My Day in the Jury Pool
8:54 AM - I arrive at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse but can't figure out where to park. A homeless man points me to the special fenced-in "Jury, Employee, Police" parking lot. The sign at the checkpoint outside reads "You MUST Show ID," but the guard just waves me through. I can't think of a reason I would ever need to park anywhere near here if I weren't heading to court, but it's nice to know there's a free option.
8:58 AM - Security check. I empty my pockets and send my backpack through an X-ray conveyor. One of the guards gives me a funny look when he sees the elephant sticker on my Moleskine. I must look as clueless as I feel, because the guy who returns the contents of my pockets points me to the elevators and says "Jury room, third floor."
9:02 AM - At the table outside the jury room I line up with the other potential jurors and hand over my documentation. I am told to draw a number and get 26. This is my Group Number for the day. (I am not a number!)
9:03 AM - I put on my "JUROR" sticker and throw away the backing paper.
9:04 AM - I read the Juror's instructions sheet, which says to keep the backing paper for the "JUROR" sticker. Luckily the garbage can is pretty much empty.
9:06 AM - I sit in a theatre-style chair and look through my reading material. I've got Trash Sex Magic, Mothers and Other Monsters, Sybil's Garage #2, Boy Proof, and Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics. (I so would not be reading that last book if it weren't for research. I was probably the only kid in my high school who took AP Calculus hoping to test out of math in college so I would never have to take it again. (It worked, by the way.) And Geometry . . . don't even get me started on Geometry. I don't have a logical brain, as is perhaps obvious to those who read my stories. But then, the world is not a logical place. And it's an interesting book, even if it takes me an hour to get through one chapter.)
9:35 AM - I finish re-reading "Ancestor Money" just as a gravel-voiced man with saucers around his eyes tells us to sit in front of the TVs so we can watch a video. Oh, good.
9:37 AM - Our TV isn't on, and since I'm in the front row I stand up to turn it on. I sit down again before realizing that instead of instructional material on Our Jury System the TV is blaring out Jerry Springer. I stand up again and change the channel until a man in a black robe with an is-it-there-or-isn't-it mustache appears. Turns out this is the district judge or something. Like I would know?
9:38 AM - A tall black man does a Troy McClure stroll past a jury box. It's Lester Holt! He'll be guiding us through the jury process. Oh, good. My five hours of sleep is tapping me on the shoulder, asking me if I want another fix. "Chill," I mutter, and force my eyes open.
9:50 AM - After the video, Saucer Eyes gives us the skinny. They'll call us by group numbers when they need jurors. If they don't call us by the end of the day, we're done for the year. If they do call us and we're in a courtroom we're at the mercy of the judge. Saucer Eyes makes lots of jokes while he tells us this, and they're sort of funny except that it's obvious that he tells them every day and doesn't find them funny himself anymore. I wonder how he got those saucers around his eyes, and how his voice got so gravelly. I picture him lying on a bar with a cigar in his mouth and a lowball over each eye.
10:00 AM - Saucer Eyes lets us return to our day of idleness. He refers to one area of the room as the "Reading Seats" since there is no TV there. I'm surprised to see so many people head in this direction. I buy a soda before taking a seat with the readers and read a story out of Sybil's Garage before starting on Boy Proof.
10:12 AM - Saucer Eyes is ready to call some folks to duty. I'm sure I'm going to be in this group. He calls four groups, but none of them are mine. Huh. I go back to my book.
10:57 AM - I think I'm a little bit in love with Egg/Victoria. This Max guy, on the other hand, is a self-righteous schmuck.
11:58 AM - I finish Boy Proof (I liked it. I like that the Egg/shell/embryo metaphor is never stated explicitly, and I like that Victoria is stupid and brilliant and that she has no social skills. I like her parents and I love the way the movie stars were portrayed. I still don't much care for Max, though) just as Saucer Eyes calls three more groups right before lunch. I'm thinking this would suck. He doesn't call me. Five minutes later he lets us go until 1:30 for lunch.
12:05 PM - There is no place to eat around here except a Church's Fried Chicken and some place called "Jean's," so I opt for the cafeteria. This may or may not have been a mistake. I get a cheeseburger and call my mom. She's up at the lake, which is both nicer and less luxurious than it sounds. The lake in question is the one at the back of my grandparents' old farm outside Evansville, Minnesota. Most of the land has been sold by now, but Mom and my uncles have a couple of trailers on our stretch of it where they like to go and chill. Mom goes up there for about a week every year before school starts up (Mom works as a Special Ed teacher's aide) with the dogs and relaxes. Mom says the dogs are worn out. We bitch about Bush and she asks about Cindy Sheehan. We talk about how we hate the Bitch Sox and hope the Twins can sweep them again. (I miss Torii.)
1:00 PM - I decide to get outside and take a walk up the block, then realize that the building I thought was just a holding facility is actually a Maximum Security Detention Facility. Holy Barbed Wire, Batman. It's huge and my hands are bleeding just looking at the fence. I'm thinking about Oz and about the article on prison rape I read a few days ago. I'm wondering if it's possible to look at this on the satellite maps at Google or MSN. This is all rather depressing.
1:30 PM - I'm back and I'm sleepy. I read a story out of Sybil's Garage and a story out of Mothers and Other Monsters and I start on Trash Sex Magic. I don't have the energy to read about math or to work on stories right now. I'd rather read about fertility magic, thank you very much.
2:10 PM - A light starts flashing, and something is beeping. The fire alarm is going off. They didn't really drill us for this, but any excuse to get outside at this point is a good one. I pack up my books and head for the exit stairs with the rest of the remaining jurors. Once we're in the stairwell we can smell something burning. This is not good. At that moment a woman comes running out and tells us we can't leave. Um? Fire bad, lady. No, we can't leave unless we're escorted. I think this lady swallowed a book of regulations. I go back up, but if I see smoke she'll have to shoot me in the leg to keep me from getting out of here.
2:15 PM - Saucer Eyes tells us they're trying to find out what happened, but the Sheriff's office would call if there was a fire. He also mentions that the Sheriff's office is shorthanded today or we would have another deputy in the jury room. None of this is at all reassuring. He tells us not to worry, that he's here. I wonder if he is trying to tell us that he is a superhero under all that flab. I am skeptical.
2:20 PM - Saucer Eyes comes out and tells us the tar they're laying down outside the building got into the vents and set off the alarm. Which is good to know, because if it had been a real fire we'd all be dead already.
2:30 PM - The presiding judge stops by to let us know he's very concerned about what happened, and he's going to have meetings about it. I wonder if there are people in this room for whom the word "meetings" is a panacea. I doubt it, since in my experience "meeting" is pretty much an antonym for "accomplishment." On the other hand, Saucer Eyes lets us know that if there aren't any more jury calls by 3:10 we're out of here.
2:44 PM - Man, there is a lot of sex in this book.
3:10 PM - We're done. They call our names for our checks, which is sort of a token gesture; it's really a per diem, seventeen bucks to cover meals and transportation for the day. Thanks. Now we are free to live our lives for another year, at which time we may be asked to sit in a room for a full day again. Civic duty, don'tcha know. I'm outta here.