I love jury duty and jury duty loves me. Almost every year, I receive a summons in the mail and my stomach flutters with butterflies as my service date approaches. I don’t really understand the love connection- maybe it’s the cubby I call home in the business center off in the distant corner with the business men; maybe it’s the idea of an 8-5 day that I’m not used to; maybe it’s the rush of being in a court room around a uniformed bailiff? I can’t pin point the reason, all I know is that there are sparks.
Today, I write this from jury duty. My report center is in Ventura because I never legally changed my residency from my parents’ house. Maybe because it’s expected that I’ll move back one day or maybe because I’d rather report to gentle Ventura than rough downtown Los Angeles.
My first time at jury duty, the lawyers picked me to be on a jury. The case didn’t deem anything substantial, just a simple statute of limitations lawsuit. However, the experience, both one of unique fascination and significant learning, resonated in my soul and forever left me craving this civic obligation.
My third time, they called me for a panel and I thought “if there’s one type of case I can’t handle, it’s a drunk driving case.” I hate drunk drivers for very personal reasons, no offense to probably most of you, and I just knew that my mind would swing negatively regardless of the case. Lo and behold, the trial involved a drunk driver who blew a .07 but got arrested anyway. Well, when the judge began the interview process with me, in front of approximately 100 common folk, I became flustered and emotional and started crying.
“You clearly do not have the emotional capacity for this case,” the judge scrutinized. “Although, I’m sure you do realize the driver wasn’t actually drunk. Either way, you are excused. Please leave the court room.”
My heavy boots and I made the sluggish walk of shame down the hall to the exit. I didn’t look backâ€¦why would I? My visionâ€¦blocked by tears.
This time, I received my summons and replied enthusiastically despite the emotional debacle of yesteryear. As the date approached, I realized that I conflicted my jury week with a trip to Vegas for my sister’s 21st birthday. So I called to reschedule and the kind woman let me know that I had 90 days to set a new date- that would be mid December.
The 90 days rushed at me like the dickens!!! And I had to set a date quickly. The new lady on the phone’s rude diction jilted me and my adoration for the process. “You failed to appear almost 90 days ago. What do you want?”
“Well, geez. I want to set a date. I love jury duty so much. I don’t know why you’re being so rude”
She scoffed and led herself to the end of the call, “Next Tuesday. It’s your last chance.”
I spent the night at my parent’s house last night to alleviate the morning commute. The dog woke me up at 4:30 am to excuse his morning bowels and I simply could not fall back asleep.
On minimal sleep, I arrived at the government center. Initially, the security guard scolded me for entering through the wrong security line. I also ignored the “do not place food through xrays” and did so with my apple and peanut butter snack pack.
During the orientation, a woman talked about lunch protocol and stupid past jurors who did bone-head things including driving to Santa Barbara for lunch or venturing to Olive Garden because they use a ‘page system’ to call waiting patrons to their table (“stay within the page system, we are instructed as jurors). I ignored the majority of speech (being a veteran, I didn’t need to hear it) and texted instead.
“This woman is talking to us like we’re 7 years old,” I complained to a friend.
“Well, that’s because 90% of the people there have a brain capacity of that age,” my friend countered.
“Good point. Pshhh”
Roll call for the first panel quickly occurred and the lady called my name. I didn’t pay attention to the room number I had to report to, so I instead followed the crowd to the one piece of information I had heard: “floor four”. Then I led myself to the restroom where I lollygagged for a few minutes. Then I emerged from the bathroom to find 100 new people in the hall. I stood in front of courtroom 45 but didn’t recognize anyone, so I asked the guy next to me if they called more than one panel. He said no, which relieved me while I sat down to wait and eat my radiating apple.
Twenty minutes passed when I finally saw the familiar faces…Unfortunately, they surfaced not from the waiting crowd, but from courtroom 47. I realized that I missed my calling while popping my chin zit in the bathroom. Sweat began to trickle under my arm and confusion rushed through my brainâ€¦I rushed downstairs.
Exiting the elevator, I heard the voice of god talking to me “Danielle Bar-nabe please report to the jury services window immediately!!”
“Shitâ€¦shitâ€¦ohâ€¦shitâ€¦.” I said with every step until I reached the window. “Hiâ€¦I’m Danielleâ€¦you just called me.”
“Get over here!”
“Oh my. Of course. Where? Where’s the door? Let me in.”
I entered the Jury Service office where five people glared at me from their desks.
“Can I just say, I’m mortified. This really is embarrassing. I was in the hallway the whole time eating my apple and peanut butter snack, but in front of the wrong court room.” Subtle tears welled up in my eyes.
“You realize young lady, we’re probably gonna reschedule you,” she commanded. “Now wait here.”
“Of course you should reschedule me!!! I’m an idiot! I deserve this!!!”
She stopped dead in her track and turned to me with tender eyes. “Really?”
“Well, of course! I clearly didn’t follow the rulesâ€¦I’m just so embarrassed!”
She continued her path and brought back a burly man of important stature.
“Get this girl a tissue! She has tears!”
As I dabbed my humiliated eyes, he lectured me how the judge, the lawyers and all the prospective jurors waited for me to enter the courtroom. They waited 15 minutes. “Maybe she’s in the restroom?” “Maybe she got lost?”
He enlightened me with a guilt trip, “I called your cell and you didn’t answer. We needed you in there promptly.”
“I know sir. I ignored the call because I didn’t recognize the number. I’m truly embarrassed. I cried last time I was here too.. Oh, Ms.! Please don’t tell this story during orientation. That would just kill me! Although I deserve it.”
At that point, the whole office sat with chuckles. They let me off with a warning and promised not to reschedule me because of my blunt honesty and tears.
Now I sit in the business center next to an 18-year-old girl who I befriended at lunch who was being stalked by an 70-year-old man, both of us hiding from realityâ€¦and tucking ourselves far from the man snoring abruptly in the room next door.
I now hate jury dutyâ€¦and I’m hopeful that jury duty hates me.