A Google Street View Of Justice

, , , , | Legal | October 18, 2018

I work for a multimedia department of a bigger software company; I am a UI designer for small apps and websites. I also do a bit of programming and scripting; it’s nothing too fancy, but good enough to create a nice presentation.

I am asked to create a program showing some locations on maps provided by our client. In short, I create an extremely basic version of Google Maps. In beta while waiting for the real maps, I start with a map of a non-existing country with very weird city names. It will appear if you type a very specific phrase in the search bar. After beta-testing, I find it too clever and funny to remove it — and it is not offending at all, just silly.

Later, my department is dissolved during a major reorganisation. It is a very big mess, and our client smells an opportunity to save some money. He actually claims we never created the program. The company has lost all track of us creating it during the reorganisation, so months later my old manager calls me at my new job to ask if I can remember creating the app.

Even on the phone I can hear her grin from ear to ear when I tell her how she can bring up this childish easter-egg country nobody knows about but me. Since it is already a court case, you could say the weird map is a pretty awesome silent witness.

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This Justice Jumps To Judge Jurors

, , , , | Legal | October 17, 2018

(I recently got called for jury duty. I’m not exactly “dreading” it like some, but I’m also hoping I don’t end up getting called to a big spectacle trial. As the morning wears on, some of us that don’t have a laptop or something with us start talking, and I get along well with a couple. Eventually, I’m called up with one of the batches, including one of the guys I was talking with. When we hear the judge’s name, the man groans.)

Man: “Oh, God, not him!”

Me: “What’s wrong?”

Man: “He was the judge the last two times I’ve been called. He almost never lets jurors go until the lawyers start cutting.”

Me: “He can’t be that bad.”

Man: “Last time, he literally tried to talk someone into changing a scheduled surgery.”

Other Man: “Yeah, I’ve sat in on cases; this guy’s brutal. He basically has compassion for everyone in the courtroom but the jury, as if we’re all volunteering and have no room to complain.”

(The thoughts of all my potential excuses go right down the drain. I shuffle in with the rest and end up third in the box. The case is read out: in short, this man is on trial for ongoing child and spousal abuse, as well as for physically assaulting his son and son’s boyfriend when he found out they were gay. The first juror is asked to stand up, accepts what’s going on, and is signed in. The next one stands, and when asked if he could serve faithfully, he tries to get out because his car just died and he can’t guarantee it will be fixed before the trial starts, so he doesn’t have reliable transportation; the judge literally says, “Figure it out.” Then, he gets to me.)

Judge: *reading off my identification* “Can you faithfully prosecute the duty of a juror, without prejudice or concern?”

Me: “Honestly, I don’t think I can, Your Honor.”

Judge: *accusingly* “And why not?!”

Me: “I’m married to another man. My father refused to come to our wedding, and I’ve only talked with him twice in the last decade because of that.”

(This stern judge gave me a look for about ten seconds, double-checked my sheet, and excused me.)

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Speeding Into Some New Insurance

, , , | Legal | October 16, 2018

(I am driving with a colleague to a work location some 180 miles away from our normal office. About 100 miles into the journey, we are driving along a dual-carriageway with a national speed limit; I am admittedly speeding about ten miles an hour over it. Glancing in my rear view mirror I see a police car behind us. I realise I’m about to get pulled over, so I ask my friend to get my license out of my purse. Sure enough, he flashes his lights and pulls me over as soon as we approach a wide strip of road.)

Officer: “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

Me: “Yes, sir, I was speeding.”

Officer: *surprised* “Well, your speed wasn’t ideal, but I pulled you over because your car isn’t insured.”

(I am immediately both confused and horrified.)

Me: “What? That can’t be. It should be insured; I got it sorted out a week or so ago.”

(Suddenly something clicks in my mind.)

Me: “Wait, it switched over today! I moved it to a new insurance company, and they said it can sometimes take 24 hours for the database to update.”

Officer: *disbelieving tone* “So, who did you take your insurance out with?”

Me: “I took it out with [Insurance Company only available to members of the police and their families].”

(The officers eyes go wide as he takes my insurance details and heads back to his cruiser. My colleague and I talk about how mad this is, and I fret about my car getting towed when we are in the middle of nowhere. Eventually the officer comes back.)

Officer: “I’m so sorry for the trouble, ma’am; I can confirm the car is insured. We have to check everyone when we see it comes up as uninsured. I hope you understand.”

Me: “Oh, of course I do! I would much rather you pull people and catch the ones without!”

Officer: “Well, I have delayed your journey and I’m sorry for that; is there anything I can do?”

Me: “Oh, no. We have another hour left to go yet, and we left plenty of time in our journey. Thanks, though!”

(With that, he goes back to the car and we leave. My colleague jokes that we should have asked him to escort us the rest of the way, but I just smile back at him.)

Me: “Nah, to be honest I’m just glad he forgot I was speeding and didn’t give me a ticket!”

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To Protect And Serve, But Not To Empower

, , , | Legal | October 14, 2018

Me: “This is [Police Department]. What is your emergency?”

Caller: “My power’s out.”

Me: “Do you believe someone is outside, and they cut your power?”

Caller: “No, the whole power is out in the area.”

Me: “Okay. Then you need to call the electric company.”

Caller: “But they aren’t open this late.”

Me: “There should be twenty-four hour number for the electric company to call in case of an emergency, ma’am.”

Caller: “I don’t know what it is. Why can’t you help me?”

Me: “Because this isn’t a police issue.”

Caller: “But all the power is out. My food will go bad! This is ridiculous!”

Me: “It’s still not a police issue.”

Caller: “What’s the number for the electric company, then?”

Me: “I’m afraid I don’t know.”

Caller: “You’re no help!” *click*

(The police have their own twenty-four hour number to call the electric company, but I wasn’t about to give it out. Sadly, too many people believe calling police will actually get their power turned back on.)

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Doing A Good Deed Should Be Like Riding A Bike

, , , , | Legal | October 13, 2018

(I find a child’s bicycle abandoned on a street. I bring it home for safekeeping, and report it as “found property” on the police non-emergency line. There is a queue of ten minutes, and the call is taken by a civilian. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is a target for terrorist attacks, so there are — rightly — numerous procedures to handle the risk.)

Police #1: “Thank you for calling the Police Service of Northern Ireland. What is your full name, please?”

Me: *gives name* “Hi, I found a child’s bicycle abandoned in [Street, Town]. I brought it back to my house for safekeeping. I’m reporting it as found property.”

Police #1: “What’s your address?”

Me: *gives address*

Police #1: “And a description of the bike?”

Me: “Black frame, BMX style, for a child aged seven or eight.”

Police #1: “Will you hand it into a police station, or can we give your contact details if the owner turns up?”

Me: *not comfortable giving details to someone I don’t know* “I’ll take it to a police station.”

Police #1: “Which station, and when?”

(I’m sensing this will get difficult. I’m doing a good deed, but I have a busy, chaotic schedule.)

Me: “Erm, when do the police stations open in the East Belfast area?”

Police #1: “They open at 11 am.”

Me: “ELEVEN?”

(This seems very late, even though many have reduced hours over the years. This means I can only return it after I finish work, which just delays it even more. I change my mind.)

Police #1: “Yes, 11 am.”

Me: “Forget it. Just give my details to the owner if they turn up.”

Police #1: “Okay, thanks for calling.” *ends call*

(I realise I’m missing some information. I don’t know what details he has given, or what the process is when found. I haven’t been given a Crime Number, but I am now responsible for a some random kid’s bike. I phone up again.)

Me: *explains situation* “Basically, your colleague was rude and didn’t explain how it works. Can you help?”

Police #2: “Yes. If — and that’s if — the rightful owner turns up, we then give them your phone number, and they phone you.”

Me: “Tell me please: what phone number did he use?”

Police #2: *number I’m calling from*

Me: “He never asked me for my number; that’s just the number I called from. Is that how you guys do things? Just use the caller ID number? What if I was calling from my mate’s phone?”

Police #2: “Yes, he should have asked. Should I change the number?”

Me: “No… What’s the Crime Number? I’m also not comfortable with my phone number being given out like that. Can’t I just hand it into a police station?”

Police #2: “The Crime Number is [number], which he should also have given. Unfortunately, you would need to tell us which station in advance.”

(I’ve had enough. [Police #1] was terse and rude and didn’t do his job. Now, I’m being made to jump through hoops for my generosity. No good deed goes unpunished.)

Me: “Tell you what. If you want it, come and get it. Send a police officer round to my house. It’s easier to take it to the dump than a police station.”

Police #2: “I can send an officer round if you like.”

(Three hours later, I get a call from an unknown number — another security measure.)

Officer: “Hi, is this Mr. [My Name]? I’m [Officer] from [Town twenty minutes away]. I hear you found a kid’s BMX bike you would like to hand in?”

Me: “That’s me, constable. My address is [address]. Look for the smart car outside my house; bring a magnifying glass.”

Officer: *laughs* “Okay, see you in twenty minutes.”

(Out of respect, I ALWAYS address police officers here by rank, and make them laugh. He has an extremely dangerous job, and checks below his car for a bomb every morning. Twenty minutes later, the doorbell rings. I can see straightaway how many resources it has taken to recover this kid’s bike: two police officers, both in bulletproof vests, armed with Glock 19 handguns. One is at my door, and one is in the police car eyeballing me. This is the absolute minimum deployment. Anywhere else in the UK or Ireland, police would rarely be armed at all. I could have expected an office assistant. Not here, though. In Northern Ireland, police officers are always armed, and never alone, even for the most trivial of tasks.)

Me: “Evening, constable. This is the bike. It’s in a bad state of repair; the brake cable is hanging on by a thread. Keep that in mind before you play any pranks on your sergeant [superior officer].”

Officer: “Thanks. I’ll get this into the car.”

Me: “Also, I apologise for dragging you out here. This bike has no monetary value, and you have far more important things to be doing. Your colleague on the phone wasn’t much use.”

Officer: “Civilian, eh?”

Me: “Yup. For future reference, what’s the easiest way to get rid of something I find? This could be a kid’s pride and joy… or a refugee’s only means of transport. Does the nick need to know in advance I’m coming?”

Officer: “Nope. Just drop it in. Some stations are open late. If it suits you, they’ll work with it.”

Me: “Great, I’ll take note. Hey, you should race your buddy back to the barracks in that. Have you your hi viz in the back of the car?”

(He laughed, said thanks, threw the bike into the back, and drove off. Two police officers, and forty-five minutes. At the rate a police officer is contracted out, that’s about £70. A taxi could have done it for £20. Really, don’t punish selflessness. If you don’t have a choice, at least acknowledge their efforts.)

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