You have the right to a fair trial by a jury of your peers. It sounds like a good idea until you see it in practice. At the end of May, I was sent that dreaded jury service summons. Having begrudgingly acknowledged that I am not mentally deficient, I am not a caretaker for someone with nobody else to look after them (unless you count a feline), I am at least 18 years of age and that I do, in fact, have reliable transportation having just purchased a new vehicle, I called the damn number and confirmed my ability to serve. Unfortunately, they didn’t ask me how willing I was to be a juror. If they had, I would have answered “strongly reluctant.” For over a month, I had this event hanging over my head. Thanks for all that advanced notice, fuckers.
For those of you who don’t live in California, I’ll elucidate their process. If you have experienced the bureaucracy that is the California state penal system yourself, feel free to skip to the next paragraph lest I trigger any painful memories. In The Golden State, you are required to be on call for an entire week. After you confirm that you are not a mentally deficient 17 year old, you have no choice but to call a number every day in the week that you are to serve to find out whether or not you have to trudge your ass downtown the next morning. If you do not call the number, they can fine you, jail you, or worst of all, force you onto a jury. Employers are not required to pay for any time you miss during jury service. Instead, you get $15 a day from the state starting on the second day of service and a whopping $0.34 per mile to the courthouse, as the crow flies, one way. Trials can drag on forever, especially if there is a celebrity involved. Think OJ Simpson. Those people were stuck on that jury for almost a year. Shudder.
I began to play my compulsory jury duty Russian roulette. Sunday night, I called the number to see if I had to go in on Monday. I pulled the trigger, but heard only a click; I didn’t have to go. Yippee! Monday night, I repeated the process, and once again, no bullet in the brain. 2 for 5 now. Pretty good odds. I started getting cocky, thinking maybe I’d skate through the week without having to go. HAHA! The stupid universe caught a whiff of my evil and lazy desire, and decided to fuck with me. Tuesday night, I was summoned like a ghost at a prepubescent girl’s slumber party.
Because the entirety of my shrewd, ostrich-like plan of attack was to bury my head in the sand and hopefully avoid it altogether, I had not done the online orientation. If you pre-orient yourself online, you get to skip all the condescending form filling out and the stop, drop and roll enactments (I’m not kidding – some people actually stopped, dropped and rolled while I stopped, pointed and laughed). More importantly, you get to show up later in the morning. Come to find out, you cannot do online orientation any later than 4 PM on Thursday the week before you are on call. Honestly, even if I had known that prior to Tuesday night, I would have said fuck that. Why would I waste over an hour doing orientation for something I might not even have to do? Ostrich thinking again. This meant that I had to get my skippy ass downtown by 7:30 AM. 7:30! In the morning!! What?!? Who does that? Time actually exists that early in the morning? I thought it was just a void; go to bed -> black hole swallows all record of time -> wake up. Or something. Don’t look at me like that. That theory would explain why I’m always so tired.
Anyway, after we spent an hour and a half filling out a single form with only 10 questions on it, coupled with various other edge-of-your-seat business, we had completed orientation. We were now eligible to be jurors in the great state of California. It was around 9 AM when all those snooty online people rolled in looking well-rested and without a care in the world. Damn planners.
Being a cynical, jaded person, I tend to generalize about the American public, referring to them quite generically and frequently as simple rubes whose knowledge of current affairs is limited to who won American Idol. Personally, I hate generalizations and stereotypes, so this brushstroke summation of my peers is wholly hypocritical. It’s not fair of me, I know, but at least I can admit it. So, I took my jury duty service as an opportunity to study my fellow humans and find out whether my broad generalization is based on complete untruths. I had nothing better to do and a jury duty room is a microcosm of society. Its occupants are chosen randomly. The only segments of our community that are not present are convicted felons, the homeless, people under the age of 18 and the severely mentally inadequate. Upon closer examination, I have to agree with myself that the majority of the American public with whom I’ve come into contact are either insane, stupid, annoying or all of the above. And no, I’m not talking about you, dear reader. You have excellent taste and are quite intelligent if you have read this far. Good job!
Here’s the rationale for my findings. I was sitting in a room that looked very much like an airport lounge except that there were no windows, the chairs all faced forward and the plane would never, ever come, no matter how long I waited. Welcome to waiting room purgatory. It might not get any worse, but it certainly isn’t going to get any better either. There were a hundred or more people in the waiting room with me. Maybe 3 out of 5 had the foresight to bring something with them to do; a book, newspaper, magazine, computer or a video game. The rest just sat there all day without anything to occupy themselves. Even when we were given an egregiously long lunch hour (which was actually an hour and a half), these people did not use that time to go find something to do for the remainder of the afternoon. Instead, they came back to our room of waiting and just sat some more, idly staring into space. I can only conclude that to accomplish such a feat for so long a duration, one can’t have much going on upstairs.
At one point, they asked for jurors who could serve for 100 days or more and actually found 12 out of maybe 20 names called. Who the hell has time for that? How could you possibly pretend to be a productive member of society when serving on a jury for 100 days wouldn’t put a crimp in your lifestyle and seems like a reasonable thing to do?
As I was sitting in front of a huge fountain at lunch (another example of Los Angeles forgetting that it is, in fact, a desert), two female court workers sidled up next to me, way too close for my comfort. I assumed that they were court workers and not jurors or defendants since they didn’t have a look of either worry or utter boredom on their faces. Plus, they had permanent IDs hanging around their wring-worthy necks. They sat down beside me in the dappled shade of the lazy summer afternoon – which I had been enjoying just moments earlier. They began to talk and eat, and eat and talk. In fact, they never shut up. They went on and on about their boyfriends who never bring them flowers and, much to my chagrin, they actually started talking about American Idol! At that point, I decided to remove myself. I walked in front of them and shot them a look of death and despair (theirs) which I can only imagine must have been seen through the mirrored sunglasses I was wearing since they both actually shut their mouths and looked at me. To be precise, their maws were more gaping than shut, but their vocal chords did cease working for a bit.
Well, as much as I’d like to think that I do, maybe I don’t actually have the power of X-ray death stares capable of smiting even the most inane twittery. Perhaps their reaction was due to the fact that most of my tattoos were visible and because I was midway through completion of Operation Pink Hair. When I first got the summons in the mail, I reasoned that, if you are too extreme in one way or another, they won’t pick you. I decided that the best way to avoid serving on a jury was to dye the hair on my head a shocking shade of hot pink. If I went into a courtroom with my tattoos a-blazin’ and my dayglo pink hair a-glowin’, at least one side wouldn’t want me on their jury. It seemed like a reasonable conclusion to draw. Unfortunately, I have no idea whether it would have worked or not. I never got called up. Basically, my civic pride consisted of sitting in a room all day reading a book while trying to ignore my fellow jurors. If anyone gets called for jury duty and would like to try Operation Pink Hair themselves, let me know what the results are, please. I’m just curious.