About six months ago, I knelt down to reach the last row of mailboxes in my building lobby to open my own and then saw it - that horrible red and black notice. I didn’t even have to fold here then tear at the perforation to know that I had been summoned for *ick* jury duty. I was in the midst of a giant marketing campaign at my job which I no longer have, so I tried to figure out ways to get out of it, but the old rules regarding self-employment, financial hardship, sole care-giver, language, all don’t apply anymore. The Superior Court system would rather waste exorbitant amounts of taxpayers’ money making sure you, yes you, can serve on a jury rather than simply excusing anonymous little you and moving on to the next fish in the giant pool of potential jurors. If you can’t understand English, they will hire a translator. If you are deaf, they will bring in a signer. Don’t they know that they can save a lot of money by just asking for the weirdos who actually get some strange thrill from arguing with eleven other angry strangers in a tiny wood-panelled room?!?!
So as deviously as I plotted ways to get out of jury duty, I realized that I would basically have to prove that I am dead in order to be excused. All I could do was postpone my service for up to 12 months after the original summons date. Good. Done.
And then, *gasp!* I forgot about it. Ho. Lee. Shiitake. I am a very bad girl.
When I realized that I had completely blown it off, I panicked. The penalty couldn’t be light, otherwise everyone would just conveniently “forget” that they had to be in downtown L.A. at 7:45 am which means leaving the house by 6:45 am in order to sit in 10-east traffic for an hour to go only 16 miles. The best would be a $2,500 fine, and the worst...jury duty once a week for the rest of my life?!
I called them and the voice on the other end of the line just barked at me a new date to appear. No explanation, just a statement that I had to show up in a *tsktsk* tone of voise. Strange, they never said what the penalty was for missing the first time, and they failed to mention the penalty if I missed again. Ignorance is and evil tool of the government. So I made an appropriate entry in my Outlook and set 9000 reminders.
My Notice of Failure to Appear had stated that there would be a fine, but there was no fine. Fake-out! The real cruel and unusual punishment for playing jury duty hooky is that you must suffer and feel the pain of your wrong-doings as if in some strange Bibical throwback to an eye for an eye. But just whose eye are we talking about?! You must park in downtown LA then walk up a hill that feels like you’ve trekked all the way back into the Valley. You will squeeze to maximum capacity in the one working elevator of six with about 78 other grumps who just sweated it up that hill like you but, unlike you, don’t use Dial. For 45 minutes, you have to stand in a line that has no cones or markers, the formation wholly reliant upon the random shape-shifting of strangers, which causes some anxiety when it becomes an amorphous clusterf**k at the intersection of two hallways. Punishment indeed.
Suffering is not enough in the LA Courts. Traffic, trekking uphill, 45 minutes in line and the real punishment is finally stepping up to a folding table to be thanked by a county employee and...told to come back two and a half weeks later for your actual service. Ouch. I have to come back. Could they not have just called me to tell me that? Has not the LA Court System installed telephones in their courthouse buildings that haven’t been renovated since 1930?! They have full-scale metal detectors at every entrance, but they don't have a telephone to call me.
Well, the Court System must have been in cahoots (I can’t believe I actually used that phrase! Dad would be so proud) with “them” of the elimination because my non-negotiable date to appear was exactly three days after my last day at work. Three days into utter unemployed freedom, and I have to spin on my fuzzy slippered heel to go right back into the bathroom to take a shower and put on "outside clothes." Technically, I am “employed” as a juror for the Superior Court of LA. Gee, who the hell needs a job when you get to report a whopping $15 a day for jury services on your tax return?
At least I would get to have lunch at some downtown restaurants that under any other normal weekday circumstances, would never be within driving distance. Right? Right.
My tour of duty ended days ago, but I am still reeling from my five days of service. Once I recover, I’ll have a lovely report of the smell of urine dried on the sidewalks on my morning walk up to the Courthouse, coffee from the cafeteria that tastes like hazelnut cigarette ash, and lunches from the 11th floor vending machines. Until then, a few RiFWoLs (Reviews in Five Words or Less) for restaurants that are still backed up in my queue.
Tofu-Ya, West Los Angeles - Need Korean? Closer than K-town.
India's Tandoori, West Los Angeles - Samosas look like Pamela Anderson.
Il Grano, West Los Angeles - Figs. Homegrown tomatoes. But service?
Tokyo Fast Food, West Los Angeles - Takes me back to Berkeley.