Have you ever been to Denton Texas? Denton does not look and feel like the rest of Texas. Unfortunately I do not mean that in a cool and funky Austin way or a San Antonio historic way or even a cosmopolitan Dallas way. It is different in a run-down college campus student ghetto in a northern Mid-western rustbelt university dominated town way but with a slightly Texas rednecky edge. To get to Denton from Dallas you have to drive north up the Stemmons Freeway, an overcrowded outdated torn up Texas highway that is tightly sandwiched between a service road lined with car dealerships, warehouses, factory outlets, chain restaurants… It is the appropriate gateway to the city.
I am sorry if I am insulting some reader that is oozing with intense Denton pride but the city just does not impress me. Of course I have a family history of insulting entire towns. My Dad took a short-term job running a business in Brockton Mass. A few days after he arrived there the local newspaper ran a story on the front page that included a quote from my father that, unbeknownst to him, he gave to a local reporter calling Brockton ‘a little crap town half shot down’. Needless to say he did not make friends fast.
For the record, I should say that at different times in my life I have had a blast hanging out in towns like Madison WI, Columbus OH and Bloomington IN, all of which have sections that seem very Dentonesque. I am sure if I were with a group of fun friends that knew the right places to go, I would eventually end up liking Denton. The city is even famous for it’s great music scene but I have not experienced any of that. That did not happen. Today I spent the day alone in Denton for a very special reason; I had been called for jury duty.
To comfortably make my 8:20 a.m. jury duty call, I had to leave the house at 7ish. After sitting 45 minutes with 200 or so other potential jurors in a large room within the Denton County Courthouse building, a judge came out and swore us in. They outlined the rules and quickly weeded out the folks that could not serve due to a legitimate excuse, insanity, past criminal behavior or really creative bullshiting abilities.
They next assigned 40 of us to a potential jury pool that would not be picked until after 1:30 pm. They told us to report back in close to four hours and suggested to kill time while waiting ‘we should get a jump on our Christmas shopping at the local (and only) nearby shopping mall’. I figure this is Denton’s way of stimulating their obviously moribund economy. Legally require an ever-changing large group of people to come to your town daily and give them a forced four hours block of time to fend for themselves. I’m sure countless dollars are dropped into their local economy with this simple trick. You would think they would use some of this newfound tax revenue to fix up the damn place.
Denton may only be 30 miles north of Dallas but it is a different world. People look far less cosmopolitan. Even the slick lawyers walking around the courthouse looked a bit like a bigger city department store shoe salesperson with slightly ill fitting suits that looked a bit ruffled. The secretaries and aides looked mostly lumpy and dressed pretty frumpy. My wife recalls seeing a lot of very big belt buckles when she was called there.
To kill time I drove around town from one crappy neighborhood to another. I found a place to eat a slow breakfast and sip a few dozen cups of coffee. I looked at my watch and realized I still had over two hours left and I had already run out of stuff to do. Out of boredom, I next took a walk around the sickly looking Golden Triangle Mall (so I’m good at following instructions) and noticed the music playing throughout the mall was Christian rock.
At the appropriate time I headed back to the courthouse (not before I put my two new shirts into the trunk… dammit their plan worked!). My group waited in the same large room for some time until our bailiff (who looked nothing like Rusty from the Peoples Court) marched us upstairs to the courtrooms. We all stood around the hallway for a couple of hours until they informed us that case had been settled and we were all dismissed. I high tailed it out of Denton before I spent any more money there.