Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Jury Duty Files

It came a while ago. That slip of paper that causes dread and profanity when you open it. No, not the high school reunion invite or that mysterious, possible, probable ticket taken by a hidden camera in the town of Lucca, Italy, but instead the summons for jury duty. I looked at it, turned it over, held it up to the light to make certain it was real like a 100-dollar-bill. Sure enough it was real. There are two routes to take for this: A) Do you "civic duty" and go on the date it shows; or B) Postpone the mo-fo until another time. Bingo, "B" it is. I call the number, tap in "June 15, 2009". Perfect, I have time.

Time comes so fast when it's "duty time". Those two months flew by and sure enough the same scowls and moans of displeasure came to the surface when I had to actually depart and go to the court house. "Shit! I so don't want to go!" I would rather go to Calabasas to get a pedicure than go to jury duty [what?]. I kept thinking of ways, at this the 11th hour, to get out of it. Nothing.

I make the 2 mile trip in no time. Go through security. "Nice belt" says the security guard. "Thanks" I say. "Have fun" she says. "Screw you" I say (under my breath). Oh this is not good. Bitter already and I haven't even stepped through and into the Jury Grotto. Snap out of it Self. Leave the bitterness, sarcasm, and all that other baggage at the door. This is your "civic duty." Okay, think positive. Maybe the jury room will be epic. Maybe it will have foosball, and a pool table, and a fridge full of Horchata and a Carnitas bar, and a massage table for when you wait for all those hours. Close your eyes tight, maybe it will happen. Tighter. Tighter. I open my eyes to ratty old chairs, a snowy television, and old magazines with the address labels ripped off. I am one of many, of course, who is at this dreary place. Everyone has the same sad look on their mug. It's me, a couple retirees, a bunch of older Asian ladies and a mix of others.

The dreary voice comes over the static speaker: "Welcome to jury duty (scratch, scratch, scratch). If you need to postpone or if you are going out of town in the next 7-10 days (scratch, scratch, scratch), please come to window 2 (screetch, scratch, chirp)." For a moment my right foot stepped forward. "What are you doing Self? Self step back, endure the pain." Self wanted to march in there, scribe out an excuse like "Going on a long trip to Istanbul," and march out with head held high. I would sign my name with an "X" and snicker under my breath "Take that J-Du." I didn't do it of course and waltzed in with the other members of the slumping herd.

It's on! I pick a spot in the corner, away from anyone who may be "chatty" (I have "chat" radar). I get a good spot and immediately survey the crowd and wonder who may get rejected. "That guy has too many tattoos, he's out. She looks too mad. That old guy is in for sure. Sleepy Asian women has drool running down her mouth," and on and on.

Aside from the long break, bad-corporate-jury-duty-drink-the-KoolAid-civic-duty-video, and the transfer for everyone to the East Los Angeles court house, the wasted day of my life went okay. Finally at around 2:00pm they call names. "Sandra Sanchez, Wang Chung, Old Man, Old Lady...". About 9 people in I am mashing my teeth, curling my toes, praying to the Saint of Jury Duty (whoever that is) that they don't call my name. "(Screetch, scratch, scrunch) Would those names I called please report to Room 'whatever, whatever'." I am free for the moment. There must be more names coming, has to be more. Right? Not for the moment. I laugh inside as does the old Asian women who is sitting too close to me. "I hope we go home. Soon. Maybe. Yes?", she says. "I do too ('Move your purse' I say under my breath)."

A half-hour rolls by and people trickle in and out. People who were called on that first round leave. "Oh shit!" I think. I know I am next. I have to be. There's 15 people left in the room. I'm that guy. They need me. I hope they don't need me. I hope the kid passes over my name. It's a hard last name to pronounce, maybe he'll be too embarrassed to say it and move on. Please Saint Jury Duty, let me live!

Nothing for another 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes. Then "(screetch, scratch, chirp)." Damn, the reckoning is here, right? "(screetch, chirp, shrill) The case has been dismissed, you are all free to leave." The old Asian woman next to me cheers. Others follow suit. This system, right now is awesome. I am in the moment. I stand, smile, toss my badge in the tray and walk quickly out before they change their mind.

I'll be back in a year. I know that. It happens to me. The jury Gods find me somehow like clockwork. I will likely post this very same blog entry next June. Look for it. Mark your calendar.