Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jury Duty

It’s actually quite surprising to me that I’m almost 30, and I’ve never been called for Jury Duty until now. It was equally surprising to the city court employees who I wound up speaking with to let them know that I would be out of town starting Tuesday for RollerCon, but more on that later.

Today has been one of those days. Aside from the fact that I actually got up early and had time to peruse the internet to look up what items were allowed in the courthouse (laptops) and what items were not (cell phones), the rest of my day has been trying, to say the least.

Last night we had a huge thunderstorm – typical for Summer. I wasn’t worried though, because it was so damn hot yesterday that I had been running the a/c in my car, so my windows were rolled up. Wrong. In my usual insightful manner, I must have unconsciously cracked the windows because it was so hot out. My seat was soaked, the passenger seat was soaked, and the doors and dash were soaked. Luckily I drive a 95 Toyota Tercel, which has been considered “beat” for some time now. The shocks and struts went maybe 5 years ago, and I’ve never replaced them, the stereo doesn’t work most of the time, and the seats have needed to be replaced for 5 years as well, since the vinyl has cracked and the foam cushions would be exposed if they weren’t already under seat covers. But then again, I’m the only person I know who pays under $90/month for gas, so suck that new car drivers!

Back to the typhoon inside my compact car. Luckily, I have a “leather” seat cover on my driver’s seat (and a cloth one on the passenger side). I was able to wipe off most of the water on my seat to theoretically not get my ass wet. Once again, wrong. From getting in and getting out of my car so much, the seat cover had slid over to the right, and when I sat down, my left cheek and thigh soaked up the rainwater that had been sitting in the seat cushion below the cloth part of the leather seat cover. Fuck.

I gave myself plenty of time to get to the courthouse and park. I had written down the names and addresses of the two parking garages that give Juror discounts. Low and behold, I’m just reaching the 1st garage as I’m suppose to be at court. Wha happened? “Whatever,” I think. “I’ll be in and out in 5 minutes and the courthouse is across the street.” There’s a guy in a yellow polo shirt standing in front of the entrance to the garage waving me away, because it’s closed. The second garage? Full. After being rerouted and driving in circles for 15 minutes (now 15 minutes late for court), I finally find an open garage, park, race to the courthouse, and find the door locked. I’m at the wrong building.

Still confident I’ll have a good day, I get in, go through the metal detector, tell the guard I even remembered to take my knife out of my purse last night, have a pleasant conversation, and go upstairs to sit. And sit. And sit.

There were vending machines in the sitting room, but they wouldn’t take my quarters – I tried 6 times to get the machine to take the quarters. I finally gave up. A voice came over a loud speaker from somewhere else in the building. The woman’s voice welcomed us to jury duty. We started by watching a video about the Baltimore City judicial system. Fine. Boring, but fine. Then a second video. I seriously thought at first that someone had popped in Xena Warrior Princess for us to watch before our numbers were called. I then realized it was lower budget than Xena (how can that be?), and finally it all come together with the voiceover performed by local news anchorman, Stan Stoval, who was talking about criminal justice when we were still under British rule in America. It went on to enact several scenarios about how people were tried – they were either burned or drowned. When you were burned, if the burns healed within 3 days, you were innocent. If not, you were killed. In the second scenario, a person’s hands and feet were bound and they were thrown into a deep body of water. If they floated, they were guilty and put to death. If they were innocent, they sank. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at this, but no one else in the room as laughing with me. Except one man who appeared to want to be the class clown of the juror pool.

We sat. We sat some more. They told us we could take a break and go get coffee down the street but to just check back in when you got back. We watched another video. They talked over the loudspeaker again.

Then they said that if you were unable to serve for longer than a day or were convicted of a crime to go to room 239. I was the only one who got up, and I got a lot of looks – because naturally I’m a criminal, not someone with shit to do.

I waited in line. Waited some more. Finally saw a woman who was mean. I explained, “The announcement said to come down here and let you know if I can’t be a juror for more than a day…”

“That’s NOT what it said,” she quipped.

I was trying to be my politest, most professional self. I explained I have to be at RollerCon on Tuesday to set up. Then came the questions about RollerCon, why I hadn’t notified them before today about RollerCon, and why was I wearing a sling – in no particular order and without time to allow me to answer any one question before the other was asked.

“The slip I got in the mail says to contact you if I cannot make TODAY,” I said. “I can make today – I’m here, but I cannot be on a trial that goes longer than Monday.”

“You should have notified us prior to now. Don’t you know to do that?”

“I’m sorry, this is the first time I’ve ever been called for Jury duty. I honestly didn’t know.”

“Well, you can tell the judge but he may or may not care.”

“Then what should I do?”

“Most trials don’t go over 3 days.”

“But some do?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” I say, “What if I get selected as a juror and the trial goes into Tuesday and I don’t show up because I’m en route to the conference. Do I get in trouble?”

“Oh, yes! $1,000 fine and possible jail time.”

“Then why don’t we just postpone my jury duty to September?”

“There are no cases in September.”

After much back and forth, we got it straightened out, and then, surprisingly, the same nasty woman was nice to me for no apparent reason – asking me about my shoulder, telling me to “take care” multiple times, and thanking me. Totally weird.

So, I’m due back mid-October. At least then I’ll know to roll up my windows the night before, park in the garage I parked in today, and go to the right building. As for judging people in the courthouse downtown? Well, I guess you could say I got that one covered today, and I’ll do the same in October.

1 comment:

Jan said...

And they wonder why the fine citizens of Baltimore City are not champing at the bit to be jurors! Ye gods. I did get to wait in the Room of Interminable Boredom with John Waters once. He was working on Pecker at the time and was very quiet. He brought the NY Times, Variety, and some other reading materials and shared them. Nice.