Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jury Duty: Advice to a Novice

Originally posted: April 6, 2006

I just got back from jury duty and how pathetic is this-- I was the only one in the room that cheered when they told us we were getting paid 15 bucks a day? After all these years, I finally got called for jury duty. And I didn’t try and get out of it. I wanted to fulfill my civic duty. I wanted to get picked. I didn’t.

If you get called, you will need to be prepared for a day of hell: Tensions, uncertainty, and new friendships. The type of friends you will have for the rest of your nine hours in jury duty.

So be prepared to spend all day bored. Bring a book. Nothing heavy, as you will want to keep one eye focused on the gallery of freaks. And there will be hundreds of freaks to keep you entertained.

Pick a good seat: The guy next to me was a professional conversation starter. The type of guy you don’t want to make eye contact with. He can take any “in” and launch into some self-fulfilling conversation at the expense of anybody within earshot. I watched this guy work the room the entire day. Stalking his prey like a pro. It was fascinating. Especially to a socially shy guy like me. I could never approach a person like that.

They put you in this huge room with the warmth of a smoking lounge in an airport. And immediately they inform everyone that most likely you’ll be spending all day in this tired room. That was the most frustrating part- being tethered to this fake wood paneled room, with excessive neon lights, and a damp smell and feel to it. They should give us all those buzzers you get when you go to a restaurant and want to wander the area. I’m just shocked that the Cheesecake Factory is better equipped than our court houses.

Next, find a veteran of the jury duty system: They will be your shaman for the day. Guide you through every nuance. Explain what to expect. My shaman had a walker with those tennis balls buffering the front legs with the floor. Well, of course it had those tennis balls. They all do. Why the “walker people” don’t strike a deal with Wilson is beyond me? I hate to imagine these old people cutting open tennis balls. That can’t be safe. Like pumpkin carving for the aging-- nursing home arts and crafts 101. I wanted to ask the lady who cut her balls, but that just seems wrong. I feel bad for an aging tennis star. Like Agassie being forced to spend his final days pushing along those tennis balls as a reminder of what he once was.

Throughout the day, they will call panels. That is when they call about 40 names to go into a court room for jury selection. Of those 40, it will be chiseled down to 14. Twelve for the jury plus 2 alternates. Here is my advice, as a veteran now, if you feel a panel call coming on… And sometimes you can feel it like a earthquake or tornado. Your joints might get sore or a slight twitch in the eye. Anyway, this is what you do… sign out on a 20 minute break. You can do that whenever you want. And if you are out and get called… they go to the next name. And hopefully that next name is the annoying professional conversation starter sitting next to you.

Late in the day you will get tired. Bring, and as ridiculous as this sounds, one of those horseshoe pillows people wear on a plane. Bring an eye mask if you have the guts. As the day wears on, and people are picked, more seats open up and you can really spread out. I brought a masseuse. And she had one of those tables.

And it should go without saying, wear something comfortable. The days of class and decorum are over. Dress like a defendant in loose baggy clothing. But leave the big gold chains at home, as you will be entering and re-entering court all day and going through metal detectors.

Big tip: Bring some magazines. You can trade these like cigarettes in a prison. I traded a Rolling Stone for an US Weekly and then late in the day traded that for a scented candle and a coupon for 6 free nuggets at McDonalds.

Keep your ears open. You will be fascinated by the intellectual discourse going on around you. The girls behind me were cute. Cute and dumb. Here is an actually excerpt from 9 hours of their conversation that riveted me.

CUTE GIRL #1: I’m from New England. We have the best seafood in the world.

CUTE GIRL #2: (confused)I thought Maine has the best lobster?

CUTE GIRL #1: Maine is in New England. (condescendingly) You need to learn your geometry.

And at that moment my mind drifted into some nightmare fantasy land, of me on trial with my life in the balance and these two girls among 12 deciding my fate.

These are my peers.

© Copyright Orny Adams, Icrushed Productions 2006


kvz said...

I just feel sorry for those lazy people who haven't read this far down. (And you, too. But don't worry Orny, zero comments just means you're too damn smart for these lazy fuckers.) Rock on, Adams.

Race Tech Radio said...

Great stuff orny, some good laughs :)

Anonymous said...

funny stuff....i am due to go to my first summons tomorrow. all geared up now and psyched for some entertaining people-watching and eavesdropping. thanks!