Jury duty is the one thing I despise the most right alongside of getting my yearly Ob/gyn physical. After being a flight attendant, and moving around so much I had ten registered addresses in three different states, allowing me to dodge the jury duty bullet for years. Then fate snuck up on me. There it was, the official letter in certified mail saying, ‘You’ve been selected for jury duty. Please appear in court July 16th.’
I went straight to Barnes and Nobles in search of the book that had 101 ways to get out of jury duty and to my disliking it wasn’t written and published yet. Rats I thought, I had to brainstorm of ways to be dismissed. I thought of playing hooky, but taking it to the next level. I got out my medical encyclopedia I had at home, it made my hypochondriac habit very convenient. I looked up exotic diseases such as, Leishmaniasis, Lupus, Malaria, African trypanosomiasis, Onchocerciasis, and Leprosy. They sounded really good, I even memorized their symptoms, but I needed proof. I thought about borrowing a crutch and pretending I had a broken leg. I figured they would just roll their eyes and say I’m using my ears not my legs. Cancer was a pretty serious matter, but shaving my eyebrows and hair was not an option. Death in the family, proof of death, every idea I came up with needed proof. Then it hit me, all I had to do was be myself, but take it a step too far. This was going to be a chance to practice my acting skills in front of a large group and let my light shine. If people knew what I was up to and thought I was crazy and fun, who cares? No one in their right mind wants to be stuck for three months in jury duty. If they truly believed I was a wack job that meant I was a damn good actress, and that was even better. My acting coach would be impressed.
I went to bed early the night before my first day of jury duty at 10 pm. I had to get up at 6 am for the preparations for the big day. As I packed my bag with props for my plan I thought to myself this might not be so bad after all, just maybe jury duty can be fun. It didn’t take me too long to get ready. I slapped on some deodorant, pulled my hair up into a messy half pony tail, and brushed my teeth. I still had on the remnants of my make up from the night before. It was perfect, I had two perfectly smudged raccoon eyes and half a face of blush, the other side rubbed off when I was sleeping. Needless to say I looked like a creature of the night. The rush hour crowd was pretty, fresh, and perky, they looked at me as if I was shamelessly doing the walk of shame. The only difference between this morning and the walk of shame was with the walk of shame was both of my cheeks would have been blushing. I was tired, and could barely open my heavy eyes as I daydreamt about how I was going to escape jury duty.
I pictured the court supervisor taking role call. I would wave my hand ferociously in the air and scream, “Pick me, I’m here! Emily Ann Turner, master of the universe!” I’d stand up with my hands squared on my hips imitating the best He-man impression I could do at 9 AM in the morning. When they would proceed to explain the case, and ask if there were any sensitive matters that would prohibit the jurors from making a decision, I’d slam my hand on the desk and scream,“Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty as sin!” I’d stand up and begin talking in an accent as if I was pulled straight out of a Alfred Hitchcock movie. I’d point to the judge and say, “I tell ya what pretty lady. I can look into someone’s eyes. I can see into their soul, and I can tell ya if they are guilty or not. Guilty,” I’d scream as I’d pound my fists one last time down to set my point clear. Security would have to escort me out of the room as I slurred, “Don’t do this. I know you need me here,” as I’d wave my head side to side as if I had mad cow’s disease. Yep I think that would do the trick. If they asked me if I had any mental issues I’d tell them I was bad at math, and sometimes had the urge to pinch little girls in their Sunday dresses, but the Prozac, and anti anxiety cocktail the doctor gave me seemed to working well with the pint of bourbon I drank before bed.
By the time I’d gotten off the subway I was giddy with excitement. After security screening I raced through the cluster of people lagging along straight to the woman’s restroom. I pulled some random stray hairs out of the pony tail holder. I applied a bit more liner and smudged it with my index finger. My Goonies T-shirt and ripped jeans were the icing on the cake. When I entered the jury duty holding room it was just as I expected, bright, cold, and quiet. Some people were busy reading the Daily News as if the next three months of their life held captive in the courtroom meant nothing to them, others were frantically texting, emailing, and trying to get caught up with work, and some scoundrels looked worse than me. I wanted to exchange numbers with them and get tips on New York nightlife. The group that scared me the most was the ones who seemed as if they actually enjoyed the whole process. Jury duty gave their mundane lives a whole new meaning and purpose. They were the ones who would go get coffee of lunch together, pick apart each others brains for solutions and their own personal verdicts of the case. On the weekends they would have get togethers and perform mock trials. I wanted no part in it. I was ready to put up a fight. They could have my seat at trial because I had work, dates to go on, auditions to fail, not to mention sleep. The person in charge went down a list of lame rules such as no cell phones, what were we in detention? I thought we were supposed to be the good guys. As the supervisor did role call, things didn’t go accordingly to my dramatic plan on subway 6.
“Emily Turner?” The supervisor called out.
I froze, nothing would come out. I had gotten court room stage fright. After all those years in acting school, something that day got the best of me. Maybe it was everyone looking around the room to see who Emily Turner was.
I slowly raised my hand and said, “Turner … here.”
The court supervisor continued on, “Thank you. Ok Janis Wetzlar.”
I stood up to interrupt him.
“I’m Emily Turner,” I said nervously.
“Yes Miss Turner I got you down here,” he said dismissing me.
I didn’t know what else to do or say. All eyes were on me as I rubbed the sleep out of my animal eyes and said, “I’m an alcoholic.” It just kinda flew out of my mouth last minute. I felt like I was at confession or an AA meeting. “You see,” I said standing there as people around me began to snicker, “I work every night at a bar where I drink. I lied, we weren’t even allowed to chew gum at work never mind drink on the job, but I was in too far at this point so I kept going. I would say whatever was needed to escape jury duty once and for all. “I have a whole supply of endless bottles of alcohol at my disposal. I work till 4 am which is happy hour for me. Chances are I’ll be getting here drunk, not to mention tired. I really can’t afford to miss work, and I’m not giving up drinking any time soon.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said stone cold. “There are programs that can assist you with your problem, but it’s not getting you out of jury duty.”
I sat down defeated. I would have to try harder. I took a nap for a few hours on the uncomfortable steel fold out chair I was sitting on trying to regroup plan b. I woke up to a giant head jerking twitch. The ones you have when you’re sleeping and it feels like your falling, so you end up snapping your neck to snap out of it. I almost tumbled onto my neighbor, a plump all American lady in her forties with her polyester pants up to her tits, and her turtle neck sweater up to her double chin. I assumed she was a librarian or some sort of elementary teacher. It was now 11:15, and the room’s energy had sunken to an all time low. Businessmen were doodling cartoons, the night time scoundrels were flicking spit balls.
Jury duty should have a welcome to hell sign with a knife and book on creative ways how to kill yourself. I decided it was up to me to pipe up the energy in the room, with the hopes that the rest of the room would follow. Maybe we would all be dismissed. They’d follow me out the court room cheering as I led them to a pub on Wall Street where we’d all toast beers together in surviving jury duty. I took out my cell phone and began to call friends and old acquaintances I hadn’t talked to in over five years.
‘Shelly? Hey it’s Emily we met over three years ago down in Cancun. How are you? Do you still have the great tan? Sarah, oh my gosh, I’m so totally bored. I’m in this jury duty thing and it’s so lame. Like how is it I lose the lotto, but I get picked for jury duty? How’s the baby?’
The man who took role call asked me to leave the room. I gave him a thumbs up and a wink happy to have grabbed his attention. When I came back forty five minutes later were told we were given a case. It would start after lunch. He went down a list of names for the case, my name being smack in the middle, number eight. I had to think of something quick. I reached into my tote for some food. I pulled out a plate of cheese and crackers that I had prepared earlier that morning. I can’t cook so cheese and crackers are my favorite meal. I needed to let the guy in charge realize how serious my drinking problem was. I had a plastic 10 oz martini glass and olives packed deep into my bag along with a bottle of water. I discreetly bent over and filled the martini glass with olives and water. I tucked my water bottle away back in my bag, and began drinking as I crossed my legs and drank in sophistication. A few people whispered and pointed at me. That’s when my luck ran out, we were dismissed for an hour lunch break. When we came back we found out the case had been settled and we were all told to be back the next day at 9 am. I couldn’t bear to wake up and do it all over. It was a painful thought. I crept up to the podium where the guy in charge packed his duffle bag.
“Excuse me,” I said through baby tears. “I just can’t do this. I have too much going on in my life. If I have to come here another day I might just loose it and jump off a bridge!” That was my answer to all. I used that line at least once times a year through crocodile tears. I can’t say I have never seriously thought about it, but the East River is the last place I’d want to take my last breath. The man sympathetically directed me to an office down the street. They had the power to dismiss me. If felt like I was off to see the Wizard of Oz. I skipped down the street holding my bag of tricks and treats.
I cried, begged, and pleaded with the wicked witch of Court Street for a half an hour. I gave her details of my personal life only a shrink should know, even though eighty percent of them were fabricated. She didn’t care that my grandfather had died of colon cancer, or my mother caught Malaria on a bible study trip by a mosquito she thought was a butterfly. It wasn’t her problem I worked too much, and my love life sucked. She informed me I had already missed one summons for duty and if I didn’t show up the next day I’d be the one in the hot seat. Rats, I still had to go to work that night, get a few hours of sleep and be back with plan C.
The next morning I walked into the court room chipper from plan C. I was ready for some action. My hair and makeup were perfectly done. I chose a pretty wild and random outfit to get me quickly noticed and sent home. I waltzed in with a plastic sippy cup of real bloody Mary, I was ready to go the distance. I had on four inch white spiked heels, painted on fuchsia capri leggings, a white ribbed tank top, push up bra, and a shark tooth necklace. I liked the shark tooth necklace, it brought the bad ass out of me. After role call I made my way to the corner of the adjoining room where people without a seat sat cross legged and tired. I happily hummed to myself as I set up my survival camp for jury duty. I organized stacks of books to my left, piles of gossip magazines to the right. I set up my nail polish, files, and manicure set. I pulled out a long purple beach towel with a pillow attached to it. People were looking at me like I was the smartest thing since post it notes. I pulled out three creamy vanilla candles and lit them around me. I then laid down a happy camper, if this was where I was going to get my beauty sleep, I’d make my new home as comfortable as I could. To my surprise I didn’t get in trouble, only a few requests to borrow my magazines. One lady asked me where I got my fabulous candles. I dozed off for a long awaited blissful nap. I thought I was dreaming when I heard clapping.
I awoke from a dream of me in my own bed. The room was cheering and packing up. We were finally dismissed. I learned while jury duty has a bad reputation, you can have fun with it, because no matter what you do, chances are you are not getting out of it.