Since I turned 18 I have been avoiding my civic duty of serving on a jury. It’s not that I mean to disrespect what Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird called the “one institution that makes a pauper equal to a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal to an Einstein, and an ignorant man the equal of any college president” but I just felt that my time was better utilized elsewhere in the world. So for the past several years I have been avoiding jury duty by ignoring the summons that have dogged me at every address at which I have resided. Well, they finally caught up with me at my job. Even then I still ignored the first three notices to appear. With the fourth one it was clear by the stern wording that I finally needed to face the muzak and do my “duty” as an American, or pay a $1,500.00 fine. Being a typical capitalistic pig that loves his money, I was forced to confront my deepest darkest fears. When all was said and done I realized a fundamental truth ­– Hell is other jurors (apologies to Sartre).

 

8:00 a.m. ­- So here I am at jury duty. Seeing as I left my summons at work I couldn't remember what time I was supposed to show up. I checked the courthouse website and all it had was a start time of 8:00. So I showed up at 7:45 (I'm nothing if not punctual) just to discover the jury assembly room opens at 8:30! An inauspicious start to a day I have been dreading for well over a decade.

 

8:35 - As I stand in line to fill out a simple form, the group of my "peers" reminded me why I hate the DMV so much. This pair of girls, working together mind you, couldn't figure out what the question meant when it asked if you were a peace officer. "Do you work for the police?" the clerk asked. "Oh no!" one of the dimwits replied. Then she followed with another question regarding whether she was a juror on another case. With all cleared up the two returned to fill out the form of NINE questions - yes, only nine. This other fellow couldn't understand what the clerk meant when she informed him that he could leave. "You are free to go," she repeated. Let me tell you, if I heard those words I would be through the doors before she exhaled the period of the sentence. But no, this dumbass argues with her over the reasoning behind his release and I'm screaming in my head, "Dude, get out while the gettin's good!" Finally he left. As I surveyed the wasteland around me I couldn't help looking back at this guy and thinking that some people simply don't appreciate how good they've got it.

 

9:30 - We are handed a pamphlet and juror information sheet to read. Yawn.

 

9:45 - Just finished the Los Angeles Times. Kobe dropped 52 points on the Houston Rockets and a monster highlight-film dunk on Yao Ming's head. Booyaaaa, baby!

 

10:30 - Snack bar visit. OJ and a bran muffin with raisins. Yum.

 

10:50 - We are informed that if this courthouse doesn't need jurors (she hints that they won't today. Yay!) we may be sent to another court that has exhausted its pool and needs more candidates. Alhambra, Pomona, or Long Beach are some possibilities the clerk throws out. I'm thinking, "Long Beach?! They're lucky I came to El Monte." If they send me to Long Beach I'll go, but I may get "lost" on the way and show up with five minutes left. So it is becoming a battle between the law and my indignation for serving jury duty. Suddenly, though, I am inspired. I ask what will ultimately be the only question of the day: "What if I don't have transportation to another court?" She is clearly unamused. She shoots me a "Don't be a asshole" look but I'm wearing my most innocent and angelic look. "How did you get here?" she asks with a tone of doubt in her voice. "The bus," I answer simply. At that moment it appears she began to process my answer with my appearance. Scattered around me were about 25 people of various description. The one thing each had in common, though, was a formal manner of dress. With suits, ties, sweater vests, and dresses these people were expecting to be in court and had dressed appropriately. Then there was me. I was wearing baggy Levis, thrashed Vans, a beanie, a jacket I had kept when I quit my Chevron gas station job ten years ago and a t-shirt that read "No Blood for Oil." Suffice it to say that I was not dressed to impress. The clerk softened her tone when she realized that, by the looks of me, I could very well not own a car. She tells me she will address the issue if it becomes necessary. I think I'm screwed. I even throw out the first (and last) joke of the day. "Can I hitch a ride with you?" Not even a twitch of her lips that could be interpreted as a smile. Yep, I'm screwed.

 

11:50 - Graded some essays, read parts of Edith Hamilton's Mythology, read Newsweek, In Style, and even Oprah's magazine, O. God, I'm sooooo bored. Well, it could be worse.

 

12:00 - It just got worse. Lunchtime. We get an hour and a half and I'm sitting in the middle of freakin' El Monte. Why don't they just let us go since it's clear to everyone that we won't be needed? But, no, the clerk tells us, the other courts have yet to call and authorize our release. Fack! So I went across the street, hopped in my car and drove home (with tinted windows up, of course, lest my fellows jurors see me and narc on me like little bitches).

 

1:30 - Back. Went home, ate some soup and watched Judge Judy.

 

2:30 - So the clerk comes out and I'm thinking we are so outta here. Think again. She tells us that Alhambra just called and they want all of us over there immediately. Some guys blurts out, "You're kidding, right?"  It's clear to me that she has been through this abuse before as she begins to apologize for the inconvenience. Then she turns to me as says, "Since you were the only one who brought up transportation problems earlier you don't have to go."  Holy crap!  Restraining my smile was one of the most difficult things I think I have ever had to do! I knew that I was probably getting 25 dagger-like stares at that moment so I had to stifle my glee or face the wrath of some mighty wretched people. So I put my papers and books in backpack, zipped it up, put on my jacket and began to saunter toward Hell's exit when my strut caught the attention of the clerk as she was giving out to driving directions to the others. "Where are you going?" she asked, obviously annoyed with me. **insert sound of a speeding car slamming on the brakes, tires squealing to a stop** "You have to stay her." Goddamn motherfucker! Picture me in mid-stride with nothing to say but "Oh. Sorry." I felt like a freakin' moron. So I went back to my seat and sat there as the assembly room emptied, leafing through a copy of Newsweek from 1998.

 

2:33 - After the room was empty and silent for about 30 seconds the clerk came back out of her office. She called me over and handed me a green slip of paper (my proof of service that also explained I wouldn't need to serve for at least another year) and told me to have a nice day. Remember the aforementioned guy that wouldn't leave when he was first released? Well, this was not to be a case of déjà vu for the clerk; I high-tailed it out of there like I was George W. Bush inadvertently walking into a Mensa meeting. Meep, Meep!

 

2:42 - I booked to my car, again kept the tinted windows up, took off my beanie and hauled some BMW-ass home. Like Ice Cube says, "Today was a good day."

 

                                                                                                                   19 February 2003