Jury duty part 2: À la recherche du temps perdu

Due process
Due process

Day 1: I get on what looks like a new 7 train (same model, but everything looks new and shiny—maybe Sabine slipped some mescaline in my oatmeal?) and sit across two old men. “They’re all going to work,” says one to the other, and they both laugh. I laugh along silently.

I realize I’m running late and start doing that thing where I think back over my morning and consider what I could have done differently. I make a mental note to schedule all poops for after 6 PM from now on.

I get to the transfer station and E train after E train passes by as I wait for an F. It’s possible to take an E train to get to the courthouse, but since I don’t know which stop I’d have to get off at, all I can do is wave a handkerchief as the trains leave the station.

At least this morning there’s not a line curling around the block, I think as I finally arrive at the courthouse 20 minutes late. Then I realize there is a line curling around the block, it’s just that today it’s curling around the opposite side.

The guy ahead of me explains that the line is particularly long because it’s the day after a holiday, so there’s a backlog of cases. I ask him what he’s here for, and he tells me he testifies for banks on foreclosure cases. “I answer the same five questions over and over,” he says. I decide that I don’t want to know more about his job because it will make me hate him.

When we get near the entrance, foreclosure guy points at the policeman managing the flow of people coming in. “You can’t get those jobs anymore,” he says bitterly. The cop at the door is explaining to an old man trying to skip the line that he (the cop) would’ve remembered the old man’s funny-looking hat if he’d seen him walk out, but he didn’t so the old man has to go to the back of the line. “You can’t get those jobs anymore,” foreclosure guy repeats, dripping with envy.

I see my fellow jurors at the “lounge” but we all ignore each other. We sit there for a couple of hours. I don’t understand how the people who didn’t bring anything to read survive. Either they have much richer inner lives than I do, or they’re lizard people.

A young cop who looks like he just graduated from high school finally calls us to follow him to the fifth floor. There’s a bank of six elevators, and they take ages to show up. By the time one arrives, there’s a huge crowd waiting to get in. It’s packed to L-train-in-rush-hour levels, except that here no one is attractive or stylish.

Which one of these am I?
Which one of these am I?

We’re led to a little room with chairs around a table, a jug of water, and disposable cups, just like a jury delivery room on TV! We’re eventually called into the courtroom, and the young cop–who I’m suddenly realizing is our bailiff–says something like, “The court is in session. The honorable Judge Smith presiding. All rise.” I have to restrain my smile—it’s exactly like TV! I take another look at my fellow cast members: there’s the world-weary blue-collar guy, the matronly type, the young black woman (sassy, I presume), the taciturn Italian dude, the quiet nebbish with a yarmulke, the young white woman (the Italian dude’s love interest?), the Latino with a fancy hairdo (the wisecracking gay), and me (the kooky neighbor?).

The judge explains that the case was just assigned to him and that he needs to go over the case with the lawyers. We are excused. Back in the jury delivery room the young cop tells us that the paper we’ll get at the end of the trial doesn’t say what times we are excused, so if we just want to go home and only call work later, we can. I will.

On the way back to the train I see a mom walking her little daughter. The girl has a plastic bag over her head. “Take it off, you’re going to die!” the mom says, giggling.

Imagine the ratios inversed
Imagine the ratios inversed

Day 2: I’m hung-over from a wedding party the previous night. Remember all those movies in the 80s in which Rodney Dangerfield would scandalize a bunch of uptight WASPs at a party? The wedding last night was full of WASPs who transformed into Rodney Dangerfield, and my wife and I were the only people scandalized.

I join my fellow cast members in the hallway. None of us acknowledge each other. After a long time in which I mostly fantasize about what I’m going to eat for lunch (I’ve been eyeing a taco truck since the whole jury duty thing started), the bailiff shows up and leads us to the delivery room. Everyone remains silent. I point out that the microwave in the room has a Post-It note that reads, “Please do not use.” No one laughs. All of a sudden I remember why I hated Night Court.

We’re called into the jury room again, where the judge informs us that the parties have reached a settlement, then he assures us that our presence there was not a waste of time. I’m hoping the sassy black character will set him straight, but no luck. The show is over.

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