When last we left our soup-kitchen-fed Delicious Cinderella, our bitter heroine was sitting in the Jury Assembly room playing a sadistic internal game of shells with herself, plopped down in front of one of the court-provided 286s (remember those? We had one, too! Back in 1985!).
Should I buy $5 for one hour of internet, optimistic that the Ringleader will very shortly call my last name, summoning me to a court room for the jury selection process during which, I can admit to all my prejudices about race, religion, and canned meat products and thereby be excused because of my “bias?”
Or should I buy the wallet-squeezing $12 for a full day of internet, confident that in this wild and crazy series of waiting games called Jury Duty, my name will not get called this afternoon, thereby requiring me to come back to the Clara Foltz Couthouse building tomorrow for another round of judicial fun?!
Or do I just forget the 286 altogether and pass the time with the jigsaw puzzles, Southern Living and 4H magazines that the court so generously provides for my entertainment?
It was just after lunch. I had at least three hours. The Southern Living magazines were from 2002.
I clicked on the $12 radio-button.
Then my last name was called.
*shakes fist at scupture on the wall* Robbed! I was robbed of my $12, I tell you! Just for that, see if I ever don’t make a right turn on red again! Just you wait and never see, Blind Justice!
Being “called” means you and one-under two dozen other cranky potential jurors do a gloomy march following the clerk to the court, passing all the people who have planted themselves in perfect, personal-spaced intervals along the benches that line the walls. I half expected one of the many men who were slumped over in an uncomfortable, cautious aftenoon cat nap to lift his head and murmur “Dead man walking” as we passed. We line up single file in front of the court’s heavy doors, as if our right ankles are shackled together, oddly hopeful that we may be set free and set free by the mercy of the Judge.
Jury selection is a long, tedious formal process that for our group, took all afternoon and spilled over into the second morning. It makes me want to repeatedly stab my forearm with a blunt object with just the memory of it. I tried to pay attention as the judge and the attorneys took turns interviewing each potential juror, listening for clues that I could use to improve my chances at being excused from service.
Ireland. One man had a vacation to Ireland planned and he was scheduled to leave the following week. Ireland! The judge let him go. I should have planned an overseas trip! I've got to remember that for next time.
The judge also excused a Korean woman (she had a uniquely Korean last name, that's how I know), who had a very difficult time communicating. I’ll just call her Ms. Park, even though her last name is not Park. I’m protecting identities here. Ms. Park told the judge in broken, halting, stuttering English that she owns a store in Venice and that she tinks dat all black peop-oh are drug addick. I wanted to stand up and applaud with a hearty “Bravo!” for not twenty minutes earlier as we were waiting in the corridor outside on one of our group bathroom breaks, Ms. Park had been on her cell phone within earshot of me, talking to (I assume) her boyfriend, in perfect English. She had been perpetrating FOB in the courtroom! At least I can assume she also doesn’t really think all black people are drug addicts. F--king Koreans. They’re all so sneaky like that. ;)
As the attorneys excused potential jurors one by one in a strategic game of Axis and Allies, I started to sweat and squirm. My moment in the hot seat was coming up.
Let’s just say that my goddamned morality somehow beat down my inner Pinocchio, and I answered every question with complete honesty. Maybe I have integrity. Maybe I am stupid. Maybe I just wanted to run back to the computers during breaks to get my $12 worth from the internet. Whatever it was, this Cinderella was getting her chance to dance with the Prince. Bitter bitter bitter.
But at least I looked good.
I dressed up for a downtown lunch date. :)
When we were dismissed for our 90 minute lunch break, I trotted back to the parking lot (downhill, thankfully), hopped into my car, weaved in and out of one way traffic, doubled back, circled, and finally pulled into the ridiculously overpriced valet parking lot of The Standard. Angela and I were going to “(ohmigod! we should totally) catch up over lunch” at The Standard, halfway between her office and my punishment.
The Diner at the Standard is like jury duty.
No one wants to be there, but everyone wants either the prestige (ooh la la! The Standard! but don’t look too excited about it) or the privilege.
The hostess at the front counter looks pissed. I walk up to let her know that I’d like to have lunch. She looks up from her notebook with blank pages (apparently she can read invisble picture books) and peers down at me from the top of her very long, very well-proportioned, very expensive nose. She hisses, “Do you have a reservation?” which really sounds like “You better have a reservation.”
I look around the completely monochromatic canary yellow dining room that I've been in before. There is no one in the restaurant. Not a single customer. It’s 11:55. Maybe the lunch rush descends upon the Diner at the Standard out of nowhere at precisely noon, not a minute earlier.
No, I don’t have a reservation.
She takes me to the patio, and leaves me with Paris Hilton’s playmate of the year. Oh, never mind. That’s just a picture of an overgrown rat on the cover of the menu. I suddenly have a loco craving for a Taco Bell Grande.
So the restaurant isn’t completely empty; the inside dining room is. About half the tables on the patio are taken by people who are apparently "eating lunch." Okay, they’re not even close to eating. I think the food on the tables is fake. In fact, I think the “people” on the patio are mechanized wax figurines that the management has dressed up in the trendiest fashions they could get their hands on at Fred Segal – over-sized sunglasses, long skinny scarves, mini skirts (appropriate for the semi-sunny 70 degree weather), and furry Uggs (also, totally appropriate for semi-sunny 70 degree weather). Everyone looks utterly bored and the air is oddly quiet. I feel like I
have been seated in the middle of a photo shoot for InStyle magazine.
Surprisingly, the server is energetic and pleasant when he prances over to the table. It’s high noon on a weekday, but I’m in jury duty, so please, bring me a glass of wine! Actually, even if I weren’t on jury duty, even if I were going back to an office or a board meeting, even if I were having a bowl of cereal for breakfast, I’d still have a glass of wine. (Does that make me a wino?) There’s an almost imperceptible uncertainty when he recites the Diner’s wine offerings, as if he might not have tasted any of them, and keeps mentioning the “daily special” – perhaps it is standard operating procedure as dictated by his training manual. And yet, he is sincere, and reminds me a bit of Joey from Friends. The wine is as wine should be – a good, welcome drink.
Angela arrives and sits down, looking as gorgeous as she did...yesterday. I love the fact that she is dressed in very conservative, yet stylish, business casual wear (she’s in the financial industry), but is now the hottest girl on the patio. We launch into warp-speed girl talk, volleying questions back and forth, updating each other with what’s been going on our respective lives, and when one of us pauses to take a breath, the other continues, our hyperactive dialogue sounding less like a conversation between two people and more like a monologue punctuated with occasional “No way!” “Ohmigod!” and “Are you serious? That guy?” muffled only by a lady-like hand-over-the-mouth for dramatic effect. When Joey comes by to take our order, we realize that neither of us have even opened our menus. He’s happy to let us take our time and will be right back with Angela’s iced tea. We pick up right where we left without having skipped a beat.
Joey skips back to the table, and this time, we open our menus. It’s a standard diner menu, but with Standard Hotel prices. We both scan quickly with Joey graciously standing there waiting. He doesn’t seem to mind, and I swear, if he started humming Zippity Do Dah and tiny cartoon birds flew out of the potted plants onto his shoulders, it would have suited him perfectly. I chose a chopped salad. I’m not here for the food.
The salad was pretty but certainly no better tasting than anything I could have thrown together myself at the salad bar inside a Ralphs Fresh Fare – chopped Romaine lettuce, red onions (which gave me heartburn later in th day), sun-dried tomatoes, and a few token pebbles of blue cheese tossed together with a watery dressing. Perhaps I had been mistaken, when I walked out onto the patio. Perhaps my assumption that everyone else was not eating because they were hungover from the night before up on the rooftop, or that they were just already too full (of themselves), or that the tiny bit of toothpaste they swallowed this morning already put them over their daily caloric intake. The food at the Diner at the Standard just doesn’t taste very good, but you have to pay to say that you’ve been there.
Twenty five dollars for a so-so salad and a glass of wine, though, was worth every gossipy minute.
The Diner at The Standard Hotel
550 South Flower Street (@ 6th)
Los Angeles, CA 90071