyone.  But if I was single, I still would not want a gay marriage.  I mean I REALLY would not want one!  I don’t think I would do it for $1 million.  Probably not $10 million . . . probably.  Not that anyone would want to gay marry me anyway.  I’d be a terrible gay groom/husband!  Why?  Because I’d be majorly creeped out about the whole thing!  Me standing up there and looking at another dude and saying wedding vows?  And then “You may kiss the . . . groom”?  Which one of us is he talking to?  Awkward.  And then afterwards, we’d go off and do . . . you know, that stuff that gay guys do?  Uhhhh, really, no thanks.  Whatever.  Not for me.

Am I pro gay marriage?  Probably not, because if I qualified as that, I’d be the worst pro anything ever!  Imagine me in the stands at a Cleveland Browns game.  I don’t hate the Browns, nor do I like them.  But if I’m at a Browns game, I suppose I’d want them to win, kind of.  The Browns are down 21-17 with 3 seconds left in the game and they’ve got the ball on the 4 yard line.  The person sitting next to me turns to me and says, “Would it be great if the Browns scored here and won?”  My response: “Sure.  Whatever.”  That’s the metaphor.  That’s how pro gay marriage I’d be if I in fact qualified for that side.  I’d be a passive Browns fan for gay marriage.

“Look at that cute gay couple.  Wouldn’t it be great if they got married?”

“Sure.  Whatever.”

I’m not going to pretend that I can look at two dudes kissing and find beauty in that.  I don’t.  It’s just weird to me.  Perhaps two dudes can really love each other as deeply as I love my wife.  I have no reason to doubt that idea.  But damn it, it’s still freaking weird to me.  I don’t know if it will ever not be weird to me.  I doubt it’s important one way or the other.  So yeah, I’m never going to be the one gleefully jumping up and down at the thought of two gay persons getting married.  Can I really be in the pro category then?

I think I can tell you what I am for sure, though.  I am anti wasting everyone’s time and energy on inconsequential matters.  OK, this is far from inconsequential to gay people.  But to straight people, it is extremely inconsequential.  And yet it’s straight people who are indeed wasting everyone’s time and energy trying to keep gays from getting married!  This is what keeps you up at night?  Not the economy, or terrorism, or children starving in Africa, or shitty school systems, or gang violence, or drug cartels, or global warming?  You’re worried about the fact that two guys who you’d never hang out with want to engage in a state-recognized contract that ensures them certain rights in each other’s probate matters and health care decisions?  That’s so damn important?  What the f***?

Is it really going to tarnish or destroy the institution of marriage?  Come on.  Last I checked, the U.S. has the highest incidence of divorce per capita of any country in the world.  We didn’t need gays to get to that!  We did that on our own!  (pause for applause)

And look at some of these people who are contributing to that statistic.  We’ve got a thrice-married politician who will allegedly discuss divorce terms while his cancer-ridden first wife is in the hospital, and then ask for an open marriage from his second wife before ultimately marrying his 23-years younger third wife.  We’ve got a celebrated talk-show host who works his way through eight wives (and counting).  And of course, we’ve got “Ms. 72 Days” herself, Kim Kardashian.  Are any of these people publicly lambasted for tarnishing and destroying the institution of marriage?  Are people trying to push though constitutional amendments barring these people from marrying?

Of course not.  Because in the end, these people can’t hurt the institution of marriage.  Marriage doesn’t need protection.  It was around for thousands upon thousands of years before this country came about and it’ll be around for thousands upon thousands of years after the Chinese-Canadian conglomerate of tyranny and misery takes over.*  It doesn’t need protection from these jerks, and trying to create such “protection” would just be a colossal and fruitless waste of time.  You think it’s any different when the subject is two guys wanting to get married?

(*You watch.  Chaninda is not to be taken lightly.)

What I also am.  I’m anti-bigotry.  It doesn’t take much for me to see that a lot of people on the anti side (the real anti side, not the one I made up a few paragraphs back) are just hateful bigots.  They, like me, get weirded out.  But they use that as an excuse to spew hatred upon a significant portion of the population.  People they’ve never met, yet they hate.  I don’t know if it makes them feel better about themselves, or if they actually hate themselves and this is a mass form of projection.  Regardless, it’s sickening.

I don’t think the anti crowd is made up entirely of these people.  I know some people see the entire anti crowd like this, but those people are usually too terribly unpleasant to ever converse with anyway.  You know, the people who will constantly act like unbearable choads in the name of love and acceptance?  Those douchebags that are so vile and annoying you’d gladly give any minority or majority group anything they want if in exchange you can kick all those asshats into the ocean?  But I digress . . .

Bigots.  That’s where I was at.  I don’t care for them.  And I don’t like any side on any issue that provides a safe haven for them and actively panders to their intolerant nature.

Look, I get the religious aspect of this whole debate.  I completely empathize with that.  But this isn’t about your or my religion.  Nobody is going to force any religion to partake in a ceremony that runs contrary to its teachings.  If they tried to do that, I’ll jump right to your side on the front lines, dude.  But it ain’t happening.  These things are taking places in courthouses, gardens, country clubs, and maybe some churches (the ones you and I don’t attend anyway).  Your church, your religion is left unaffected, like everything else in your life.

So where did I end up with this?  Hell, I don’t know.  Bottom line: I’d eventually like to see all the states take those gay marriage bans off the books.  I’m thinking that a year, five years, ten years, 100 years after that day comes, things around this country will still be pretty much the same.  Lame.

Just kidding.

I really wish Bill Watterson had thought to address this issue.  He would have settled everything.

I’m On Drugs

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I haven’t had anything to write this week, mainly because I recently had a wisdom tooth yanked out of me and I’ve been in a Vicodin-induced haze since.

This is my first experience with Vicodin.  I had heard of people using it recreationally, but now that I’ve experienced it I have no idea why.  It does nothing to me except make me sleepy!  If I wanted that recreationally, I wouldn’t pay for a drug and risk going to jail for possessing a prescription drug without a prescription.  I would just stay up later!