Well, I just finished my second stint of jury duty. The last time I served was 23 years ago right before I got married. What with kids, working, and health issues, I was able to successfully defer until last week. While jury duty is undoubtedly not as glamorous as it looks on The Good Wife nor as grim as it does on Law & Order, it really wasn’t bad at all. I got to finish a book. I had to stop reading at one point because I was getting up to a really sad part and I didn’t want to start bawling in the middle of the jury room. I couldn’t help but notice a fellow juror was reading Fifty Shades of Grey. She seemed just as absorbed in her book as I was in mine; albeit a different kind of absorbed. I also caught up on the Sunday Times (which usually takes me the better part of the week). On my extended lunch break, I was able enjoy a nice meal at the Apollo Diner on Livingston Street (I remember when it opened back in the 70’s) and visit Macy's, which used to be the beautiful Abraham & Strauss (with the upside down Christmas tree over the elevators) when I was a kid.
As soon as I entered the Central Jury Room at 360 Adams Street, I was struck by the cross section of Brooklyn represented there. The big difference this time around is that everyone is all geared up and has at least one of the following: a laptop, a smartphone, or an iPod. You can pretty much conduct a whole day’s worth of work while you are waiting. And waiting is what you do. Of course, right from the get-go, there are those people who are trying to get out of serving. An announcement was made asking if anyone had trouble speaking or understanding English. Oddly enough, there were quite a few people who were able to understand the question but claimed to not understand English!
After two hours on Adams Street, I was called in a group of 25 and we were sprinted over to Criminal Court on Schermerhorn Street. There we waited some more and then were sent on a 2 hour lunch. Not bad! Waiting for the elevator, one of the young men in my group commented that the last time he was in the building was when he was a teenager. He said it was “a stressful building.” I didn’t ask him to elaborate. After the long lunch, we waited some more and then we lined up outside a courtroom, expecting to meet the judge and attorneys who would screen us. At that very inconvenient time, someone from my group decided to take a restroom break. And so we waited some more (for him to return). Eventually we were told the judge could not meet with us so we went back to our room and, yes, we waited some more. We were then dismissed for the day.
On the second day, we returned to Schermerhorn Street. One of the 25 was a half hour late. Shortly after arriving, the young man, wearing a Yankee cap, asked what time lunch would be. He explained he needed to know because his grandmother was waiting downstairs in the car. The clerk asked why she was waiting and Mr. Yankee Cap responded that he didn’t want to get a ticket! This completely floored the clerk and cracked up everybody else in the room. The clerk went on to tell him that his grandmother could conceivably be waiting all day. Mr. Yankee Cap replied that his grandmother was a good woman and didn’t mind waiting. It was lucky for him and his grandmother that we were shortly thereafter released from jury duty. We were told the judge still was not available to see us so they were letting us go. We were also told that because of the burgeoning population of Brooklyn, it would be eight years before we would have to serve again.
Just a day and a half, and I was done. I practically skipped all the way back to Carroll Gardens!
Here is a list of helpful hints for other prospective jurors:
- Bring some really good reading material (not just tearjerkers).
- Don’t take bathroom breaks when you are finally being called into a courtroom; it makes the clerk crazy.
- Don’t wear a belt because you will have to remove it every single time you go through the metal detectors and it’s hard to hold all your gear and put your belt back on, too.
- Don’t wait on the very long line with family members attending court proceedings; jurors have a separate entrance.
- Don’t post anything to Facebook or Twitter about jury duty; the clerk actually read something out loud that someone had just posted (very Big Brother-ish).
- Don’t play your iPod too loudly; it might disrupt your fellow jurors.
- Ditto to talking on your cell phone.
- If you claim to not understand English, you might want to bring along a translator; it will boost your credibility.
- Keep your paperwork just in case you receive a summons before the eight year mark.
- Make sure you leave enough time to find a spot so your grandmother doesn’t have to wait in the car all day. And if your grandmother is waiting in the car, be sure to crack the window.