Having spent the majority of my life in Europe I often feel like I have missed out on many a great American tradition, to the extent that I celebrate when I come face to face with even the most mundane. I remember sitting in the waiting room at the DMV just two years ago, giddy with excitement that I would finally be able to understand this painful tradition about which Americans love to complain. And recently I got to experience another one. The great tradition known as Jury Duty.
At first, I thought it would be hilarious and madcap, like my favorite Pauly Shore movie, Son in Law. But it ended up being painful and depressing, like my least favorite Pauly Shore movie, Jury Duty. Nonetheless, I started off the day with an optimistic frame of mind. After all, it was going to be a day off work, right? I was still getting paid, and they’d probably dismiss me early! I waited for the bus at 7:45 in the morning, still slightly hungover from the night before, and when the bus arrived I asked the driver to take me to where “justice was served.” After he dropped me off next to a Wendy’s in downtown Brooklyn, I walked the couple of blocks to the courthouse.
What I didn’t realize was that half of the day would be sitting with absolutely nothing to do. I sat for a good forty five minutes before a man came in and put on a video for us all to watch. If you’ve ever had jury duty, I’m assuming you know what video I’m talking about because clearly, it is the video they’ve been using for the past twenty five years. And it is incredible. I’ve tried to locate it on the internet, but oddly it is nowhere to be found. And thus, I shall describe it for you.
It begins in medieval times. And whoever directed the film seriously thought this was going to be a stepping stone to directing award winning features, because this is some quality film making. The costumes are top notch, tha make up is great, and the actors even do these bizarre English semi-cockney accents! You really feel like you are in medieval times, even though you are hungover in a giant assembly room in downtown Brooklyn. The film shows medieval villagers enacting the “olde” form of justice, which did not involve jurors but throwing someone into a lake to see if they drowned. If they floated: innocence!
And then suddenly we are whisked away from medieval times to the eighties, where 60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer take us through the modern legal system. Again, some pretty ballsy film making! And the fact that there were celebrities was probably the only thing about the film that didn’t comply with the Dogme 95 film movement.
And then the film ended. As did the most exciting part of the day. The rest of the day was what I would imagine it is like to be a prisoner of war. We were brought from room to room, never entirely certain of our fate. Would we be here for the long haul? Would we be released tomorrow? We were scolded each time we asked a question about our future. And finally, at the end of the day, I was brought into an actual court room! The case dealt with an alleged assault in Bushwick. The first thing we were asked to do was to report to the judge if there was any reason that we would not feel comfortable serving as a juror. At this point, I was kind of hoping to be picked. As boring as the day had been, this part was kind of exciting! I briefly considered marching up to the judge and telling him that I played Juror Number Eight in a high school adaptation of Twelve Angry Men. The Henry Fonda part! Clearly, I’d be a great addition to his jury. Unfortunately, they only needed one juror, and not only was I not chosen, I was not even considered.
I left the courtroom feeling bored and defeated. They collected our juror ID’s and said that our release letter would be sent in the mail the following day. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but mine was one of disappointment. All of that for nothing?
I got on the bus to head home, and sat down towards the back. The woman next to me said hello and then asked how I was doing. “Lousy,” I responded, “I just had jury duty.” “Jury duty!” she exclaimed, “that’s the worst! I remember the last time I had jury duty…” She then proceeded to tell me about the nightmare that was her jury duty experience. As she continued on, I started to cheer up. I had just gone through the same things she had! I complained the whole way home. I got off the bus, and with no one to complain at, I continued to complain aloud to myself as I walked home. I went to work the next day and complained with all those who had been to jury duty as well. “IT’S THE WORST, RIIIIIGHT?” I exclaimed to everyone, “For serious though, I thought it would never end.”
So thank you jury duty. You deserve a better movie about you. You helped me achieve a new level of obnoxiousness. You helped me bond with my fellow man. You helped me feel like an American. I have to go back to the DMV to renew my license soon. I hope that the lines are incredibly long, and the employees incredibly rude and lazy.