Tuesday, February 10, 2004

My day of civic fun

6:00 am The alarm goes off. My sister and her friend Jane Ann are visiting so they can see an Oprah taping today, and the three of us jockey for time in the bathroom and counter space in front of the mirror.

7:15 am The girls have been gone a half hour, and I leave for my 8:30 jury call in Maywood, which is a bit of a hike from home. Two people and MapQuest have told me the trip will take only 45 minutes, so I tack on an extra half hour to ensure I won't be late.

8:00 am I'm two exits away from the courthouse. The moment I begin wondering what I'm going to do to fill my time when I get there so early, traffic on the Eisenhower STOPS. For TWENTY MINUTES.

8:35 am I get to the courthouse and encounter a mammoth line waiting to go through security. The security guards are confiscating all cell phones, pagers, gameboys and related electronic devices. Thankfully, I read my summons and knew enough to leave my cell phone and iPod in my car.

8:45 am I'm finally in the jury room. And all my hopes for finding romance splashing around in the jury pool are dashed. Now I know where all the makeover shows get their "before" models.

9:00 am They show us a video about jury duty and what's expected of us as potential jurors. All the people in the video are modeling the latest in 1980s fashions: baggy sweaters in neon colors, poofy poodle hair, stonewashed jeans that sit high on the waist and grip tight at the ankles, etc. I make a mental note to clean out my closet this weekend.

9:15 am We're told there are three trials that need juries today, so we'll all probably be picked to serve. They direct us to the "cafeteria" down the hall if we need food. I head down to find six vending machines and many long lines of large-butted people loading up on Snickers and Pepsi. I notice two dimes in a change return as I walk by one machine. I'm already up 20¢ and the day has hardly begun.

9:20 am Back in the jury room. Oprah is on the TVs where they showed us our video. While I'm trying to remember whether or not Jenny and Jane Ann said their taping would be broadcast live, I realize the guests for the day are the ladies on "What Not to Wear." In between makeovers, they offer their list of absolute wardrobe no-nos: baggy sweaters in neon colors, poofy poodle hair, and stonewashed jeans that sit high on the waist and grip tight at the ankles. Nobody in the room seems to notice the irony. Then again, nobody in the room can be described as not wearing baggy sweaters in neon colors, poofy poodle hair, and stonewashed jeans that sit high on the waist and grip tight at the ankles.

10:00 am We were supposed to be called into separate jury rooms by now to begin the interview process. No word. But "The View" comes on. I am shocked that four people can be so whiny, loud and shrewish -- and get paid to host a national TV show. I quickly get a headache as I try to focus on my Newsweek. The "before" models chuckle at the antics of the whiny, loud, shrewish hosts.

10:10 am The guy sitting next to me pulls out his cell phone and starts to play some game on it. The guy in front of me suddenly produces a gameboy. So why the hell did the metal detector stop me for having foil-wrapped gum in my pocket?

11:00 am Still no word. The View shrews are mercifully gone. The local news comes on. Apparently there's some sort of election coming up.

11:30 am I finally break down and use the private juror bathroom. BIG mistake. The automatically flushing toilet won't flush. There are three soap dispensers, but only one has soap in it. I leave with an empty bladder and a creepy dirty feeling on my hands.

11:45 am They finally turn off the damn TVs and make an announcement: All three trials were settled out of court, and we're free to go. We gather up our $17.20 stipend checks and stumble out into the sun.

noon I'm zipping toward Chicago on the Eisenhower, belting out "You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray and basking in the glow of civic duty.

12:15 pm Back at the office. Nobody is around. I sneak away for a quick cardio workout so I can face the rest of the day. Jury duty can be so taxing, you know.

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