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The Urban Juror (Part 1)

Feb 21, 2013

Editor's Note: As you're about to find out, I got called for jury duty. I spent most of my time on jury duty writing about said jury duty because I was bored out of my mind. Subsequently, it turned into more of a novella than a blog post, and I'm too lazy to cut it down. So as not to completely overwhelm you, I decided to break up my harrowing tale in a few parts. (I say "a few" because I haven't yet decided how many parts it should be. I'm still working on breaking it up. Jury duty was very, very long.) Enjoy! Or go watch "Argo," because it's out on DVD now and it's the best movie of the year, and I can say that confidently because I saw "Lincoln," "Les Miserables" and "This is 40." (You might want to skip the last one, it was terrible.) Either way, get a snack -- you're going to be here a while.


***

When I was a kid, I can remember waiting to hear my dad's car pull into the driveway in the evenings. He would greet me with a big hug and kiss on the cheek (and his breath never smelled because I told him once that it did, resulting in him forming the best oral hygiene habits known to mankind), and then we would walk hand-in-hand to the end of the driveway to get the mail. In my sweet little mind, this was the best part of the day. 


Looking back, I now realize how much he was humoring me, for now I see that -- as an adult -- mail can be tiresome, a clutter trap, and surprising -- not in a good way. The occasional hand-written letter, wedding or baby shower invite, and magazine provide the only real motivation I have for checking it each day. So when, last month, I shuffled through the pile of bills, requests for my charity, and coupons I will never use, and I came across a sealed envelope with perforated edges from the District of Columbia Government, my heart sank. Sometimes the perforated edges indicate a check, but I was doubtful this was the case since I hadn't yet filed my taxes.

Please don’t let it be another camera speeding ticket! Please please please!

It wasn’t. I’d been summoned for jury duty. 

First, I thought, I'm going to be a rurr jurr.






Then reality struck -- I don't have time for this! Immediately my mind swarmed with ideas -- I'd been summoned two other times in my life and gotten out of both of them. Surely I could do that now! But each idea vanished as soon as it appeared. The two times I was a student then living in another state. I am now a bona fide, responsible, adult citizen. I was going to have to show up.

***

The day before I was to fulfill my civic duty, I researched it a little. The DC Courts' website was okay (better than most government websites, I’d say), but Living Social did a much better job. The top things I took away from the article:

1. Bring food. (PB&J and Cool Ranch Doritos in my Tory Burch lunch box-- just because I'm an adult doesn't mean I have to eat like one.) (Yes I just saw myself write that. Diet starts tomorrow! Or the day after!)

2. Bring laptop. Free wireless in the court house? Good job DC Government!

3. Bring water. Two bottles should do it, right? (I took one more to be on the safe side, because apparently I think being in a court house means going to a third-world country for a day.)

4. Bring stuff to read. I haven't read my subscriptions to Glamour, Cosmo or Marie Claire since September when I realized being in a PR agency means saying good-bye to a cushy lifestyle. I only brought February issues, but at the last minute I panicked and brought "The Princess Bride," because I was concerned that three magazines and Internet access wouldn’t be enough to fill eight hours. 

5. Look for Adrian Fenty. The article alleged that Adrian Fenty, since losing the race for mayor to Vincent Gray, shows up to the court house every morning to report for jury duty, and he often wears a long, black cape and a woolen cap. I was looking forward to the celebrity sighting, but alas, he never showed. Living Social tweeted me that he was probably on his road bike today.

By the time I arrived at the court house, my shoulders were KILLING ME. Yes, shoulders. I needed two bags for all my stuff. (This over-preparation quality of mine is going to come in handy someday, I just know it.) From 8-10 I sat in the Jurors Lounge and was excited about catching up on personal emails. I was feeling quite productive when a woman came in and told us we were to stay here but take as many breaks as we wanted until we were called into a court room, and if we were never called by 5 p.m. we could go home and that would be that. 

There's a chance I won't get called at all?! I thought gleefully. A few people got up to go on a break, but I stayed in my seat. I needed to use the bathroom, but it wasn’t terrible, and since I had all the time in the world I might as well wait a little.

I reached for a magazine, and then it occurred to me, if I didn’t get chosen, will I ever have the chance to serve my city in this way? I felt sorry for myself as I realized I may never get to experience being on a jury, that I would have fulfilled my civic duty, but only halfway. Then I started reading Marie Claire and forgot about all that.

Three fashion spreads and two articles in, another lady came in and started calling names, including mine. 

Oh. No. 

We were ushered into the hallway and told to line up in three lines. As people filed in, I observed the other people walking around the court house. A few walked around, looking doomed. Their day in court has come, I thought, wondering why they were there and hoping for justice either way. A couple was holding hands and had flowers. Justice of the Peace, I thought, feeling happy for them. Men with clean haircuts, suits, and briefcases swarmed. Blood-sucking lawyers, I mumbled for no good reason except that line from “Jurassic Park” always amused me. 


“You will no longer be referred to by your name. You are now the last three digits of the number on your badge,” she told us. “If I call your name, you’ll report to the court room for trial selection.”

Mine was 144. There were at least 100 of us, so I expected to not be called. How many people could they possibly need? I enjoyed the ignorantly assumed fact by singing “Three Is A Magic Number” from School House Rock.



(Something about my number being 144 reminded me of 3rd grade times tables – 12x12=144 – and that led to the song. I can’t explain how my brain works. Just go with it.)

By the time I got to “man and a woman had a little baby” she’d called my number. What?! I walked to the front of the line, and she looked at me and said, “Oh, you are 144-B. You can go back.”

That’s what I thought! I thought.

About a minute later she called 144-B. And then all I could think about was how bad I needed to use the bathroom. I walked toward the court room and passed two men that were neither getting married nor lawyers. I no longer felt any sympathy for them. Vagrants!!!

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad that you are blogging again! You are so funny and I can always relate. I was on a jury once in FFX county and it was really fascinating. Can't wait for the next installment!

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