What I Learned At Jury Duty

 1. The traffic goes west, not east.

When I first moved to Santa Monica, it was too far from Hollywood, where all the action was. But now seemingly every entertainment company has moved west of the 405. It was clear sailing from my house to downtown, but in the other direction? OH BOY! And it was 7 a.m!

2. You’ve got to zoom out in MapQuest for context.

I’ve been to the criminal courts building. Back when I was arrested for DUI.

But that was obviously a different kind of crime, because the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center is south of the 101, not the 10! I stopped to ask a cop directions as I floundered in no-man’s land, looking for Lot #17 at the intersection of 1st and Olive. After castigating me for double-parking, the officer was very helpful.

3. Humanity is not pretty.

Or maybe it’s that L.A.’s not pretty. Unless you want to say PRETTY UGLY!

All those images of Angelenos in the magazines? When you get a random cattle call, L.A. looks just like America.

But I hope the landscape of the rest of America doesn’t look so bad. Barren. Maybe, like the removal of dams, turning lakes back into rivers, we should undo William Mulholland’s work, cut off the flow of agua from the Sierras and everybody should move away!

4. We’ve become a land of security.

How effective? Well, it seems like we’re not in the league of the Brits, but we do have metal detectors.

L.A.’s not quite like NYC, where you have your PICTURE taken before you fly up the elevator, but the queue of people waiting to be searched backed up all the way out the door of the courthouse, and that was FAR!

Which brings me to number 5…

5. Nothing starts on time in L.A.

We were supposed to be in our seats on the 11th floor by 7:45.

In NYC, that would have happened. But with the vagaries of traffic, NOBODY arrives on time in L.A., and no one EXPECTS YOU TO!

I used to be punctual, I ended up being the greeting committee everywhere I went.

Despite my detour south of the 10, I still would have been in my seat at 7:45 if it weren’t for the massive security line.

We started at 8:15.

6. One third of the people who show up leave.

Maybe you haven’t gotten the memo, but you CAN’T get off jury duty anymore. Impossible. Unless you’re dead or have committed a felony and have lost the right to vote. Oh, there are a couple of other exceptions, BUT YOU DON’T QUALIFY! Self-employed? Financial hardship? DEAF? They don’t give a shit.

So you do your time.

Hell, the judge giving the greeting went on about Kurt Russell being there recently, and serving over a week on a jury.

I think she could have come up with a better example. Does Kurt Russell have anything BETTER to do?

As for those leaving, you can postpone via the phone or the Web. So what kind of idiot shows up at the crack of dawn to ask for a postponement (up to a year, if I remember correctly, I missed that, I was checking my CrackBerry). I say these people SHOULDN’T BE ABLE TO SIT ON A JURY! Maybe they can break rocks for a day, or something equally mindless.


You see they might call you as late as 4 PM. And they might not have enough time to go through the process of PICKING JURORS, and you might have to come back ANOTHER DAY, even though you might not ultimately be impaneled. I started to get VERY uptight. I could see my life slipping away.

8. Not all questions are stupid.

Usually, get a group of humans together, and they’ll ask the most inane questions. But those asked after the endless delineation of procedure, akin to Warren Oates greeting the privates in "Stripes", actually hadn’t been answered/covered.

Imagine doing this HALF HOUR INTRO EVERY DAY!

American workers are bored out of their minds.

9. My personal theory.

Work for someone who doesn’t pay you for jury duty. Because those with the longer paid leaves seem to be picked first.

10. It’s unclear whether the jury room is safe.

The seat I was in was uncomfortable. I moved to one with a more rigid back, but it turns out someone resembling a gang member returned from the bathroom and told me he had it first. He sat down behind me and eyed me for half an hour straight. I moved.

11. Everybody thinks their job is important.

Next to me now was a real estate agent, some kind of guy in real estate. He talked via BLUETOOTH on his damn cellphone about some closing for SO LONG, with SO many people in SUCH a non-frazzled manner that I couldn’t believe the subject was important, and couldn’t believe that he couldn’t hold the damn phone up to his ear so maybe I could be saved knowing the intimate details of his life.

12. Tattoos/piercings render a halo around you.

The biggest empty space? Next to the girl with tattoos crawling up her arms and one of those bull nose rings. She looked like a slightly larger Amy Winehouse. She typed on her Sidekick and I had plenty of room to stretch out and read.

13. Don’t think we can’t see up your skirt.

A chubby woman across the way wasn’t wearing the shortest skirt, but when she picked up her cell to dial a friend, you could see right into…well, let’s just call it the heart of the matter.

Cotton panties are not yet extinct. Today, I’m an authority.

14. Not every person who looks like a gang member is discourteous.

There was one TV in the joint, unfortunately right across from me.

A guy who looked like he might knife me if I looked at him the wrong way switched on the set, but kept turning down the volume so the rest of us wouldn’t be bugged. I want him to live next to ME! The neighbors will be scared, and I’ll live in PEACE!

15. Not all the Live Earth coverage is positive.

Stunningly, it was the L.A. "Times" that slagged the festival, not the "New York Times".

I’ve got to ask you, is this series of shows about global warming or Kevin Wall’s ego?

Because if it’s about global warming, I don’t think it’s gonna have one iota of effect.

I mean who gives a shit about most of these musicians. Almost none of them stand for anything other than MONEY!

How about a day without a/c. Or a distribution of fluorescent lightbulbs with concert tickets. Yup, rather than charge people for a digital album, give them something they can USE! Not new music they don’t care about by a dinosaur act, but a path to the FUTURE!

16. I want to go to Glacier National Park before the glaciers melt.

Read today’s "New York Times" article in "Escapes". The pictures are BREATHTAKING!

And if you have any questions about today’s news, I’m your man. I know every line in the L.A. and NY "Times" and the WSJ. It was like being on a cross-country flight, but at the end YOU’RE STILL IN THE SAME PLACE!

17. Memories never leave you.

During the break, I walked down to Grand Central Market, the open air food bazaar where I hadn’t been in the better part of three decades, since my old girlfriend and I bought a book about L.A. and started exploring.

I don’t explore anymore. You can’t DRIVE ANYWHERE!

But that day we spent downtown, it came right back. Not only Grand Central Market and the Bradbury Building, but her.

18. You’ll have less of a chance of getting sick on a 787.

That’s something I learned in the paper. You see, since there are so many composites, instead of metals, they can turn up the MOISTURE!

But you don’t have to fly to get sick. The guy next to me after lunch brought a cold severe enough to infect the ENTIRE JURY POOL!

19. Sudoku rules.

Everybody was doing it.

20. They lie.

They said there was no way in HELL we’d get out until at least four, probably five.

Oh, I was getting fidgety. How long can you sit in one place? As they got closer to the appointed hour, the odds of being called for a jury and having to come ANOTHER DAY increased!

But, instead of pulling more names, at three they announced early dismissal. We clapped.

21. Stay to the end.

They had roll call. If you weren’t there, you had to come back another day.

As for us, we were clear for a year.

22. Authoritarianism/school sucks.

Oh, it comes back. We’re so used to regulating our own lives, making our own schedules. To be at the mercy of an institution, to have to follow specific rules, under penalty of perjury, it’s enough to give you a PANIC ATTACK!

23. Like having a baby, you forget how bad the experience is.

I was uptight for months. With increasing anxiety for the last week.

I was clear up until the last day, TODAY, when they got me.

Turns out they needed a big pool for a twenty day trial. At least that’s my theory. Like I referenced above, only those who got paid for jury duty seemed to be called.

Then again, I didn’t talk to anybody. Except for the dude next to me with the new Verizon World BlackBerry.

He likes it.

I was stunned this little 28 year old pisher (I looked at his form) needed an overseas connection. But that’s jury duty in L.A. You’ll never know who you’ll find.

Hell, they had Han Solo on the wall. Yup, they had plaques of celebrities who’d served.

I’m not itching to be up there.

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