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< L DykeWrite3 # >

2003-11-17 - 4:37 p.m.

Sorry it took me so long to get back to y’all.

You know how that whole non-diagnosed “Bi-polar-lite” thing goes….

(Please feel free to re-read JURY DUTY, PART ONE, if you need a refresher, which you probably don’t)

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JURY DUTY, PART TWO-

“Okay, I’m here: Now what?”

I was riding the escalator to the 2nd floor of the LA County Superior Court House with several random/ anonymous people (and loving the random/anonymousness of it all) and feeling all sparkly and tingly with civic duty.

I was reflecting on the fact that I had just breezed past 200+ NON-JURORS holding cups filled with their morning caffeine who were probably STILL waiting in that long line outside (sad, really). I’d whisked through security (didn’t even have to remove my shoes or have any body cavities searched) and now I was stepping off the escalator on the 2nd floor with several other random/anonymous people who might also have been feeling sparkly and tingly with civic duty.

Seriously, we were special. Some of us might even have been playing/hearing some sort of “I’m a potential juror arriving to do my civic duty” theme song, like maybe that Paul Oakenfold remix of the Elvis Song, “Rubberneckin’” that’s being overplayed in some car commercial right now. Yeah, THAT was what was playing in my head as I rounded the corner, still tingly and feeling special. Suddenly, at the end of the long, long, long corridor was what appeared to be LOTS (and LOTS) of people. What were ALL OF THEM doing here? Were they potential jurors, too? What shortcut did THEY take to arrive BEFORE me? Were their DRY RUNS more successful than mine?

My theme song music came to a screeching halt, as I realized, right then, that... SOYLENT GREEN WAS PEOPLE!! Of course there would be two hundred other potential jurors called in at the same time I was. Did I think it would just be ME, THE JUDGE and THE LAWYERS? Surely I hadn’t thought that? Did I think that they would take my picture upon arrival and immediately add it to the GALLERY OF MEMORABLE, POTENTIAL JURORS that hung on the wall? (Note: No such gallery existed, FYI.)

I continued to be AMAZED that so many people had arrived ahead of me and had already claimed all the PRIME bench space and AVAILABLE wall-leaning spots. Some were deeply engrossed in their review of that mornings LA TIMES. Others (many others) were involved in very important cell-phone calls.

Conveniently located within this corridor outside the special POTENTIAL JURORS WAITING ROOM was an “airport-style”souvenier/duty free shop WITHOUT the liquor, perfume, extensive selection of magazines and souveniers. It DID contain SNACKS. Many types of POTENTIAL JUROR SNACKS and BEVERAGES. It was really a SNACK and BEVERAGE KIOSK, I realize, quite frankly, right here at the end of this little paragraph that I wasted trying to compare it to an “airport-style”souvenier/duty free shop. Definitely a SNACK and BEVERAGE KIOSK.

It was jammed with POTENTIAL JURORS buying Snacks and Beverages, with the occasional FEMALE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER (gun included) thrown in for authenticity. I’ll admit it. I’m slightly CURIOUS/PIQUED by a FEMALE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER. So Sue Me. And, if you’re my AMAZING girlfriend/same-sex partner/lady-lover/meal-ticket/female, but NOT a Law Enforcement Officer, you get around that by having a “uniform-themed” party and for that party, you purchase an authentic(ish) “Female Law Enforcement Officers’ Uniform”… and have it on hand. You never know.

So anyway….I knew I didn’t need anything from the SNACK and BEVERAGE KIOSK (see previous list of contents of my bag) but realized that you can NEVER have too much WATER, or get the opportunity to stand THIS CLOSE to a FEMALE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER (gun included)…. So I purchased ANOTHER bottle of water, and TOOK IT ALL IN….watching THE FEMALE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER (gun included) as she interacted with the LEZZIE(ISH) WOMAN BEHIND THE COUNTER. The lezzie(ish) woman behind the counter wouldn’t take THE FEMALE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS money for the FIG NEWTONS and ICED TEA that she was trying to purchase. There was DEFINITELY more than a SNACK and BEVERAGE KIOSK transaction going on. FEMALE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER (gun included) insisted, putting the money in lezzie(ish) woman behind the counters’ hand, then closed HER hand OVER the whole thing. Yikes.

The businessman/potential juror beside me in line may have already been writing his LETTER TO PENTHOUSE about what went down after that, but an “I ‘aint got no time for this”woman in front of me huffed and puffed and then huffed some more… enough so that both FEMALE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER and lezzie(ish) woman behind the counter dropped their hands, then clumsily completed their transaction (well, THAT part), then said their goodbyes with a series of head twitches and winks.

The whole rest of us completed our transactions, and curiously enough, lezzie(ish) woman behind the counter had NO TROUBLE taking money from the huffing and puffing woman, the businessman OR me. Perhaps, in my case, she was blinded by my CIVIC DUTY SPARKLE. Yep.

Outside in the corridor, the other 200 POTENTIAL JURORS were continuing to sit, lean, read, sip, murmur and mill about. Suddenly (and without warning… thus the “suddenness” of it all) a NOT-at-all-official-looking woman approached the glass doors to the POTENTIAL JURORS WAITING ROOM carrying a GIANT KEY RING (seriously, a big key ring like one that would be used as a PROP in a play where someone is in a jail cell and they are trying desperately to reach the GIANT KEY RING with a stick-like tool that they’ve fashioned out of old toothbrushes held together with dental floss and band-aids). She ceremoniously (especially for a NOT-at-all-official-looking woman) unlocked the POTENTIAL JURORS WAITING ROOM and all 200 POTENTIAL JURORS swarmed the entrance as if they were giving away SEX or KRISPY KREME DONUTS… or both.

The POTENTIAL JURORS WAITING ROOM had the feel of a large “Departures” waiting area at THE AIRPORT. It was filled with rows of those “3 seats each” upholstered COUCH/CHAIR HYBRIDS facing each other. At one end of the room was an office where all the “official-looking” business took place. It looked SOOOOOOO CLICHÉ. The office had a single large glass sliding window, and several “office worker type” ladies who would be our babysitters for the day.

The 200 + of us scattered into the waiting room section and selected our seats, knowing that quite possibly we’d be spending the next 8 hours in them, and LOCATION was very important. I wanted to be near(ish) to the exit, in case of a FIRE, EARTHQUAKE or TERROR-RELATED event. I wanted to be ON AN AISLE. I saw TV SETS hanging in a few locations, and I wanted a GOOD VIEW of them, in case they’d be allowing us to vote on shows to watch. Hell, I could catch up on ALL MY CHILDREN. (Haven’t seen it since 1981).

I claimed MY OWN 3 Seater, and watched as others did the same. As it really started to fill in, people started having to share. I saw a woman approaching my row, and she smiled and was carrying a 48 ounce cup of SOME BEVERAGE, so I thought, “Hey, she can’t be bad” and in an anonymous-yet-friendly way, I welcomed her to my row.

Well, to the 3 Seater facing my row. This would be fine. She seemed clean, well-dressed and anonymous-yet-friendly herself. She’ll be fine.

She introduced herself to me, telling me her name and that she was a REAL ESTATE BROKER. I introduced myself and told her what I do(ish) and we settled in and waited for SOMEONE (perhaps the NOT-at-all-official-looking-woman with the GIANT KEY RING?) to tell us what happens next. (Note: I do NOT enjoy THE UNKNOWN. Duh.)

Suddenly, a GIANT, BOOMING VOICE came over a loud speaker, welcoming us to our civic duty and telling us to locate our “Jury Duty Summons” as we would be reviewing it as a group and completing the information section. Oy. Group reviewing. THIS would be fun.

The 200 + Potential Jurors rustled papers and searched through bags and located their JURY DUTY SUMMONS’s. People murmured and looked around. The GIANT, BOOMING VOICE from the cliché-looking office began instructing us, as a group, on HOW TO OPEN our “tri-folded” summons. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh dear. If she was going to break it down like this (ex: “Carefully unfold your summons and locate the front, which is on the opposite side of the back”). This “Potential Jury Wrangler” had obviously just transferred from her job as a KINDERGARTEN TEACHER to MENTALLY-CHALLENGED, FOREIGN KIDS. Sloooooooooooooooow. Each detail repeated. 5-6 times.

A lengthy “how to” on locating the “perforated lines” on the form and then “carefully tearing along them” was perhaps my favorite selection. Perforated IS a “big” word, and maybe some people are not familiar with it. For anyone that tore incorrectly, or removed the wrong section that wasn’t the obvious thing labeled JURORS BADGE, we were then, as a group, instructed to come to the front and obtain some scotch tape (or better, just SCOTCH) and instructed on how to apply the scotch tape (gently, carefully) to repair the summons.

Another 5 minutes on HOW TO PLACE THE JURORS BADGE into the BADGE HOLDER, and we were really rolling.

We were then instructed on how to form a single file line (who knew?) and turned our paperwork in. I can’t even remember the last time I had to form a single file line. Damn, that was some fun!

We returned to our 3 Seaters, and my NEW JURY FRIEND, THE REAL ESTATE BROKER was very chatty, and, quite frankly, why not? Neither of us had ever been on Jury Duty before (I didn’t tell her about my dry run) and we discussed our “potential jurors fears”, as well as urban legends and myths related to Jury Duty. We were both glad to have found NEW JURY FRIENDS in each other, and breathed a joint-sigh-of-relief when a middle-aged-man-in-an-overcoat with hygiene issues passed our row and settled in with a group of women 2 rows over who were all ignoring each other. Excellent choice!

Several moments later, as “Tardy Potential Jurors” continued to trickle in, The GIANT, BOOMING VOICE joined us over the loud speaker once again. This time we were told we’d be viewing a short video about Jury Duty. Oh no, the TV’s were to show us VIDEOS about JURY DUTY. Sighhhhhhhh.

The first video (yes, more than one) was a Judge, thanking us for coming today and telling us that WE are society’s watchdogs, that if we get chosen for a jury we’ll get $15/day (some serious blingblingblong) and other various things that people didn’t even stop reading their magazines to listen to.

After the video, an ACTUAL, LIVE Judge (a female Judge… hmmmm…. Maybe the judge SUE met a few weeks ago at the LESBIAN DATING THING?? Naah, too much of a coincidence). This ACTUAL, LIVE FEMALE JUDGE thanked us again, told us a few things that people didn’t even stop reading their magazines to listen to, and then, she was gone. She may have just been an actress they hired and gave the robe to. Would a REAL JUDGE really take the time to come and thank us? Not unless SHE, too, was a LEZZIE and had heard about how FLIRTY that Snack & Beverage Kiosk Counter Woman was… and wanted to do a little “discovery” on her own. Whatever. She came, she spoke, she left.

Next (yes, next) was ANOTHER VIDEO. This time, filled with Propaganda, hyping Jury duty, and made up of INTERVIEWS with FORMER JURORS… testimonials if you will. They were the “Jared’s from Subway”of the Judicial System. One informed us that “She was scared, at first”; another told us he “brought a book, thinking he’d be bored”. Still another told us that “the Attorney’s can ask personal questions”, and told us that it’s “Nothing personal if you’re excused by the attorneys after questioning”. Lastly, a woman informed us that “Being a juror is a deeply bonding experience” and that “many jurors stay in touch afterwards”. Excellent!!

These testimonials were followed by SWEEPING/PATRIOTIC MUSIC under a TOUCHING MONTAGE of Government Buildings, Flags waving, an American Eagle… and…. a close-up of THE CONSTITUTION on the words “WE THE PEOPLE”.

Stunning.

The 200+ POTENTIAL JURORS continued sipping coffee and tea, devouring shrink-wrapped bagels and reading whatever time-passing literature they had brought with them.

I hear a noise, oddly offensive, briefly thinking it might be “body function-related”, then realize that it’s a woman across the aisle APPLYING LOTION from an almost-empty container. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh. If someone FLOSSES, I think I’ll black-out.

Suddenly (always, it’s suddenly) the GIANT, BOOMING VOICE alerts us that a “roll call” will be taking place. What followed was a PAINFUL PARADE OF MISPRONOUCIATIONS. Every nationality was represented amongst us, along with those nationalities own methods of putting vowels and consonants together, creatively, and THE GIANT BOOMING VOICE that had previously been a KINDERGARTEN TEACHER to MENTALLY-CHALLENGED, FOREIGN KIDS was hacking away at long-cherished family names like she was clearing brush in a brush-filled, brushy area.

When fellow POTENTIAL JURORS heard their names, or something CLOSE to their names, they answered “Here”… “Here”….190+ names had been butchered and still mine had yet to be uttered (I was pretty sure, although a few times I zoned out, wondering if I would answer “Yes” or “Here”). Finally, after sitting, listening intently…. I heard it, the beginnings of my very delightful, common(ish) first name. I didn’t even let THE GIANT BOOMING VOICE get to the first letter of my last name… I cut THE GIANT BOOMING VOICE off, answering “Here”(it felt natural), and many of the other 200 + POTENTIAL JURORS burst out with laughter at my effort to maintain the purity of my family name. Ahhhhhh…. I’d produced Laughter in the POTENTIAL JURORS ROOM. I was finally home. Sighhhhhh.

After the roll call, peoples books came back out, random conversations broke-out amongst small clusters of two’s and three’s, etc. The waiting had begun.

The atmosphere was an ODD MIXTURE of THE WAITING ROOM AT A DENTIST’S OFFICE mixed with the assembly of a group of passengers on a LOW BUDGET AIRLINES Cross-country flight that continues to be delayed and has not yet announced a firm departure time. Yeah, it felt kinda like that.

THE GIANT BOOMING VOICE came back on again, alerting us that the first group of 30 “empanelled jurors” would be called. The names would be generated randomly from a numeric list, blah… blah….listen for your name.

Again with the BUTCHERING of names as the first group of randomly generated names were called. Halfway through, my NEW JUROR FRIENDS name was called. She looked at me with terror. I gave her a genuinely-sympathetic look and then, several names later, I heard something EERILY SIMILAR to my name. My NEW JUROR FRIEND slapped me upside the shoulder: A lovely coincidence! What luck!! If we had to go through to the next step of this process, weren’t we fortunate that the only other person each of us had acquainted ourselves with would accompany us? Yes, we were.

The 30 of us were then told to report to a particular courtroom on the 5th floor and to wait outside for the bailiff. We scuttled (or scurried) out of that POTENTIAL JURORS WAITING ROOM and, sort of gleefully made our way as a randomly-generated group of 30 up to the 5th floor.

The randomly-generated group of 30 reassembled outside our assigned courtroom on the 5th floor. I did a quick once over of the group, noting the visual standouts: A Hasidic Jewish Gentleman, in black, with hat and strings hanging; A veryshort, verytired looking Hispanic gentleman; Several “someone’s mom”types; A few “ they’d really gone downhill since the 10 year reunion” types and a few corporate chicks and dudes.

The bailiff opened the courtroom and instructed us to sit in the “audience”(?) seats.

We filed in, bailiff and other court personnel shuffled papers and made personal phone calls while we waited for judge to come in. I noticed the lawyers and their clients and wondered what we were in for. Literally.

Blah blah blah happened, we were sworn in/empanelled as a jury and then strongly advised that we were now UNDER OATH and this was our CIVIC DUTY, etc.

I’ll leave out ALL THE DETAILS of peoples “last ditch efforts” to get dismissed, and the fact that THE JUDGE was like someone’s CRANKY GRANDFATHER turning people down (one guy, the veryshort, verytired Hispanic(ish) guy said that he worked 2 jobs and had no transportation, and THE JUDGE still said “too bad”; An attractive/young(ish) single mom who appeared to be an ex stripper/dancer told the judge that she had NO CHILDCARE for her elementary school aged children. “too bad, figure it out” he told her… but here’s the clincher: An executive-type guy in his late 40’s told the judge he had already paid for a “10 day vacation cruise to Mexico with his family”… and you know what?

THE JUDGE EXUSED HIM. Kiss my ass!! Rich white guy gets to leave, but “working 2 jobs/no transportation guy” and “ex stripper/single mom” both have to stay???

I guess that “ALREADY PAID FOR VACATION” is a BIG LOOPHOLE. Consider yourselves informed.

The judge read a “one paragraph statement” outlining the case. It involved a man who is suing his employer because, while at work one day, a barrel of acid exploded, drenching him, and although not physically injured, the trauma deeply affected him and he became depressed, addicted to drugs, etc. He was suing for damages for “mental suffering”. We were also informed that the trial would last at least 10 days and that there would be many types of DOCTORS and MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS testifying. Oy!

As the judge finished reading the statement, the TRAUMATIZED MAN burst into tears, and the judge quickly ordered the bailiff to “clear the courtroom”.

Yikes!

After a 20-minute recess (not the kind of recess I remember from elementary school), we reassembled in the courtroom and were once again reminded that we were UNDER OATH.

The bailiff/clerk guy then told us he was going to read a “randomly generated” list of 12 jurors who were to then assemble in the jury box as their names were called.

ANXIETY ALERT! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Names 1-4 were called. None of those people had even registered on my radar. Name # 5 was “single mom/ex stripper”. She was NOT happy to have been chosen. She huffed, grabbed her bag and made her way to the jury box. More names….and we’re still okay. Suddenly (again, always suddenly) they call MY NEW JUROR FRIENDS name. I sympathetically grasp her wrist as she grasps mine, and takes her place in the jury box.

The rest of the names are called (mine, NOT among them) and the 12 are filled in!

I of course think “Wow, I’m in the clear!” I was not randomly selected.

They probably just had us waiting there as some sort of “technicality”.

The lawyers then began QUESTIONING THE JURORS. Asking them to “tell us a bit about themselves”.

What followed was a series of tragic, painful, hilarious, sad, ordinary, outrageous storylines for any episode of Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones or Dr. Phil. Mundane questions about prior knowledge of toxic chemicals were interspersed with questions about “anyone close to you ever commit suicide? Familiarity with anyone who had been addicted to drugs was sandwiched in between “do you know any lawyers?” and have you ever had a “Workmans comp” situation? The back and forth between “high drama/trauma” and “who cares?” was stunning. I watched and listened and sympathized with my mouth a-jar. I was SO GLAD that wasn’t me… up there.

(Don’t get ahead of yourselves).

After lunching with MY NEW JUROR FRIEND and another FRIENDLY and IRREVERANT CORPORATE-TYPE LADY who had also been put into the “12”, I learned that even though I HAD NOT been put in the “12”, we all still had to sit there until a FINAL 12 was chosen. It might take them two days to pick the final jury at the slow-pace they were taking. Ahhhhhhh. Ohhhhhhhh. Hmmmmmmmm.

Reassembling outside the courtroom after lunch I found myself standing next to “single mom/ex stripper” (juror # 4) and gave her a sympathetic smile. She smiled back, welcoming the sympathy. I offered her a stick of refreshing gum, which she also welcomed and we briefly discussed her frustration. She told me she was pissed off for getting chosen, and I advised her that I was pretty sure that the Lawyers would SENSE her “frustration”, and that she would probably get dismissed. She was elated at the possibility and thanked me for being kind.

We took our same seats in the courtroom and I saw MY NEW JUROR FRIEND (juror # 7) as well as FRIENDLY and IRREVERANT CORPORATE TYPE -LADY (juror #11) seated in the box. The barrage of questions and revealing answers and tragic stories continued. My eyes filled with tears as I heard of one woman (juror # 3)’s distrust of doctors due to the fact that she had been mis-diagnosed with CANCER and thought for 3 years that she was dying. Wow. 3 years; Another woman told of her brother being addicted to DRUGS and burning down their family house in the Philippines with their grandmother inside; “Single Mom/Ex Stripper” (juror #4) told of ending her career as a bartender after facing “one too many drunk, groping idiots who can’t deal with their lives so they turn to alcohol”. Good one, Single Mom/Ex Stipper.

The Lawyers then got the chance to each eliminate someone from the Jury that they felt would not be good for THEIR side. One was dismissed, then a RANDOM name was selected from the overflow (us… sitting there like… sitting ducks) and replaced the dismissed juror in the box. THEY would then be questioned, tortured, blah blah, etc.

This went on in the replacement of 3 jurors (misdiagnosed lady, house-burned-down-lady and single mom/ex stripper…yeah for her!). The fourth juror to be dismissed was FRIENDLY YET IRREVERANT CORPORATE TYPE… I was happy for her. She had hoped her connection to “corporate stuff” would have the TRAUMATIZED MAN’s lawyer dismissing her. She was right.

We almost high-fived as she was getting up and out of the jury box until they announced her replacement: Me. Her smile turned upside down and she apologized with her eyes in a way that only a sort-of stranger in a unique situation could do. I acknowledged that and, as my heart began RACING and ANXIETY filled all of it's 18 chambers, I picked up my bag of neglected reading materials and took my spot in the jury box. I was now Juror #11.

I heard my heart (all 18 chambers) beating in my ears.

My face was INSTANTLY FLUSHED.

It was now my turn for PUBLIC, PERSONAL SHARING.

Noooooooooooooooooooo.

Revealing questions were to follow.

Instinctively, the clown became a frown.

I protectively crossed my arms in front of me, slid down in my juror’s chair and hunkered down for the storm. Emotionally, I was boarding up my windows and sandbagging my doorways.

The TRAUMATIZED MAN’s lawyer questioned me and I gave short, anxiety-filled answers. Please don’t ask me about SUICIDE… it’s too soon, too close… I can’t sit in this jury box and hear the details about this guy and be compassionate when I’m still filled with all the WHY’s? and WHAT IF’s? of my sisters recent ATTEMPTS. Please go away Lawyers. Please sense my anxiety. I slid further down in my chair and the DEFENDANTS ATTORNEY began his questions. He joked about my line of work and offered to try and set up a deal with an agent and a director who both were currently also sitting in the jurors box (#’s 2 and 6 I believe). I thanked him facetiously and continued to grind my teeth, turn red and slide down in my chair. He started to ask me something about my family when I couldn’t resist the urge any longer. I lapsed into my TRADEMARKED STRESS REACTION: I lowered my head, shook it back and forth a few times, raised it again, then, as if I could “wash it all away”, I rubbed my face, vertically, up and down… several times.

When I looked up, the DEFENDANTS LAWYER had stepped aside to talk with his client.

He re- approached and told the judge (and the courtroom) that they would graciously like to thank and dismiss juror #11. Me! I was dismissed. My anxiety had done it! Yipeeeeeee!

I couldn’t have been happier if I tried. Immediately a bluebird landed on my shoulder; A rainbow formed above the judges head; A small child was feeding an ice cream cone to the unicorn over near the bailiff’s desk. I was free!!!

I looked at my NEW JUROR FRIEND and smiled a giant smile. She was relieved for me, I could tell. I ran out of that courtroom faster than that BILLIONAIRE GUY IN TEXAS who was just found “not guilty” of murder and chopping up the body, etc.

I reported back to the POTENTIAL JURORS WAITING ROOM, took my seat and was approached by 2 young/edgy college-student type grrls who had been TRAPPED in the POTENTIAL JURORS WAITING ROOM all day. All damn day. They had NEVER been called out or empanelled or anything. They told me about seeing people called out 2 and 3 times to go be empanelled, and their names were never called. They said people would come back in after being dismissed from a potential jury, and then get called back out again, almost instantly. They felt ripped off. They wanted details of what I had seen: I quickly shared my experience with them (a much shorter version of what I’ve told y’all here) and they told me they were jealous. Jealous and bored. They had WANTED to get on a jury. We laughed. We swore. We bonded. Out of the corner of my eye I saw FRIENDLY and IRREVERANT CORPORATE TYPE –LADY racing to my side. She embraced me (seriously, she did) and was so HAPPY that I had gotten dismissed…

Suddenly (like I told you before, always suddenly..) the GIANT, BOOMING VOICE comes over the loudspeaker and tells us that even though it’s only 3:30pm, and they never do it this early, they are going to be RELEASING US FOR THE DAY….We would receive our PROOF OF SERVICE “certificate” and we would be “off the hook” for a year.

We were once again thanked for doing our CIVIC DUTY…. And the FINAL ROLE CALL was taken of the people in the POTENTIAL JURORS WAITING ROOM… and we were sent on our way.

I numbly walked back to the JURORS ONLY PARKING LOT, in a daze over the rollercoaster ride I had experienced.

I had gotten to taste it all: and had gotten away.

I was definitely all Sparkly and Tingly with CIVIC DUTY.