Wanna feel the wrath of your fellow man? Stroll into a crowded courtroom with a TV camera and tripod on your shoulder. Actually, you'd better check with the judge first, lest you find yourself rolling in the pokey. The other day, I had permission. Hell, I had a three bailiff escort into the District Courtroom. Seems the D.A. was gonna deny bail to an accomplice in a murder case and someone wanted it televised. Thus, I was afforded an invitation to a high noon bond hearing, provided I show up early and submit to a thorough wanding. Hey - I’m down!
“Empty your pockets into the tray.” the dead woman said. Knowing better than to vex a cadaver with a badge, I complied - filling the shoebox-sized tray with my detritus. Car keys, wireless microphone, wallet, three Double A batteries, cell phone, $1.74 in change, headphones and a wide angle lens, perhaps I should have streamlined everything back at the car. Once the tray was full, I slid it aside and placed my fancycam on the X-ray machine’s conveyor belt. The zombie in brown polyester looked upon my Sony as if it were a steaming turd. She then looked up at me as if I’d cut said cheese. Then she called for back-up.
Flanked by two husky bailiffs, I stepped into an elevator that vaguely smelled of urine. My hosts seemed jittery - as if they were they were escorting a particularly vile defendant to the cavity search room. At first I tried to make conversation, but the young one to my left was flexing veins in his temple and the old guy to the right was furiously tonguing a toothpick, so I canned the happy talk and joined them in staring holes in the elevator door. Suddenly, the doors retracted. A hunched over woman in an orange housecoat tried to get on board, but Temple told her to scram and Toothpick jabbed at the Door Close button. It was then I began fondling the speed dial button on my cell phone.
The Chief Bailiff was waiting for me outside Courtroom 3C. Squat, bald and pushing sixty, the man had enough shiny black plastic hanging off his belt to give Batman heart palpitations. Stiffening upon my approach, he dismissed his subordinates with half a grunt and took in all the hardware hanging off my side. “Judge knows you’re comin’. Set up to the left of the stenographer’s table and make sure your cell phone’s off. Your man’s third up once the bind hearing begins.” Opening the courtroom door, he motioned for me to follow him before taking one long last look at my oversized lens. “Point that thing at me and we got a problem.”
The courtroom was packed. Not a single empty spot on either side of the fifteen pews was visible as The Great Unwashed shifted in their hard oak seats. Small time gangbangers traded glares as one out of three homeboys dozed. A woman in sweatpants and a Mark Martin t-shirt held her identically dressed toddler on her lap. A few greasy teens traded wisecracks in a language I’m pretty sure they made up. Mostly though, the defendants in waiting practiced their thousand yard stare as the layers slept walked through justice at the front of the room. Even the judge appeared to be catatonic. Only the bailiffs moved, scanning the crowd for anyone sleeping and finding quite a few. That is, until I walked in.
I’d barely made it two feet into Courtroom 3C when waves of disgust rippled up the row of pews. Weaves bobbed, mullets swung and Jerry curls gyrated as each and every seated occupant got a look at the leper with a lens. Even the fellas in orange jumpsuits twisted their necks what kind of dirt bag was bringing a TV camera into their courtroom. Once they got a look at the local station’s logo attached to my lens, they sunk down in their seats, hid behind their court ordered paperwork and cursed my very heritage. Even the shackled shrunk in their jumpsuits and tried to tuck their faces out of sight. The most brazen mouthed silent threats as I walked past the gallery, set my camera on top of my sticks and turned to scan the crowd behind me. What followed was enough eye-fornication to fill a peep show.
Of all the upstanding taxpayers clocking my every move in the courtroom that day, I was there for none of them. No, the object of my camera’s lust would only appear on an antiquated TV screen hanging from the ceiling; a jittery image of a sullen face, broadcast from the jail across the street. Still, with ten minutes to spare before my felon in question made his debut, there was time to spread the love. Placing one hand on my lens, I slowly searched every row as if looking for someone in particular. Those who ignored me received the same treatment, but I couldn’t help but linger over those looking back out of the corner of their eyes. Waiting until I got their attention, I scrunched my eyebrows as if I’d found my quarry, before moving on to the next Jerry Springer extra. Most tried to assume invisibility as I panned my powered down camera their way. A few stared back and grinned and I did my best to lift a single eyebrow their way, before pulling out my notebook and scribbling gibberish just to screw with the them.
Okay, so I poured it on a little too thick, but with thirty minutes of legal minutia in my immediate future, it was the only fun I was gonna have taht day. Besides, how else you gonna react when the dude charged with hiding crack in his kid’s diaper looks at you like you’re the lowest life form in the room? Blow him kisses? Not on MY watch…