Saturday, January 9, 2010

Just Too Smart

When you work for a federal judge you don't like to think about security but bullet proof windows, a mail scanner, video cameras monitoring the building, and the US Marshals on call remind you every once in a while there are loony people out there. After the anthrax scare, we actually had to take a class sponsored by Homeland Security making us aware that we were the "First Line of Defense". That thought did not thrill me. Suddenly why was I on the front lines?

Then they went on to explain if we got a package that had a powder or residue that smelled like freshly cut grass, it was most likely phosgene. We were told not to smell it because it would damage our lungs. (Too late if we already smelled the "fresh grass" scent.) But not to worry about anything that smelled like almonds because it was either totally harmless or cyanide and we would be dead almost immediately. My favorite was to be very wary of packages with wires hanging from them or those that had "ticking" noises coming from inside. Duh! I've seen enough Road Runner shows on Saturday morning. It doesn't have to say "Acme Co." on the outside for me to figure that one out.

So I am in chambers, educated and vigilant. The mail comes daily - no smells, no wires, no sounds. Life is normal in Mayberry. Then one day I notice this square box that is wrapped in brown paper, which catches my attention since no one does that any more. When I look at the address label it is hand written and addressed to the Judge. I do not recognize the return name or address. The Judge is out for the day. When she calls in, I ask her about the package. She says she is clueless and doesn't recognize the name or address either. I tell her I have called the Marshals and they suggested I put it in a safe place and they will come down the next day and pick it up.

The next morning I come in and the box is open, sitting on my desk, with all the paper stuffing coming out of the top. I asked the Judge, "So you recognized the name on the box?" "No." "But, you opened the box?" "Well, someone had to open the box." "Uh, yeah, but we were going to let the Marshals do that, remember our conversation yesterday. The one about the safety concerns. You know you being a federal judge and all." And what followed, proved the theorem that you can be too smart. "Well, I got back last night and I looked at the box. And I thought, someone needs to open the box. And I knew you would be concerned about it damaging the chambers, so I took it out to the far corner of the parking lot before I opened it."

"And nothing happened?" I said sarcastically. "No, see it was just some makeup from my personal shopper, " she said proudly. "But you didn't know that until you opened the box?" "No, of course not. I would have told you if I did." By then she could tell I was aggravated, "I didn't mean to leave the trash on your desk, but I wanted to make sure it didn't mess up the chambers." I wanted to kill her, since the box had failed to but I thought I'd wait for the Marshals. Personally, I wanted to see their expressions when she explained to them the extent she went to make sure the package was far from the building before she opened it.

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