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Hammering out everyday justice

Barry SmithAspen, CO Colorado

I saw it at a garage sale over the weekend. I’m not sure if it belonged to an actual judge or was just a high school wood shop project – but all that mattered was that it become mine.”How much for this gavel?” I asked the woman in the garage, the one doing the selling.”Oh … a dollar,” she replied.”I’ll give you 25 cents for it.””Seventy-five.” “Thirty cents,” I said, and before she could make another counteroffer, I brought the gavel down hard on top of the knickknack stand and yelled, “SOLD!”What could she say? After all – I had the gavel. I tossed her a quarter and walked toward my car.”You owe me a nickel,” the woman called after me.”Adjourned,” I yelled back, banging the gavel against the side of her mailbox. Through no fault of my own, I witnessed footage of last week’s Anna Nicole Smith trial. Short of gouging one’s own eyes out with cocktail forks, it would have been hard to avoid seeing at least some of it. But luckily I don’t own cocktail forks, as I find them unnecessary and pretentious.I think it was watching a trial on TV, something I haven’t done since those glorious O.J. years, that got me all revved up for the potential of having a gavel in real life. The restaurant was crowded, but this was no surprise, as it was a Saturday evening. I bustled my way to the front of the crowd to where the maitre d’ was stationed.”Table for two,” I said.”Reservation name?””I have no reservation.”He made a face at me that only those with an apostrophe in their job title can pull off.”The soonest I can seat you will be in 45 minutes, sir. Now, if you’d kindly step … “”ORDER!” I shouted, sending the gavel crashing down several times on his little clipboard, each impact edging closer to his bony knuckles.”You get me and my wife a seat so we can get some grub or I’ll hold you in contempt!”He quickly shoved two menus and a wine list into his armpit and motioned for me to follow him.The meal went smoothly, although a few silverware-rattling bangs on the table were necessary when the cheese cart didn’t arrive as promptly as I thought it should have. I paid for the meal, tipped modestly, and, replacing the gavel into its newly crafted leather holster, I left. The library is the place to be when the snow clouds roll in during the late afternoon. The periodicals section is especially relaxing. The chairs are stuffed and comfy. Through the nearby window you can keep a watch for signs of the returning sun. Also, you can hear the couple at the next table talking to each other at volumes usually reserved for one of the Who’s reunion tours.Usually three gavel bangs on the wooden arm of the chair are enough to get everyone’s full attention, but this time I let go with five in rapid succession, as I’m particularly annoyed at being interrupted from taking the latest Cosmopolitan Quiz: “Are Your Cuticles Sexy?””Approach the bench,” I say to the obnoxious couple, using my most hushed, authoritative voice.They look at each other briefly, then at the gavel, then they walk over to the chair where I’m sitting. I motion for them to lean in.”One more outburst like that last one and I’ll have you forcibly removed from the building.””But we were just…”I raise the gavel high above the chair arm, an act which cuts the comment short and causes cringing and hands-over-the-ears anticipation. But instead of an almighty crash, I lower the gavel slowly, proving how fair I’m capable of being.”I’m going to dismiss your case,” I announce. “But I don’t ever want to hear either of you in here again. You understand me?”Enthusiastic nods.”Fine, then. See the bailiff on your way out.”I replaced the gavel in the holster and returned my attention to the Cosmo quiz, stealing a quick glance at my sexy, sexy cuticles.(Next time: Barry buys a really loud whistle at the Thrift Store.)Barry Smith’s column appears on Mondays. Read more on Barry’s blog, http://www.barrysmith.wordpress.com.


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