Every now and then, my city of residence calls upon me to fulfill my civic duties. In this case, it was the year 2000, and the city of Los Angeles was trying to stick me with Jury Duty. Nice try.
“I’ll be out of there before noon,” I boasted to one of the other servers at our restaurant in Sherman Oaks.
“There is no way in hell you’re getting out of there before noon,” Paul said.
“Dude, when it comes to getting out of Jury Duty I am the Jedi Master. I can’t even believe they called me in. Have they learned nothing from their previous attempts?”
“You’ll still never get out before noon,” he said.
“Okay, let’s make it interesting. I’ll have my ass in that bar stool by High Noon. I do, and you’re buying. Otherwise, drinks on me.”
“It will never happen,” he scoffed.
“Watch me,” I told him with the confidence of a supermodel in a room full of pubescent boys.
“It’s a bet,” he said. It was on. I had to win now. There are two things I hate, losing is one of them and flying cockroaches are the other one.
6:30 AM: I pulled up to the courthouse and was just so thankful that it wasn’t me that was in trouble. I actually found parking, which in LA is more shocking than the ‘not guilty” that OJ got. As I was walking from the parking lot towards the courthouse I heard from behind me, “Stacy? Is that you?” I turned around and the host at my favorite sushi restaurant was also there. “Heeey, you” I said. “What are you doing here?” I called him “you” because I had only been eating at his restaurant once a week for the last three years and still had no idea what his name was. “This is so exciting!” he said. “I hope we get something good like a murder!”
Rookie. Whatsisname was Japanese and had not been in America for very long, and he was excited to be able to do his civic duty. I, on the other hand, am American and a lazy one at that, and so prided myself on getting out of the very same civic duty.
So here we were, Ying and Yang, walking together into the courthouse. I was sure this was going to be the longest day of my young life, while he was jumping up and down like a schoolgirl who just been invited to her very first prom. We finally got to where we needed to be and I immediately found “my people” outside the courthouse looking cranky and chain smoking. “I’ll meet you inside,” I told the head cheerleader, as I pulled out a smoke to join the “bad kids.” I stayed outside for as long as I could and even managed to find a coffee cart so I could feed yet another addiction.
“EVERYONE FOR JURY DUTY INSIDE NOW PLEASE!” a very large, very loud guard called out. One by one all the smokers filed through the metal detectors, and we took our place in line.
7:00 AM: Enter the Drill Sergeant. She was about 5’5 and had on a dark grey skirt and black shoes that looked like nurse’s shoes. She had a white button-up blouse and dark hair that was pulled so tightly into a bun that I’m sure if you let it out she probably would have been in a better mood. She gave us all the once-over and informed us in no uncertain terms that none of us were getting out of Jury Duty. I didn’t know how to break it to her that I had 4 hours to make a noon deadline. Drill sergeant or no Drill Sergeant, I was not about to lose a bet.
“If you have a legitimate reason as to why you should be excused from Jury Duty, proceed to one of the windows,” she told us. “Just to let you know, you most likely will NOT be excused so you might want to go ahead and sit down and watch the TV monitors. We have designed a video that should answer all your questions.”
As everyone else gave up and began filing into the large TV room, I made a bee-line for one of the excuse windows.
“May I help you?” the annoyed looking woman behind the glass asked me, in a tone that let me know that she had no interest in helping me.
“I am claiming financial hardship,” I told her.
“That usually doesn’t work unless you can prove it,” she said. A little snippy.
“Oh, I think this ought to do,” I said and laid my special “get out of Jury Duty” file down in front of her window. This file was about 25 pages thick, and contained every bill, every receipt, and every single piece of paper that had any sort of number on it. I had even thrown in some dry cleaning bills for padding, in case she checked. But they never do. The fact of the matter was that I made my living on tips. I don’t get tips if I don’t serve food. And I can’t serve food if I’m on Jury Duty. The $10.00 a day they were going to pay me for Jury Duty wasn’t going to cut it. I needed food and shelter.
7:23 AM: I left them to sort through my file, and tried to watch the infomercial the LA Courthouse thought I would find informative. I just couldn’t do it. The woman they had on there was so chipper and kept telling me this was my civic duty and I should be proud to be here and blah, blah, blah. This must have been part of the psychological warfare that the FBI used against those wackos in Waco. Playing this thing over and over again. As I was grabbing a book out of my bag, I saw the cheerleader. He was enthralled with the infomercial and I think he was also taking notes. Oh my God, I thought. Are we going to be tested on this too?
The first group got called and the cheerleader went with them. They all filed out of the building and there were still a ton of us left in the giant TV room. I started getting nervous. What if they do pick me? What then? Think Stacy. My file of doom had never failed me before, but if I actually got called in I was prepared to go to extremes.
I could always play the crazy card. This is when you look at the attorneys very seriously and say in very excited tone of voice, “I’m going to be sooooooooo good at this! You see, my family has a gift. We do. We have the ability to tell if someone is guilty just by looking at them. I’m serious. It doesn’t matter what they say. We always know the truth. It’s passed down from generation to generation, except it skips the second male born to any female in my family with a first name that starts with the letter H. So now no one in my family will name their daughters anything that starts with a letter H. It’s a very accurate gift. It’s really amazing isn’t it!!” It helps if you refrain from pausing or taking a breath during this monologue. And a little mustard or gravy stain on the front of your shirt can do wonders.
Then there’s always the drug card.
“Ma’am, do you take or have you ever taken drugs?” the attorney would ask.
“Yes, yes I have,” I would say.
“What drugs have you taken and when was the last time you have taken them?”
“Oh, just some acid, no big deal. Ummm, I don’t know. What time is it? You’re very beautiful, you know that? You kind of look like a sparkly wood nymph.”
9:37 AM: The Drill Sergeant returned and called in the second group. My name wasn’t in that one either. This was either good news or bad news. It’s good news if they haven’t called me in because they are going over my paperwork and I’m going to be set free. It’s bad news if they haven’t called me in YET, and I could be here all day. Or even worse, have to come back tomorrow. Not only would I lose my bet, but I would also lose money at work by sitting here another day. Would they please turn this damn video off! I have seen it at least 5 times now and it always ends the same way.
10:48 AM: Group #3 gets called and my name is in it. FINALLY! But before we file out to make our way to the courtroom she calls out three additional names, including mine. “You three are excused,” the Drill Sergeant informed us. The biggest smile crossed my face and I giggled a little to myself. I had plenty of time to get to my car and to the bar and still win the bet. “How did you get out of Jury Duty?” a defeated looking woman in Group #3 asked me. As I went to tell the poor woman how to tunnel out, the Drill Sergeant came over and told us we needed to leave. Now. Not taking any chances that the court could change its mind on my release, I bolted. Sorry, lady. Try the crazy card.
11:00 AM: Once outside I felt the sun on my face and wind in my hair and broke into what I can only describe as a skip. I was a free woman! Ha ha! Screw you Jury Duty! I was out of there. As I made my way to my car I ran into the cheerleader who told me he got picked for Jury Duty. He looked almost as happy as I was. When I proudly described how I got out of Jury Duty, he just stood there looking at me like he felt sorry for me. I’m not really sure why. Did he feel sorry for me because I didn’t get to serve my civic duty and get to collect my awesome $10.00 from the state of California? Or did he feel bad for me because I’m American and I didn’t understand what an honor this was? I didn’t really care. All I knew was if my butt was in a barstool by noon, Paul had to pay for my drink. I said goodbye to my cheerleading friend and told him we’d see him at the regular time on Friday night. As I walked away I swear I heard, “2, 4, 6, 8, a murder trial’s really great!”
11:15 AM: I was running out of time. Those of you who live in Los Angeles know that 45 minutes isn’t a whole lot of time to travel anywhere. I jumped into my truck and sped out of the courthouse parking lot. Just fast enough to make up some time, but not so fast I would get stopped for a ticket.
11:52 AM: I told you. Barely made it. I pulled in front of the restaurant where I worked and the Parking Gods were still smiling upon me. Just need a quarter for the meter. Quarter, quarter, shit! I needed a quarter. I know there is a quarter somewhere in this stupid truck. I can’t leave it out here without feeding the meter. The cost of a parking ticket heavily outweighs the cost of a margarita. Even in LA. QUARTER!!! I found one under the passenger’s seat. Man I should really clean my car out, I thought. I bet there is all kinds of shit I’ve been looking for in here.
11:58 AM: I ran in the door and jumped onto a bar stool with my arms up in the air in the shape of a V for VICTORY! Paul was buying me a large margarita on the rocks with salt. I made it. I had beaten the system. Paul came around the corner and couldn’t believe his eyes. “I can’t believe you did it. I don’t know anyone who’s ever gotten out of Jury Duty that fast,” he told me. “How did you do it?” As he asked me that question, every other patron at the bar leaned in to hear the answer. “First off, you’ll need some mustard, some gravy, and 2 pots of coffee,” I began…
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