Let me introduce myself. I am Juror #16543.
I like sunsets, puppies and walks on the beach. I also like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. Last but not least I like being treated like a five-year old while sitting on my fat ass for eight hours in a wood-paneled room waiting for my name to be called.
Oh, and I'M BITTER.
I didn't always have this bad attitude about performing my civic duty. Back in my twenties, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I used to send back the jury summons with exclamations like, "Available anytime! I mean it! Call me!" and decorated with hearts and smiley faces. Of course, I fully expected to show up in court wearing a my leather miniskirt and fishnets and make some unsuspecting lawyer my husband, but that's beside the point. I was young, idealistic and had time on my hands.
Fast forward to present day. Would I be able to serve my government, my community, by serving on a panel of twelve upstanding men and women who decide the fate of an individual accused of a crime? No, not when I have two young children who I need to pick up from school at 2:30, help with their homework and feed snacks to. Not to mention other important duties including attending PTA meetings, delivering forgotten homework and cutting out construction paper circles on 'Craft Day.' And that's what I told the nice man on the phone when I followed the instructions on the jury summons that said, 'You must register as a juror by phone, regardless of your ability to serve or any lame excuses you may be cooking up in that small head of yours." And his answer to me was, "Get a babysitter for Wednesday, November 2nd, and be prepared to tell your excuse to a judge."
There was still the chance I wouldn't actually have to show up. I was instructed to phone the Jury Hot Line on the Tuesday night before my appointed time and get my 'Jury Instructions' for the following day. This was all starting to sound kind of exciting now, sort of Mission Impossibile-ish, and I fantasized about a man with an undetermined accent instructing me to show up the next morning naked under a trenchcoat, proceed to the snack bar and look for the unmarked manila envelope hidden underneath the nachos machine. Instead what I got was a robotic voice telling me to report for duty the next morning at 7:30am.
(I panicked as I did the math: in order to be downtown by 7:30 I would have to leave by 6:30, which meant I would have to wake up by 5:45, and this was if I were to forego any make-up and merely run the brush over the top layer of my hair, which was fine since my plan was to look as unappealing as possible so as to single myself out as unprofessional, unkempt or merely insane and therefore not a good jury candidate.)
One of the first things they did when they got us assembled in the Jury Room was to ask if there was anyone trying to weasel their way out of service by fabricating an excuse fraught with lies and deceit. My arm shot up as I squealed, "Me, Me!" and was sent with the other lying liars to the Hall Of Records, located 2 blocks away, to tell our sob story to an 'Agent.' This made me slightly uneasy, as I pictured being lashed to a post by a man in a black leather hood and being told "You VILL put the cheeldren in the child care!" as his one-armed assistant came at me with an electric prod. No such luck, as no sooner had I gotten into the Agent's office than he informed me that he couldn't help me, as my children were not under the age of five, and I would have to talk to a judge. "But, couldn't the mindless drones in the Jury Room have TOLD me that before I hauled my ass all the way over here?" I asked innocently. "Sorry, no" he replied. "We're all basically evil, sadistic people who enjoy seeing you dash frantically back and forth between two buildings. Now run along."
I proceeded back to the courthouse and waited for another SIX HOURS before we were actually called into a courtroom and allowed to plead our case. (I'm going to leave out the pathetic part where I spent most of my hour-and-a-half lunch break, on a beautiful sunny day, sitting in my car, recharging my cell phone that had died, because, well, it's just so PATHETIC.) Once we were assembled and the judge explained the case that we were being considered for and the fact that it would be lasting a minimum of SEVENTEEN DAYS, he started the process of singling out those that were looking to be excused. He first asked if there were any people who had planned and paid for vacations they couldn't re-schedule and practically every hand in the room went up and were followed by incredible stories of cruises to Tahiti and treks across the Himalayas.
I sat there feeling very smug, as I knew when my turn came, I was the only one who had a REAL excuse. The judge would be so moved by my plight, and the fact that I had honored my summons and appeared there today, and he would be even kind of apologetic, actually, and offer to reimburse me for my time and we would crack a few jokes together and have real RAPPORT, people, and he would call the Jury Drones downstairs and scold them for wasting my time and to let me go home immediately and to give me a stapler or whatever other office supplies they had lying around on their desk, just as you know, a token of how sorry they were.
So imagine my SURPRISE when it went more like this:
Judge: Does anyone here have childcare issues that would prevent you from serving on this jury?
Me: Ooooh! Me! Me! I have issues! And ones concerning childcare, too!
Judge: Yes ma'am. You there with the crazy eyes and the shitty hairdo. What say ye?
Me: Well, your honor, I have two children, seven and nine, who I need to pick up from school everyday at 2:30.
Judge (with an incredulous tone): Ma'am, what made you think you could serve on a jury with those hours?
Me (feeling rather defensive): Wellll, I DIDN'T think I could serve, which is what I told the man on the phone and the other fifteen people who work here, but they still said I had to present my case to you. Your Honor.
Judge: First of all, why does your school get out so early? And second of all, doesn't your school have after-hours care?
Me (getting MAD now, and imagining how I was going to SO call Gloria Allred when I got home to plead my case about forced childcare, and my choice to be a stay-at-home mom) Uhhhm, MOST schools in this city get out at 2:15, YOUR HONOR, and regarding after-school care, I choose NOT to leave my YOUNG CHILDREN, out on the playground after school. YOUR HONOR. SIR.
Judge: And, how is it that you were able to make it here today? It's already after 2:15.
Me (feeling giddily homicidal) Well, you see, YOUR, UH, HONOR? my husband, WHO HAS A JOB, is leaving that job, driving the 40 minutes over the hill to pick up our children and driving another 40 minutes back to his office where he is watching them now, at his office, where he works, AT HIS JOB. HONOR. YOUR'E SO HONOR.
Judge: And...that wouldn't be possible to do while you were serving on a jury?
Me (contemplating how I was going to reach into his throat and pull out his spleen): Well, no, not on a daily basis, YOUR FUCKING HONOR.
Judge: Very well. Have a seat.
One can see where the seeds of my bitterness and bad attitude were planted.
After another forty five minutes of excuse taking, he informed me and the other woman there who had young children that we were excused from serving. I will spare you the loud cursing and hand gestures that ensued after we had gone downstairs, checked in with the clerk and were told that we STILL HAD TO STAY UNTIL THE END OF THE DAY, even though the judge had excused us.
I am Juror #16543 and this is my story.
Archive File: This Life
Friday, November 04, 2005
Let me introduce myself. I am Juror #16543.