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Tuesday, 22 September
Howdy, Duty

Coming home a few weeks ago, as usual, I checked the mail. I was delighted to find a couple of my magazines that I subscribe to--Hot Balls and, of course, Shootin' It On Food--and slightly less delighted to find a little fold-out deal that had "JURY SUMMONS" written prominently on its face. I stared at it for a moment and thought what any guy would: "Please let this be addressed to my wife."

Alas.

No, for the first time, I had received a summons for jury duty, and was scheduled to appear on, of all things, on a Friday morning at 8:00 AM sharp at the King County Superior Court in downtown Seattle. On September 11, no less. NEVAR FORGET! (Your jury duty.)

I dreaded this for weeks leading up to the event. I'm not even sure why. I envisioned myself being empaneled for some tax evasion drear party that would lead to eight weeks of existential despair. (Work covers me for two weeks of jury duty, even on top of King County's generous per diem of ten bucks a day.) For the rest of it, I had no idea what to expect. In my mind, I was thinking me and thirty or so of my fellow citizens hanging out in some shitty conference room all day.

The wife drove me to the courthouse on the fateful day. Traffic was horrific, so I actually got out a couple blocks early and wandered over to the site.

There were literally hundreds of people in line, stretched around the block. It was 8 sharp, but I obviously wasn't getting into the building (and through security) any time soon. Fuck this, I thought, and went to get some coffee.

Getting in line, I immediately began smoking like a fiend, drawing grouchy looks from others, but really, fuck them. It was pretty clear that I wasn't going to be skipping out of the courthouse on every whim to satisfy my nicotine monkey. I had brought nicotine gum in anticipation of this fact, but that was a last resort--in the meantime, all these other people could go fuck themselves.

A young gal with a cellphone screwed into her ear was standing in line behind me; she was one of the few people who didn't seem to give a shit that I was hotboxing my brains out. Presently, she turned off her phone, and then looked at the jury summons in my hand with some confusion.

"Wait, are you here for jury duty?" she asked.

"Yeah, aren't you?"

"No. I'm here for, like, court. Like, I have to appear in court."

"Oh," I said. It's this sort of thing that just goes to show why chicks think I'm fucking rad.

"DUI," she clarified without prompting.

"Oh," I said again, causing her to immediately fall in love with me and give me a rapturous blow job right there on the sidewalk. Oh, wait, I'm misremembering! She actually then said, "Oh, it's cool." Then she called another friend, causing me to seethe about all of the anonymous blow jobs I seem to be missing every fucking day, somehow.

I continued smoking, and the line trudged along as only a line containing people fulfilling a public service can: sullenly. Then my friend Val walked by. I've known Val for probably ten years; she's a fellow actor, and I used to be in a sketch comedy troupe with her.

"Val!" I cried. "Have they finally gotten you on those multiple child abuse charges?" (Not really.) She of course had also been summoned along with several hundred of our closest friends. She hugged me and then loped forlornly to the end of the line. I continued chain smoking.

FINALLY, after clearing the metal detector, I was inside. "Ninth floor! Prospective jurors, ninth floor!" cried out some guy. Yeah, definitely not just bouncing out for a cigarette any old time I felt like it. I patted the nicotine gum in my pocket for solace. Then, since I was in the neighborhood, I also patted my penis, also for solace.

To the ninth floor! Where I found . . . amazingly . . . more interminable lines of the same people I'd been spending my morning with, all waiting to be herded into courtrooms. All wearing the same look of grim inevitability that they'd been displaying outside, only now I couldn't smoke. I gripped the magazine I had brought for boredom-fighting a little tighter.

Glancing around at the lines, I happened to notice a bench against the wall. Val was sitting on it, so I wandered happily up to her.

"Fuck standing in line," she said. "I'll just wait for someone to tell me where to go." Sounded good to me. I sat next to her, and we shot the shit for a while. Not much longer later, some clerk rambled by, yelling, "We need about fifty people down in this room!" We decided to get it over with and head down there, reasoning that we'd have to pick something sometime.

We went. We sat. A couple of weatherbeaten lawyers were up at the bench, quietly chewing on each others' necks sotto voce. Clerks (or whoever the fuck they were) bustled in and out, carrying papers, or garbage, or whatever. Val and I continued bullshitting, along with--improbably--another friend of hers who also had been called that day. I didn't know him, and I forget his name, so let's say it was "Congo Godzilla, the Ultimate Fighting Force."

At 8:55--five minutes before things were supposed to get rolling--a beady-eyed clerk dashed in and shushed us. "Folks!" he said. "We have way too many jurors here today. And nobody usually objects when I say this: you're all dismissed."

My mouth fell open, and I looked at Val and Congo Godzilla, the Ultimate Fighting Force and wel exchanged goggle-eyed looks. "Are you serious?" Val said to the ceiling. "I'm going back to bed!" pealed Congo Godzilla, the Ultimate Fighting Force as he bounced to his feet. He left immediately after giving Val a brief goodbye hug.

As we left the building (where nobody ever verified that we had actually showed up, so okay), Val asked what we should do. "Should I go back to work?" she fretted. I gave her a look like you would give someone who claimed to talk to her ancestors. "When I told my boss I got jury duty, she told me, 'Seize the opportunity!' " she admitted, seeing my stare. That made even less sense than the previous sentence, but carry on.

"Then what the fuck is wrong with you?" I hollered. "Are you kidding? Sazerac is right there! Sazerac is a hotel bar about two blocks away. "We need Bloody Marys!"

And so we got them. That was my jury duty day. I can't wait for another one.


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Comments

You know what it was for, right?

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009850507_haq12m.html

Comment number: 020193   Posted by: Phyllis Fletcher on September 23, 2009 11:54 AM from IP: 128.208.34.225

Holy crap. No, I hadn't the slightest idea. Go me!

Comment number: 020194   Posted by: Skot on September 23, 2009 12:07 PM from IP: 66.150.9.2

Is it just me, or does Haq look like Ron Sandal's (more) evil younger brother?

Comment number: 020199   Posted by: Topher on September 23, 2009 02:25 PM from IP: 76.170.81.174

My first day of jury duty was September 11, 2001. No shittin.

Back then they didn't have wireless or workstations. Just shitty chairs in a shitty room watching the towers collapse on a shitty TV with 60 strangers.

Comment number: 020288   Posted by: kb on September 28, 2009 06:08 PM from IP: 64.38.158.117

I had Grand Jury Duty here in NYC during July 08 for 2 weeks. It was a narcotics Grand Jury and most of the busts were along the lines of somebody selling less than an ounce of pot to an undercover cop. In other words, it was a huge waste of everybody’s time and taxpayer money. Justice system! Nevertheless, it was nice to have two weeks paid vacation where I ate lunch and shopped in Chinatown or Little Italy every day and read three really good books! Jury Duty Rocks!

Comment number: 020290   Posted by: Gail on October 2, 2009 11:18 AM from IP: 160.83.72.211

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