When I was in CLR (Creative Learning Room) 2nd-4th grades, one of our big projects involved holding a mock trial for Hansel and Gretel. We all took on the personalities of the courtroom. I was the Recorder. Maybe that's where it all started...this obsession with documenting life. I remember taking my job so seriously, more so than anything else we were learning about in our regular classrooms. I brought a tape recorder and recorded every word spoken. I probably took notes as well. My end product consisted of a newspaper article I typed up on my home computer. Mrs. Riley made me re-do the article because I spelled P.J.'s last name wrong. It was an honest mistake, though, as I always pronounced his name "Berquist"...I never knew it was "BerGquist." I never misspelled his name again.
On Friday I completed my first duty as a juror. Upon entering the Rolling Meadows courthouse a woman asked me if I knew where to get birth certificates. I apologized and said I was only there for jury duty. "Oh," she said. "You don't look old enough to be a juror." "Why? How old do you have to be?" Neither of us knew.
Then, as I stood in the security line, the security woman made a huge deal about the lunch I had packed myself, which she took out of my bag as she yelled, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH DIET FOOD??" Slightly embarrassed, I said quietly, "I knew someone was gonna say that..." "SOUTH BEACH THOUGH?? I MEAN LOOK AT YOU!!" "It's not because I'm on a diet," I insisted. "It's because there was nothing else to grab on the run." (note: this is something i took out of my mom's fridge. it didn't even belong to me in the first place).
As I walked into the jury waiting room, I had to blindly choose a panel number out of a bucket. Well this is fun, I thought. An element of surprise. I had flashbacks of walking to the lunhroom in 7th grade, when Blake came running out of one the math rooms yelling, "He's innocent! OJ's innocent!" and how shocked and appalled I felt even as a mere 13-year-old at the downfall of this country's legal system. As I looked at the #5 in my hand, I pictured being selected to take part in a trial involving a vicious crime and say that I had a small role in putting someone rightfully behind bars.
Turns out my third grade mock trial was more exciting. I sat in a room with about 20 other people as they showed us a video that clearly had not been updated for a few decades all about our responsibilities as a juror of Cook County. And that gave me flashbacks of how much I hated forcing myself to stay awake during instructional videos in school. For the next two hours I finished reading a book I started awhile ago called I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere, thinking all the while that I should look into the probability of me having restless leg syndrome.
At 11:30 not a single person or panel # had been called to trial yet, so the lady dismissed us for a two-hour lunch break. That's the longest lunch break I've ever been granted in life thus far, so I bolted, called my mom to see if she wanted to meet for lunch, called my dad to tell him to meet us for lunch, and drove a round-about way to the local Chile's. Had a bloomin' onion and a "quesadilla explosion" salad.
When I got back to the courthouse I ditched the boxed South Beach caeser wraps in the backseat and headed back up to the jury room, back to the same chair I came from two hours prior. The lady in charge said if they weren't notified by 2:30 that the trials needed any jurors, then we'd be free to go. So I took Catcher in the Rye out of my bag and started back up with the classic adolescent novel (which I never read in my adolescence...and finally decided to dive into a few weeks ago). This Holden character cracks me up. Seriously--I laugh out loud at the way he speaks.
"I said Old Jesus probably would've puked if He could see it--all those fancy costumes and all. Sally said I was a sacrilegious atheist. I probably am. The thing Jesus really would've liked would be the guy that plays the kettle drums in the orchestra."
Amen, Holden. Amen. And speaking of kettle drums, I wish the deputy sheriff would roll in a few of those right about now.
At 2:32 we were given our $17.20 check and dismissed. So I didn't aide in carting away any criminals, but I did get paid by the U.S. government to spend a few hours reading for my own enjoyment. God bless America.
[photo: taken by Dana Edelson when I worked at SNL...sitting in to test the lights for Horatio Sanz, who impersonated Aaron Neville]