Monday, January 24, 2005

Jury duty!

I had jury duty yesterday. Do you wanna hear about it? Of course you do!

Prior to this morning, I was a jury-duty virgin. So imagine my extreme delight when I walked into the jury-pool room in the Lafayette Parish Courthouse to see...hundreds of people, all there for the same reason. Usually when I want $25, I just write another column for The Vermilion; but on this day, I knew I was actually going to have to earn it.

Once I found a seat in the very airport-like waiting room, I picked up a form which I was required to complete. Remember that scene in Men in Black where Will Smith is in that egg-shaped chair and the MIB brass is looking to see who's going to move the table over to complete the test? Well, this room was very similar. I had to forsake my seat to crouch over at a table. Like an Escalade left running in Compton, my seat was gone in a hurry.

Now to the form...hmmm....Age: 24...never been children...never been convicted of a crime...never been a victim of a crime...been injured twice, head and back (huh?)...never served on a jury...not a felon...I'm perfect for this! Crud...

I began rummaging for a good magazine to read. As often happens, I gravitated to the Newsweek on the table. While waiting to be sworn in en masse by the Justice, I got to bone up on the latest issues of the week, like the second presidential debate. I'll say this; if John Kerry wants to win the election, he's going to have to relax his personality and continue to hammer Bush on the issues.

When I got bored with that, I did what I always do in a room full of people: scoped out the babes! Now, keep one thing in mind: this is jury duty. Somehow, the jury pool skews decidedly towards those of the "average old Joe/Jane" persuasion. I managed to find three or four really good-looking young women, though, and they seemed hopelessly out of reach. What are you going to say to them? "Come here often?" "Gee! I'm also not a felon?"

One thing that got conversations going all over was mutual complaining about jury duty. Now I understand that jury duty is a lot of trouble for practically everybody. I don't really need several people around me complaining about it to know that. And what is the deal with that, anyway? Judging by their conversation, the people at the table next to me must have signed up as a clique. What is their deal? Or are am I just bitter that the ones complaining are in a position to where they can complain about making "only" $25 a day?

One woman even brought her kid. HER KID! And he warbled the whole time. Poor bastard probably thought he was waiting to get a shot. That, combined with his attractive mom, is probably going to cause that kid serious psychological damage for years to come.

After the orientation and the swear-in, we were allowed to leave for lunch beginning at about 11 a.m. We had to report back by 1:15 p.m. "Not enough time to do anything and too much time to do nothing," I thought to myself. Of course, this was no mass dismissal; we were asked to line up as the letters of our last names were called so that we could receive juror badges on our way out.

"Z-Y-X-W-V..." "U-T-S-R-Q-P..." After 30 very slow minutes of that, I geared up to grab my badge. "A-B-C-D-E..." Shit!!

"F-G-H..." "I-J-K-L"...that one took a real long time... "All right, last but not least, M-N-O!" Of course we're not least! But "M"s are by far the most screwed alphabetical section. ABCs are usually at the front, except when ZYXs are cut a break and allowed to go first. But no one, and I mean no one, ever starts with M. But they sometimes get picked last.

With bestowment of my badge, I officially became Juror 285. Kind of like a gang, but with only me as a member. Can you imagine the turf battles? That elevator ride down was a particular bitch.

After I got back from the considerably narrowed lunch break (which I spent at the nearby public library), I walked through the metal detector at the courthouse entrance. I stood behind the guy in front of me for several seconds before the security woman told me step back behind the detector: "I'm sorry," she said. "I wasn't paying attention." No shit. She actually said that!

After more waiting in the jury-pool room, the justice announced that 35 Chosen Ones would potentially decide justice for one of two cases on the docket this week. Yes, friends, I beat the odds. Lottery time!

The next four hours were a presumably top-secret affair. Suffice to say, seeing that many people in suits in one place reminded me of a Young Republicans meeting. Yikes. I was sat in the very front, right in the direct parallel spot to the attorneys. They always stared straight at me. Double yikes. I kid, actually. They were quite nice people.

Highlight questions: "Does anyone here drive a car on business?" "Does anyone have a problem with the law as currently in effect?" "What do you do all day?" "Have you ever suffered a concussion or a hurt back?" "What is your biggest gripe about lawyers?"

Ultimately, 10 out of the 35 made the cut. Not me. I did myself in by knowing three of the witnesses, admitting that I am always more sympathetic to an individual than a corporation, and basically reversing that position when grilled about it by every authority figure in the room.

Perhaps the spookiest thing about all of this? At no point in the day, even with a dozen people pronouncing it at different times, did anyone say my name wrong. Scary thought.

I think a fellow reject said it best in the elevator on the way down: "That's what you get for having an opinion." A fun experience overall, and one I hope to repeat in two years when I am eligible for it again.