This past May, I was sitting in my cubicle at work when I got a call on my personal cell phone from a number I didn’t recognize. Usually, I am none too polite with spammers or solicitors. This time, however, it was the mail carrier, calling from the lobby of my condo building. “Mr. Dennis, I have a letter for you that you have to sign for.” “Um… I’d like to, but I’m at work right now.” It seemed like such an obvious response that I wondered if it didn’t sound like my innate sarcasm hadn’t kicked into overdrive.
“I’m going to have to leave it at the post office, and you’ll have to sign for it.” My mind immediately started thinking of every worst-case scenario my vivid imagination could conjure up. I signed for that piece of certified mail on the morning I spotted our featured Bronco. Ripping open the envelope almost immediately after it was in my hot, little hands, I was instantly relieved… and profoundly disappointed. It was yet another jury duty summons – the third I had received in something like nine years. I understand that it’s my civic duty as a United States citizen, and I do love this country, etc., but I also live in the third-largest city in the United States: Chicago, Illinois. Somehow, this just did not seem in any way like mine had been a random selection.
There was even a catch: it was a grand jury summons, which means the juror vetting process had already taken place, so I couldn’t merely pretend to be crazy or that I hate everybody to try to get out of it. Reporting to the courthouse would be mandatory. It would be, literally, a Monday-through-Friday, Nine-to-Five job for four weeks, which gave me a new appreciation for my day job.
As all of us potential jurors were sitting in the waiting area at the Cook County courthouse while the proverbial wheels were turning behind the scenes, a couple of employees made announcements intended to build up what an honor, privilege and all-around awesome experience this was going to be for twenty lucky “winners”. “Bee… ESS,” responded the voice in my head, in a loud, disgusted tone, but I kept my mouth tightly shut, lest I be chosen out of punishment.
This Bronco spotting was roughly three weeks prior to my reporting to the courthouse, and happened as I was heading to a local, classic car show being held on a Saturday at Belmont Harbor in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, off Lake Michigan. I was really hoofing it, with my extra motivation likely fueled by self-pity and slow-simmering rage. I froze when I saw this Ford’s flat tire. Isn’t it funny how the misfortunes of others can sometimes, somehow make us feel better? I’m not talking about an experience of “schadenfreude”, where the recipient might have deserved their unfortunate or unpleasant circumstances, but rather just the realization that we’re all kind of in the same boat insofar as none of us is entitled to a trouble-free life, and that summer guarantees no one a free pass.
I’ve already written previously about my own family’s experience with this two-year-only generation of Ford Bronco. I’ve always liked them for having the fewest number of model years of any generation of Bronco. Total production for this brief generation was about 182,000, with about 78,000 sold for ’78 and another 104,000 moved for ’79. There’s really nothing I can add to Paul Niedermeyer’s succinct, informative piece on these Broncos that ran earlier this year, so you should check that one out if you haven’t already.
Going back to my jury duty summons, I must have let out the biggest, involuntary sigh of relief when my name wasn’t called. I felt as though I had been called down to Contestants’ Row on “The Price is Right” for not having been selected. My summer wasn’t without some major challenges but, thankfully, sacrificing my travel plans for jury duty wasn’t one of them. In the meantime, let’s all just remember that our lives could be that much worse, regardless of whatever it is we’re facing right now.
Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, May 12, 2018.