Thursday, April 25

How To Survive (And Possibly Get Out Of) Jury Duty

I spent the first half of this week serving my country, which for a pale, weak girl from the Midwest does not mean I was running around in fatigues in a desert wasteland. Instead, I was stuck sitting in the hell that is the DMV waiting room-by-way-of-downtown-state-courthouse. Translation: jury duty, a shocking occurrence considering I don't even have a state license, official residence or even a real New York-based job. All in all, it was a massive waste of time — we shuffled around between rooms for the first day, and participate in a full-blown study hall with the soundtrack of someone listening to Beyonce very loudly on the second — but after the never-ending waiting game, the rejects and I (who had not found a case we "were a good fit for") were eventually released and pushed back into the metropolitan wild.

(Thank fucking god.)

There are some cool parts to jury duty. though. The wireless is better than the internet at most coffee shops, there's a room with desk and table cubicles like a library (a stark difference from my back-breaking soggy chair back home) and most importantly, you get paid $40, which is a lot for a freelancer. Oh, and that picture up there? That's from the nap I rushed home to take during their daily, official, whole-building-shuts-down lunch break, further solidifying the benefit of working for the government, not to mention living near Canal Street. (Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and being within walking distance of the city's best movie theatre at Battery Park being the other two reasons, naturally.)

Another bonus? Since you're sitting around all day with old, plain-faced, rotund people who likely eat their fair share of pancakes on the reg, you tend to eat whatever you want, especially because you are essentially trapped in the airport, waiting for a flight home that will never come. My overwhelming lunch break treat?

A $17 one-man spread from Smile To Go, because when Opening Ceremony is down the block, any price you pay for a chicken sammy and two sides instead of a pleather cape or a rope-and-string knotted skirt feels utterly miniscule.

Because more people are called in for their minimum two days than actually are assigned to trial, I never got picked for a case. But, I did get to sit in a courtroom and experience other people getting questioned twice, which I'm sorry, was awesome?! I'm not giving away any details since I don't want to go to jail, but people at one of them went around and said their name, occupation and neighborhood, which would have made for the best bar schmooze scenario EVER. Can you imagine me introducing myself as "Carlye, Writer, Downtown" so that you know I'm spacey, without steady health insurance and a fan of wood finishings from the get-go? Would make life so much easier for sly networking or realizing Washington Heights is practically a long-distance relationship and bowing out before anything starts with the hottie on that stool.

Though I never made it up top on the big pews, I would still deem my Liz Lemony-on-the-down-low outfit successful, since I'm confident it woulda worked. In case you're wondering which get-up to wear while your Princess Leia costume is at the dry cleaners, I give you my four frightening ways to ensure you don't get picked on a jury:

(In case you couldn't tell, I tried to set this one up like a neon dream crime scene. Yes, I'm a genius.)

1. Ugly, scraggly hair that subconsciously sends signals of "What, her? She's not even responsible enough to use goop or buy serum or do anything with her sad, pathetic pre-makeover hair. Why would she could be a fair and unbiased member of this jury?!"

2. Lifeless eyes that say "Huh? What? Shit, I slept through this whole thing, you think he did it? Cool, life in prison, done.", making me the least essential member of the Holy 12.

3. No makeup. It sucks to leave the house like this and walk around all day knowing you look your worst in front of 150 strangers, but makeup is for adults, people with job prospects, and women with enough discernable income to spend on department store goops and creams. The less makeup I wear, the more I look like I'd vote steadfastly not guilty. Because really, if society hasn't pressured me into putting effort into my appearance, why would your argument ever convince me you've proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?" (This directly conflicts with #2, which naturally, is the magic of the whole thing.)

4. A sweatshirt that makes you stand out in the worst way possible. It's not guaranteed to work, but it's guaranteed to not blend in. Think about it this way: if you had a bad night one time and, I don't know, punched someone in the jaw, would you rather have the clean-cut banker in a Burberry trench evaluating the rest of your life, or the girl who looks like she might be mildly autistic and/or a female pedophile based on her wardrobe choices? Boom. This shit ain't accidental.

So unfortunate looking, right? I probably shoulda switched it up for going out the rest of the night, but meh, being pretty is for fools and people who actually read that index card inside their Birchbox. (I tuck it away, never to see it again, and just wing in. Unsurprisingly, it shows.)

If your time hath come or is rapidly approaching, bring magazines, electronics, and anything else that'll help you pass the time during various "no phones allowed!" segments (which are perfect-o for notebook writing and/or New Yorker reading), a bevy of gum (65 cents in the vending machine for 5 sticks, which is cray), and all the sanity you can muster. It's only a few days, and if your employer is covering your pay, then dayum it's like a mini vacation away from the office fluorescents. And hey, you get a lunch break! Not so bee-ad.

Though, if you look anything like that mess up there, you'll be out lickety split. G'luck!

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